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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 885: debated on Monday 27 January 1975

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Wales

Homeless Persons

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the present number of homeless people in Wales.

On 30th September 1974, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 1,146 persons in Wales who were in temporary accommodation. I have no reliable estimates of others who may be homeless.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that there are a number of married couples who have been on the council house waiting list for up to five years? Can he hold out any ray of hope that they will be housed within the next five years?

I can offer more than a ray of hope. Approvals for local authority house building in 1974 were the highest since 1967.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the figures he has given, encouraging though they are, reflect only a small part of the problem, since they deal only with those who have been on the council waiting list? There are others who are sharing with relatives and living in grossly overcrowded conditions.

Yes, that is the position. We have a great deal of concealed homelessness in Wales, with young couples living in their parents' front rooms, and so on. We must break this backlog of need which we inherited. The local authority building programme will, I hope, reflect that need.

Is the Minister satisfied with the liaison between local authority social service departments and the housing departments of district councils, in view of the transfer of responsibility to the housing departments in the recent circular on homelessness?

There is a general problem in the relationship between the social service departments at county council level and the local housing authorities which are increasing their responsibility for homelessness. We are conducting a wide-ranging review of the whole process and hope to issue a consultation document in the not-too-distant future.

What advice has my hon. Friend given to housing authorities to ensure that the housing list is fair, and is manifestly seen to be fair?

The allocation of local authority houses is the responsibility of the local authority. There has been a great deal of advice from central Government. I recall the Cullingworth Report, which some years ago looked into the allocation of local authority houses. This matter remains the responsibility of the local community and the local authority.

What is the total requirement for new houses in Wales and what steps is the Minister taking to meet the need indicated by that figure?

The hon. Member has a cheek to ask such a question at the Dispatch Box—suggesting that somehow the Government are letting the side down. We inherited a potential list of 50,000 people wanting local authority housing. That is the net figure and does not take account of concealed needs that we do not know about. I have urged every housing authority to prepare medium-term plans for housing over the next three-to-five years to set a programme that we shall certainly endorse.

National Water Development Authority

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what arrangements have been made to ensure that the decisions of the Welsh National Water Development Authority are co-ordinated with the actions of his own Department in preparing plans for housing and other developments.

The Welsh National Water Development Authority is made fully aware of our priorities in relation to housing and other developments, in the light of which it is for the authority to decide its capital investment programme.

Does the Minister recall telling the South Pembrokeshire District Authority that it should build houses and that he would make the resources available? How does he reconcile that statement with the delay to the South Pembrokeshire sewerage scheme by the Welsh water authority—a delay which the dis- trict authority believes will bring all the housing and industrial development in the area to a standstill, including preparation work for exploration of the Celtic Sea?

I have told the authority that it can have as much resources as it needs within the resources that are available for housing. As to the special problems of the sewerage scheme, officials of the Welsh Office have been endeavouring to resolve this dispute, and we are hoping to arrange a meeting in the near future between the water authority, the local authority and ourselves acting as honest brokers.

Redundancies (Gwynedd)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had relative to the recently announced redundancies in Gwynedd; what plans he has to develop new job opportunities in the area; and how many new jobs are currently in the pipeline.

My right hon. and learned Friend is kept informed of notified redundancies which occur in Gwynedd and elsewhere. The Government's whole economic strategy is designed to protect and create jobs throughout Wales. Although precise figures are not available for Gwynedd, there are about 1,000 new jobs in the pipline for North-West Wales.

Is the Minister aware that 50 of these redundancies have been caused in a factory in Llanberis which has closed, and that the men have been offered similar work at a factory in Manchester? During the election, Labour candidates said that this factory was the safest in the constituency, since its main customer was a nationalised industry—a subsidiary of the British Steel Corporation. Will the Minister draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Industry to the situation in the factory with the possibility of the Government's taking it over as a going concern and running it on a co-operative basis?

The present Government watch every job in Wales with the greatest interest. We take every job most seriously, particularly when it is in danger. To emphasise that, I remind the House that we have taken three effective steps to help North Wales. We have made North-West Wales a special development area, we have doubled the regional employment premium, and we have announced three new factories in Gwynedd.

What estimate has my hon. Friend's Department made of what the condition of Gwynedd would be—let alone the future economic condition of that part of the country—but for the opportunities afforded to the people of that area by nationalised industries and public enterprise and by centrally-directed and assisted and bribed and cajoled private enterprise?

