House Of Commons
Wednesday 25th July 1973
The House met at Eleven o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill
That in the case of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill Standing Order 208 (Notice of Consideration of Lords Amendments) be suspended and that the Lords Amendments be now considered.—[ Mr. Clegg.]
Lords Amendments accordingly considered, and agreed to.
Tyneside Metropolitan Railway Bill
That in the case of the Tyneside Metropolitan Railway Bill Standing Order 208 (Notice of Consideration of Lords Amendments) be suspended and that the Lords Amendments be now considered.—[ Mr. Clegg.]
Lords Amendments accordingly considered, and agreed to.
Value Added Tax
Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I beg to present a petition on behalf of the National Consumer Protection Council, the National Assembly of Women, the Women's Labour Council, the National Union of Small Shopkeepers and the Women's International League which sheweth
That sanitary protection and toilet paper have had Value Added Tax imposed upon them.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that Value Added Tax be removed and the items given a zero rating in order to bring the prices within the reach of all consumers.
"And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray."
The petition is signed by more than 11,000 petitioners.
To lie upon the Table.
Oral Answers To Questions
Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs
Northern Ireland (Executive And Assembly)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland relating to the setting up of a new Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland, the future administration of the Province and any proposed joint action to improve the security position in the face of the threat to law and order caused by the continuing Provisional IRA terrorist campaign; and if he will make a statement.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had a meeting with Dr. FitzGerald on 9th June at which he was able to discuss matters of general interest and also to clarify certain points in the Northern Ireland Constitution Bill. My right hon Friend the Prime Minister met Mr. Cosgrave on 2nd July, and I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) on 3rd July and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) on 5th July.—[Vol. 859, c. 716–18 and c. 81.]
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and remind him that the results of the two recent elections in Northern Ireland show that it is the overwhelming will of the people of Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and that the South of Ireland has, by her own choice, adopted independent Republican status. Therefore, was any internal constitutional matter discussed during these talks or were they restricted to matters of security, trade and tourism—which can be well discussed with officials of the South of Ireland?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
On many occasions, pledges have been given that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom unless the majority of the people of Northern Ireland decide otherwise. I cannot go into details of our talks, which must be confidential, but security was discussed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was able to point out some improvement on the border in terms of our co-operation in this respect. On constitutional matters, it is our desire to see the Assembly and the Executive formed, first of all, and then we shall have an opportunity of working out how the Council of Ireland will work.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the recent statements by Mr. Cosgrave—especially when he spoke to the 1900 Club in London—and by Dr. FitzGerald have been helpful to the improvement of relationships and of working towards a settlement in Northern Ireland?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
We have no control over speeches made by other people. It is quite often desirable to keep quiet.
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood my supplementary question.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm or deny the statement which Mr. Cosgrave made immediately after seeing my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that one of the matters discussed was the lack of confidence by the minority in the Royal Ulster Constabulary? Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in yesterday's Irish Press stating that along the border the Eire Army does not take police with it and therefore cannot take any immediate action against those engaged in terrorist activities on its side of the border?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I cannot give details of the talks between the two Prime Ministers, but there has been an improvement of security on the ground and we hope that it will be carried further by co-operation between British forces and forces in the South.
Portuguese Prime Minister (Visit)
Mr. Robert Hughes
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussion he had with Dr. Caetano during his recent official visit to the United Kingdom.
Mr. Clinton Davis
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent official visit to this country of Dr. Caetano, the Portuguese Prime Minister.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Dr. Caetano had discussions with my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, as well as myself. These discussions covered a variety of matters of mutual concern.
In these discussions did the Foreign Secretary make plain to Dr. Caetano that the continuing open connivance of the Portuguese Government with the Smith régime on sanctions busting is behaviour hardly fitting in one of our oldest allies? Did he make clear also that this was in opposition to the British Government's policy and against the interests of the people of Rhodesia, and that so long as the Portuguese Government carry on this war of aggression in their overseas territory the British Government will makes moves towards ending the alliance and seek to have Portugal expelled from NATO?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The answer to the last part of the question is "No, Sir". We think that Portugal is of great value in the NATO Alliance. I told Dr. Caetano that Portuguese policies towards sanctions were contrary to our interests and I asked whether he could change them.
Was the Portuguese Prime Minister prepared to give any undertakings on the sanctions-busting operations that his evil régime has been engaged in? Was not it completely paradoxical that the Foreign Secretary should be engaged in these junketings with the Portuguese Prime Minister at a time when he was seeking to undermine our foreign policy? What effect has the Portuguese Prime Minister's visit had on our relations with black African States which are wholly opposed to his régime?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I do not think that it has had any effect on our relations with black African States, which perfectly well understand that our relationship with Portugal is concerned with security in NATO and trade between the two countries. I do not think, therefore, that there has been any adverse effect in this respect.
Having regard to Atlantic defence and the Cape route, does not the suggestion of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) amount to the complete destruction of the Western Alliance and the defence of this country? Should not such hon. Members say which side they are on in these matters?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
During our recent debate we attached considerable importance to Portuguese membership of the NATO Alliance, and Portugal has a very important seaboard.
Mr. Goronwy Roberts
Does the right hon. Gentleman nevertheless agree that there is a substantial view in this country and, indeed, in Europe, that the cohesion of NATO may ultimately depend upon the Portuguese Government's taking a wholly new attitude in their colonial policy and towards United Nations sanctions policy?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The cohesion of NATO is very important, but I do not notice a great interest in the country about this matter.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will issue a White Paper, at an early date, on Government policy towards the Commonwealth in relation to Great Britain's membership of the EEC, in the light of the obligations of EEC membership as they are now known.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Davies)
Although it is only seven months since the United Kingdom became a member of the EEC, is it not abundantly clear that the Commonwealth takes a poor second place in the Government's thinking? Imports from and exports to the Commonwealth at 19 per cent. are the lowest for at least a decade. Do not recent developments in the EEC demonstrate that the fears expressed by the Opposition about the agricultural policy are now materialising and are bound to have an effect on our relationship with the Commonwealth? Would not a White Paper showing "warts and all" at least allay some of these fears?
The matters concerned with Commonwealth interests in relation to British membership of the Community were fully set out in the White Paper of July 1971. Since then, and since Britain has become a member of the Common Market, there has been continuing and extensive activity between Britain and the Commonwealth countries, between them and the EEC, and between Britain and the EEC on these matters. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. What has transpired in the last seven months confirms the confidence which the Commonwealth countries rightly put in the arrangements we made with the Community.
Sir D. Dodds-Parker
Does not the Minister agree that the proposals put forward by the Commission, for example, on sugar, could be very satisfactory to the Commonwealth?
Yes, indeed. The Commission's proposals on sugar are entirely in accordance with the Lancaster House undertakings, which the Commonwealth sugar producers accepted.
Mr. Alfred Morris
How does the right hon. Gentleman regard Mr. Chirac's intemperate outburst on the question of sugar?
The Government cannot make themselves responsible for a ministerial statement by another Government. On the contrary, it is important to take note of what the Commission has had to say, and the Commission has said things that are entirely constructive.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the developing trade arrangements and agreements between the Commonwealth countries and the EEC are, in general, greatly to their advantage, and that in future there will be increased trade between Commonwealth countries and the Community?
That is the expectation of several Commonwealth countries with which I have recently been in contact.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider that reply? It is one thing to say that particular Commonwealth countries may be catered for in the arrangements with the EEC, but there is widespread apprehension throughout the Commonwealth that the whole organisation is heading for a major breakup, not least because the arrangements which are now about to be discussed between African and Caribbean Commonwealth countries—however those arrangements develop—are bound to separate the African and Caribbean Commonwealth from the Asian Commonwealth.
I realise that the right hon. Gentleman apparently feels that some useful purpose is to be served in trying to create the very feelings which I do not find exist.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations he has had with Commonwealth Governments following the July meetings in Lagos concerning the future relationships between the Commonwealth and the EEC.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on future relationships between the Commonwealth countries and members of the EEC following recent discussions in Lagos.
Mr. John Davies
The opening conference of the negotiations between the Community and the developing countries covered by Protocol 22 to the Treaty of Accession began in Brussels today. We have been, and shall remain, in regular contact with our Commonwealth partners on matters arising from these negotiations.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are grave doubts whether the Government are pursuing, with the vigour that they displayed before 1st January last, the interests of the developing countries in the Commonwealth? Does he agree, on reflection, that the distinction between the associables and nonassociables is an invidious one, which works against the interests of the developing countries both in and beyond the Commonwealth? Will he impress upon his colleagues in the Community the fact that associate status must be a temporary phase as the Community works out a genuinely global trade and aid policy for the developing world?
As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, the Community has before it proposals and recommendations dealing with a global aid policy related to all developing countries. This is under careful scrutiny. It is recognised that there is a special relationship to be achieved between the Community and the associable or associated States of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. It is with regard to these special considerations that the present negotiations are taking place. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that they are taking place under not unfavourable conditions.
Sir D. Dodds-Parker
As a member of the committee concerned, at the European Parliament, may I say that the implications of the hon. Member's question are entirely wrong—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question".] Is the Minister aware that the Commission and the committee concerned have taken the greatest trouble to see that all concerned should be treated—
What power has the hon. Gentleman got?
Sir D. Dodds-Parker
—on the same basis, and that Her Majesty's Government be given all reasonable help to see that the facts are put to the countries concerned?
I agree with my hon. Friend that in discussions Asian members of the Commonwealth have professed themselves as being not dissatisfied with the way in which the negotiations with the Community are going.
Has not the hon. Member reinforced the point made earlier about the need seriously to examine future relationships between the Commonwealth and the Common Market? The case for a White Paper, at the least, has been made. Will the right hon. Gentleman turn his mind to the question of sugar, which is of great importance to the so-called associable countries? Will he tell us that he has made it plain to the EEC not only that we will fulfil the pledge to take 1.4 million tons of cane sugar but that, in addition, we are not prepared to accept the export quota, under the IAS, of 800,000 tons of exported beet sugar from Europe, because that would ditch the developing cane-producing countries just as much as a reduction in the import quota?
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Community has before it the recommendations of the Commission about the relationship between the Community and any future International Sugar Agreement. The Community has professed itself to be anxious to be a member of the International Sugar Agreement in future. If it were to be a member it would have to be with the agreement of the countries that are parties to the agreement, and it would therefore have to be an a basis that accepted the rate of sugar import and export related to Community affairs. I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have taken with some satisfaction the recommendations made by the Commission, which are specifically to that end.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
Mr. Peter Archer
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose a meeting of ministerial representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Powers.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I see no need to do so. I represented Her Majesty's Government at the ministerial session of the North Atlantic Council in Copenhagen on 14th and 15th June.
Is it not time to reflect how an organisation which purports to be based on the principle of democracy can include Spain how one based on individual liberty can include Greece and Portugal: and how one based on the rule of law can include France, which has defied the International Court of Justice? Who is defending what against whom?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I have already made clear that the NATO Alliance attaches importance to the membership of Portugal and Greece. The security of Europe should be in the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind as well as in mine.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the countries of Western Europe should be deeply aware of what goes on the other side of the Iron Curtain—the suppression of human rights in the Ukraine, the Baltic States and in other nations, incorporated against their will in the Soviet Union—and should take the appropriate measures to concert their defence against potential aggression?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Unhappily, there are infringements of human rights in many countries, but we must pay overriding attention to the security of the Continent of Europe.
With respect, the Foreign Secretary must not be so complacent—[Laughter.] I am serious about this. What he should realise and apparently does not
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman must put his remarks in the form of a question.
Is it not time the Foreign Secretary realised that a considerable body of opinion in this country—not confined to one party or one view—is seriously considering the continuation of the membership of Portugal and Greece of the NATO Alliance? Does the Foreign Secretary think that he is being helpful in giving the bland answer he gave?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I hope that I am not being complacent about injustice, but I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is being complacent about security. We make representations to Greece from time to time about infringements of justice, from the point of view of those who are in prison, but it is much better to do so in private than in public.
Organisation Of American States
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the current position on Great Britain's application for observer status at the Organisation of American States.
The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Julian Amery)
Our application for observer status failed to obtain enough votes to be considered at the General Assembly of the OAS in April this year.It remains on the table for consideration at next year's assembly.
In view of the enormous fund of good will among many Latin American States towards Great Britain and the fact that other European Powers have observer status in the OAS, does my right hon. Friend agree that there would be positive advantages for Britain in having access to the Organisation of American States? Will he again press the application very hard?
I agree with my hon. Friend. We should have observer status, and we propose to leave the application on the table for consideration next year.
Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in the consultations with other Governments concerning the validity of family passports.
Mr. Sydney Chapman
asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will now issue individual passports to a family for the cost of a joint passport, provided such applications for the individual passports are made at the same time.
The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Balniel)
We have had consultations with some Governments and may be consulting others. Meanwhile, to remove any element of discrimination in the present system, we have decided that in future a wife may be issued with a family passport in her own name on the same basis as a husband.
The House will be gratified by that measure of progress, but will the right hon. Gentleman go a little further? In his consultations with other Governments, will he try to ascertain which of them would be prepared to accept all the adult members whose names are on a family passport and then suitably endorse our passports to that effect, so that adults whose names are on our passports will know that they can use the passports in the countries in question?
That is a suggestion for a joint passport. I am considering whether it is possible to issue joint passports. But there are difficulties. It would be a completely new departure, and international acceptance might be a problem. Problems of cost are also involved. All these matters will be looked into. Meanwhile, I hope that the House will be satisfied with the step that I have taken to remove all existing discrimination.
Will my right hon. Friend go further and implement the proposal outlined in Question No. 8? Does he agree that if it were implemented it would remove entirely the suggestion of sex discrimination and would minimise the undoubted abuse of the joint passport for the purposes of illegal immigration? Is not my proposal feasible? From the charges which they make the Government make quite a profit on the issuing of passports.
I have studied my hon. Friend's proposal. Although no doubt it has certain advantages, he will recognise that it would mean issuing two passports for the price of one. That would be very difficult to justify.
Dame Irene Ward
May I, on behalf of a great many people, thank my right hon. Friend very much for the action that has been taken? It will be considered by many people in the country and in the House to be a very good step forward.
I appreciate my hon. Friend's remarks. I also appreciate the way in which the case has been advanced by hon. Members.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received any recent representations about a settlement from groups or bodies in Rhodesia; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement about relations between the British and Rhodesian Governments.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the present state of negotiations with the Rhodesian Government on a settlement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he intends to initiate any further negotiations for a settlement with Rhodesia.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I have nothing to add to the statement I made to the House on 19th July.—[Vol. 860, c. 712–3.]
Does my right hon. Friend have any reason to believe that meaningful discussions about the possibility of a settlement are taking place within Rhodesia? Does he think that meaningful discussions might be assisted by Britain's position being one of resolutely maintaining the existing policy, including that of sanctions?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I made that clear, and I hope that Mr. Smith is now seeing other groups of Africans and Europeans in Rhodesia with a view to bringing forward a policy which we may hope to follow.
Will my right hon. Friend consider putting further pressure on the Smith regime to release the interned African political leaders in Rhodesia? Does he agree that if they were released it might facilitate internal discussions in Rhodesia?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I have often made representations about detainees, both European and African, and when necessary I shall do so again.
Mr. Robert Hughes
If there are to be further discussions about the future of Rhodesia, will the Foreign Secretary make it plain that they will not be solely with representatives of the Smith regime but will include representatives of all opinions in Rhodesia, including those people who are detained?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
That might come at a future stage. The important matter at the moment is for all Rhodesians to get together in Rhodesia and come forward with proposals.
Sir D. Dodds-Parker
While maintaining the status quo, would it be possible to offer the training facilities that were suggested two years ago as port of an overall settlement?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Such matters as the moneys we proposed to contribute for development and moves in the direction of helping over education could be carefully considered in relation to a settlement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the present effectiveness of sanctions against Rhodesia.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
No, Sir. Some countries do not apply them as conscientiously as do we. We are always encouraging them to do so.
What about this country? Did not the Foreign Secretary see the news clipping from the Daily Telegraph advertising for local government personnel for Rhodesia? Is not this export of services by P-E Consulting Group Limited, as well as the Daily Telegraph, a deplorable instance of sanction-busting—or did the Daily Telegraph console itself that, while it is anti-British and derogatory to the right hon. Gentleman's policy, nevertheless it makes good business sense?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman—
I sent the clipping to the right hon. Gentleman.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I know. I was about to say, if the hon. Gentleman can control himself, that I was grateful to him for sending me this advertisement, I am having inquiries made. If necessary, action will be taken.
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that nothing has done as much to unify the electorate and the population of Rhodesia as the futile economic sanctions against that country? Is it not a fact that if they were to work, which is extremely unlikely, this country would have to give massive aid to Rhodesia at the expense of the British tax payer?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Sanctions are part of the policy adopted by this House, and as long as they are mandatory we must fulfil our obligations. Our whole purpose is to get an agreement in Rhodesia so as to be able to go to the United Nations and say that Rhodesia can be brought back into independent and proper legal relationship with the Crown, and then end sanctions. That is the right way.
Will the right hon. Gentleman go a little further and say that the fact that Mr. Smith and Bishop Muzorewa are at least talking to one another, even if only tentatively, is certainly in part due to the fact that sanctions have been continuing and have not been lifted, as some of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends wish.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Certainly one cannot deny that sanctions must have had an influence on the Rhodesian situation. The hon. and learned Gentleman will recognise that they have been going for eight years. I believe that the bishop and Mr. Smith are more concerned to see independent status given to Rhodesia again, and to gain recognition by outside Countries, than with the sanctions situation.
Freedom Of The Seas
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will recognise the right of ships flying the French tricolor to exclude ships flying the White Ensign from any part of the high seas beyond the 12-mile territorial limit.
There are at present no British warships in the area. The question therefore does not arise.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the mere assertion by the French of national jurisdiction on the high seas is contrary to the Geneva Convention on this subject and therefore detrimental to British interests? Will he consider summoning the French Ambassador and reminding him that the preservation of the rule of law is just as important as the possession of nuclear weapons in keeping the world free of aggression and conflict?
As I told my hon. Friend in a Written Answer on 12th July,
"The question whether the exclusion of shipping from an area of the high seas is lawful or not is one of the issues before the International Court of Justice in the current proceedings brought by Australia and by New Zealand against France."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1973; Vol. 859, c. 410.]
Why has the voice of Britain been silent in support of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in protesting against the French tests?
The matter is not one about which we are called upon to express a view beyond a reiteration of the view, several times repeated, that we hope that France will sign the partial test ban treaty.
Republic Of Ireland (Extradition)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Eire Government about extradition of persons wanted in connected with criminal offences; and if he will make a statement.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The Government of the Irish Republic are fully aware of our concern that persons wanted in the United Kingdom should be returned from the Republic. We have expressed this concern to them on a number of occasions.May I be allowed to say, because I misinterpreted an earlier question, that, while we must be very careful about what we say on Irish matters, the speeches of Dr. FitzGerald and the Prime Minister have been uniformly helpful.
As one who was at the 1900 Club dinner, may I assure my right hon. Friend that it was a very high Tory occasion? On the question of extradition, would it not help the security of the British Isles, which is our common interest, if people accused of terrorism were not only extradited from the United Kingdom to the Republic, which is the case, but extradited in the other direction, which is seldom, if ever, the case?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
That has seldom happened, but we notice that there are 10 cases before the Irish courts, which is new.
Has my right hon. Friend noticed that although many cases have been brought before the Southern Irish courts very few people have been extradited? Will he make representations to the Southern Irish Government to the effect that "political offence" should be very narrowly interpreted, so that people cannot escape justice in Northern Ireland for terrorist activities by simply pleading political privilege?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The important point is that when people are charged and an extradition claim is made it should be met when justified.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs why the United Kingdom has not yet joined the Council of Europe's Resettlement Fund.
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Royle)
Since the establishment of the fund in 1956, successive British Governments have preferred to provide assistance for refugees and migrant workers through other institutions. They have also given aid on an ad hoc basis in cases of special need. We continue to think that this is the right policy.
Is my hon. Friend aware that that is a rather disappointing and somewhat unconvincing answer? Is he further aware that this fund fulfils a very important social purpose in Europe, particularly, as he has said, concerning migrant workers? Is it not very important for Britain to be seen to be positively identified with the work being done?
I think that it is recognised that we are helping refugees and migrant workers in the best way, which is to direct our assistance through the international bodies which I have mentioned. Within the Community similar assistance is available through the European investment Bank and Social Fund.
Mr. Terry Davis
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will now invite a representative of the Government of the Soviet Union to visit the United Kingdom.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
In Helsinki I expressed the hope that Mr. Gromyko might be able to visit London before long. If he can do so we shall be very glad.