My hon. Friend speaks with his usual expertise on these matters. He may have in mind, as I have, the hydroelectric scheme as one of the instances of a nationalised concern.

Advance Factories

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many Government advance factories there are in Wales where no industrial production is currently taking place.

Two, plus two nursery units. Five other Government-owned factories, plus four nursery units, some of which were originally advance factories, are also available for letting.

My constituents will not be cheered by that reply, particularly those in the Blaenau Ffestiniog area, because we shall shortly be celebrating the second anniversary of the vacation of and subsequent non-production in premises in Blaenau Ffestiniog. I remind the Minister that I have had discussions with the Welsh Office about the matter over the past nine months. We are anxious that the factory should be tenanted, if not by private enterprise, by public enterprise in the area.

It would have been gracious of the hon. Gentleman if he had indicated the enormous amount of work put in by the Department of Industry, by my Department and by myself to try to get a tenant for the factory. It was regrettable that all our efforts did not bear fruit. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall continue to do what we can to get a tenant for the factory. The officials of both Departments are vitally concerned.

We have announced for Wales, in less than a year, three separate advance factory programmes, which will provide a total of about 300,000 square feet of factory space in Wales. There will always be some that are empty, but it is the whole object of the exercise that when industrialists show an interest the factories are there. I shall continue with my efforts.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that my constituents have been greatly encouraged and heartened by the initiatives taken by the Government since they came to office last March? Is he aware that an advance factory in Amlwch, which was vacant for four years under the previous Government, now has a tenant as a result of the present Government's efforts? We in Anglesey, and, I suspect, the people of Merioneth and other parts of Wales, are very grateful to the Government for the more compassionate and effective view they take of the employment needs in the Principality.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) knew the tremendous effort being put into bringing a tenant to Blaenau Ffestiniog. He sought to take credit for himself, and fell flat on his face. We are anticipating the need, and in addition to providing factories we are ensuring that land is bought in advance of need so that we can take speedy action when required.

I acknowledge the efforts of the Department of Employment and the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and appreciate the value of advance factories, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider to what degree the occupation of some of the advance factories at the periphery is held up or handicapped by the quality of the road communications to some of the remote parts of North Wales and other parts of Wales?

We are always doing out utmost to improve road communications. The hon. Gentleman is right to put his finger on that matter, although perhaps it has not been a particular problem for any one of the factories. We shall always do our utmost to improve the road programme which is so badly needed in Wales.

Employment

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will make a statement on the additional powers which he has now taken in order to ensure a higher level of employment in Wales.

From 1st July I shall be responsible for administering selective financial assistance. This is one of the most important means of helping to stabilise and develop industry in Wales.

That is very fine, but is the Secretary of State aware that all his praiseworthy efforts are being largely undone by those of his ministerial colleagues who, by their vindictiveness against the self-employed or by the penal rates of capital transfer tax which they propose to apply to family businesses, are liable to take away many more jobs than he can ever create? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman admit that the time has come to save jobs rather than to clobber those who do not vote Labour?

The hon. Gentleman must be living in a wholly different world. As regards saving jobs, I remind the hon. Gentleman that he voted for the British Steel Corporation's proposal to close down Shotton within a very short period. I wholly reject the hon. Gentleman's suggestions.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend get in touch with his colleagues in the Department of Industry to bring forward the legislation on the National Enterprise Board and hasten the day when we have a Welsh development agency, which will carry out the functions of the board in Wales? Will he make representations to the agency at an early date to use the derelict land in the valleys of South Wales for industrial development, rather than take good agricultural land elsewhere?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his positive remarks. We shall speed on with our proposals for the National Enterprise Board, and I hope that within a very short time we shall publish our consultative paper on the Welsh development agency. My office has made it a priority that the money available for derelict land should go to sites needed for industrial development and housing. The programme we have published, with limited resources, has been welcomed throughout Wales.

The Secretary of State says that we are living in different worlds. Is not the world in which we are living one in which Welsh unemployment is rising? Is the substantial recent increase in Welsh unemployment considered a satisfactory outcome of Government policies? To what level does the right hon. and learned Gentleman expect Welsh unemployment to be forced by those policies?