The right hon. Gentleman has noticed the repressive policies pursued by the Soviet Union, both at home and abroad. Does he see any difference between those policies and the policies pursued by the Portuguese Government?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
As I have said, there is injustice in too many countries, but that must not stop us having contacts with the leading statesmen in those countries and frankly explaining our point of view to them.
Mr. Edward Taylor
Before my right hon. Friend issues an invitation to any member State or its representatives, would it be wise and prudent to consult the Leader of the Opposition and the Parliamentary Labour Party to find out whether they wish to boycott the visit?
Mr. Peter Archer
When he meets representatives of the Soviet Government will the Foreign Secretary make it clear that those who condemn tyranny in Portugal, Greece and Spain are no less concerned when it occurs in the Soviet Union? Will he express the hope that the talks in Helsinki will lead to a better deal for the little guy, wherever he is?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I will make it clear, as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests. I hope that Mr. Gromyko will be able to come. I have had two good meetings with him lately—one in Paris, in the summer, and more recently in Helsinki—and I hope that he understands our position, particularly regarding Jews in the Soviet Union.
French Foreign Minister
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will next be meeting the French Foreign Minister.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I saw M. Jobert only the day before yesterday at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Nine at Copenhagen. I have no firm plans for an early bilateral meeting, although M. Jobert and I naturally remain in close touch on all matters of common interest.
When the Foreign Secretary meets the French Foreign Minister in Brussels, Copenhagen, or in an aeroplane, will he make clear to him that, whatever the French attitude may be towards the Commission's proposals on Commonwealth sugar, Britain will honour its undertaking, which was given as an honourable assurance, and that, whatever the Common Market Ministers decide, Britain will import 1–4 million tons of sugar? What instructions will be given to the Commission's negotiators when the International Sugar Agreement comes up again at the Geneva session on 10th September? The Council of Ministers will not meet again until the 24th or 25th September, and therefore the Commission will have no new ministerial instructions as to the attitude to be adopted in the ISA talks.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
We will make clear to the French and anyone else that we will honour the engagement which we undertook to Commonwealth countries. As my right hon. Friend has just said, there is nothing inconsistent in the Commission's proposals and our undertaking.I should like notice of the question about the organisation of the Council's work.
Sir G. de Freitas
In view of the French Government's recent rebuke to a French member of the Commission for not being nationalist enough, will the Foreign Secretary, when he next meets the Foreign Minister of France, draw his attention to the possible amending of Article 157, as suggested in my Question No. 37, to make it clear that the Commission is international?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
In a recent speech on the GATT negotiations M. Jobert said that in the French view the common external tariff should not be allowed to fall below a certain minimum level because it had a political purpose. Is that the view of the British Government?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I have not seen reports of that speech. The common external tariff will remain. There has been no discussion in the Council of Ministers about the level of tariff.
If NATO can get on without France, cannot it get on without Portugal?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
NATO does not get on without France. The right hon. Gentleman should polish up his knowledge of the alliance.
Egypt (Princess Margaret's Visit)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the advice given by Her Majesty's Government to Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret with regard to her forthcoming visit to Egypt.
Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret is visiting Egypt at the request of Her Majesty's Government in order to open a new British Council building in Cairo.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that in 1971 the Prime Minister of Jordan was assassinated in Egypt, and that his assassins, after kneeling to drink his blood, were housed in luxury by the Egyptian Government before being returned in safety to their henchmen in the Lebanon? Recalling the events of the past week and taking account of the inability of the Egyptian Government to guarantee the safety of their guests, is it fair to ask Princess Margaret to involve herself in this kind of risk?
The security situation will be kept under review. We have every confidence that the Egyptian Government will ensure that Princess Margaret is given adequate protection throughout her visit.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that President Sadat has serious difficulties in Egypt, but is none the less striving to bring peace to that region? Will my right hon. Friend offer his good offices to bring some sort of reconciliation between Egypt and Israel?
My hon. Friend will know that a debate in the United Nations is now proceeding on the subject of the Middle East. In general we, the Egyptian Government, and, I hope, Opposition Members, place great importance on the establishment and re-establishment of the close cultural relations between this country and Egypt that we had in the past. We believe that the restoration of an independent British Council in Egypt after 16 years is of considerable importance, and I hope that the visit will be successful.
United Nations (Disaster Relief)
Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made at the United Nations by the United Kingdom delegate to improve the United Nation's ability to assist with disaster relief.
Britain played a major part in the establishment last year of the office of a UN disaster relief co-ordinator.
Can we offer either finance or relief supplies to the United Nations relief co-ordinator, or to the United Nations development programme?
Our experience has been that it is better to proceed ad hoc on these matters. There is no great difficulty about assembling supplies. Difficulties usually arise in distribution and transport.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Inter-Parliamentary Union, on the initiative of the United Kingdom delegation, put forward a strong resolution, which was subsequently adopted by the United Nations, about 24-hour first-aid relief? What has happened about that? Has the scheme of computerisation for immediate relief been achieved?
All these matters are being studied at present by the coordinator, who has three functions: first, to act as a focal point for the co-ordination of relief; secondly, to act as a clearing house for information; thirdly, to stimulate pre-disaster planning in countries that are subject to earthquakes and other likelihoods of disaster.
French Nuclear Tests
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received from his observers on the Pitcairn Islands on French nuclear tests.
Our team in the Pitcairn Islands has reported no evidence of fallout.
Does that mean that the Foreign Office is quite sure that there is no identifiable trace of short-lived iodine 131?
The evidence we have received from the team shows no evidence of fall-out in any form. The team has a wide range of sensitive apparatus to monitor radioactivity levels, in the air, on the ground and in the water, and to check contamination of clothes. The specific constituents can be determined from radiological monitoring equipment.
Has my right hon. Friend any evidence of the recent Russian nuclear explosion, reported earlier this week to have been the biggest ever?
I should have to have notice of that question.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the most recent discussions that have been concluded with various institutions of the European Economic Community.
Mr. John Davies
Recent statements to the House by my right hon. Friends, coupled with the statement which, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I shall be making later today, bring the record up to date.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the various discussions that have been taking place with M. Simonnet, on the second stage of economic and monetary union, it has been made clear by the Commission that that involves a harmonised value added tax in respect of coverage and rates? Will he confirm that he shares my opinion that a value added tax extended to cover foodstuffs would command the wholehearted discontent of the British people and would meet with the determined opposition of many on the Government as well as the Labour benches?
Yes, but my hon. Friend is postulating a set of circumstances that do not exist. There is no agreement to, harmonise the rate of VAT on food within the framework of our taxation system.
European Political Union
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise the issue of EEC political union at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear next time he meets his colleagues that this ludicrous commitment by the Government to Common Market political union has no support among the British people, and that neither he nor the Prime Minister has any authority to commit this country to such a concept without a decision having first been taken in Parliament?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I should not have thought that anyone would object to attempts by the European Community to come to political agreement over as wide an area as possible. There has been one useful example of this lately. The joint approach on matters concerning the Conference on European Security and Co-operation was very effective indeed. This kind of co-operation is desirable.
Will my right hon. Friend be careful to make the important distinction between political agreement and collaboration between independent countries, on the one hand, and political union on the other?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Yes. Our objective of political union has been declared. For the foreseeable future it must be the nine countries working independently but achieving as great a consensus as they can.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what protests he has received from the Portuguese Government about the activities of British subjects involved in guerrilla operations in Mozambique; and if he will make a statement.
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Is it not unfortunate that British subjects have made unsubstantiated allegations about Portuguese con- duct in Mozambique, particularly when the success of the Portuguese Government's policy in Africa has been achieved by winning the hearts and minds of the people of that country and not, as is alleged, by supporting and encouraging atrocities?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
As a Government we are not, happily, responsible for statements made by British subjects in other countries.
Mr. John Mendelson
Is it not quite clear, contrary to what the hon. Member has said, that the Portuguese policy in Mozambique and Angola is possible only at the price of the physical destruction of thousands of Africans, and that the cruel policy of moving whole villages lock, stock and barrel has involved a great degree of cruelty, which British subjects and newspapers have revealed? Have not those facts been fully proved by additional evidence and will not the people responsible for publishing them be regarded as having done an honourable job when the history of that country is written?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The accusation was of a massacre on a considerable scale, and that has not been proved.
Mr. Hugh Jenkins
Is the Minister aware that the Portuguese Government have as much chance of winning the hearts and minds of the people of that country as I have of winning the heart and mind of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall)?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I should not like to express an opinion on that matter.
Mr. Hugh Jenkins
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the total amount of aid given by the United Kingdom to the Indonesian Government during the year 1972.
Mr. Anthony Royle
During 1972 we supplied about £6.8 million in development aid.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Indonesian regime is extremely repressive and barbarous and that 50,000 political prisoners are detained there without trial? What action are the Government taking to ensure that aid is not used to uphold the regime and enable it to pursue its repressive policies even more efficiently?
The hon. Member may not be aware that the Indonesian authorities have recently confirmed that there are 18,000 detainees. The total is very much lower than the 50,000 he mentioned. We do not think we are justified in any way in raising with the Indonesian Government the question of political detainees. It is a matter relating to the internal affairs of Indonesia. We should not wish in any way to link the giving of aid to that country with the question of its internal arrangements.
Mr. Edward Taylor
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is many years since the previous Indonesian Government seized British assets in Indonesia? Will he give the House a report on the discussions that have taken place about compensation, and does he agree that future aid policy should depend a great deal on our success in these matters?
I know of my hon. Friend's great interest in this subject. In March of this year the Indonesians put forward proposals for the settlement of claims to most of the British companies whose claims they considered eligible under the present compensation scheme. Some of the claimants are still considering the proposals. We have reminded the Indonesians that a number of claimants have had no response to their claims.
Hong Kong (Students)
Sir John Tilney
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, owing to the lack of space for most teenage students to work at home in Hong Kong, he will consider granting some scholarships for Hong Kong students in direct grant and independent boarding schools in Great Britain.
Mr. Anthony Royle
I share my hon. Friend's concern for students in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government are improving education and social conditions there, and Her Majesty's Government will give them all possible support and encouragement.
Sir John Tilney
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that in California 36 per cent. of foreign students come from Hong Kong? Would it not be better that in future at least a proportion of the potential leaders of Hong Kong were British rather than American-oriented?
I agree with the latter point made by my hon. Friend. We have allocated £35,000 to the Hong Kong Government for training purposes this year. This is on a recurrent basis, and, under the programme during the current financial year 39 students are expected to follow postgraduate vocational and professional courses in this country. I recognise that that is not what my hon. Friend is getting at, but, in addition, the Hong Kong Government are paying for an additional 107 students to take similar courses here.
Mr. James Lamond
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that Hong Kong is a Crown Colony for which we bear a considerable responsibility, and from which we obtain considerable financial benefit? If educational matters are in the sort of state outlined in the Question and if 36 per cent. of Hong Kong students are taking courses in the United States, is it not time that the Government considerably increased the assistance given to Hong Kong, so that we may discharge our responsibilities there?
I recommend the hon. Member to read the speech that the Governor made to the Legislative Council last autumn. It was an outstanding speech, and outlined extensive plans to improve the quality of life of everybody in Hong Kong, including educational and social conditions. I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said.
Does my hon. Friend believe that, unless circumstances show that they come from a developing country, overseas students who come to this country for postgraduate courses should pay the full cost?
That is another question.
Sahelian Africa (Drought)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had within the EEC about the co-ordination of aid for the drought-stricken Sahelian countries of Africa.
Mr. John Davies
Britain is represented both in the EEC Food Aid Group, which co-ordinates this Community aid, and at higher-level meetings, where the subject is also discussed.
Why is it that the airlift by NATO countries called for by the EEC is proving so inadequate? Why are thousands of tons of food piling up at Dakar with only small quantities getting through to areas where starvation is very great? Why is it that invariably, in the case of disasters such as this, those responsible for co-ordinating international relief prove extremely reluctant to communicate effectively with their counterparts in other countries?
I share the hon. Member's anxieties about the relief problems which have been encountered. But we have responded to the requirements made on us and have diligently tried to undertake relief where we can, within the framework of Community activity.
Sir D. Dodds-Parker
Will my right hon. Friend see whether it is possible to do some pre-planning by the seven members of WEU which are members of the Community, so that we can anticipate the need that has been shown in the last three months instead of going in for the sort of ad hocery about which we have heard?
I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend says.
In view of the fact that we were told that once we entered the EEC we would play our full part in international affairs, is it not disgraceful that in this respect the EEC's food aid programme has not been as effective as it might have been? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to find out why this programme has failed, in terms of distribution, and will he report to the House on his investigations?
I am clear that the Food Aid Group in the Community exists to ensure that the Community's activities are improved and optimised in this respect. Our representative on that group will work to that end.
Greece (Diplomatic Representation)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will reduce the level of British diplomatic representation in Athens.
Mr. Anthony Boyle
I thought not. But could not my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary find some way to make it clear to the Greek people that diplomatic recognition of the Republic does not imply approval of the military dictatorship—and will he do so before the plebiscite next Sunday? I assure him that this message has not got through.
I note my hon. Friend's remarks. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State made clear to the House on 4th July the basis on which we have accorded recognition to the Greek Republic. I have nothing to add to his full explanation of our decision, in which there was no element of political or moral approval or disapproval.
Sir Elwyn Jones
In the meantime. would it not be indecent for Her Majesty's Government to continue negotiating with the Greek Government about the adherence of the United Kingdom to the treaty of association between the EEC and Greece in view of the fact that the Greek representative, Mr. Pesmazoglou, who negotiated the treaty of association, and the Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Averoff, who signed it, are both in the custody of the Greek military security police and have been there for a very long time without trial?
So far as Mr. Pesmazoglou and Mr. Averoff are concerned, I am always sorry when friends of Britain are imprisoned anywhere in the world. The Greek Government are aware of our concern about recent arrests, too. In regard to the EEC, the Heads of Government at the summit meeting last October said that full membership of the EEC must depend on democratic institutions. As for the supplementary protocol, I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that under the Treaty of Accession we are obliged to apply the provisions of the Community agreement with third countries, subject to any transitional arrangement or adaptation that may prove necessary. There can be no question of our seeking to renege on those obligations.
If some form of subsidiary legislation comes before the House. will the House be in a position to reject it?
Had my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) been present last night when I introduced an order on this subject, he would have heard me tell my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) that the House is perfectly able to vote against the order.
On the question of free democratic institutions, what representations has the hon. Gentleman received from our ambassador in Athens about the proposed plebiscite? Is he aware that there is a widespread feeling that this will be a fraud and that the American ambassador, who is normally an apologist for the Greek colonels, has raised this matter directly with the Greek Government? What information do we possess about the plebiscite?
The Greek Government are aware of our hope that Greece will be restored to full democratic processes, but we have no locus standing in making representations to any foreign Government about the way in which they run their affairs.
Questions To Ministers
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise to the House for holding up its proceedings for a few moments. My point concerns a Question which I tabled and which appears on the Order Paper as No. 65. It was addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and particularly to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. In any event, we face the difficulty of having to put down Questions about the European Economic Community to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. Then I discovered that the Question had been transferred to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I wrote to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I have not yet received a reply.The point arises how we are to table parliamentary Questions dealing with EEC matters. My point does not relate just to the matter of my Question being transferred. There is also the problem of how we can put Questions directed primarily to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. This is a matter of great importance, and I hope that the House will consider it. It is very difficult for us to direct Questions to EEC problems which, incidentally, affect many of my constituents, who may be thrown out of work if the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement is not at least continued at 1–4 million tons. This is a matter of importance to us, and I ask what can be done about it.
This is not a matter of order. It is not a matter for me. But I have no doubt that those responsible have heard what the hon. Gentleman said and will consider it. But it is not a matter for the Chair.
Sir Harmar Nicholls
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although I have a great deal of sympathy with the point raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), is it not the practice that a parliamentary Question is put not to a specific Minister but to the Government? Provided that the answer comes from a Government spokesman, I should have thought that to insist upon questioning a specific Minister was outside the good usage of Parliament.
In any event, it is a matter which will not be debated now.
Further to that point of order—
Order. It is not a point of order, although it is a point which is usually allowed to be made. It is not a matter for the Chair. But when an hon. Member makes a complaint of this kind it is for the Minister concerned to consider it and to decide whether anything should be done about it in the future.
Cambodia (British Subjects)
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the safety of British subjects in Cambodia.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)
My present information is that there is no immediate danger to British subjects in Cambodia, but the situation around the capital, Phnom Penh, is becoming more uncertain. It is possible that the airport may become insecure.The British Ambassador is therefore arranging the departure of Embassy wives and dependants and certain non-essential staff on the next commercial flight to Bangkok. He is also telling British subjects that they should similarly think carefully about their own position and should consider leaving now while civil flights are operating normally.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is as appalled as anyone at the misery being inflicted on people in Phnom Penh. Those of us who have been there in happier times will have sympathy with the Khmer people. What is the British position in relation to our obligations to Cambodia under the previous agreements? Furthermore, can we be certain that representations have been made to the United States Government asking why they are continuing the deluge of bombing when they know that it will be counterproductive because of what has happened in the United States Senate?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I share the 7 ton. Gentleman's anxieties about the situation there and about the situation of people who find themselves in Phom Penh, although I hope that they will get out safely. As regards our position, we are members still of the Control Corn-mission, and I am joint chairman with Mr. Gromyko. But the Russians have refused to operate this piece of machinery. All foreign troops were supposed to withdraw from Cambodia according to the Paris agreements. This has not been done. As for the American bombing, it looked as though Phnom Penh would be cut off without the Mekong River route, and it was directed to keeping that open.
Mr. Goronwy Roberts
May we take it that the area of uncertainty and possible danger in the immediate future is round the capital and that generally in the country there is no serious anxiety about the fate of British subjects? About how many British subjects are involved in this situation and how many are non-Embassy staff?
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
This is a comparatively small problem. There are 50 British subjects including dependants and the staff of our Embassy in Phnom Penh. There are very few outside Phnom Penh. It is a problem, in other words, which can be handled quite well. But we do not want the situation to deteriorate to a point where they may not be able to get out.
Eec Ministerial Meetings
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Davies)
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will make a statement about the main matters considered in the Council of the European Communities since I last reported to the House on 2nd July.May I take this opportunity to apologise to the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) for the late delivery to him of a copy of this statement which according to the conventions should have been in his hands? I am sorry that that was the case. There have been three meetings of the Council—one of Foreign Ministers, one of Ministers responsible for questions of the environment and one of Agricultural Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made a statement to the House on 18th July on the meeting of Agricultural Ministers, which took place on the preceding two days. The meeting of Environment Ministers on 19th July approved a Community environment programme, in two parts. The first part deals with the control of pollution and the second with the improvement of the environment. In addition there are proposals for concerted Community positions in the work of international organisations in the field of environment. The adoption of this programme fulfils the decision of the European Summit meeting of October 1972 that an action programme for a Community environment policy should be established by 31st July this year. The meeting of Foreign Ministers on 23rd and 24th July was concerned principally with a number of aspects of the Community's external relations. The Council reached agreement on the opening statement to be made on behalf of the Community at the Conference between the Community, the countries already associated with the Community under the Arusha and Yaounde Conventions and those developing Commonwealth countries which are eligible for association under Protocol No. 22 of the Treaty of Accession, which opens in Brussels today. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development is attending that Conference on behalf of the United Kingdom. The statement of the Community's views in no way prejudges the content of the new Association Convention, nor does it seek in any way to oblige the Commonwealth countries to make a choice prematurely between the different options that will be open to them. The Associated and developing Commonwealth countries are expected to make preliminary statements in reply, and the negotiations will then be resumed in September. All the developing countries will have every opportunity to make their own views and wishes known, both at this meeting and in subsequent meetings. The Council considered further the Community's approach to the forthcoming multilateral trade negotiations under the GATT, in the light of recent developments in the international monetary situation. They agreed on the line to be taken by the Community in further preparatory work for the meeting of the participating countries of the GATT which is to take place in Tokyo in September. The Council also discussed further an offer to be made to those countries which are claiming compensation from the Community following its enlargement, in accordance with Article XXIV: 6 of the GATT. Progress was made, and it was agreed that further consultations should take place with the aim of reaching a constructive and definitive negotiating position by early September. The Commission yesterday presented the Council with a supplementary budget for the current year amounting to 1008.66 million units of account, and the implications of this for United Kingdom public expenditure if the total supplementary budget is finally accepted would be an extra gross cost of £33·2 million offset by certain additional receipts. Of this figure of 1008·66 million units of account, 879·29 million units of account were for the agricultural budget: 120 million units of account for the Social Fund and 9·37 million units of account for administrative purposes. The agricultural section of the supplementary budget was accepted by the Council as consequential on decisions previously taken and will now be forwarded to the European Parliament for further consideration. The Social Fund increase was not agreed and will be the subject of further consideration. As a result of pressures to achieve savings approximately 15 million units of account have already been identified and we expect more. The Council agreed that the Community should announce its readiness to participate in the negotiation of a new textiles agreement under the GATT, in succession to the long-term agreement for cotton textiles. A number of procedural proposals for improving the efficiency of the meetings of the Council of Ministers were adopted.
From the five minutes or so that I have had to look at the statement, I can strongly confirm the right hon. Gentleman's words yesterday when he said that what he had to announce about the increased size of the Community budget would be received with a pretty sickening thud in this country. This is an appalling increase and an equally appalling statement.To many of us it is outrageous that the right hon. Gentleman should come to the House now and tell us of a decision made by the Council of Ministers only yesterday involving £30 million expenditure by this country and a supplementary increase in the whole budget of over £400 million in one year when he refused a fortnight ago to answer a PNQ which I raised on this very matter—and a number of his hon. Friends supported him in his refusal to reply to it. This is treating the House of Commons with absolute contempt and is making it impossible for us to exercise what residual powers are left to us under the terms of the Treaty and the European Communities Act relating to European matters. To many people it is almost incomprehensible that this year this £400 million should be asked for. If, as we have been told, world food prices generally have risen above Community prices during the past year, and therefore the Community has nothing to do with the increase in British domestic food prices, why is this vast extra expenditure needed when half the Community food budget is spent on subsidising dumped Community surplus export food on the world market? If the right hon. Gentleman can explain that I shall be very surprised. Is it due to the most incompetent negotiation by the Minister of Agriculture on food prices in the Community only two months ago, or is it due to the fact that the whole system of monetary compensation amounts, which he has been so keen to press earlier, has blown back and misfired? The right hon. Gentleman must be aware, and surely will agree, that we have reason to be greatly concerned about the preparations for the GATT talks this autumn. We have had a steady retreating, apparently under French pressure, from the original position to ever-increasing pre-conditions and restrictions which threaten the whole opening of these talks in Tokyo in September. Having heard all these statements covering so many different matters, I must ask why the right hon. Gentleman has failed to report to the House on, and to raise with the Council of Ministers this time in either Copenhagen or Brussels during the whole course of the day of the meeting of Foreign Ministers, the question of the French nuclear testing? Why, on the day after the bomb was exploded in the South Pacific, was this matter not put on the agenda? Is it because he asked and was refused or that he did not ask at all? Lastly, did the right hon. Gentleman take the sensible precaution of raising with the Council of Ministers the action that Britain might be forced to take to safeguard its balance of payments this year now that our balance of trade with the Nine is running at a deficit of £1,000 million?
When the right hon. Gentleman put his Private Notice Question recently, I told him that I did not have a proposal before me and it was therefore impossible to respond to his question in the terms that he wished. I am sorry that it should be so, but it was a fact.On the broad question of the effect of the common agricultural policy on the budget and on the contribution that Britain makes to it, the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that there are many factors in that policy that we would certainly like to have amended. He knows very well, and it has been reported regularly to the House, that at present the Commission is engaged on a review of the policy, upon which we expect to receive a report by October, which we strongly hope will give us the opportunity of raising many matters which concern us. The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that a considerable part of the additional budget arises from the changes in parities with the effect that they have on monetary compensatory amounts. It is a matter of fact that the common agricultural policy, as at present devised, throws up this heavy additional monetary compensation amount, and we pay our part. I think that he also knows that in this respect the Government hope that the Commission's report will enable us to see means by which these heavy charges can be reduced. As he will have heard from my statement, the next step in the operation is for the supplementary budget in question to be considered by the European Parliament— [Interruption.] It is a matter of fact. Is the right hon. Gentleman seeking to infer that this is not so? The right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends voluntarily decided not to be parties to that assembly where they could effectively bring their voices to bear if they wish to do so. I do not agree with the right lion. Gentleman about the GATT negotiations. The process of moving towards an effective discussion starting in Tokyo in September is proceeding satisfactorily. I realise that these are difficult preparatory tasks, but I do not feel disquieted by what is happening at present. Matters relating to nuclear tests are not germane to the proposals upon which I have been reporting today. The Council of Ministers has no locus in those matters.
Mr. Adam Butler
Will my right hon Friend tell us something more about the textile agreement to which he referred? Will he press for some arrangement whereby our partners in the Community bear equally with us the load that we have to bear at present from ever-increasing imports from low-labour-cost countries?
Yes. As my hon. Friend knows, it has been a matter of concern to the Government that the extent of penetration of our market in cotton and textile terms is substantially greater than that of other member States. Certainly it is our hope that in the negotiation of a new long-term textile agreement it will be possible for that load to be shared more equitably.
Is it true, as reported, that the Agricultural Ministers agreed that if beef prices should fall, even by a small fraction, between now and the autumn, import duties and levies would be reimposed on beef, which would prevent a fall in prices from the present outrage-our levels? If so, why did a British Minister agree to such a proposition?
The position surely is that the level of prices for beef in the world market is unpredictable. That being so, the necessary provisions were made so that such levies could be reimposed.
If the Council of Ministers approved the supplementary budget, what can the European Parliament do about it? Alternatively, if the European Parliament can do something about it, why was it approved by the Council of Ministers? Do I deduce from my right hon. Friend's first reply to the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) that Her Majesty's Government themselves had less that a fortnight's previous knowledge of the proposed supplementary budget which was approved yesterday?
On the second part of the question, the extent of that budget was defined only yesterday. There has been protracted argument and discussion about the content of the budget for weeks because the matter was conducted within the framework of discussion in the Community. Until such time as there is a firm proposal there is no basis on which matters can be discussed in this House.On the subject of activities of the European Parliament, there is an obligation on the Council to put to the European Parliament such a supplementary budget for its consideration. It has within a certain period to make known its views on the supplementary budget—views which the Council can then take into account.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman made one of the most astonishing statements ever made in the House, certainly in my recollection? First, he said that he knew of no proposals whatsoever. Then he referred to protracted discussions in which he was not involved. Now, we find out that this country did not learn of the budget until yesterday. Is it not clear that the Government must begin to stand up to the Council in these matters and that this House must have a full debate on the issue at the earliest possible moment?
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) did not get my answer correct. I said that the defined budget was not available until yesterday. I added that there had been discussion and argument about the budget for weeks within the framework of the Community.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that, as the monetary compensatory amounts account for a large part of the supplementary budget, there is even more need to work as quickly as possible and with extra vigour towards a monetary union along the lines proposed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier this year? Secondly, does not the remaining part of this supplementary budget underline the firm stand taken by the Minister of Agriculture in refusing to accept, intially and indeed throughout the protracted negotiations for the farm price review, the stupidly high levels of price proposed by the Commission? Will my right hon. Friend not confirm that, if the European Parliament decides not to accept the supplementary budget there are two ways in which it can give effect to that refusal —first, by refusing to pay the civil servants working in the Commission and, second, by refusing to give advice to the Council?
It is undeniable that the problems caused by compensatory monetary amounts are recognised as being a major problem to the Community and that progress towards monetary union would help to overcome it. The determined efforts of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture have led towards a much more realistic attitude to farm pricing in the Community, and will continue to do so.
Will the Minister explain that exceptionally vague portion of his statement about pressure of savings resulting in identifying "15 million units of account"? What does that mean? If the detailed budget were put before the Community only yesterday, may we take it that the 15 million units of account were identified only yesterday?
No. The identification of those savings has also been under consideration and pressure for some time. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, any budget is composed of a series of different sections in which it may be possible to find economies. This is what has been proceeding in the Community.
Several Hon. Members rose—
Order. I am in a certain difficulty.The remaining time today has been allocated to private Members. This is an important statement. I will not stop the supplementaries now, but I would ask hon. Members to be as brief as possible because these other debates have been arranged for certain times.
In view of the fact that the supplementary budget was defined only yesterday, may we assume that this great sum which we have to pay out had the approval of the British Cabinet? Presumably it will have to come before the House under a Supplementary Estimate. What will happen if the House rejects it?
As was said in a debate last night, the House is in a position to reject a Supplementary Estimate should it come before the House. There is no doubt that in that event the Government would have to take the consequences of that rejection.
Mr. John Mendelson
Apart from the scandalous revelation that the budget was not defined until yesterday, was the Minister in a position to agree to the budget immediately on having it presented to him for the first time? Will he say more about that brief reference which he made to the fact that agreement was not reached on the proposals for expenditure on social policy? Is it correct, as reported in Paris, that a proposition to devote £50 million to certain policies which might, to some extent, benefit this country has not been agreed, in fact has been blocked, while £33 million in addition will fall on the shoulders of the people of Britain to finance the butter mountain and the sale of butter to the Soviet Union? How could the Minister agree to the additional £33 million expenditure in the absence of agreement on the £50 million on social policies?
As the hon. Member will have realised from my statement, the increase in the budget related to agricultural matters is consequential on decisions taken previously. Thus, the figures which arise from those decisions are a matter of fact and a matter of consequence. The position of the Social Fund is different. There is not a specific criterion which gives rise to an automatic extent in figures. Therefore, there is a decision to be taken about the extent of the Social Fund. The hon. Gentleman may take my word for it that I have struggled strongly to obtain an adequate increase for the social budget. No agreement was reached yesterday, but I am not unhopeful that an agreement will be reached in due course as a result of maintaining these pressures. The hon. Gentleman will realise that there is a distinction between the two forms of fund.
Sir D. Dodds-Parker
Is my right hon. Friend aware that these matters have been discussed in a committee of the European Parliament for some time in the absence of Opposition Members and that their absence has been regretted, especially the absence of so many individuals who are constructive and could help so much in these deliberations? I thank my right hon. Friend for coming so promptly to the House, which is about to adjourn for two-and-a-half months, to advise us about these matters. The same handful of hon. Members would have made a dickens of a fuss, to put it mildly, if my right hon. Friend had not made such a statement today.
My hon. Friend is right. Part of the undertaking that the Government have given is that I should come and report regularly to the House. I have endeavoured to do so continually and will continue to do so. Many of the questions that have been raised here could have been raised by Labour Members to good effect in the European Parliament.
Will the right hon. Gentle. man take notice of the fact that many of us regret that the agenda of the Common Market was defined only as late as yesterday? We should welcome some spirited action by the United Kingdom representatives at the EEC meetings, so that that our Ministers would reject out of hand any proposals that might lead to an increase in the cost of living. Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if he agrees to the addition of an import levy on the already high cost of food such as beef it will put that food out of the reach of ordinary people in this country?
I take note of what the hon. Gentleman said. I must clarify one point. It was the supplementary budget, not the agenda, which was defined only yesterday. The Government have strongly pressed for the need for a proper interval between the submission of proposals to the Council and its consideration of them. Decisions to that end were taken yesterday and I am hopeful, therefore that we shall not be faced again with a short time in which to consider proposals.
Does not the rocketing increase in the size of the agricultural fund and the increases in the size of the Social Fund being sought by my right hon. Friend bring appreciably nearer the day when the Community budget will have to be financed out of a 1 per cent. rate of VAT? In these circumstances will he be a little more cautious before disavowing that the second stage of monetary union implies a harmonious VAT?
The second stage of monetary union has not been defined as yet. It is not therefore a matter which has so far arisen.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to me and to the British taxpayer why the Government have flatly refused to introduce subsidies for important foods in this country, yet in the same week that they made that refusal they agreed to proposals that the Government should subsidise people in the Community? What is the difference?
The hon. Member has failed to appreciate that the subsidies in question included a subsidy to the Community in respect, for instance, of butter consumption in this country, which will be to our benefit.
I hope that the Minister has taken on board the seriousness of this matter. Is it not disgraceful that a fortnight ago the right hon. Gentleman refused to answer a Private Notice Question that I put down on the pure technicality that he did not have a formal proposal, when a draft proposal for the Commission, asking substantially for what he has now announced he has granted, was with the Government and was available to me and other hon. Members? Now, a fortnight later, he has so arranged things that he has made his statement after having agreed to the proposals. It is disgraceful that what he has been asked for is a British subscription to help finance unwanted food surpluses in Europe and yet he has been unable to get some modest quid pro quo through the Social Fund. The right hon. Gentleman has behaved in a way which is quite contrary to the national interest. He has behaved cravenly. That is the only way to describe his actions. If he wishes to be taken seriously about changing the CAP, has it not occurred to him that if he wants to change the CAP this October the correct approach would have been to refuse the supplementary budget yesterday?
I did not have a draft proposal a fortnight ago, as the right hon. Gentleman infers, and nor did he.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will it be in order to move, That this House rejects the supplementary budget of the EEC, which was presented to us without notice? There will be no further opportunity to debate it for some weeks, Mr. Speaker.
No, it would not be in order and I do not think that I would accept such a motion if it were.
Motorway (Announcement Of Route)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday I had down a question on a matter of vital importance to my constituency concerning the siting of a motorway asking when we could expect a decision. I was told by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would be making an announcement very shortly. This morning on the front page of The Birmingham Post it says:
I need quote no more. I suggest—"The southern route—which The Birmingham Post learned yesterday would be adopted—"
I do not detect a point of order in what the hon. Member is saying.
I am asking, Mr. Speaker, for your guidance and protection for hon. Members that leaks of this sort should not happen and that hon. Members should not be put at a disadvantage.
That is not a matter for the Chair.
Adjournment Debates (Timing)
It may be for the convenience of the House if I indicate that we shall have to revise today's timing of the debates on the motion for the Adjournment owing to the length of the last statement and the supplementary questions. The changes will be announced when we have had time to work them out.
Matrimonial Incomes And Remuneration (Notifications) Bill
Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)
I beg to move,
The House by now is used to being deserted when Ten-Minute Bills are introduced, even if they involve, as I believe this Bill does, important subjects. Without being presumptuous I suggest, however, that the House might have had a better attendance if, as originally envisaged, today had been the penultimate day of the Session. This is an important measure for a number of reasons. The furore that this idea has caused in certain quarters is almost as great as would have happened if it were proposed that Dr. Caetano should be a Knight Commander or that traffic wardens should be exempt from income tax. But the Bill should not be considered in the context of the alarm which might be felt about it in certain quarters. It must be looked at in a balanced way. It must be seen as part and parcel of the modern world and modern Britain. There should be a balance of rights between married couples to know the details of incomes emanating in the household, primarily from husbands but also from earning wives. This proposal is long overdue not only in the more fundamental context of the gradual equality between sexes, which I welcome very much, but also when considering the gradual emancipation of women in many ways, and of married women in certain ways. In recent years there has been a reinforcement of their rights in respect of the property of a marriage. My Bill is one additional logical step. There is a shorter-term reason for the Bill. It arises from the prices situation. I do not suggest that a Bill of this kind should be the sum total of Parliament's response to the grave and urgent problem of rising prices. Manufacturers, retailers and traders must take a lot of the respon- sibility. The trade unions must take a great deal of responsibility in wage restraint. There is much that the Government should do in due course to tackle urgently the problem of rising prices. But it is clear that there is an important social lacuna in the current situation whereby a minority of wives do not know how much their husbands are earning and, as a result, there could be grave injustice for them and their children and, paradoxically, for their husbands, too. I am not suggesting that there is ignorance by wives of their husbands' earnings, of recent changes in those earnings or of other incomes in the majority of marriages. I believe that most husbands tell their wives what their earnings are, but good law can arise from the need to protect a minority or to allow a minority, however small, to have an injustice removed by the legislature. Even if it were a small minority—and it may not be—such a provision would be eminently worth while. To those who say "Gross invasion of privacy!", I reply that it is simple to provide that the wife can say" I want none of the arrangements between my husband and me to change. I am satisfied, and do not want to know his earnings. I trust him completely". It would be easy to make such a simple declaration. But there are enough embattled housewives who may not be given justice by their husbands to make the Bill worth while, although one hesitates to intervene in the private arrangements of the domestic scene. I want to establish the right for wives who feel that they are not being treated fairly by their husbands to know what the position is. How that can be done is another question. Obviously, the mechanical provisions would need to be elaborated by way of Inland Revenue and Treasury regulations. It would be simple to allow the wife to sign the husband's tax return, where tax returns are regularly made. If there were any change in that system, it would still be easy to tackle the mechanics of the problem. I have received many letters from wives throughout the country who say that they do not know their husbands' earnings and feel that they are badly treated. They support the Bill and I have received encouraging indication of support from many hon. Members. The Bill is not a gross invasion of privacy because of the reserve protection for husbands that I have explained. Wives support it because they have not always benefited by receiving their own "wage increases" from their husbands, although last year average earnings per man-hour rose by 14–15 per cent. The Bill would play a part in giving wives better treatment with regard to prices. I remind those who say that the Bill concerns only an insignificant minority, and therefore is not worth bothering about, or that we should not introduce it because it is too fundamental a legal step, that last January a Gallup poll showed that about a third of the respondents up to the age of 44 had not received any increase in their housekeeping budget last year, even though on average their husbands' earnings had risen substantially. In many sectors, particularly the skilled sectors, they had risen more than average. There is now cause for Parliament to consider the situation, even at this eleventh hour, as it were.That leave be given to bring in a Bill to empower and require regular notifications by male spouses of their incomes from all sources to their wives; and where applicable reciprocal notifications by wives in receipt of incomes not emanating from their spouses and notifications of all or any changes therein.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Hugh Dykes, Sir John Rodgers, Mr. Clinton Davis, Miss Joan Hall, Mr. Maurice Edelman, Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman, Mr. John D. Grant, Mr. Cecil Parkinson, Mr. Edward Taylor and Mr. Christopher Tugendhat.
Matrimonial Incomes And Remuneration (Notifications)
Bill to empower and require regular notifications by male spouses of their incomes from all sources to their wives; and where applicable reciprocal notifications by wives in receipt of incomes not emanating from their spouses, and notifications of all or any changes therein, presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon 16th October and to be printed. [Bill 205.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Jopling.]
Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
May I ask, Mr. Deputy Speaker, how much time I am to have?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
I think it would be for the convenience of the House if the first three debates lasted 35 minutes each, or as near that as hon. Members can make it.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to raise the question of airline safety. I am naturally disappointed that more of my colleagues are not here to join in, but I look forward to the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit), who so long served as an airline pilot.My reason for asking for this debate is that at this time of year hundreds of thousands of British people fly off on holiday. I suppose that everyone who goes in an airliner feels, at least as the aircraft starts to taxi out, butterflies of uncertainty, and wonders whether his flight will be the unlucky one that will result in fatalities and injuries. This year has been important for civil aviation because two reports relating to flight safety have been published. One was the report of the inquiry into the Trident crash at Staines in June 1972, when 118 people were killed. It was the worst crash ever in the United Kingdom. The second was the report by the committee under Group Captain Douglas Bader into pilot fatigue, a report which had perhaps as its complement a similar document from the British Airline Pilots Association. Flying is one of the safest forms of travel known to man. Although we may each have that moment of doubt that our flight will be the unlucky one, I understand from statistics in The Times that the chances of our being among the fatal casualties are 175,000 to 1. Odds of that sort should not give us a moment's doubt about the safety of the aircraft we are in. Yet the fact is that air crashes, whenever and wherever they occur, make headline news around the world. Perhaps it is because the crash of a civil airliner so often involves a great number of deaths and injuries and because we can identify with the casualties. Therefore, although the odds may be so great against our being involved in a crash, the fact that there are crashes requires that we should continuously consider whether the air safety measures employed by the airlines and those who run air traffic control and all the other systems at an airport are adequate in this day and age, when more and more airliners are flying and more and more people are flying in them. There are three main causes of accidents—pilot failure, aircraft failure and the failure of airports and air traffic control systems. Yet last year when we first heard stories about flight captains going to sleep on the flight deck of their aircraft, we were inclined to dismiss them as the sort of gimmicky tales that so often find their way into the national Press. if we had looked back to 1966, we should have found that the flight safety officer of the Board of Trade had produced a most detailed report on the question of pilot fatigue and flight times. Yet for some reason that report received so little attention in the airlines that when the question was revived last year there was some doubt whether this was a gimmick subject. Now we know from the Bader Committee's report and from BALPA's report that pilot fatigue is a very serious danger that confronts any pilot who is asked to do more than a certain number of hours on the flight deck. If BALPA is to be believed, at least six accidents relating to United Kingdom aircraft were caused by that source. Admittedly, Group Captain Bader is not prepared to state that he knows of an accident caused by pilot fatigue, but he is willing to agree that pilot fatigue can so reduce the mental alertness of a pilot as to be a contributory factor. Indeed, in his report he produces what he considers to be the right working hours for a pilot. I merely mention them because they are part of the very important recommendations in the report. Group Captain Bader states that there should be an annual limit of 900 flying hours per pilot, in any calendar period of 12 months. He gives a table of minimum rest periods, which I understand has been accepted by the CAA, which set up the committee. He also makes a suggestion for a flight time limitation board to operate in an advisory capacity to the CAA, and suggests that the board should have on it representatives of the airlines and the pilots and an aeromedical specialist. Although I welcome the Bader report, I have to repeat that I find myself wondering why pilot fatigue has only now been recognised as the danger that it has clearly been for so many years. Why, by the same token, are we not yet in a position to persuade pilots to report all the incidents that take place on the flight deck and might give a clue either to their own mental alertness or to that of their colleagues? As I understand it, the reason is a feeling that it might produce the belief that they were somehow falling down on the job or were spying on those with whom they worked. That is a pity. Until we have incident reporting not only if an aircraft is involved in a near-miss accident but also of what happens on the flight deck, we shall not guarantee to pick up the pilot who is overstressed and deserves to be rested. Pilot fatigue leads to pilot error, and pilot error was a contributory factor to the crash of the Trident at Staines last year. As I have said, 118 people, passengers and crew, died. Why someone as experienced as the pilot of that aircraft should have made the mistake that he did in retracting the leading edge droops we shall never be able to say. But the point in the report of the inquiry on which we ought to spend a little time about is wondering how three similar incidents, which fortunately did not cause a crash in which passengers were killed, should have been allowed to happen without there being the most rigorous examination of the controls of the aircraft, how such an accident could happen, and whether any change should be made in the way the aircraft was operated. After all, the level that controls the droops is one of the most crucial instruments in the cockpit of the aircraft and there is little doubt its premature retraction caused the accident. We also know that Captain Key, the Trident's captain, was a sick man with a serious heart condition. It is, perhaps, not unreasonable to wonder how a man with that heart condition could be the captain of a passenger aircraft taking over 100 people out of London. One must wonder whether the medical tests to which pilots are being subjected are adequate to uncover heart conditions of that kind. I strongly recommend to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that there should be the most strenuous examinations of the tests currently being employed and that the rather curious statement in the report, that when it becomes more reliable the stress test electro-cardiogram should be substituted for the "resting" ECG, needs not only explanation but, perhaps, further action to bring this reliability into being as soon as possible. The other cause of that accident was the inability—for that is all that we can say for certain—of the second and third pilots to carry out the safety procedures which British European Airways prided itself were such as to avoid that sort of crash. One must wonder why that was so. How was it that after years of training those two pilots did not respond to the various warning signs that were given by the aircraft's controls that it was in a dangerous situation? One must wonder, also, whether such a situation could happen again, to the extent that a highly experienced 50-year-old captain could find himself flying with two very young men, in their early twenties, who, put in such an emergency, were unable to take the right action. It is not enough for the inquiry report to say that it was "bad luck" that Senior Officer Keighley was flying as No. 2. It is not a question of luck that we are concerned about, but of safety. Luck surely should not be part of the safety techniques on an airliner's flight deck. I must ask my hon. Friend whether he is now firmly convinced, first, that any incidents relating to the possibility of an accident as serious as could have happened with the droop retraction on the Trident—and did happen in June last year—would be picked up by the monitoring system which I understand the British Airways Board claims to have introduced since the crash? I must also ask my hon. Friend whether he is firmly convinced that in future on the flight deck of one of the airliners operated by the British Airways Board one could not find such a mix of old men and young men, so that even if the young men knew what to do they might be overawed by the fact of having such an experienced captain as the No. 1 and, perhaps, might wonder—if one assumes for the moment that the captain was ill rather than dead—whether he was carrying out the right routine and that it was not for them to query what he was doing. I should like to touch on the question of the noise abatement procedures, which are also considered to have been a contributory factor in the crash. I understand that these procedures have now been severely revised to the extent that the safety margin has been greatly increased. But perhaps the time has come for the noise abatement procedures to be dropped altogether. Perhaps what we should be doing is encouraging those who operate our aircraft to get them off and out of the airspace of the airfield and up to their cruising height as quickly as possible thus increasing the safety margin enormously without extending the noise footprint to any great extent. The noise abatement procedures are considered by many to provide only minimal relief anyway. This would seem to be a method of increasing safety with no great loss to the environment. Lastly, before leaving the Trident accident, I want to refer to two remarks made to me by a number of British airline pilots. They said this, and I think that these words are worth noting: Airlines should never allow themselves to believe that dinning set procedures into young pilots will train them to do the right thing in an emergency. What matters is that the pilots understand the procedures and have had experience of using them in the air. The second point these pilots made, and a point which also relates to the Trident crash, is that pilot morale is as important as the good health of those who fly the planes. Therefore, pilots' relationships with their management play an important part in their overall wellbeing. A happy pilot is a good pilot. Alas, as we know, Captain Key had been involved in a row just before that aircraft took off and, as we also know, graffiti was found in the cockpit of the aeroplane, suggesting that perhaps the morale amongst some of the pilots was not what it might have been. Having touched on those two reports and their recommendations, I want briefly to touch on the safety record of Britain's independent airlines. In May of this year the magazine Flight produced an article in which it showed by its own index that Britain came out about ninth in the world air safety league, that the two State airlines enjoyed the better of the safety records, and that the independent airlines suffered between 1963 and 1972 60 per cent. of the accidents while carrying about 25 per cent. of the traffic. Although the article specifically makes it clear that some of the famous names like British Caledonian, Laker and Court Line have never had a fatality, the thought is left that some of the other independents do not have the safety performance that we should expect of them. I therefore wonder whether the Civil Aviation Authority would be justified in setting up an inquiry into the safety standards of independent airlines to check why this statistic should be held against them. For instance, in the last 14 years 14 or 15 charter aircraft have flown into high ground with the loss of 600 people, and only last March 104 persons died in the crash of a Vanguard aircraft which flew into a mountainside near the airport at Basle. The passengers were all ladies on a one-day charter flight to Switzerland. Although I know that we are still waiting for the report of the Swiss court of inquiry, I am wondering why, when weather conditions were so bad at the airport, the pilot was not diverted to another.
The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Cranley Onslow)
May 1 point out to my hon. Friend that he is raising a number of points which I am very anxious to answer and which I shall need to answer fairly fully. We are at half-time already.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I think I should reinforce the point that the Minister has drawn attention to, which is that the debate is due to finish at 13.20. Even with the allowance of a few extra minutes, it will not be easy to contain it. I understand that the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) has a small share in the debate.
I will heed your warning, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and do my best to draw my remarks to a close in the next seven minutes.Is there any substance in suggestions which have been made to me that charter aircraft operators operate on such narrow profit margins that the pilot is almost bound to try to get into the airfield—
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Did I hear the hon. Gentleman aright? Did he say that he would try to conclude his remarks in seven minutes? It is not for the Chair, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes an answer from the Minister he must allow the Minister some time in which to make a reply.
I take all your remonstrances in very good part, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I find it rather hard that the 60 minutes that I had been allotted by Mr. Speaker for this debate have been reduced to 35 minutes. However, I will do my best to bring my remarks to a close as quickly as I can.Is it the case that those operating this type of flight find themselves bound to operate into an airfield even if the weather conditions are bad, simply because to divert could damage the profitability of the operation? If this is so, should not the Civil Aviation Authority insist that such airline operators insure themselves against such an eventuality? Then there is the question whether the profitability of airlines generally is weighed against the safety measures used on an airline. The British Air Line Pilots Association has a sneaking feeling that this is so. It makes the point that
In those circumstances, does the Civil Aviation Authority have sufficient power to insist on safety measures? Is it fully aware of the financial circumstances of all airlines operating out of this country? Is the position as Flight stated on 19th April—"the inability or refusal on economic grounds of an airline to invest in crew training and flight simulators, navigation aids, flight data recorders and any other equipment that could improve the efficiency of their flight crews and the safety of their aircraft threatens the safety record of the airline and the lives of those who are flying in the aircraft."
Just one word about air traffic control. Near misses are a constant source of worry in safety terms. Too many aeroplanes fly over the centre of London for any of us to feel easy when we hear that the Mediator air traffic control system is not operating at 100 per cent. efficiency. What is being done to improve that system? Lastly, has my hon. Friend heard the fear which I have heard expressed that Runway 23 at London Airport—the north-south runway—is considered by many pilots to have a dangerous approach, to be too short, and to be so badly drained that the danger of aquaplaning is an ever-present threat to safety? I close with one sentence from Lord Boyd-Carpenter. He wrote this in The Times in February:"British airlines still do not have to disclose their accounts—capital and operating—in any meaningful detail."
"Even one accident is one accident too many."
Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)
I shall be extremely brief. I have the greatest sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson), to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for this debate. My hon. Friend has raised many points to which I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will want to reply and I shall not raise any new points to concern him.It is unusual that we debate air safety except in the light of a disaster. I shall confine my remarks solely to those aspects of the work of the Civil Aviation Authority which I think we should note. At this early stage of the work of the authority under Lord Boyd-Carpenter we should recognise the extent to which it has moved on safety problems, pilot' fatigue, the carriage of flight data recorders, and the carriage of cockpit voice recorders, all of which will make a considerable contribution to safety. I shall write to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary about the other matters which I should have liked to raise with him. I hope that he and the House will accept that on this last day of term it is appropriate for us to make a couple of school-report type remarks. The first I would make is to the British airline industry, saying, "Good progress, but you could do better." Secondly, I would say to Lord Boyd-Carpenter, "An excellent start. We look forward to seeing far more of your work in the future."
The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Cranley Onslow)
I am sure that nobody will be more grate- ful than our former right hon. Friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter for the advice which my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) tendered, and I am certain that Lord Boyd-Carpenter will take due note of it.The House must be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) for initiating this debate. When he reads the report of his remarks in the OFFICIAL REPORT he will see that he has given me a deal to answer in 10 minutes. Therefore, I shall crack on. Since 1st April of last year the responsibility for safety matters has been that of the Civil Aviation Authority and not directly of my Department, nor, incidentally, that of the British Air Line Pilots Association. Anybody who has any concern about air safety matters is free to go to talk to Lord Boyd-Carpenter about them. I wish that my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East had spoken to Lord Boyd-Carpenter, because some of the things that he said today were more likely to frighten airline passengers than to reassure them. That is a pity because, as he said, this is the height of the travel season and we do not merely want to travel hopefully; we want to arrive. I have no doubt that British airlines will take good care of us and get us to our destinations, whether those airlines are independent or nationalised. To come to the nuts and bolts of the matter, airworthiness and safety matters are a Civil Aviation Authority responsibility, and that authority is constantly trying to improve standards by inspection of a physical kind and by concentrating much more on flight deck work rather than on paper work, and also—I take this opportunity to stress this fact —by concentrating on the financial aspect. The Edwards Committee stressed that it believed that there was a possible connection between financial soundness and safety, and the Civil Aviation Authority has this point very much in mind, though it was wrong of my hon. Friend to suggest that because an operator falls into some kind of difficulty and has an accident this implies that he is financially unsound. There is no substance in the suggestion, and if my hon. Friend has any doubt I hope he will talk to the Civil Aviation Authority about it and, having done that, I hope he will come back and say what the Authority has told him. Although there cannot be any cause for complacency, there is no need for alarmism. The Flight statistics to which my hon. Friend drew attention were alarmist. They were also—Flight admitted this—statistically unsound. What they ignored was the significant factor, which is the trend. Statistics can be made to prove many things, but what one needs to find out is what is going to happen and not what has happened. 1 remember my hon. Friend the Member for Epping and his analogy of the tadpole and the whale in the context of what can be misproved by statistics. The statistics for fatal accidents per 100,000 stage flights on passenger-carrying services, on five-year moving averages, from 1963 to 1967, indicate 0.30 for scheduled airlines, and in 1968–72 it is down to 0.23. On the non-scheduled transport—that is, the independents—in the same period the rate has improved from 1.15 for 1963–67 to 0.20 for 1968–72, which gives a better safety record to the independent airlines than to the national airlines or, rather, to the non-scheduled than to the scheduled. This is a significant point which has to be borne in mind. The United Kingdom total average compares favourably with the figures for other countries, and I hope very much that we shall not allow the debate to proceed on the basis of false statistics. My hon. Friend reminded the House of the Trident accident and, as one who was on the scene of that tragic disaster within an hour or so of its happening, I can tell him that I have been determined ever since that no possible chance should be missed of making sure that the lessons were learned and that it should never happen again if it can be prevented. This spirit has animated everyone concerned with the occurrence, whether in my Department, in the airline or in the Civil Aviation Authority, and there has been the closest and most continuous scrutiny, before the Report of the Lane Commission and since, to make sure that all possible action is followed up. It may help the House if I add one or two points to the statement which my hon. Friend made to the House on 9th May about the accident and the action which has been taken, in particular relating to four of the recommendations in the Lane Commission's findings. On the first, which had to do with the fitting of a physical baulk to prevent the retraction of the lever, I can say that the installation of this in the BEA Trident fleet has begun and it is expected to be completed by the spring of next year. In the meantime, there is a great awareness on the part of Trident pilots of the correct procedure. Training methods have been overhauled and substantially revised, and procedures have been changed in such a way that it should be impossible for a mistake of this kind to recur. The situation is one in which everything possible has been done and in which the highest levels of safety should once again prevail. On the question of cockpit voice recorders, the Civil Aviation Authority has consulted the aviation industry about the proposal that these should be mandatory on all civil passenger-carrying aircraft of more than 27,000 kilogrammes all-up weight. The Authority is getting reactions in, and there has been fairly general support for this, although there is some difficulty about specification and installation requirements and there will need to be further discussion with everybody concerned. In the matter of subtle as well as obvious incapacitation of a pilot, which was very much highlighted during the inquiry, the Civil Aviation Authority's Flight Operations Inspectorate has completed an examination of operators' crew training and flight procedures and has ensured that instructors take proper account of this. So there again, something has been done to meet the point. On the question of young pilots, and particularly the action taken by BEA, I can tell my hon. Friend that the airline has introduced procedures to give young pilots more experience as observers on the flight deck before they operate as P2 on passenger-carrying flights. The Flight Operations Inspectorate has reviewed with all United Kingdom airlines their rules on minimum experience for co-pilots. Therefore, action is being taken, and I hope that this will reassure my hon. Friend. With regard to electro-cardiograms, I am sorry that my hon. Friend has overlooked what was said at the time of the statement on 9th May, and 1 direct his attention to the OFFICIAL REPORT for that day, particularly to col. 496, where he will find that what he describes as a rather ambiguous statement is considerably clarified.
No, I cannot give way, I have but four minutes left in which to deal with the rest of what the hon. Gentleman said.It is worth stressing that the Civil Aviation Authority's action in connection with the Bader Report is a useful follow up to the Trident inquiry. In fairness to its comments on BALPA's findings, it is right to say that the words were:
The Bader Committee took evidence from BALPA as well, so that an impartial assessment of BALPA's findings tends to put it in a lower key and in a more accurate way. One of the most significant steps taken has been to make incident and defect reporting mandatory. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping and I have campaigned for this in the past, and we are both delighted that it should be so. There has certainly been a thoroughgoing review of noise abatement procedures by the Civil Aviation Authority, but there is nothing in the Lane Commission Report to suggest that there was anything necessarily wrong with the safety measures."on the evidence we received we were unable to decide whether fatigue had caused any accident to a United Kingdom registered aircraft in recent years."
I am sorry; this will have to be the subject of correspondence.It may be that the safety margins could be made greater by changing the procedures, but it does not mean that the margins which are applied are unsafe. I know that pilots have a preference for getting off the ground as quickly as they can, but there might be consequences on the noise front if they simply blasted off into the sky. I have to admit this in a somewhat reluctant sense because while I have a responsibility to see that people get the greatest protection from the adverse effects of aircraft noise, it comes up against the overwhelming requirement to put safety first. I am more anxious than ever that aviation should be safe and should be accepted as safe. One of the measures which occur to me is the two-segment approach. The Civil Aviation Authority is looking at this, but nobody is under any illusion about the need to put safety first. This is the message which I address to the House. We shall, I hope, have an opportunity in due course to debate air safety in circumstances which are not associated with accidents and disasters. My hon. Friend was right to make that point. We look forward to the first report of the CAA, which should be available later this year. I know, meanwhile, that the authority is doing a great deal to raise the standards of safety in British civil aviation and I am sure that it has the wholehearted support of the House. I am sure, too, that it is as anxious as I am that its work should be known. I therefore repeat my suggestion that anyone who has doubts about air safety should talk to the authority and I echo my hon. Friend's thought that it is not the glamour of the air hostesses or the excellence of the food or the modernity of the equipment which makes us willing passengers but the knowledge that we can fly safely. I believe that on British airlines we can.
Civil Service (Executive Grades)
Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvin-grove)
One of our British traditions is that our Civil Service is politically impartial. Unlike the United States, for example, where the civil administration undergoes extensive change every time there is a change in the political complexion of the Government, no drastic convulsions of personnel alteration take place in our Civil Service, regardless of which Government are in power. This concept of impartial service is a noble one, but there are signs that the modern civil servant does not want to become too institutionalised, to be taken too much for granted, to be looked upon as someone who will never complain no matter how unfairly he feels he is being treated.In the last 25 or 30 years the Civil Service has become far more integrated into the social and economic life of the country and the civil servant wants to be considered as an integral part of our society and to bear comparison in job structure, in salary, in promotion and in conditions of employment with comparable people in society. In addition, the civil servant wants some kind of a say in the working life he is expected to lead. The executive and directing grades of the Civil Service are a case in point. The duties in those grades range from special purchasing for their own department, the management of a labour exchange, determining the benefits laid down by the Department of Health and Social Security, the programming of computers, the conciliation of industrial disputes, advising business on export possibilities and opportunities, the preparation of parliamentary correspondence, and the preliminary drafting of proposed legislation. All these are executive duties which require judgment and analysis, and many of these personnel have to exercise personal skills, with the ability to express themselves clearly to the public with tact and even with persuasiveness. The maximum salary for an executive officer in these grades is £2,288 per annum, reached after 15 annual increments with a starting level of £951 per year. Surely there can be nowhere in industry or commerce where the commencing salary for a named position is less than half the maximum and where a 16-point scale of increments is involved. I know that the basis on which salaries are negotiated is the findings of the Pay Research Unit, which compares Civil Service jobs with similar positions in outside employment, but the unit operates only on a biennial review, which almost inevitably results in the process becoming a catching-up exercise on something which may be already a year out of date. I am not suggesting, however, that the unit is not a useful tool in salary discussions. What I am saying is that it cannot be considered a complete substitute for negotiation. The position to which the unit has brought the executive officers at this moment exemplifies my point. If one takes the base of 100 in January 1966 for the average earnings of all employees in industry, one finds that by September 1972 it had risen to 178·6. Over the same period the executive officers at the maximum level received an increase to 147·6. The higher executive officers at maximum level were at 152·2 while senior executive officers, again on the maximum, were at 151—all of them well behind the average industrial reading. But the dissatisfaction in the Civil Service is not confined entirely to remuneration. There is discontent amongst civil servants at the lack of encouragement to the achievement of recognised qualifications in pure managerial skills. Management is also a highly advanced technology, and in the modern world the Civil Service must recognise this by embarking upon a programme of training of employees and instruction in managerial skills. There is discontent also about the system of promotion in the Civil Service. In 1972 only one in 25 executive officers was promoted into the next grade of higher executive officer, and only one in 26 higher executive officers was promoted to senior executive officer. This is reflected surely in the alarmingly high staff turnover in the executive and directing grades. Nearly 16 per cent. of those who joined the service after 1st January 1970 left during 1971, and during the same year over 13 per cent. of executive grades who had joined in 1969 also resigned. Instead of modern methods of promotion, including case studies and discussions depth, interviews and assessments by psychologists, the chief method of promotion in these grades is by annual reports and promotion boards, an outmoded method of selection which is wide open to possible exploitation to perpetuate promotion by patronage rather than by ability. There is discontent also about the absence of effective participation in decisions which affect the lives of people employed. Civil servants have complained to me that decisions are made by command rather than by consent, that the system is, to say the least, authoritarian, and that even a condescending consultation has to be looked upon by the employees as a major victory. I know that time is short so I will summarise my conclusions. First, the 16-point salary scale should be shortened. After a maximum of 10 years an executive should be able to count upon earning a salary comparable with his counterparts in industry or commerce, and I believe that it is not pitching it too high to say that at this moment that should be at least £3,250 a year. Secondly, the service should develop a scientific and less subjective method of selection for promotion. Thirdly, the Whitley Council machinery is outdated and needs to be reformed. Finally, there should be regular and constant retraining in the service. No job of this kind has static requirements, and in a profession which plays such a large part in the life of every man, woman and child in the country it is vital for the well-being of the country that every member of that profession should be efficient, compassionate and content.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department (Mr. Kenneth Baker)
I welcome the widespread interest in the well-being of the Civil Service which has been expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller). The motion refers to executive grades but many of the problems—and I do not deny that they exist—involve also other grades. My colleagues and I are deeply concerned about all grades and classes of civil servants.We in this House and everyone in the country have an interest in ensuring that the outstanding service that the Civil Service renders to us, not only as a legislative assembly but as a nation and community, is not impaired. No one is more concerned in Government than I, as the Minister charged with responsibility for the Civil Service and every aspect of the conditions of employment of civil servants. I do not want to deal with the underlying implication in all that the hon. Gentleman has said, which is a dispute between two unions—
Mr. Ian Mikardo (Poplar)
No, it is not.