I assure the hon. Gentleman—so that we come back to the same world—that I would never regard any figure of unemployment as satisfactory. I want to do my utmost to reduce the present unemployment figure in Wales. But I find the hon. Gentleman's protestations very odd, coming from a supporter of the previous Government, who saw unemployment rocketing.

Local Government Staffs

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many people were employed in local government in Wales in the years 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73 and 1973–74, respectively; and what were the total salaries and wage bills for those personnel in the same years.

The information is detailed and, with permission, I shall circulate it in the Official Report.

I cannot thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for a helpful answer. Do not the figures indicate an escalation in the number of people employed, and in the cost? Are not all the indications that the so-called reform of local government undertaken by the previous Government has been extremely expensive for Wales, with very few compensatory advantages?

The hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right. The numbers of staff and the cost have risen. There is public concern about increases in both. I want to make it abundantly clear that I share that concern. That is why the local authorities have been asked to limit any future increases in staff to those required to meet inescapable commitments. We are setting up a new system of monitoring.

Whilst I support the hon. and learned Gentleman's protest against the increase of bureaucracy in local government as a result of local government reorganisation, so hurriedly pushed through the House by the last Conservative Government, I find it difficult to reconcile it with his own party's support of British membership of the Common Market, which will further increase that bureaucracy. How can the hon. and learned Gentleman reconcile that contradiction in his argument?

I understand my hon. Friend's point. In due course we shall debate this issue, when we know what terms have emerged from the negotiations which, as my hon. Friend fully knows, are now taking place in Brussels.

Following is the information:

Information about the total numbers employed by local authorities in Wales is available for June each year.
The figures—excluding police forces—are:

1970120,726
1971126,061
1972129,824
1973137,637
1974138,339
Total local authority expenditure on wages and salaries—other than the police service—was:

£
1970–71142,506,000
1971–72163,532,000
1972–73203,349,000
Comparable figures for 1973–74 are not yet available.

Water Rates

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is yet in a position to make a statement about the level of water charges in Wales.

It would be inappropriate for my right hon. and learned Friend to do so until he has received and considered the report of the Daniel Committee.

In view of the expected enormous increases in the water rates in certain areas, and the advice given in favour of phased equalisation by various bodies, will the Minister give me an assurance that phased equalisation has been considered? If it has been turned down, will he say why?

The hon. Gentleman speaks at the Dispatch Box time and time again on the principles of the Water Act 1973. Time and time again I have to tell him that he and his hon. Friends are responsible for the Water Act and for the consequences that flow from it. To spill crocodile tears about them at almost every Question Time is reprehensible. Equalisation is the decision of the Welsh water authority. I gather that the authority discussed phased equalisation and unanimously came to the conclusion that it should go for equalisation straight away. That is the authority's decision, and it must be responsible for it.

Will the Minister inform the House of the progress that is being made towards the establishment of a truly national Welsh water authority, inclusive of the whole of Wales, which will have the power to sell Welsh water to English conurbations at, for example, 20p per 1,000 gallons, and which would reduce the Welsh water rates to a nominal level?

I know of a number of hon. Members, including the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who at this time would not wish to be part of any Welsh water authority. The Daniel Committee has been asked to report on these vital issues and we must await its report.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the equitable solution to the problem would be the equalisation of water rates throughout England and Wales? Will he say what progress is being made towards that objective?

Certainly. There are many feelings on the matter. On many occasions many people, including ourselves, have claimed that there should be a more equitable distribution of water charges not only in Wales but between Wales and corresponding English authorities. That may be one of the matters that the Daniel Committee will bring to our attention.

I agree with the view expressed by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes), but does the Minister agree that whatever reforms are needed for the water authorities the rivers must be run as a whole? Does he agree that in the second half of the twentieth century it is nonsense to suggest that England, Wales and Scotland cannot sufficiently co-operate to ensure that one river is managed as a whole?

That certainly is the principle and philosophy which underline the drawing of the boundaries of the Welsh water authority and the neighbouring water authorities. That is why we have bits of England in Welsh authorities and bits of Wales in English authorities. It makes a lot of sense.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has had any recent discussions with the borough of Newport concerning water charges.

No. Nor has my right hon. and learned Friend received representations from the borough.