The hon. Gentleman rightly brought to the attention of the House the working conditions of certain grades in the Civil Service. He knows as well as anyone that his union is conducting a campaign and has produced a booklet from which he quoted freely "The case for Middle Management in the Civil Service." I do not wish to be drawn into an argumentative dispute as to who should represent whom in the Civil Service, and that is what, outside the House, the debate is generally seen as being about. If the hon. Gentleman says that that is not what the debate is about he turns away his eyes from one of the issues. I do not intend to deal with this. It is not for me. If there is a dispute between unions that is a matter for the TUC and Bridlington.
With great respect, what the Minister is saying is unfair. It is his business to reply to the speech made by my hon. Friend, who did not mention a trade union, either his own or any other. The Minister has no right to assume what is the basis of the debate. He should rest on the words used and reply to those words. His aspersion is utterly without justification. I say that as one who knows.
I have made no aspersion. I was about to say that I did not intend to deal with this point. I intend to reply to the points raised by the hon. Member for Kelvingrove, but I cannot help drawing the conclusion that the arguments put forward by the hon. Gentleman are almost word for word in this booklet.I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman and many others are genuinely interested in the arguments he put forward. From his opening remarks it is apparent that he appreciates the changing position of civil servants, and the changing position of civil servants within the Civil Service. The hon. Gentleman referred to Whitleyism, and in this I am sure that we shall be helped by the contribution of all the Civil Service unions. He did not pay due tribute to the achievements of over 50 years of Whitleyism. Over this long period a joint approach to problem solving has proved succesful and has often been the envy of both management and staff in the private sector. This is something of which the Civil Service has been rightly proud and I am sure that it will continue to be so. I do not underestimate the strength of feeling which recent industrial action has evinced, nor do I wish to understate the regret that must be felt by most people, including large numbers of civil servants, at this departure from tradition whereby a solution was generally found in matters of dispute through the Whitley Council system rather than through industrial action. I refute the implication that progress can be achieved only by coercion and confrontation. Whitleyism does not preclude direct negotiations by individual unions in matters which are the sole concern of the staff whom they are recognised as representing. Pay research negotiations, for example, are invariably conducted with the unions recognised to represent the staff concerned in the survey. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulties that the executive grades are experiencing and have experienced for some time. I am well aware of the arguments expressed in the publication "The Case for Middle Management in the Civil Service". The hon. Gentleman dealt with many of these arguments and I will specifically reply to them. The hon. Gentleman claimed that the various methods used in the past are not appropriate and have not produced job satisfaction nor the appropriate rate of reward for the degree and type of responsibility involved. The hon. Gentleman said that pay research reviews, which were established under the Priestley Report—a policy which has been followed by successive Governments—are based on reviews which are made a year previously and are, therefore, a year out of date. The rates collected during the Pay Research Unit's review are continually up-dated as changes occur through the year. All the rates used to settle Civil Service pay for a 1st January settlement are in payment in the firms concerned on that date. I think that the hon. Gentleman must have misunderstood the position. The reviews are not a year out of date. The hon. Gentleman dealt at some length with promotion, the lack of promotion and how long promotion took. He also referred to the length of the incremental scales. The system of scales in the Civil Service is important not only for executive grades but for typists and others. The hon. Gentleman omitted to recognise that the executive officer grade is a reservoir of talent into which three streams of recruitment flow—promoted clerical officers, "A" level entrants and graduates, for all of whom different parts of the scale are used. The scale relates starting pay to age, from 18 to 25. The hon. Gentleman ignored the system introduced in negotiation with the Society of Civil Servants in 1971 which can give an incremental jump after three years' satisfactory service. The hon. Gentleman asserted that the system of promotion was old-fashioned and did not allow recognition at a sufficiently early age. That is simply untrue. About two-thirds of those in the principal grade are former higher executive officers, and 30 per cent. of those at under-secretary level and above do not come from the former administrative class. The hon. Gentleman mentioned staff reports and job appraisal reviews. Staff report forms have been thoroughly revised to provide the best vehicle for achieving a common assessment, and an imaginative programmed learning system of training has been devised, validated and introduced. Job appraisal reviews have been introduced. There is nothing political in this. They were introduced under the Labour Government. They are a follow-through from the Fulton Report and have been introduced only with the most thorough preparation. The Civil Service Department has produced a training film on these reviews which has been much admired by firms outside the public sector. Private firms have hired it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity of seeing that film and appreciating the great care we take over the job appraisal of civil servants from year to year. This is not confined to executive grades but includes other grades as well. The hon. Gentleman implied that the executive officer was very dissatisfied, underpaid and under-appreciated and that we were having difficulties in recruitment. We are having difficulties in recruitment. But they are very much restricted to the London area. They are not experienced in the area which the hon. Gentleman represents, for example. Some of his colleagues on the Labour benches came to see me only last week to advocate greater dispersal of civil servants to the Glasgow area, to West Central Scotland and to Scotland generally. They made the reverse point to that which the hon. Gentleman made. They said that there was a superfluity of people waiting to become executive officers in Scotland. The point which the hon. Gentleman made about a shortfall of recruitment does not assist his constituency, his city or his country.
The hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. I did not suggest or imply that there was a shortage of recruits. I did not say anything about that. I said that there was a tremendous turnover of people in the Civil Service. An alarmingly high number of people leave. Will the hon. Gentleman stop giving the impression that it is unusual for hon. Members to quote from documents and to use expertise? Will he appreciate that I may have had a hand in drawing up the document?
I should not be at all surprised to hear that. The hon. Gentleman may well have had a hand in it. I was anxious to point out that quite a few of the statements which he made did not reflect an understanding of the position in the Civil Service, just as the statements in the pamphlet did not. There are errors in the pamphlet and in what the hon. Gentleman said. But there is also a deep strain of misunderstanding about how the Civil Service works.The hon. Gentleman mentioned in his intervention the question of turnover. He also mentioned the wastage in the executive officer grade. There is a problem about staff turnover. It is a problem which we share with other employers, and a thorough independent study which looked into the matter in 1970, comparing our experience in the Civil Service with that in 35 other organisations, suggested that our turnover figure was no higher than that of other organisations. A full-scale study has not been undertaken since then, but we keep in contact with the large employers in the private sector to ascertain their experience and to discover the situation in the labour market in particular parts of the country. It seems that our experience is not dissimilar from that of the private sector in large areas of clerical work in, for example, insurance companies and banks. They have similar problems to those to which the hon. Gentleman referred in the first part of his speech when he said that the nature of the job was changing and that people wanted to be more satisfied in their jobs. They do not want to work in clerical factories. I support what the hon. Gentleman said. We are continually looking at the nature of the work to see to what extent responsibility can be pushed down the line so that the sort of people about whom the hon. Gentleman spoke are not doing work which more junior grades, such as clerical officers and clerical assistants, could do. We have a team of consultants doing job satisfaction work in the area of the executive officer grades about which the hon. Gentleman has been speaking. We are experimenting to see whether changes in the organisation of work can bring greater satisfaction. It is not only a matter of pay. We undertook a major study to ensure that the executive officer grade was not being misused and that executive officers were not being given low quality work. We found that at most 3 per cent. of the executive officers were being given work of poorer quality than they might have been expected to tackle. But, even though the percentage was small, this is a matter which concerns us and we are discussing it with the Society of Civil Servants and, in particular, with the Civil and Public Services Association, because the association is concerned almost entirely with the work of clerical officers and clerical assistants. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of training. I resented most his remarks about training. The Civil Service needs to make no apology about the amount of training which it does or the quality and calibre of it. We have just experienced a five-year programme, which is continuing, of improving training by means of training colleges. Much of the training of executive officers is done at departmental level. They are trained in managerial techniques and in such things as management by objectives. They are trained in use of all the latest managerial tools. Although 94 per cent. of all training is done by Departments, a growing percentage is done by the Civil Service College in the courses which it runs in London and Edinburgh. In 1971–72 more than 600 executive officers and higher executive officers attended courses at the college. They were mainly four-week courses specially designed to develop their general management skills.
Will the hon. Gentleman say how long it will take to retrain and keep up-to-date the 83,000 people involved?
The great mass of training in the Civil Service is done on the job in Departments by the respective training departments. That has always been the case and will, I think, continue to be the case. There are very good training courses in managerial skills and not simply in the mechanics of a Department.I wish to deal with the question of promotion. The hon. Gentleman said that talent was being suppressed. That is not true. Today we have issued a new set of instructions revising some of our procedures to ensure that there are no bars to equal opportunity throughout the Civil Service. The procedures now open up a fast route for outstanding executive officers who will be able to reach the grade of principal, which carries a salary of £3,635 a year, in their twenties. They also contain a specific right of appeal for anyone who has not been called for interview or is not selected for promotion. I remind the hon. Gentleman of how rapidly the rate of the age of promotion from executive officer to higher executive officer is dropping. In 1967 the average age was 34. In 1971 it was 31 and in 1972 it was 30. I wish to deal with the matter of pay, because the hon. Gentleman dealt with it at some length. I assure hon. Members that Ministers, and particularly myself, are aware of the strong feelings of civil servants about the effect of the counter-inflation policy and about maintaining the fair comparison principle. We reached a settlement within the stage 2 limits and increases have been paid from 1st April. Executive officers get between 6½ and 10½ per cent., and this followed the 7 to 7½ per cent. which they received on 1st January 1972. The executive officer maximum in inner London is now £2,463 a year. However, I recognise that feelings of unfairness have arisen from the impact of the standstill. That is why the Pay Board has been asked to report on any anomalies which may have been created by the provisions of the counter-inflation policy. It is due to report its findings on 15th September. Hon. Members may know that written and oral evidence has been given by both sides of the National Whitley Council and separately by the Society of Civil Servants and other Civil Service unions. It is now for the Pay Board to consider the evidence and construct its report. Hon. Members will not expect me to speculate about its findings. The final outcome will be for the Government to decide in the light of the board's general report and the consultations which will be had on it. But if the board reports that anomalies exist, we have already assured the National Staff Side that they will be considered in relation to stage 3. I do not want the House to gain the impression, which recent advertisements in the Press have sought to encourage, that one particular union has a monopoly of concern. It is not for me to comment on the claims made by individual unions about their effectiveness, but we should be suspicious about claims that only one union cares. The history of over 50 years of Whitleyism demonstrates how much has been achieved through joint consultation between the employers and unions who do understand and do care. I hope I have said enough to make it clear that care and concern are being applied to the current problems faced by executive grades in the Civil Service. While welcoming any suggestion from any quarter we know that there are no easy solutions to these problems. But with the help of the staff representatives whoever they may be, we shall do our utmost to overcome the challenges that lie ahead. The philosophy and practice of Whitley-ism have served the Civil Service and the country very well over the years, and we shall not abandon them lightly. I only wish that those who seek to join in were more imbued with this spirit.
Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
I wish to declare an interest, solely as a former member of the Civil Service National Whitley Council and as its chairman at the time of negotiation of agreements, which are still current, regarding the principles for fixing Civil Service pay and conditions. I was also secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation which has in its membership a large number of executive grades, to which my hon. Friend referred.The executive grades in the Civil Service are covered by three main groups of organisation, all of which are affiliated to the staff side of the Civil Service National Whitley Council. There is the Society of Civil Servants, which represents the broad general grades of the executive classes, including a section of Customs and Excise; there is the Inland Revenue Staff Federation, covering a large section of departmental executive classes in the Inland Revenue; and the Association of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Taxes. When my hon. Friend refers to the conditions of executive officers and their grievances, which I fully understand, and with which I am familiar, I ask myself what is he seeking to remedy. It can come only from trade union organisation, trade union activity, joint consultation and joint agreement and, if necessary, arbitration. That is the structure which exists in the Civil Service today, and that is where the remedy lies. The House may be unsuspecting of the delicate issues which lie behind the debate today. I must refer to the fact that executive grades of the Civil Service, fully represented as they are by the organisations to which I have referred, have recently been under attack from another quarter, the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs. That association has entered the field for membership in some parts of the executive grades and has been making inroads into the membership of the Society of Civil Servants, especially and particularly in the Ministry of Defence. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller) is a member and an officer of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs. Therefore, one has to consider this debate in the light of this rivalry in the background. These two unions, the Society of Civil Servants and the ASTMS, are both affiliated to the TUC, which is fully alive to the problems which have lately arisen in this connection. I understand that under the TUC's dispute machinery a conference has been called at which the matters in dispute between the two unions can be fully considered. I fear that without that information the House does not fully understand the underlying considerations relating to the executive classes particularly. Why not the clerical classes or the professional classes? At present, this sensitive area is the executive grades in the Civil Service. I must strongly dissent from any suggestion, if there is one, that the remedy can come from any source other than the recognised machinery and organisation. I disagree most strongly with my hon. Friend when he alleges that the Civil Service National Whitley Council is out of date. It is not. It is very much up to date. It is reviewed from time to time by independent Royal Commissions to see whether anything needs a new look and perhaps considerable review. An example was the Priestley Commission in 1955, out of which sprang for the first time an agreed formula, an agreed principle, for fixing Civil Service staff pay and conditions—that of fair comparability with a Civil Service pay research unit established especially to gather information on which negotiations could be conducted. That system has operated satisfactorily since 1955 and has been interrupted only once—by the present Government's counter-inflation policy. The rhythm of reviews for fair comparability purposes in the Civil Service has been intercepted by that policy. We hope that this will be purely temporary. There is nothing wrong with the system, or with accredited and recognised organisations, or with their membership. There is nothing which needs the intrusion of another organisation.
Mr. Martin McLaren (Bristol, North-West)
I have asked for some time to discuss the subject of national savings so that we can have an opportunity before we rise to look at the recommendations of the Page Committee and give the Minister an opportunity to tell us the Government's views.I wish to thank Sir Harry Page and the members of his committee for their interesting and valuable report. It may be controversial in some respects, but is none the worse for that. It is a rather long document and in the short time available it will only be possible for me to touch on some of the main points. I will be brief because I hope that there will be time for my hon. Friends to join in the debate. The Government have a dual role, perhaps a conflicting role—and there is always trouble where there is a conflict of interests. On the one hand, the Government have long thought it to be their social responsibility in a paternal role to provide facilities for savings and to encourage thrift. In their other role they want to obtain finance and borrow money in the cheapest way possible. Savings can be regarded as an alternative to taxation in affecting the level of demand, and can help improve the rate at which investment and growth can develop. Therefore, the Government appear to be in a Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation, encouraging savings through the national savings movement, yet wanting to get savings as cheaply as they can. The Government ought to offer a fair deal to the small and unsophisticated saver, yet a survey of the history shows that there is little doubt that this has not been done in the past. Like other fixed interest securities, national savings have had no protection against inflation. Although £4,000 million was added during the last 20 years, the present stock of £10,000 million is worth in real terms only two-thirds of what savers owned at the start of the period. Savers have had a bad deal compared with, for example, owners of land or of French impressionist pictures. For those with national savings, inflation has operated like a tax from which the Government as a debtor have derived great advantage. People investing in national savings have begun to get wise to this. For instance, the recently published June figures were poor, showing that in the first three months of the financial year only £53 million was invested as compared with £199 million for the some period of last year. The Government for some time has been on the defensive, trying to maintain the existing stock rather than to expand it. There has been growing and gathering criticism of the way they treat the national saver. An article in the Financial Times recently appeared under the headline:
One reason for the poor figures is undoubtedly that savers have been switching over to other forms of saving such as life insurance or unit trusts which they reckon will give them more protection against inflation. The Government try to hang on to national savings for as long as they can. Let me give two examples of this, the first relating to national savings certificates. These have a lower nominal rate of return in the early years than in the later years and this is presumably to encourage savers to retain their certificates and suffer their losses through inflation for a long time. The second example is that when the earlier issues, particularly the first to the sixth, reach maturity they are not automatically paid off but can continue to be held at a low rate of interest. Unsophisticated savers often keep these for years, not realising that it would be better to convert them into the current issue or to take out the cash for investment elsewhere. The least that ought to be done is that on maturity all investors should be approached and offered repayment or conversion as in the case of dated stocks. I ask my hon. Friend for an assurance that this will be done. At paragraph 451 Page said:"The grimy capitalist face Page uncovered."
I think so too. One of the difficulties has been the hotch-potch of different schemes, many of low face value. The 10p saving stamp is a recent example. That has been a reason for the high administrative cost of the present arrangements, running at over £7 million a year. There is a need to review the schemes, to simplify them, bring them up to date and in line with the high prevailing interest rates. I agree that the British savings bond 8½ per cent. introduced recently is a step in the right direction. Page recommends that there should be a new single security to clear the jungle, bearing in mind the negative real return on some current issues. That calls into question whether there should be an issue which is inflation-proof, an index-linked scheme to protect capital and interest in real terms. Page recommended this. Some years ago the Radcliffe Committee remarked sardonically:"We think that the Department for National Savings might have shown a greater desire to remedy this defect."
That gave some encouragement to this idea. The Government always like to pretend that inflation does not exist, just as the courtiers pretended that the emperor was wearing fine clothes and that his nakedness did not exist. It will be interesting to hear what the Government have to say about an index-linked scheme. Questions are also raised about the trustee savings banks but I would like to leave that subject to my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg), who has an expert view on such banks. There is also the controversial question whether the voluntary movement should be closed down. Page thought that it was wasting its time. The Government refused to accept that recommendation. With some hesitation I support the Government on this. The movement has a fine record of voluntary work and encouraging thrift. If it is to continue in business let us provide it with something worth selling to small savers. The Page Committee will not have laboured in vain if its report induces the Government to have to have a new look at national savings, to simplify and modernise them and to give the small saver a better deal than he has had for many years. The only party point which I will introduce briefly is that the other day I heard the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) making a considerable fuss about how he had no opportunity before the recess to discuss national savings and the Page Report. I have given him this opportunity."A Treasury driven into a tight corner might do worse."
Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)
I welcome the opportunity of participating in this debate which my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. McLaren) has been fortunate enough to start. I declare my interest in that I have been for many years an unpaid trustee first of the London and subsequently of the London and South-Eastern Trustee Savings Bank, which is the largest trustee savings bank in this country. I am also a member of the parliamentary committee of the trustee savings banks of which my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) is the distinguished chairman.The House ought to be aware of the astonishing development of trustee savings banks over a comparatively short period. Sir Harry Page's report shows this quite clearly. I join in the tribute to Sir Harry, whom I knew as one of the distinguished financial advisers to the Association of Municipal Corporations when I was deputy chairman of that body. If, using the figures from the Page Report, I compare the total amount saved over five years by the Post Office Savings Bank and the trustee savings banks, it will show the enormous difference which has taken place in under 30 years. In 1935 the total deposits of the Post Office Savings Bank were £390 million while for the trustee savings banks the figure was £233 million. In 1945 the Post Office figure had shot up to £1,540 million, with the trustee savings banks figure at £675 million. In 1955 the Post Office figure was £1,700 million and the trustee savings banks figure £1,178 million. In 1965 the figures were £1,823 million and £2,235 million respectively. In 1971 the Post Office figure had risen to £1,831 million while the trustee savings banks figure had gone to £3,006 million, almost double the figures of the Post Office Savings Bank, which by then had taken refuge under the name of the National Savings Bank. An even more significant figure is that of the percentage share of national savings. In 1951 the Post Office Savings Bank had 32 per cent. and the trustee savings banks 15 per cent. By 1972 the Post Office share had dropped to 20 per cent. and the trustee savings banks share had risen to 30 per cent. I said that it was an astonishing development, and so it is when we consider the restrictions that have been placed on the trustee savings banks over the years. The Treasury has never been swift in giving permission to the trustee savings banks to advance. There was a lengthy delay when the London and South-Eastern Banks wished to merge. There was a battle with the Treasury when the cheque scheme was first contemplated, and when eventually the Treasury gave approval there was a battle with the joint stock banks. The cheque scheme is now highly successful. There was less difficulty in getting the unit trust movement off the ground. I want to give two quotations from the Page report. The first is at paragraph 188 when it says:
The proposals put forward were "modest" because the trustee savings banks had learned by bitter experience that if they made any large claims they would be likely to be sat upon heavily by the Treasury, by the National Debt Commission or some other body. Therefore, it is slightly unfair that there should be criticism of that kind. Paragraph 192 of the report says:"We experienced some difficulty in getting a full picture of the trustee savings banks' situation because the evidence submitted by the Association appeared to be directed specifically to a modest set of requirements which they considered to be capable of early achievement, rather than a blue-print for the long-term future of the trustee savings bank system."