Are the proposed charges consistent with Circular 282/74, issued from the Welsh Office, which urges local authorities to keep down charges of new rates to a 20 per cent. increase? Is my hon. Friend aware that the new sewerage charges alone would mean an increase of between 150 per cent. and 200 per cent., while the increase in the water rate would be no less than 142 per cent.? Does he appreciate that this sewerage charge would be about equal to 70 per cent. of the rates required for borough purposes, and that the Dukes Committee, which studied the matter, urged that equalisation should not start until after April 1976? Will my hon. Friend see to it that this new super-bureaucracy is in line with Government policy?

We have no control over the rate charges in any particular area, other than in the sense of controlling the general criteria, and then only in a reserve sense. I am sorry to have to tell my hon. Friend that the charges are a direct and inevitable consequence of the Water Act 1973.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Further to that point of order. As Welsh Questions were taken only once in the last Session of Parliament, as today we have been unable to reach several important Questions, as there has not been an opportunity for many supplementary questions to be taken, and as this—

Order. The hon. Member is making it more unlikely that we shall get back to taking Welsh Questions today. May I take his point of order at the end of Questions?

Cardiff (City Centre Plan)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals he has to safeguard the jobs and economic security of firms and individuals displaced by the first phase of the Cardiff city centre plan project.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. and learned Friend to my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) on 20th December 1974. Payment of compensation arising from the central development area proposals is the responsibility of the city council.—[Vol. 883, c. 749.]

Does the Minister's Department accept that it has a moral responsibility for ensuring that the city authorities have the loan sanction that they require? After all, it was an assumed moral responsibility when it agreed to the CPO in the first place. Does the Minister realise that unless his Department persuades the Treasury to make the money available to save the individuals and firms now threatened with going under, the good name of both local government and central Government will be dragged in the mud?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. The decision was taken by our predecessors in the light of the circumstances then prevailing. We make no criticism of that, because it may well have been a perfectly sound decision. But that does not mean that the approval of the compulsory purchase order guarantees the availability of funds. That is a matter for the city council.

Housing Action Areas

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what advice he intends to give to Welsh local authorities about the implementation of those provisions of the Housing Act 1974 relating to housing action areas.

Two major circulars will be issued this week on housing action areas, following a comprehensive circular on renewal strategies issued last week.

I know that my hon. Friend, personally, has worked very hard on this issue. It is relevant to Wales, because of the large proportion of unfit houses in Wales. Will my hon. Friend now say what steps he has taken, apart from the circulars, to publicise what is available to local authorities? Will he give an assurance to local authorities that the cash will be available?

Yes, I can give an assurance that the maximum publicity will be used to ensure that not only local authorities but individuals appreciate the rate of grants that will be available under the new Act and the concept behind the housing action area circulars.

I am pleased to report to the House that the first housing action area ever to be declared in England and Wales was at Blaenau/Gwent, in Wales. Finance will be available to assist local authorities in their task of renewing and saving the maximum number of our older homes.

Will the Minister confirm that in the circular that we shall see later this week there will be evidence for the local authorities that they can apply housing action areas in rural areas where the needs are very great? Does he agree that the needs in such areas are often as great in degree, although not in number, as the needs in urban areas?

Yes, certainly. The housing action area circular—I refer to the main one which is coming out this week—is issued by the Welsh Office and has been written with the special needs of Wales in mind. The hon. Gentleman will find paragraphs in the circular which refer directly to the needs of rural communities and the application of the Housing Act 1974.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that people of Pillgwenlly, Newport have been fighting for over 10 years to keep their homes, along the lines of the policy now being advocated by the Welsh Office? Meanwhile, many hundreds of homes have been bricked up. That is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life in the neighbourhood. Will my hon. Friend ask the local authorities to consider the whole issue of bricking up houses and to consider how many can be refurbished and opened up?

I sympathise greatly with my hon. Friend. It is because of the experience of a number of local authorities in slum clearance, clearance areas and the application of comprehensive clearance area policies that the new advice which we now offer to local authorities has come into being. My hon. Friend will find that the new circular will answer many of the points he has raised.

Mid-Wales (Development)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what proposals he has for setting up a rural development board to cater for the needs of Mid-Wales.

The Government's policy is to create effective arrangements to develop rural Wales.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend realise that many people in Mid-Wales believe that the area has suffered considerably because of the problems raised by the proposal of the previous administration? We are anxious that such a proposal should not be brought forward again. We do not want Mid-Wales and rural Mid-Wales suffering under the umbrella of an all-Wales agency, so that its special needs are not catered for properly. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that many facets of life in Mid-Wales—not only industrial development—would be assisted by such a policy?