Again this is in light of bitter experience over a number of years since the war. The trustee savings banks movement in this country has less freedom of manoeuvre than is enjoyed by any other savings bank in the western world. When one considers that we were virtually the pioneers of the savings bank movement, it is a sad commentary on successive Treasury Departments that ours is the most hamstrung savings movement in the Western world. Trustee savings banks wanted some while ago to make loans to their depositors. They had a tough battle with the Treasury which lasted almost two years. Then, just when it seemed that they were on the point of success, the Page Committee was announced and the Government said "Sorry, you cannot proceed." There has been a further two-year delay in allowing trustee savings banks to make loans to their depositors. The trustee savings banks wish to consider the possibility of giving mortgages to their depositors. I quote from paragraph 203(v):"The National Debt Office representatives believed that the trustees savings banks were less confident in their own ability than they were entitled to be, and consequently tended to be over-conservative in their plans."
The report goes on in paragraph 205 to say that the Trustee Savings Banks Association's proposals"The United Kingdom was almost the only country whose savings banks did not offer a loans service."
There are two major issues on which I hope the Government will take speedy action. The first is Page's proposal to give complete freedom to the trustee savings banks movement to move away from the national savings bank movement. At this stage I express no views because the parliamentary committee of the association has not come to any firm or final conclusions, but it will be interesting to have the Government's preliminary reactions. The other issue on which there is need for a swift statement from the Government is whether they are prepared to allow the trustee savings banks to lend money to their own depositors. There is one other minor matter which is mentioned in the Page report and which relates to a change in status of the people who make up the controlling bodies of trustee savings banks. Up to the present they have been known as honorary managers and trustees, and Page recommends that the status needs to be changed and that there is no further use in some categories for trustees to have a part in the management of trustee savings banks. I hope the Government will not agree to this, because trustees have an important part to play, particularly in central development and policy. If one is able to bring about a closer amalgamation of trustee savings banks so that there are fewer and more powerful banks, I believe that they can play a major part in helping their depositors. Therefore. I hope that the Trustee Savings Banks Association and the Treasury will meet soon to work out the policy, and I hope that my hon. Friend in his reply will be able to say that there will be legislation in the next Session to deal with this subject."were vigorously supported by the National Union of Bank Employees. We received no evidence which objected to the proposals on grounds of principle."
Mr. R. A. McCrindle (Billericay)
In the short time I have at my disposal I want to make two points. Before I do so I should like to declare an interest in that I am a director of a life assurance company which deals extensively in unittrust-linked policies. It is to that point I wish to draw attention in regard to the implications which flow from the Page report.One of the major recommendations of the Page report is that there should be an index-linked investment launched by the national savings movement. At the risk of giving some assistance ostensibly to competitors, I wish strongly to support that recommendation. Although national savings could be seen as a fair investment in terms of return on money, just as building societies can be seen to be a good investment, the national savings movement has found it more and more difficult to attract new savings. I am persuaded that the only way in which it is likely to obtain a breakthrough is by the launching of a completely new dimension in national savings. I very much welcome the idea of an index-linked national savings bond. There can be no doubt that commercially the most dramatic development in national savings has been the launching of the managed bond. This bond has attracted money because it spreads investment among property, fixed interest and equities, and also because past performance has shown that this method of investment keeps pace with inflation. Something of a similar nature is necessary in terms of the national savings movement. I look forward to the launching of a similar bond in sufficiently small denominations to persuade the unsophisticated saver to get in on the act. I strongly oppose the suggestion that the national savings stamp should be abolished and that consequently the voluntary savings movement should be wound up. With regard to the national savings stamp, I cannot over emphasise the need to encourage at an early age the idea of thrift. The opportunity given to young people to save at an early age, particularly in small amounts initially, is something that may well stay with them in their later years. I disagree with the suggestion that the 10p savings stamp should be abolished. I believe that there should be a wider range of savings stamps, including those of very much larger denominations but retaining the 10p stamp to encourage the idea of thrift at an early age. I cannot pay too high a tribute to the work done by dedicated men and women in the voluntary savings movement, and I believe that it would be a retrograde step to abolish a structure which has been so carefully built up. I hope that my hon. Friend will take account of the social aspect. Recognising that we are dealing with a national savings movement which should not be run at a loss, there is nevertheless an element of social contact between the national savings movement and the people they call upon which cannot be evaluated in terms of money. I want to see the national savings stamp remain, albeit in different denominations, and I also wish to see the voluntary savings movement preserved because of its social function. I ask the Government carefully to consider the situation before agreeing to accept all the recommendations of the valuable Page report.
The Minister of State, Treasury (Mr. John Nott)
I am sure that we all thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. McLaren) for raising this subject. I very much welcome the opportunity that this debate gives me to reply to a number of matters arising out of the report of the Page Committee.At the outset I ought to say that we are looking at the whole subject against the background of what we consider to be an immensely valuable and comprehensive report on national savings. It was an awareness of some of the problems which have been outlined in the debate which led the Government to set up the Page Committee in the first place. We have already given preliminary consideration to the committee's recommendations. But we do not wish to reach final conclusions on the recommendations until a number of organisations, including the national savings movement and the Trustee Savings Banks Association, have been properly consulted and given an opportunity to present their views. Those consultations are now in progress. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg) is aware, the Trustee Savings Banks Association is meeting today to consider the recommendations of the Page Committee's report. The performance of national savings in the past year or two has been very encouraging and very much better than the years of the late 1960s. The net addition to the balances held by the public in all forms of national savings increased in 1971 by £632 million, which at the time was the highest increase ever achieved in a single year. The following year, 1972, saw this record handsomely beaten with a net increase of £855 million. The reason for the improved inflow of funds into national savings is not hard to find. The Government have very substantially improved the terms of national savings, and this has been successful in attracting a substantial volume of funds. Although there has been a falling off in recent weeks, the net inflow in the first half of 1973 has been £358 million, which is no mean amount. The outstanding feature of recent weeks has been the great success of the new British savings bond announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech. In the first eight weeks of sale the public have invested £96 million in the bond, which pays 8½ per cent. in the form of a half-yearly dividend with a tax-free bonus of 3 per cent. on maturity after five years. These sales are nearly treble those of the previous issue of bonds over a comparable period. It has been alleged that the terms of national savings are unfair to small savers. That is an allegation which I do not accept. It is true that all fixed interest saving—not just national savings—is threatened by inflation. Inflation exercises its pernicious effect on all features of our national life. That is why it is so important to bring inflation under control. But national savings offer a wide range of securities and facilities whose terms are kept competitive with other comparable forms of savings. In addition to the British savings bonds, there is the 8 per cent. available on the investment accounts of the National Savings Bank and trustee savings banks and a wide variety of other securities offering competitive terms. When my right hon. Friend increased substantially and made more attractive the terms for national savings in the Budget, there was some criticism. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) complained on 9th April:
There was criticism from other quarters of the Government's action in increasing and improving the terms in this year's Budget. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West asked a number of questions which I shall now try to answer. He referred especially to savings certificates. It is quite true that holders of certificates of the early issues are receiving interest at far below the current market rates. That is not of this Government's seeking, and it has been drawn repeatedly to the notice of holders that they should encash those early issues of national savings certificates. The capital amount now outstanding of these early issues has halved from £16 million to £8 million in the past two years. The total amount outstanding of these early issues of national savings certificates is now only about £8 million out of a total held in national savings of £10,000 million. Although I accept the importance of what my hon. Friend says, the amount is relatively small. The Government would be delighted if holders of these early issues would redeem their certificates and invest them in higher yielding British savings bonds and other securities. The problem is that the manner in which the national savings certificate was set up when first issued in 1916 has remained constant ever since under every Government. Many of the holders of early certificates are untraceable. We simply do not know where they are. But we shall make further efforts to advertise the fact that the Government wish these early holders to encash their certificates and invest the proceeds in higher yielding securities. My hon. Friend also referred to the new security recommended in the Page report—a kind of amalgam between the national savings certificate and the British savings bond. This is a matter which we are looking at with great care as part of our consideration of all the recommendations in that report. In due course when we have consulted various bodies obviously we shall say more on the subject. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead raised a number of matters about the trustee savings banks. I can confirm that all his figures were correct. There is no doubt about the splendid progress of the banks, and the dedication of their trustees and staff, and the support of the national savings movement has been outstanding, and it was recognised in the Page report. The recommendations in the report involve a substantial reorganisation of the entire basis and structure of the banks. We are now in consultation with the Trustee Savings Banks Association, which, as I said, is meeting today to discuss the Page Report, to try to elucidate the full wishes of the members of that association and to discover what they feel should be done about the Page recommendations. Those consultations are in hand, and in due course we shall be delighted to receive the representations which they will make to us. Even if there were time it would be inappropriate to answer the specific questions which my hon. Friend asked. But I can say that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer sent a message of good will today to this meeting and expressed the hope that the Trustee Savings Banks Association would reach conclusions likely to help in formulating decisions about the future of the banks."The Chancellor, by beefing up the attractions of national savings in the Budget—these are the building societies' most direct competitor—has worsened the position still further … In the Budget, he improves the attractiveness of national savings. When this has the predictable and, presumably, desired effect that other savings become less attractive, he reverses himself and pumps money into other forms of savings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th April 1973; Vol. 854, c. 953.]
Before my hon. Friend leaves my points, will he try to deal with the Page Committee's recommendation about index-linked bonds?
I shall be coming to that in just a moment.I now wish to comment on the voluntary movement and the stamp. As my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. McCrindle) knows, the voluntary savings movement is made up of more than 150,000 active voluntary workers in England, Scotland and Wales from all walks of life—industry, teaching, local government, banking, etc. The total membership of savings groups amounts to more than 5 million, making it the largest voluntary movement in the country. My right hon. Friend felt that consideration should be given to how its work should proceed in the future. He felt it right that it should continue in view of its very valuable work in the past. The Page Report recommends that the stamp should be withdrawn from sale. This will need careful consideration in the light of the views of the voluntary movement, which we must consult. Although the stamp is widely used among certain sections of the public, with the more widespread development of banking schemes it is now playing a smaller part in the national savings groups system than it was. Finally, I come to the whole question of index-linking which was raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, North-West and Billericay. Page recommended a modest experiment and recognised that the question raised issues well beyond his committee's remit. My hon. Friends will not expect me to advance all the arguments against index-linking, but it might be helpful if I indicate briefly why successive Governments have so far been reluctant to adopt index-linking. The idea has obvious attractions, although the experiences of countries where it has been tried have not been very encouraging. I think my hon. Friends would agree with that. The objections are formidable. The implications of such a scheme are far-reaching and difficult to assess. We could not estimate in advance what the effect would be on future sales and existing holdings of conventional national savings, nor the extent to which institutions, both in the private and public sector, would follow the Government's example. Index-linking could become widespread and have implications, for instance, for the market for existing fixed interest Government debt. Before embarking on this road, we should want to feel sure that this would help curb inflation and not act as a further stimulus to it. Nevertheless, there are recommendations in the Page Report for an experimental issue of an index-linked bond, and naturally we will consider them when we are looking into the whole of the report. I am delighted that this opportunity has arisen to discuss a few aspects of the Page Report. The Government are conscious of the criticisms outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West. We set up the Page Committee with a view to looking into these matters in depth. We are now in the midst of our considerations of these detailed recommendations, some of which are very complicated. For example, the one about the trustee savings bank is extremely far-reaching. In due course, when we have consulted all the relevant interests, I hope that we shall be able to say something more.
Mrs Joan Rosina Smith
Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
I am glad of this opportunity to raise the case of Mrs. Joan Rosina Smith, who, since her divorce, likes to be known as Mrs. Carroll, because her case vividly highlights two aspects of the problem of battered wives. That Mrs. Smith qualifies as a battered wife there can be no doubt, as her story will show.Mrs. Smith was separated from her husband and lived with her brother-in-law, Mr. Robert McNab Smith, for seven years and had a son by him. In July 1971 she left him because of his terrifying behaviour. But, not for the first time, as in the case of a wife, or a common law wife, driven from home by her husband's behaviour, finding she had absolutely nowhere to go she was forced to return to the house with her small boy. However, she did so on a strictly businesslike relationship with Mr. McNab Smith. What follows flows directly from the fact that we have failed to provide the "sanctuaries" for battered wives for which my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) made such an eloquent appeal in an Adjournment debate only a few days ago. The relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Smith was no longer of a marital kind. They had separate rooms. He paid her as a lodger for his accommodation. All she did was to cook his meals, and nothing else. But in January 1972 she decided to end even this arrangement. Eventually, Mr. McNab Smith agreed to go, and he packed his bags and left. What happened next is best described in the words of Mrs. Smith's solicitor:
In other words, her brother-in-law, having set her alight, had thrown her out of the window and she was picked up from the pavement below like a human torch. Battered! She was nearly murdered. In June last year Mr. McNab Smith appeared at Lancaster Assizes where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to imprisonment for six years. Therefore, there can be no doubt that Mrs. Smith suffered criminal injuries. In September last year Mrs. Smith wrote to me. Whilst she was in hospital she had been told about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, and she consulted a solicitor. It was then that she discovered that her claim had been ruled out by paragraph 7 of the scheme, which provides:"On Monday 31st January her brother-in-law told her that he had found lodgings and was going out. He went out. She went to bed, and, having been asleep for some time, was aware of something cold on her and her brother-in-law saying, 'We are going to have a gorgeous fire.' She did not know anything else until some six weeks later when she woke up in hospital in the Intensive Care Unit for burns. She suffered extensive burns on the body and limbs, her jaw was fractured and her bones were cracked in the right ankle. She also suffered injuries to the back of her head which required stitches."
I do not think it is disputed that in this case Mr. and Mrs. Smith were no longer living together as man and wife. However, that has made no difference to the application of paragraph 7 of the scheme, because the phrase"Where the victim who suffered injuries and the offender who inflicted them were living together at the time as members of the same family no compensation will be payable. For the purposes of this paragraph where a man and woman were living together as man and wife they will be treated as if they were married to one another."
is pretty wide. Indeed, when I wrote to the Home Secretary on Mrs. Smith's behalf, he replied confirming that her application had been dismissed as a result of paragraph 7 of the scheme. Incidentally, he also confirmed that no legal aid is available for legal representation before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board on the ground that this is just a tribunal like any other. I believe that point needs looking into extremely urgently. The Home Secretary rejected Mrs. Smith's complaint to me that she had no redress under the law. On the contrary, he said, Mrs. Smith could sue her brother-in-law under the civil law for trespass. That is a remedy which a moments' thought will show is no remedy at all. I have met and spoken to Mrs. Smith. I have seen the scars on her body. She is still a bundle of nerves and under constant medical attention. Can one be surprised? Her response was: "Sue him? I never want any contact with him again." Not only that, clearly she is terrified of him. So we face the situation that battered wives, those for whom we now say we have such concern, form the one group which is not covered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. What is more, the greater the criminal injury, the less likelihood there is of redress. What is the good of telling the woman to sue a man who will be in prison for another five years? Even if she did and hope was held out that he might come back and earn a decent wage and be able to pay her something, surely the more violent the man's treatment of her in the first place the less likely she will be to want to incur his further wrath. So Mrs. Smith has no redress under the law, de facto, and she is extremely bitter about it. Having been sent the Home Secretary's reply and having learned from her solicitors that she has exhausted all the stages of representation before the compensation board—she had gone from the single man assessment to the three-member consideration of the case, with the same result—she wrote to me a short while ago very bitterly:"living together at the time as members of the same family"
I want to put these points to the Home Secretary through the Minister. It is not a question of waiting for British law to be changed. The Home Secretary, in his reply to me, explained that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme was introduced on an experimental non-statutory basis in 1964, and that payments under it are ex gratia. I understand that the compensation board's findings are final and that there is no right of appeal. The Home Secretary said also that the operation of the scheme was under review. I am sure that the Minister will agree that that review is bound to be a substantial undertaking. Since it is an experimental scheme, many questions have arisen from its operation. However, it can be claimed that, broadly, the scheme is a success. There are many factors which must be under review, such as whether the hearing should be in public, whether there should be a formal right of appeal, and so on. I put it urgently to the Government that, with our new awareness of the problem of battered wives, it is absurd that they should be asked to wait for a change in the law. Apart from anything else, when the review is concluded, if one has to wait for an Act of Parliament to be passed to put the scheme on a statutory basis, that will take a great deal of parliamentary time. The whole point of making the scheme non-statutory was to alter it as found necessary in the light of experience before being tied by the terms of an Act of Parliament. However, there is no reason why the Home Secretary should not make an immediate alteration by removing the provisions of paragraph 7 of the scheme. As I understand it, that is simply a matter of decision by the Government. I ask that that action should be taken urgently. On the problem of battered wives, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South said, we are failing totally to provide a sanctuary to which a woman who is frightened of her husband —or her common law husband—can go if she wants to leave home and to leave him. Again, there are possibilities here for the Government to act immediately. I know that this is not in the departmental responsibility of the Home Office, but we cannot allow the pigeon-holing of this issue simply because a number of different Government Departments are involved. There should be an urgent Government strategy covering all these points. I conclude with one great example of where the Government could help. In my constituency there is a voluntary hospital, the Bethany Home, which is run by devoted voluntary workers who take in from the streets anybody who may be destitute or homeless. The hostel has taken in a number of frightened and battered wives. But it is finding that rising costs are swamping it. Unless some action is taken it may have to close. I have written to the Secretary of State for Social Services saying "Please, if you care about the problem of battered wives, make a grant to this voluntary hostel now, and to all voluntary hostels of approved standards and all homes and sanctuaries provided by municipalities." I hope that we shall get from the Home Office a promise that in the light of this case, which establishes the needs irrefutably, the Government will amend the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in this respect at once."This is my first encounter with British Law, and up until now, I thought it was the best. But now I discover that Law defends the wrongdoer. The person who admitted guilt, and who was tried and found guilty, is the person who comes out best. He has changed my life for the worse, caused me terrible injuries (which was what he wanted). The British public have to keep him for 6 years, they also had to keep myself and 7-year-old son for 12 months, as I couldn't work because of my injuries. My son had awful upsets as a result of his father's actions. But as British Law stands, I can claim no compensation. It is all very wrong. British Law must be changed …".