As a Mid-Walian I have felt deeply the rejection of Mid-Wales by the previous Government's proposal. A great deal of time has been lost and a great deal of responsibility lies with those in Mid-Wales who objected to our proposals. That is why I am now proposing to publish speedily my consultative papers dealing with arrangements for the whole of Wales. That is the priority for this Session. That in no way precludes the possibility of creating some further organisation dealing exclusively with Mid-Wales. Let us first set up the development agency and then determine where we should go from there. No one is more mindful than myself of the needs of Mid-Wales.

In view of the increasing cost of going to work, brought about by the petrol increases, what representations is the right hon. and learned Gentleman making to his right hon. Friend?

We are all deeply aware of the high cost of petrol. Every member of the public and every member of the Government is fully aware of that. It is not for me to catalogue the representations, if there are any, which go on between Departments.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it would be folly on his part and on the part of the Government to impose a similar rural development board, with compulsory powers, on the people of Mid-Wales? He is a Mid-Walian, and I know that he is aware that I am a Mid-Walian. It would be much better if the Government were to prepare a comprehensive policy to safeguard the future of rural areas.

That is what we are doing. We are announcing shortly our proposals for the whole of Wales. I have said before that the proposals for Wales and for Mid-Wales must be both effective and acceptable, and try to get over some of the difficulties of the objectives. But the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that many people in Mid-Wales bear grave responsibility for the time which has been lost there.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that what is needed is an extension of the activities of the Mid-Wales Development Corporation—for which I was responsible and which has done a remarkable job—to the other Mid-Wales towns?

My right hon. Friend's suggestion will certainly be taken into account in considering legislation, but there may well be differing views on the question whether that would be the right way to proceed. It will be looked at, but I cannot give any indication in advance of the publication of our proposals for the whole of Wales. They come first, and I have indicated what might be further possibilities.

Comprehensive Education

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with progression towards universal comprehensive secondary education in Wales; and what proportion of Welsh secondary schools are organised in a manner which satisfies criteria laid down by Her Majesty's Government.

Yes. Seventy-six per cent. of maintained secondary schools, providing for 86 per cent. of secondary school pupils in Wales, are organised on comprehensive lines. Local education authorities and teachers are to be commended for this rapid progress towards establishing a fully comprehensive system of secondary education.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I consider that most of the unfortunate 14 per cent. of the secondary school population who are not receiving comprehensive education seem to be in my constituency? Will he ensure that sufficient finance is placed at the disposal of the Gwent County Council to ensure that the necessary expansion of Crosskeys College of Further Education takes place, so that when we embark upon full comprehensive education in that part of my constituency the start will not be blighted by homelessness among these senior schoolchildren?

I take the point. Next Wednesday I am going to Gwent to examine the situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedwelty (Mr. Kinnock) has been a long campaigner on this issue. I remind him and the House that the overriding need at present is to contain public expenditure. This means that only the most pressing school building projects can be programmed, but I hope that I can find some in Gwent on Wednesday.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the great depth of feeling aroused in Bangor over the conflicting proposals for the reorganisation of secondary education there? Will he give an assurance that no irrevocable step will be taken without consultation with him?

I am fully aware of the strength of feeling in the Bangor area, so I shall say nothing to antagonise the community at this stage; I merely give an assurance that before a reorganisation scheme comes into being the local education authority of Gwynedd will have to present the scheme to the Welsh Office.

Whilst the hon. Gentleman is progressing with the organisation of comprehensive education at secondary school level, will he indicate what progress is being made towards a comprehensive structure of higher education, and ensure that the reorganisation of present colleges of education and technical colleges will not hinder further development towards full-comprehensive higher education?

That is a strong philosophical point. I take note of what the hon. Gentleman said. However, it includes matters to do with the Department of Education and Science as well as the Welsh Office. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is a very strong, continuing and sympathetic Welsh interest.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many areas are not satisfied with the criteria laid down, that these criteria refer to buildings, and that, very often, the quality of education and the opportunities afforded to youngsters have changed very little in places where the style of education continues as before?

My hon. Friend is making a case for equality of opportunity, which for decades has been a great ideal of the Labour movement. We take full note of that.

Bilingual Road Signs

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has now received protesting against his decision to give priority to English in bilingual directional signs in Wales.

Since announcing my decision to the House on 10th June 1974, I have received 135 letters of protest.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment stated, on 17th December, in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) that no attempt had been made to establish the effect of reading speeds on road safety? Is the Secretary of State further aware that this makes nonsense of his requirement that Welsh place names be placed underneath those in English? The English place names are often corrupt forms of the Welsh. Was not the right hon. and learned Gentleman's decision based not on road safety but on political grounds?

I do not know what political grounds the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I take notice that this is the first oral Question tabled by the hon. Gentleman that I am answering since his re-election to the House. It is an odd sense of priorities, when the concern of most of the Welsh people is with jobs and homes.

The letter of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment must be read in the context of Table 5 of the Second Report of the Road Research Laboratory. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has read the report. If so, perhaps he will tell us whether the difference of 137 ft or, perhaps, 100 ft, is a significant factor in safeguarding life over the distances that would be involved in adopting the course he suggests if a car were travelling at 70 mph. No Minister with the slightest sense of responsibility—I speak as a former Minister responsible for safety in the Ministry for Transport—would have taken any other course.

Area Health Authorities

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what plans there are for the allocation of financial resources to area health authorities in Wales.

My right hon. and learned Friend is considering the revenue allocations for 1975–76 and reviewing the capital allocations made last August. Before reaching a final view, he will be meeting area health authority chairmen on 21st February to discuss both their proposals and also the report of the Working Group on Resource Allocations, set up last May.

Will my hon. Friend assure us that what he has in mind would have the effect of making a fair distribution of resources throughout Wales, in terms of the area health authorities? As well as concentrating help on the large base hospitals, will he strengthen the help and give higher priority to the development of health centres, day hospitals, community hospitals, and the like?

I give that assurance. We are aware of the feeling in a number of quarters that the system of resources allocation used hitherto has not led to equitable distribution. That is why my right hon. and learned Friend set up the working group to look into the matter. My hon. Friend would no doubt like to know that the report recommends that in respect of the non-psychiatric hospitals Mid-Glamorgan should have a rate of growth above the average next year.

Europe

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had with a view to strengthening Welsh links with Europe.

There are already close links between Wales and Europe in a variety of fields, including the economic. My Department, in particular, maintains regular contact with Brussels, and I see no immediate need for further consultation in these matters.

In view of the comments being aired in some quarters that we should base our policy on strengthening our links mainly or only with the English-speaking world, does not my right hon. and learned Friend think that, in logic, we should set out to strengthen our links with Welsh Patagonia? Or, in common with the rest of us, does he agree that it is nothing more than idiot chauvinism?

If my hon. Friend will put down a Question about strengthening links with Patagonia, I shall answer it.

Civil Service

Career Structure

34.

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what consultations he has had with civil servants' professional associations about the effect of devolution policies on career structure.

There have been preliminary discussions between the official and staff sides of the Civil Service National Whitley Council about the implications for the Civil Service of devolution. The national staff side has been assured that there will be full consultation on this.

What will be the contractual legal position of a civil servant who, having joined the United Kingdom Civil Service, then had pressure put upon him to be a civil servant in a service subject to a Scottish assembly?

As my hon. Friend will accept, there is some difficulty about replying to hypothetical questions, but I assure him that that point will be noted. Perhaps I may assure him, on the general issue, that no decisions in this matter have yet been taken.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there are fears in certain parts of Wales, particularly South Glamorgan, about the Government's determination to pursue a devolution policy, and that they arise from the failure of a nationalised industry to move its regional headquarters to Cardiff, as was announced only this week?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government will make their views known in the debate expected to take place next Monday.

Dispersal

35.

asked the Minister for the Civil Service how many civil servants were redeployed from London to the provinces during the calendar year 1974.

I am afraid that records are not kept on a calendar year basis, but in the year ended 30th September 1974 nearly 1,500 Civil Service jobs were dispersed from London, although in many cases the staff concerned did not move with their jobs, which have been filled by local recruitment. The figure of 1,500 does not include posts set up in new organisations established outside London under Government office location policies.

I welcome that reply as far as it goes. However, is my hon. Friend aware that in Yorkshire and Humberside, and particularly in Sheffield, we are anxious that this process should be speeded up and that, in particular, we should like a decision on the location of the Health and Safety Commission and the prospect of recruiting Inland Revenue staff and locating them in Sheffield?