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Mark Carlisle)
The right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) raised the tragic case of Mrs. Joan Smith, whose application for compensation was recently refused by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.Before I turn to her specific points, I should like to emphasise how much I share the sympathy that the right hon. Lady expressed in view of the appalling injuries that Mrs. Smith suffered. It is, as the right hon. Lady said, in a way a classic and horrific example of the type of brutality which is from time to time inflicted by one person on another. Perhaps the seriousness of the attack that was made is well illustrated by the length of the prison sentence imposed upon her attacker. At the end of the right hon. Lady's remarks she made various wider comments about the problem of battered wives which was raised by her hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) in a debate in the House recently to which I replied. I shall ensure that her comments about the hostel in her constituency are conveyed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I can only repeat my reply to the other debate—that the right hon. Lady's views about the need for availability of accommodation will be conveyed to the relevant Department. If I might venture a suggestion, it has been my personal view, as a practising barrister, that this is the greatest need of all for those who are attacked in this way. I shall limit myself to commenting on what the right hon. Lady said about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, which comes directly under the responsibility of the Home Office. I confirm that the scheme was established in 1964 on an experimental and non-statutory basis. It provides for ex gratia payment by the State of compensation for personal injury directly attributable to a crime of violence. Until 1964 there was no such State scheme and any victim was thrown back on to his common law rights—rights which, I accept, as the right hon. Lady said, are there in law but which in practice are often illusory. The person often does not have the money to pay the damages that are awarded. In cases such as the one that we are discussing, I accept the unreality of obtaining a judgment unless a man has money somewhere tucked away when he is starting a sentence of six years of imprisonment. That was the situation until 1964. I am glad that the right hon. Lady said that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme has proved a success in meeting the needs of those who are victims of violent crime. Some indication of its success is that applications to the scheme, I am told, are rising at the rate of well over 1,000 additional applications a year From the time the scheme was started in 1964 until the end of the financial year 1972–73 the board has received some 53,549 applications and awarded compensation totalling more than £15 million. That is evidence of the need for the scheme. It is administered by a board of eight legally qualified members under a chairman who has wide legal experience. It is entirely the responsibility of the board to decide within the terms of the scheme whether compensation should be paid in any particular case and, if so, how much that compensation should amount to. The procedure under which the board considers applications is set out in the scheme. The application is first looked at by the board's staff. It is then referred to a single member of the board who decides whether the application falls within the scope of the scheme and, if so, what award should be made. An applicant who is dissatisfied with the decision of the single member is entitled to ask for a hearing before three members. I must emphasise that the board's decisions are in no way subject to any form of ministerial review. The decisions of the board are binding although, as the hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) knows from a recent case, the board is subject to the normal supervisory jurisdiction of the High Court in the interpretation of its terms. But subject to that the board's decisions are binding and are not reviewable by Ministers. Paragraph 7 states that compensation will not be payable where a victim who suffered injuries and the offender who inflicted them were living together at the time as members of the same family. In applying that, the board has been guided by the Divisional Court in the case of R v. the Board ex parte Staten, 1972, where it was stated that
was to be given its ordinary, straightforward meaning. I do not propose to go into the details of the individual case. I have expressed my horror at it and I confirm the facts mentioned by the right hon. Lady. The application for compensation was initially rejected by the single member of the board on the ground that Mrs. Smith was ineligible for compensation under paragraph 7. She subsequently asked for a hearing before the three members of the board and, although legal aid at the moment is not available for applications to the board, she was legally represented before the board. After a lengthy hearing the board again decided that Mrs. Smith's application was excluded by paragraph 7. Having come to that decision it was excluded from making any form of ex gratia payment. Although, it is not normally subject in any way to ministerial review, from what one has read of that application there certainly appeared to be evidence on which the board could come to the conclusion that it was excluded from treating this case. Mrs. Smith was legally represented. I know the firm of solicitors who represented her and I have no doubt that she was adequately and well represented at that hearing. The right hon. Lady said that the trouble lies with paragraph 7. When the scheme was originally brought in, the White Paper set out the reasons why those living together were excluded. It said:"living together … as members of the same family"
That was the basis on which in 1964 it was decided that applications in this area should be excluded. Whilst these arguments—the difficulty of establishing the facts and the danger that the assailant would benefit from his crime—clearly have considerable force, I appreciate from what the right hon. Lady said and from what was said in correspondence that there are arguments the other way. Clearly it was envisaged that the 1964 scheme should be reviewed with a view to placing it on a statutory footing when adequate experience of the working of the scheme had been gained. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced in answer to a Question on 17th April the establishment of a working party to carry out such a review. He stressed in announcing that review that the working party would take steps to canvass opinion widely among interested bodies and would take account of the views of members of the public. That working party is now set up. I cannot tell the right hon. Lady how soon it will report, but certainly the question of paragraph 7 is within the terms of the review and, in addition to that, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board in its eighth report specifically asked that the exclusion of this clause should be reconsidered when the scheme is reviewed. I can assure the right hon. Lady that this is being done and that what she said and the case that she mentioned will be taken into account in the course of that review, as will the question of the right of legal aid before an inquiry."Offences committed against a member of the offender's household living with him at the time will be excluded altogether, in view of the difficulty in establishing the facts and ensuring that compensation does not benefit the offender."
Assuming that the working party works quickly and comes to some conclusions by the autumn, it would not then be necessary to wait for legislation. Could not the Government act administratively to alter the scheme?
I had intended to deal with that point at the conclusion of my speech, namely whether this matter could not be considered in isolation. I shall convey the right hon. Lady's views to my right hon. Friend. I believe that what she said must be correct. The board is a non-statutory body and therefore it could presumably be changed without legislation because it had no legislative background and it works on ex gratia payments because there is no statutory basis for it. We are anxious to carry out the review and to put the scheme on a statutory basis.We have always said that we should like to look at the whole of the scheme and all the various points raised in the context of the review. I cannot promise that my right hon. Friend will he able to examine the point in isolation. But the board has specifically suggested that the exclusion should be reviewed because it believes that the arguments are counter-balanced by others. I can assure the right hon. Lady that I shall make sure that her suggestion is brought to my right hon. Friend's attention.
I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified Her Royal Assent to the following Acts:
Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)
In expressing my gratitude to you, Mr. Speaker, for selecting my modest topic for debate, I shall not be out of order in expressing to you on behalf of all hon. Members on both sides our respect and regard for the way in which you have conducted what has been a long and hot-in many more ways than one-Session. I am sure that if all hon. Members were present their views on the matter would be unanimous. When I heard you read the list of important measures to which Her Majesty has given her Assent, it seemed to me that there must be very little left for the spill-over session with which we are threatened.I am speaking on behalf of constituents living in Hough Road, Bescot, Walsall, which forms three sides of a hollow square, the fourth side of which is an open space now looking towards the M6. The distance to the M6 from the closest of the Hough Road houses varies from 180 yards to as little as 70 yards. That part of the M6 was opened on 20th December, so it is not possible for me to argue that my constituents are covered under Part II of the Land Compensation Act 1973, under which the cut-off date, before which no compensation is payable, is 17th October 1969. So much for the facts as seen by legislation. The realities are different. The noise has become intolerable. I am fortified by the presence of the hon. and learned Member for Walsall, North (Mr. William Wells), who will be able to corroborate what I say. In a short report, the chief public health inspector of Walsall said:
"Survey—Traffic Noise M6 Motorway
An eighteen hour survey of traffic noise from the M6 motorway was carried out on Friday the 18th May, 1973 between the hours of 6.00 a.m. and 12.00 midnight, at a position adjoining No. 92 Hough Road.
The method used was that noise levels were taken continuously for five minutes every hour, at about two second intervals. The results were tabulated and final results calculated.
A traffic census was carried out at the same time.
The Department of the Environment recommend that two values of noise level should be calculated viz.:
The L10 and L90 values of each set of hourly readings is calculated for the 18 hour period, and the averages of the 18 results are accepted as the L10 and L90 levels respectively for the day.
The results obtained from the survey carried out as above are:—
At the moment the Department of the Environment regard an L10 of 70dBA for road traffic noise as acceptable, and their proposals for compensation are based on this figure."
In anticipating this debate in a way, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said last night:
"I hope I am now restored to the celestial station that my hon. Friend assigned to me earlier, because I have said on many occasions that, although there was the discretionary power extending back to October 1969—this will be maintained for local authorities—the Government, namely, the Department of the Environment as a highway authority regard this as mandatory for its schemes. I am sorry that there were people, including constituents of my hon. Friend, who were misled and obviously worried by inaccurate Press reports. If the Press had bothered to check with me, they would have obtained an answer very quickly at that time".—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 24th July 1973; Vol. 860, c. 1526–7.]
It is interesting that my hon. Friend speaks in those terms. I was about to quote him speaking slightly earlier.
The houses in Hough Road were built by the Walsall authority in 1952 at a time when they looked over the green pleasance of Pleck Park. They were so attractive that many were bought by their occupiers. Little did they know what was in store for them. Even when the M6 stretch was opened in 1968, traffic was infinitely smaller than it is today, when the links have been completed connecting the M5, M6 and MI—the so-called Spaghetti Junction complex.
This was quite an issue at the last General Election, when many of my constituents raised it in no uncertain terms. I was, therefore, much pleased to receive a letter from my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development dated 23rd November 1972, which it seems best to quote in full:
"Thank you for your letter of 12th October to Keith Speed about the noise from the M6 motorway experienced by your constituent, Mr. E. J. White."
Mr. White lives in Hough Road.
"You are no doubt aware that, since you wrote, our proposals to alleviate the adverse effects of new and improved roads on the environment have been published in the White Paper "Development and Compensation—Putting People First" (Cmd. 5124), and that a Land Compensation Bill to implement these proposals was presented to the House of Commons on 9th November. 1 am sorry that until the Bill is enacted I cannot say with any certainty whether any of the proposed measures will be of assistance to Mr. White. Experiments are still being conducted with screening, but I am afraid it is too early to say how effective they are likely to be.
There are two other significant features in the Bill which might apply to people in Mr. White's situation. Payments will be made to offset any substantial reductions in the value of residential and certain other properties which have been caused by noise and other nuisance from new or improved roads opened on or after 17th October 1969—this would include the section of the M6 near Mr. White's home. There will also be regulations made under powers in the new Bill enabling highway authorities to sound insulate certain properties affected by noise levels rising above prescribed limits. It cannot be assumed that Mr. White will necessarily be eligible to take advantage of this scheme, but details will be publicised when the regulations are made."
My right hon. Friend said
"It cannot be assumed that Mr. White will necessarily be eligible."
He may as well have said "It can be said that Mr. White would not be eligible. "That would have been a more accurate description of the state of affairs when that letter was written.
It now appears that this letter was written under a misconception as to the date of the opening of the section of the M6 in question, but, if so, it was a misconception shared by no less than my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, though he is reported as having said, as recently as the by-election at West Bromwich in May, that people in Great Barr, which is an adjoining section of my constituency, would be compensated because of the noise effects of the M6. I accept that misunderstandings of this sort are inevitable in a Department as large as the Department of the Environment, but this does not lessen the plight of my constituents.
In the same speech the Minister is reported as saying:
"In future sound insulation may be installed at an early stage to protect people as far as possible from the effects of road construction noise."
If road construction noise, why not road traffic noise?
Last night my hon. Friend the Minister expressed great concern for people living in the areas where motorways were opened after October 1969, who will be suffering the same, and in some cases possibly less, noise disturbance than my constituents in Hough Road. I appreciate that to go back further than October 1969 would involve the Government in vast expenditure and that a line must he drawn somewhere, but I must point out that when the part of a motorway along Hough Road was built almost no effort was made to alleviate the noise factor, added to which there are gasometers opposite from which the traffic noise bounces back on to the houses of the Hough Road estate. With the final linking of the roads which go to form Spaghetti Junction, the amount of traffic has increased out of all proportion to what it was in 1968.
Yet on the part of the motorway completed after the Hough Road section, where my hon. Friend is able to give genuine assurances of further help, experimental sound barriers have already been erected. Why not on the Hough Road, my constituents ask with justifiable indignation? Why not indeed?
I hope that the Minister in his reply will not put off my constituents with sympathetic platitudes and no further action. I remind him of the White Paper he published nearly two years ago, Cmnd. 5124, entitled "Development and Compensation—Putting People First". Here is an opportunity for him to do just that.
Mr. William Wells (Walsall, North)
The hon. Baronet the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor Goldsmid) has very properly raised a matter affecting some of his constituents. It is evident from what he said, and it is known to me apart from what he said, that this is a problem not confined to those who live in South Walsall. As the hon. Baronet said, it applies to residents in Great Barr and to some residents in North Walsall.I can only reiterate the hope expressed by the hon. Baronet that the Department will, in the words of its own White Paper, take such steps as to show that the expression "Putting People First" was something more than a pious hope and that it can be translated now or very soon into some effectual remedial action.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Keith Speed)
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) and the hon. and learned Member for Walsall, North (Mr. William Wells) for raising this important topic. It is perhaps very timely, because I understand that the noise regulations which follow from the Land Compensation Act which we debated in the House last night have now been approved in another place and will be taking effect from 1st September.Following last night's debate I should perhaps say a few things, to put the situation into context. My hon. Friend mentioned the letter from the Walsall council saying that the noise level we were operating, on the L/10 index, was 70 decibels on the A scale. This is rather technical, but we must try to get it right. The regulations Parliament has now approved provide for the qualifying noise level for sound insulation to be at 68 decibels. This is 68 decibels measured in the design year of the road, which is normally many years ahead of the construction date. The figure can be 3 decibels down, so that instead of being at 68 when the road comes into use we can be dealing with 65 decibels. That was the situation which the House approved. That means that where there is residential property affected by new trunk roads from the date of opening-17th October 1969—the Government accept that, although there is an element of discretionary retrospection back to 1969 and where the Department is the highway authority, we regard this as mandatory upon us. We shall use the powers under the regulations to install double glazing or a sound-proof barrier, or even on occasions a combination of both, in any properties affected by roads coming into use from 17th October 1969. Unfortunately, a line has to be drawn. I do not wish to enter a discordant note, but the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Walsall, North were a little unfair. As I said last night, this legislation, the Land Compensation Act, and the regulations which flow from it are in advance of anything that has taken place anywhere in the world relating to environmental damage from highways. Clearly at some stage in the proceedings there has to be a cut-off point, because these are expensive measures. The element of retrospection alone for trunk roads going back to 1969 will cost about £10 million, and the annual average cost each year to the Department for double glazing and sound barriers will be about £5 million, which will extend into the future. It would have been agreeable if we could have gone right back and had complete retrospection but, as I said last night, that would have cost well over £1,000 million. I am sure my hon. Friend will recognise that in the present public expenditure situation that is a very large sum of money indeed. Perhaps I should make particular mention of the point which was raised by my hon. Friend concerning his constituents. Unfortunately, the letter which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Gov- ernment and Development wrote to my hon. Friend last year contained a mistake in as much as it related to the opening of the road. My hon. Friend knows this section of the road quite well, as I do. The problem was that the road opened in different phases, and the key changeover point is junction 9, the Bescot interchange. The actual date of opening of the road ought to be put on record because I do not think it was incorrect when I made my remarks in May. The first section of the road in this area which was opened was Shareshill—junction 11—to Walsall, Bently and Darleston—junction 10—and that was in September 1966. In December 1968, junction 10 to the Bescot interchange—junction 9—was opened. This particularly concerns the area of my hon. Friend and his constituents. Therefore. that date was clearly some 10 months earlier than the October 1969 retrospective date. Junction 9, which is the Bescot interchange, down to Great Barr—the M6/M5 interchange—opened in May 1970. It is that section to which I was referring, and it will be covered by the regulations which Parliament has now approved since that particular section of the road opened seven months after this retrospective date in October 1969. My hon. Friend knows that my right hon. Friend has apologised to him for the mistake which was made. We have admitted that this was a mistake. It is unfortunate that his constituents in Hough Road are just the wrong side of the interchange and did not and do not qualify under the regulations. I should like to say one or two things which I hope will reassure him. I do not intend merely to make sympathetic noises. We have accepted the retrospective provision to October 1969 so far as the regulations and the double glazing are concerned, and this will be a big, sustained and expensive effort. I am sure that the first priority should be to concentrate on these matters where the noise levels are the highest. My hon. Friend mentioned the 69 decibel noise level, which is bad. He knows that there are other sections along the M6, possibly in his constituency and certainly in the constituency of Perry Barr, where noise levels are considerably in excess of that, where these houses and flats will qualify for double glazing. We are giving priority to the West Midlands where there is a particularly high noise level. At the same time, a plan is being drawn of noise contour levels at this point, and when the regulations come into effect on 1st September we can move into action as quickly as possible to carry out double glazing and other installations. There are other parts—Manchester and London in particular—where again there are very high levels of noise to which we have to give first priority. But sound-proof barriers are not subject to the same restraints necessarily as double glazing. We cannot go any further back than 17th October 1969 on double glazing, although I admit that double glazing is the most effective way of dealing with the problem. But with barriers the situation is a little easier. My hon. Friend suggested an experimental barrier in this area rather on the same lines as that at Perry Barr. But the experiments at Perry Barr are not yet complete, and we have not got the complete answer there yet. Therefore, purely on an experimental basis I would not be justified in embarking on another barrier in the area before the experiment to find out what the noise attenuation is has been completed. However, the indications are that the noise barrier at Perry Barr is giving an attenuation of between 8 and 12 decibels. This is a substantial reduction when one remembers that a reduction of 10 decibels is equivalent to halving the noise. There are, of course, problems with motorway barriers—maintenance, aesthetic attraction, or otherwise. Some people may well not like to see a barrier which, with the best will in the world, still looks like a barrier on top of a motorway. There may be advantages compared with double glazing, which reduces noise very substantially inside the house but does nothing for the garden or for the street or for the general exterior. This can be an important factor, particularly where children and elderly people are involved who wish to play or sit in the garden, or for others who have business outside the house. Nevertheless, it appears from the Perry Barr experiment that barriers, particularly on elevated sections of motorways, will play an important part not only in the regulations but in the powers we shall have to install them elsewhere. I cannot give an open-ended undertaking that all areas affected by noise from motorways and trunk roads will, whenever those motorways and trunk roads were built, be protected by noise barriers. First, there are some situations where a barrier would not be particularly effective, and it would be wrong to waste public money in putting them up in such circumstances. Secondly, there are now many trunk roads and motorways, and one has to bear in mind the cost and, particularly, the present public expenditure restraints. Thirdly, there are certain areas where local people, for some reason or other, would not wish to have a noise barrier, particularly from the aesthetic point of view, and although they may not qualify under the regulations for statutory double glazing they may wish to make their own arrangements. The first priority must go to those properties affected by the regulations, properties which are alongside trunk roads and motorways opened since October 1969. But we certainly intend to look carefully and sympathetically into cases where remedial work through the provision of a noise barrier would protect a number of people from noise. The area about which my hon. Friend is concerned in particular is an elevated section of motorway. But there is an added complication in that on the west side of the motorway there is a gas installation and a form of concrete barrier has been set up for safety purposes so that vehicles do not plough into the gas plant if they crash off the motorway. This, of course, may well have made matters worse for my hon. Friend's constituents. My advice is that they may well be getting a reflection of noise from this concrete barrier going on to their houses, which makes matters even worse than they would otherwise be. So, subject to the caveats I have had to declare—and they are genuine—I can give my hon. Friend my personal assurance that I shall be looking very sympathetically into the possibility of erecting barriers on this section of the M6, and in this respect I am not necessarily covered by the regulations, so we need not worry about that. There may be difficulties, and I cannot give the highest priority to his constituents that my hon. Friend would like, but I am doing more than make sympathetic noises. We shall look closely into this and, as soon as I have technical and other information, I will write to my hon. Friend telling him the proposals we have in mind and the time scale within which we hope to implement them.
Rent Scrutiny Boards
Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, East)
I am grateful to Mr. Speaker for his kindness in selecting this subject for discussion. I make no apology for returning so soon to the subject of rent scrutiny board's decisions on council house rents which was discussed last week in our debate on inflation. The subject is of such importance to more than 5 million householders that it is well worth another airing.Rent is an important element in the cost of living of all council house tenants. This month we have reached a new stage in the Government's persecution of council tenants. In embarking on the Housing Finance Bill the Government made their objective clear, and we have now moved a considerable way along the road outlined in the Act. First in Lees, then in Royton, which are both close to Oldham, now in several other urban district council areas in the North-West, reports have been received from the rent scrutiny boards which have been considering the proposed rent levels for the coming three years. These reports have caused the Opposition and council tenants to become alarmed. Everything that was said in the debates on the Housing Finance Bill by the Opposition has been borne out. Rents will be two-and-a-half to three times what they were in October 1972. Lees Urban District Council, which forms part of my constituency, is one of the smallest councils in the country, and it has 199 local authority houses. What has happened there is a pointer to the future that will have repercussions throughout my constituency, from there throughout the North-West and possibly through the country. Lees Urban District Council which, I am pleased to say, became for the first time Labour controlled in 1971, is a responsible authority. It is not militant, it does not try to act unlawfully and it has complied completely with the Act. It has fought on behalf of its tenants and it has had lengthy correspondence about the Housing Finance Act with the Minister, culminating, first, in the refusal of the Minister to receive a deputation from the council to discuss the implication of the Act and, secondly, in a letter from the Department of the Environment of 3rd May 1973 which contained the phrase:
In other words, even further correspondence has been denied to the council. However, the council complied and increased rents by an average of 90p per week for all its tenants. Six or seven tenants still object to the increase and are withholding payment. The council submitted its proposal to the rent scrutiny board after full consultation with the local rent officer. This officer has considerable experience of the rents charged locally for private dwellings and, by consulting him, the council was acting in accordance with the recommendations of the Francis Committee. The council submitted a full list of the proposed rent increases, understandably keeping them to the minimum because it has no deficit on its finance housing account. The council has no wish to increase rents There is no financial pressure for an increase. The tenants certainly do not want an increase. There is no indication from the ratepayers in the urban district that it is necessary. However, the Government are hell-bent on increasing council house rents and they set up rent scrutiny boards, including that in Manchester, to consider the councils' proposals and either to accept them or to make counterproposals. Lees was the first urban district council to receive the report, and it was shocked by it. Its tenants and the tenants of surrounding authorities were shocked by it. The reactions published in the Oldham Chronicle indicate that the tenants in the surrounding areas clearly understand the implications for them, and, as many people in Oldham are refusing to pay the 90p increase levied last October, their reaction is likely to be a refusal to pay a further increase. Let me give some examples of the proposed increases. The rent of a two bed roomed house in Lees was increased in October 1972 to £2·02. The proposal by the council for the new rent was £2·50. The rejoinder from the scrutiny board was that the rent should be £3·25–75p above the 48p proposed by the urban district council. The rent of a three bed roomed house was, according to the urban district council, to be increased from £2·06 to £2·75. The rent scrutiny board thought that it should be £3·85. The £2·06 includes a 90p increase imposed in October last year. Therefore, the rents have doubled. In fact, they will be 2½ to 3½ times what they were only a few months ago. The Lees Urban District Council, at its meeting yesterday, decided to make representations against the rents which the scrutiny board has substituted for those submitted by itself. A letter of protest is to be sent to the Prime Minister by the council. The Secretary of State is to be asked to vary his direction under Section 62(4) of the Housing Finance Act so that increases of less than 50p may be made. However, the council cannot hold out much hope of an acceptable response from the Minister because of its experience—a refusal to meet it and, finally, a refusal to carry on correspondence. I wish to make some points about the report from the Manchester Rent Assessment Panel. The report lists over 30 dwellings which the panel inspected in Lees before arriving at its decision. When I read the list annexed to the report I was impressed. I thought that at least the board had gone into the matter fairly thoroughly. However, I understand that only two of the eight members of the board inspected the dwellings. I do not consider it totally honest, and certainly not thorough, if only a quarter of the members of the panel are prepared to carry out the inspection expected of them before making their decision. The council tenants and the council in Lees support that view. There is a marked difference of opinion between the council and the scrutiny board about how much should be allowed for heating in the rent of some special purpose accommodation. The council has been in the habit of charging a fixed amount on the rent for heating in flats occupied by elderly people. The council had proposed that this charge should be 45p per week, but the rent scrutiny board's assessment for heating is £1·30 per week—a considerable difference. The council has therefore made a careful examination of the cost of providing heating. The board's assessment at £1·30 is considerably above the actual cost and cannot be justified. It exceeds the actual cost by as much as 35 per cent. The report mentions that the council has relied on its consultations with the rent officer in determining the fair rents. Surely that is the proper procedure. I should have expected that after the council had done that and arrived at the figures, which were in line with the proposals of the rent officer, those figures would be accepted, but they have been turned down. It is interesting to note that it is considered that the council may have had insufficient regard to the effect of inflation. If the House were crowded, as it sometimes is, there would be gasps of amazement from my hon. Friends at the inclusion of such an observation. If this is not an example of inflation feeding on inflation, I do not know what is. We are all, including the Government, doing our best to contain inflation and inflationary tendencies, yet rent increases are proposed far above what the local council proposes because the local council is said to have had insufficient regard for the effects of inflation. Is the Minister prepared to say that inflation is to continue at the present rate? If he is not, he should take some action on this observation. These unnecessary increases in rent will undoubtedly result in further wage claims. There are many newspaper reports about what has been happening, including one report in the Eastern Evening News about a case in Norwich in which 50 per cent. of tenants are being forced to ask for rebates. If there are similar proposals there from the rent scrutiny board, that percentage will rise to 75. It is ludicrous that this level of application for rent rebate should be necessary. Inflationary tendencies will be increased by such proposals. There is a comment in the Labour Weekly from a constituent of mine saying:"I am afraid I see little point in continuing this correspondence".
I wish to help the Government. I suggest to them that this is an excellent opportunity to carry out the Prime Minister's claim to cut prices at a stroke by freezing rents at a stroke and cutting back on the pressure on working people, for rent is an element of the cost of living from which they cannot escape."if the Government is going to let rents go up willy nilly so should they let my pay go up willy nilly. I got a £3 rise in April of which £1 went in tax, 90p in rent rises—forced by the Government—and the other £1 or so has gone to meet the rise in the cost of living. With this new rent threat and the incredible rise in the cost of living still going on I will need a £5 rise to stand still."
Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I want to make two points showing how the rents of millions of families will be affected by what we are discussing this afternoon. Lees was "let off" by the Minister last October with an increase of less than £1. It was required to impose an increase of only 90p, following an examination of its case. The council objected to this because it did not want to increase the rents even by 1 p. It did not need to do so. It increased them, unwillingly, having been given the impression that that was the limit of the increase. It is now told in this first decision, which we fear will set the pattern for further heavy increases, that there will be another increase.There are 180 local authorities throughout the country, many of them very large, such as Birmingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Salford and so on, which were "let off" with less than a £1 increase last October and were clearly given the impression that the Minister felt that was a fair increase and there would therefore be no further increases. The former Minister for Housing and Construction made great play in the House of the fact that he was "letting off" Newcastle-upon-Tyne with less than £1. He quoted other cities and created the impression that the Act would not be nearly as severe as some of us were saying. By this move he took the steam out of the opposition to the Act which at that time was mounting fiercely. Many councils were saying that they would not implement it. It is now clear that those councils, who have between them millions of tenants, have been taken for a ride. They have been deceived and the councillors and their tenants will be bitterly angry when they see what has happened. The second point is that hard on the heels of the first decision in Lees comes a second decision in Northwich Urban District Council, Cheshire. There 2,000 council houses, just like the houses in Lees, are to have their rents roughly doubled compared with what they were last October. For instance, the rent on a typical post-war house is to go up from £2·58 to £4·68 plus rates in both cases. The Minister may say that these are low rents. But the council did not want or need to raise the rents even by 1p, because it was not in deficit on its housing account. Secondly, hundreds of other councils with similar rents will now presumably have to suffer similar increases. Once again the councils are told that they have been paying insufficient regard to current inflationary trends. In Lees that was one of the criteria on which rents were to be fixed, according to the Act. Is it right that houses built perhaps 25 years ago and paid for then should now suffer rent increases because the pound is sinking? The Minister will remember that we were accused of scare mongering when we said that rents would double under the Act. We said that we were only quoting the Government's own estimate circulating privately in the Ministry. It is now clear that our worst fears are confirmed and that average rents are being doubled. These decisions and the next instalment of the increase—which this October will amount to 50p—will be bitterly opposed by the trade unions, the local authorities, the tenants' associations and the Labour Party.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Reginald Eyre)
This debate, initiated by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. James Lamond), relates to the working of the rent scrutiny boards, and I think that it will be helpful if I describe the process leading up to the determination of fair rents under the Housing Finance Act.As the House is well aware, this is a statutory process and takes place in accordance with the provisions of Part V of that Act. The House may like to be reminded of the details of the system. First the council makes a provisional assessment and publishes it. Councils are required to make arrangements for adequate general publicity and to notify each individual tenant of its proposal for his dwelling. Any tenant may then make representations to the authority and the authority must consider those and, if it thinks right, re-assess the proposed fair rent for the dwelling. The authority must then submit the assessment—revised, if it thinks fit, in the light of the tenants' representations to the rent scrutiny board. The board then has the duty to consider the fair rents in the assessment and either to confirm or amend them. The board gives its decision by reporting to the authority. The authority must publish the board's report at its principal office. If the board in its report disagrees with some or all of the fair rents proposed in an authority's assessment, the authority then has a two-month period in which to make representations to the board. I wish to emphasise this point because it will be a matter for the local authority in Lees and also the local authority in Northwich, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). The board must have regard to those representations and it concludes its operations by amending or declining to amend the assessments in its report. Where the board disagrees with an authority's assessments, the fair rents are determined only after the authority has been given two months to make representations and after the board has considered any representations made within that period. The rent scrutiny boards play a closely defined and limited role.
Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)
To make the situation clearer, perhaps the Minister would add that the rent scrutiny boards are the final arbiter, that there is no appeal against their decision, and that it is entirely what they say that goes.
It is true, as the hon. Gentleman said, that it is the duty of the rent scrutiny boards ultimately to determine the fair rent. The boards are essentially checking the fair rents proposed by the council. In doing so, they apply the criteria for determining a fair rent for council dwellings set out in Section 50 of the Act. With a few minor differences, these are the same criteria as those used in determining a fair rent for a private rented dwelling as laid down in the 1968 Rent Act.
Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
Will the Under-Secretary of State for the record clarify the point whether rent assessment committees in the private sector are required to take account of inflationary trends in the economy as distinct from specific rises in costs in running a housing service, compared with the situation in terms of the rent scrutiny boards? Will he make clear that, although in the private sector the rent assessment committees act in public, the rent scrutiny boards undertake all their considerations in secret?
I shall come to the first point raised by the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) a little later in my speech. On his second point, it is true that there is a difference in the process followed in the two boards, but the hon. Gentleman has taken part in many debates on this subject and knows that the difference is that the detailed proposals in the public sector are put up by the local authority after taking into account all the representations of the tenant. These are considered by the rent scrutiny board which then operates publicly in announcing its decision. The results of its deliberations are reported fully in public.The Lees council was quite right to consult its rent officer about fair rents registered in the private sector. The rent scrutiny board did not discount this evidence but considered that it provided insufficient single evidence on which to base the fair rents for the authority's dwellings. So it increased the range of this evidence by taking into account also fair rents determined throughout the whole rent assessment panel area. The task of the board is to check whether the local authority has applied these criteria reasonably and properly to the rents of its dwellings. The board is well placed to discharge this task as its members are drawn from the rent assessment panel, which is the body from which the members of rent assessment committees are also drawn. These committees have functioned satisfactorily, as the Francis Committee found. The members of rent scrutiny boards also consist of laymen, valuers and lawyers, and the board which considered Lees included—
A Tory MP.
—a social worker and a trade unionist, as well as the former hon. Member to whom the hon. Member for Oldham, East referred.The Secretary of State plays no part in determining fair rents. He cannot instruct the rent scrutiny board on what the fair rents of a local authority's dwellings should be. The board has the knowledge and it looks at the evidence and the facts in each case. The Act gives the board a specific job and the Secretary of State cannot intervene in its performance. The rent scrutiny boards up and down the country have now received the provisional assessments of most local authorities and are considering them. In some 40 cases boards have issued reports. Lees is one such case. In that case the authority has until 29th August to make representations to the board, and fair rents are not finally determined until after the board has considered any representations made to it by then. The authorities for which there has been a report by an RSB are generally small authorities and are only in certain parts of the country, mainly in northern parts. So it is not yet clear what the eventual pattern of determined fair rents will be nationally, It follows that some of the assumptions of the hon. Members for Oldham, East and Salford, East cannot be properly made. We do not know whether the rents in the reports which have been issued hitherto, assuming always that in due process they become the determined fair rents, are typical or untypical of fair rents generally. I want to make clear the difference between the circumstances where the Secretary of State exercises his discretion to authorise a lower rent increase towards fair rents and where the rent scrutiny boards determine the fair rents. In the first case, as regards the exercise of discretion, the Secretary of State has a purely negative role to ensure that rents are not increased substantially over likely fair rents before these are determined. In the case of Lees the Secretary of State exercised this discretion because he considered that the £1 increase last year might cause the rents of some old people's dwellings to exceed the estimate of their probable fair rents. But, in the second case, the rent scrutiny boards fulfil a more positive, if limited, role in actually determining the fair rents of all an authority's dwellings according to criteria laid down in statute.
Section 50.As regards Lees it is perhaps worth noting that this is a very small authority with only 200 council dwellings. The board, in its report, made it clear that the majority of the council's dwellings were of a good standard and well maintained.
Where in Section 50 is it laid down that, compared with the private sector, inflationary trends in the economy should be criteria for fixing upon fair rents in the public sector?
The hon. Gentleman has debated the wording of Section 50 on a number of occasions. I am glad that he has come to this point again as I told him that I would deal with it.With respect to the board's reference to inflation, the rent scrutiny board takes a decision at a point in time taking into account all the circumstances. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is the requirement of Section 50. Valuation is not an exact science. A broad commonsense view is what is required. I should stress that the opportunity to challenge the rent scrutiny board's view is open now and until the end of August. If Lees UDC considers that the board has misdirected itself on this or any other point, it is up to it to say so. I should like to remind the House of two points about the effect of fair rent determinations on council tenants. First, the rent of the dwelling is progressed to the fair rent by stages at an average rate of 50p a year. Secondly, it is the rent of the dwelling which is being so progressed, not necessarily the amount which the tenant actually pays. Those tenants —there are many thousands throughout the country—who cannot afford the increase, do not pay it in full. Indeed, this October tenants who now receive a rent debate will not normally pay any more rent as the result of the increase in the rents of dwellings. Most of them will pay less rent—about 25p a week less —immediately after the increase in the rent of the dwelling than they paid immediately before, because of the further increases in the needs allowance which we have just proposed and will be operatting in October.
M3 And A316
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise a matter of increasing concern to large numbers of my constituents, especially in Twickenham, Whitton and St. Margarets, but also in Teddington, Hampton, Hampton Hill and Hampton Wick. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. Anthony Royle) is also concerned about this matter because he has similar, though not identical, problems.As a community, we face a serious situation when the final 14-mile stretch of the M3 motorway from Lightwater to Sunbury opens in the spring of 1974. It will connect, via the Greater London Council's new link road—the A305 from Sunbury to Apex Corner at Hanworth with the A316, the Great Chertsey Road, which is the main traffic artery through my constituency. There are three aspects which are causing most worry to my constituents. The first is the effect of noise and fumes upon the conditions of those living, working and attending schools near the A316 and the other main roads which turn off it. The second is safety, especially the safety of pedestrians, including children and old people. Third, there is the fear—I think a perfectly reasonable fear—that traffic will jam up at roundabouts along the A316 with two consequences: that motorway traffic may spill over into residential side roads, damaging the environment of the residents, and that local motorists will be caught in traffic jams, thereby losing their freedom of movement and manoeuvre, leading to severe inconvenience and delays. I wish to assure my hon. Friend that I do not blame the present Government for the existence, or the problems, of the M3 as it was initiated by the previous administration. The line was fixed in 1967—the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) was then the Minister of Transport—and the construction of the M3 commenced in 1969, also under the Labour Government. However, the present Secretary of State for the Environment now finds himself responsible for the completion of the M3, and I must insist that his Department now accepts the responsibility to do all in its power to mitigate the nuisance from which my constituents might suffer. I wish to know what action the Government intend to take. The former Greater London Council, which was defeated and went out of office last April, faced three choices in handling the roundabouts on the A316 road: first, to do nothing; second, to carry out major schemes with flyovers or underpasses; or, third, moderately to restructure the roundabouts, as was done at the roundabouts immediately to the north of Richmond town centre, a little further to the east along the main road. The third course was chosen. In January 1973 it was decided that, after various preparatory stages, the bulk of the work would be carried out the following winter. However, since the change of control following the GLC elections in April, the new Greater London Council decided to review its policies. It decided to proceed with the roundabout improvements only last night, 24th July. Thus, three precious months have been lost. Further, the new GLC says that it will need at least two more years in which to complete the work. It is intolerable and unacceptable that these improvements should take so long. My first request to the Minister is that he should use all his influence to hurry up the GLC. I hope he will not hesitate to twist its arm in any way he thinks necessary. If its procedures do not allow such a speeding up, they must be changed. I am sure that, if the will is there, corners can be cut. I do not see why my constituents should be made to suffer from any delays. My second request relates to the control of the quantity of traffic allowed from the M3 on to the A305 and the A316. On 2nd July I saw the Minister for Transport Industries. First, I asked whether he would defer opening the M3 motorway until the GLC had completed its roundabout improvements. He said that he would not do this as motorways were not only the safest but the most expensive roads that we had and that no one in his position could totally deprive the public of the use of a completed motorway. I asked whether he would taper the exit to control traffic flow. He agreed to cut the exit from three lanes to two. Others had also asked for this to be done, but I believe that at the meeting on 2nd July we were able to clinch it, and I was able to announce it in my constituency at a public meeting on 6th July. Yet I am still not satisfied. 1 doubt whether tapering down to two lanes is enough. At the same meeting on 2nd July I asked the Minister if he would consider tapering the exit of the M3 to one lane pending the completion by the Greater London Council of its work on the roundabouts. The Minister said then that he could not give any undertaking to do so, but he said that if when the M3 was opened in 1974 it caused serious local problems in my constituency and elsewhere he would be prepared to take another look at the matter. My second request, then, is to ask that rather than wait to see what happens when the M3 opens my right hon. Friend should put in hand an immediate study to assess what volume of traffic might emerge from the M3 if it were tapered to two lanes or to one lane, including at peak hours, and to assess whether the A316 roundabouts could cope in the short term before the GLC roundabout improvements are completed. I am sure that there are experts in the Department who can make these assessments. I do not see why my constituents should have to suffer from experiments. If we cannot cope with two lanes of motorway traffic. I suggest that we should begin with one lane only from spring 1974. My third request is for my hon. Friend to confirm that after next spring when the M3 opens, its traffic to Heathrow Airport should be signposted away from the M3 at Lightwater, near Bagshot. I also ask for a sign to be put in the same place to the effect that traffic should turn off there for an alternative route to North and Central London. via the A30 and the A4. I further suggest that when the M25 is opened in 1975—that motorway leading from the M3 near Chertsey to the A30 near Egham and coming off the M3 about half way between Lightwater and Sunbury Cross—these signs should be transferred there. That would give considerable relief to Twickenham. Fourthly, will my hon. Friend give a categoric assurance that the Government have no plans to turn the A316 into a motorway? At the public meeting on 6th July, attended by about 200 of my constituents, I made clear that my view was that we should not have a motorway along the A316. The Greater London councillor Mr. Tremlett and the leader of the borough council Alderman Hall agreed. The majority of the audience quite plainly agreed too, and they showed their feelings vociferously. In spite of that there has been put about in my constituency within the last week, by a political party which I shall not name, a leaflet saying that "The Tories want to turn the Chertsey Road into a motorway". I am certainly against it, and 1 hope that my hon. Friend will be able to make clear this afternoon that the Government have no such intention. Will my hon. Friend give attention to several other local aspects which are causing anxiety? These are mainly the responsibility of the Greater London Council and 1 shall therefore mention them only briefly: first the provision of safe crossing facilities over the main road for pedestrians, including children and old people; secondly, the traffic flow, including the buses, from north to south and south to north at the roundabouts, which people are fearful might be obstructed by traffic which runs from east and west; thirdly, the preservation of trees; fourthly, the sound-proofing of property, including houses and schools, such as St. Stephen's Church Primary School; fifthly, the possibility of phased traffic lights; sixthly, the question of how to prevent severe traffic standstills on the days of big rugby football matches, the Twickenham rugby football ground being very close to one of the A316 roundabouts. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and the House for listening to me so patiently on matters which are of the most acute concern to large numbers of my constituents. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to give me assurances about action the Government intend to take or, where he cannot give such assurances now, an undertaking that these points will be carefully examined with a view to action.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Keith Speed)
I hope that I shall not be out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I wish you, the Serjeant at Arms and the staff of the House a very happy and well-deserved recess. We have admired the way in which you and your colleagues have looked after us in what has been a long and hectic Session. This is the last time I shall be speaking before the recess. I seem to have been in the Chamber for most of the past few days.I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jesse!) on raising a matter of considerable importance to him and my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. Anthony Royle) and others of my hon. Friends in that area. This is not the first time my hon. Friend has been in touch with us about the problem. He has been extremely assiduous, both by correspondence and personally, in making clear to me and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries the problems he feels may be faced by his constituents if certain action is not taken. My hon. Friend will appreciate that many of the matters raised are for the Greater London Council, as the highway authority in certain circumstances. It would be wrong for the Government to answer on behalf of a major local authority on those matters. But I hope to be able to give my hon. Friend some reassurance. I have no doubt that the GLC will be looking closely at the debate and taking note of my hon. Friend's very helpful suggestions. The Lightwater to Sunbury length of the M3, the London-Basingstoke motorway, is due for completion next May. There will then be a continuous length of the motorway open to traffic totalling 402 miles between Popham, to the north of Winchester, and Sunbury. To cope with the additional traffic that will then have easy access to Sunbury, just outside its boundary, the Greater London Council prepared a scheme to improve the approximately 11 miles of the A305 between the M3 at Sunbury and its junction with the A316, Great Chertsey Road, and the north-south A312 route at the Hope and Anchor roundabout. The A305/A316 provides a direct route between the M3, through Twickenham, Richmond and Chiswick to the A4 and thence towards Hammersmith and Central London. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State agreed to contribute 75 per cent. of the cost, estimated at about £10 million, of improving the A305. The A305 improvement is being carried out in two main stages. The first stage which, like the M3, is due for completion next spring, will provide dual two-lane carriageways, with some dual three-lane, to cope initially with M3 traffic. Stage II, completing the scheme with dual three-lane carriageways and grade separation, is expected to be ready by the autumn of 1975. The Greater London Council also gave thought to the effect of this additional traffic on the A316. A number of north-south routes cross the A316 at ground-level roundabouts which are a source of congestion, particularly at peak periods. In February 1973 the council accordingly asked that the Preparation List of Metropolitan Road Schemes be adjusted to include schemes, estimated to cost over £2 million, to improve the A316 roundabout junctions and to provide improved facilities for pedestrians to cross this route. My hon. Friend attaches particular importance to that. My hon. Friend said that the new council has been reviewing the priorities of all the preparation list schemes and, as lie told the House, we have now heard from the Director General that it has been decided that these A316 schemes should go ahead. My right hon. and learned Friend is, of course, willing to consider these schemes for grant. The Greater London Council will wish to agree details of these schemes with the London Borough of Richmond, and no indication can yet be given of likely completion dates.
When the Department of the Environment considers these schemes for grant, will my hon. Friend ensure that there is no delay in the consideration and that it is done by his Department with maximum dispatch?