I assure my hon. Friend that the point he has made endorses the contribution made during Questions on 2nd December last year and that it has been noted by my Department. Consideration is still being given to the location of the Health and Safety Commission and what my hon. Friend has said will be taken into account.

Does the Minister include in his use of the term "provinces" the countries of Scotland and Wales?

Government policies for dispersal in Scotland and Wales have already been announced. Due regard is paid to all geographical areas of the country.

Does my hon. Friend accept that recent salary awards to top civil servants, most of them centred in London, have caused great anxiety and concern in the Labour movement and among ordinary people? Will he assure the House that before any such vast sums are awarded again, the awards will be discussed in the House, so that we may debate the matter rather than be faced with a fait accompli?

I think that my hon. Friend will accept that his supplementary question goes somewhat wide of the Question.

Government Advertising

37.

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will ensure that Government advertising avoids matter likely to prejudice friendly relations with other countries.

The content of Government advertising is the responsibility of the Minister concerned.

Will my hon. Friend have a word with the Secretary of State for Defence about the kind of advertisement that appeared in the Daily Express on 14th January—incidentally, costing f6,750—aimed at recruiting Army officers, having a cold war character and clearly aimed at war preparations with Russia? Was it not very unfortunate that that advertisement should have appeared on the very day that the Prime Minister announced his intention of visiting Russia to improve trading and other peaceful relations with that country?

I shall certainly accept my hon. Friend's invitation to bring his comments on the advertisement to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. However, I cannot accept that the advertisement itself was in any way part of what has been interpreted as a cold war campaign. That was certainly not the intention of the advertisement itself. I am informed that this advertisement was designed to provoke thought in the minds of potential recruits, and my hon. Friend will be encouraged to learn that it has had precisely that effect. He will, perhaps, be encouraged to learn that the quality of recruits forthcoming now is considered to be infinitely better than previously.

Referendum

38.

asked the Lord President of the Council what progress he has made in working out the machinery by which a national referendum may be conducted.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Edward Short)

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Thursday 23rd January.

Does the Lord President accept that, having proposed such a constitutional innovation, there is a particular obligation upon him to ensure that the procedures and provisions of his referendum do the minimum possible damage to the House of Commons and the free exercise of judgment by its Members? To that end, will he give serious weight to the argument that, whereas the purpose of a General Election is to choose representatives here of particular constituencies, the purpose of a national referendum is to produce a national result? Will he arrange for the votes to be counted accordingly?

The Labour Party put this proposal in its manifesto and we won the General Election. The method of counting the votes is a very controversial matter. There are three points of view, and we shall certainly put in the White Paper the various courses and our proposals.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are many of us on the Government side of the House who, while not particularly hostile to the Common Market, have never particularly opposed a referendum? Will he bear in mind that those who support the Common Market do a great disservice to their cause if they get particularly anxious about having a referendum? Is he aware that many of us on the Government side of the House, on both sides of the issue, pay tribute to the Lord President for the way in which he has tried to organise a referendum which is fair to all?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. We are working out our proposals. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, we intend to publish a White Paper—I hope towards the end of next month—and to have a debate in the House.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether in the formulation of the question or questions to be answered there will be any reference to the treaty obligations incurred?

It is much too early to say. Certainly the question will be part of the legislation, and the White Paper itself will discuss the question.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether members of another place and the Royal Family will be allowed to vote in this national referendum?

I think it would be fair for members of another place to be given a vote on this occasion. After all, they are on the local government voters' list.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that not everyone in the House will agree that the Prime Minister made everything absolutely clear last week? Is he further aware that, in so far as anyone feels any sympathy for anybody on this subject, it is directed to the parliamentary draftsmen, who will have an almost intolerably difficult task?

I am sure that the general opinion of the House is that the Prime Minister shed a great deal of light on a unique and novel proposal. Certainly the parliamentary draftsmen are not going to have an easy task, but the legislation itself will not be all that complicated, or too long.

House Of Commons

Members' Interests

39.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will introduce legislation to make it obligatory for Members of Parliament when elected to give up all other forms of paid employment.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we get legislation dealing with the publication of a register of Members' interests it will disclose, one assumes, a large number of Members of Parliament, mainly on the Tory side of the House, who have accrued a number of directorships of one kind or another? Does he not feel that the public at large would look more favourably upon the demands of Members of Parliament for increased pay if it were not for the fact that they see from time to time, as instanced in the Stonehouse case, that some Members of Parliament are able to pick up all these sundry directorships after they have been elected to Parliament?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order to refer to a right hon. Member of this House as "Stone-house"? Should the hon. Member not say "the right hon. Member for Walsall, North"?

I think it would be better not to refer to the right hon. Member by name. The hon. Member did say "the Stonehouse case".

Will the Lord President answer the most intriguing question, namely, why it is that 100 Members of a Government, no matter which political party is in power, have to get rid of all these so-called other forms of paid employment—or they are supposed to—while for some unknown reason that ruling does not apply to back-bench Members?

The Select Committee considering the registration of Members' interests reported on 8th January. The Government are still considering the report. I very much hope to bring our proposals to the House before too long. On the second point, when a Member is elected and becomes a Minister there is a clear need to ensure that any decisions he takes will not conflict with any interests he may have outside.

Would not the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) carry more weight if hon. Members enjoyed security of tenure?

Ten Minutes Rule Bills

40.

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will refer the working of the Ten Minutes Rule Bill procedure to the Select Committee on Procedure.

The Procedure Committee has a considerable remit to deal with at present, but I have noted my hon. Friend's suggestion for the future.

Does my right hon. Friend have any tinge of sympathy or good will towards those of us who queued from 4 o'clock in the morning of Thursday 11th December to get a Ten Minutes Rule Bill? Does he not think that, if this procedure is not simply to be posturing and propagandist, there ought to be some chance for hon. Members at least to have a serious discussion in Committee on the subjects that they raise? In particular, will he look with a kindly eye upon the interests of those 2,000-or-so families, one of whose members is waiting for a kidney, and give some help to my Transplant of Humans Organs Bill?

I have a great deal of sympathy for my hon. Friend and applaud his diligence in queuing from 4 o'clock in the morning. There are two categories of Private Member's Bill—Ballot Bills and Ten Minutes Rule Bills. Occasionally a Ten Minutes Rule Bill makes it, and become law, but that applies to only a very few. I would be prepared to consider this point and see whether we can refer the procedure to the Select Committee when it has finished its present remit.

Ministerial Statements

41.

asked the Lord President of the Council if, in the light of recent objections to the practice of arranged Parliamentary Questions, he will now reconsider his attitude to the proposal of the Procedure Committee in the Parliament before last that Ministers should be able to make written statements in the Official Report in cases when an oral statement is inappropriate.

I am not aware of any general dissatisfaction with the long-standing arrangements for Ministers to make written reports to the House in response to Questions. A system of written ministerial statements would have disadvantages for the House as well as advantages. I think that if it is to be pursued we should ask the Procedure Committee to look at it again.

Will the Lord President acknowledge that the Procedure Committee, in the 1970–74 Session of Parliament, looked at this very thoroughly, took evidence on the subject, and recommended that this proposal should be accepted? Does he recognise that there are more and more occasions when Ministers have to make statements but there is no time at 3.30 p.m. for an oral statement? It is unsatisfactory that hon. Members should have to sift through Written Answers trying to distinguish between that information which is being provided because someone has asked for it and that information which is being provided because the Minister feels an obligation to supply it. Since this is merely an extension of the practice we have of distinguishing between oral Questions and oral statements, may I ask how long it will be before the House does the sensible thing and allows Ministers to put these statements where we can readily find them?

I recognise that there is a problem. I recollect the difficulty which arose about this before Christmas. There is also a reluctance on the part of many Members to allow Ministers or hon. Members to write anything into Hansard which is unrelated to Questions. However, I feel that it would be worth while again referring this matter to the Select Committee on Procedure and allowing it to look at the issue.

While the right hon. Gentleman is thinking about this, will he bring his mind to bear on the allied question which will arise concerning Questions, Answers and statements? In the light of the Prime Minister's statement last Thursday and the ending of the doctrine of collective responsibility, how will hon. Members know, when they receive an answer—oral or written—whether it represents the collective view of the Government or the view of the Minister concerned? This is a serious point, in that in many cases decisions of all sorts are taken in the light of answers to parliamentary Questions. How shall we know? Will there be a special mark on the Order Paper, or a special statement with each Question and Answer?

Questions to the Prime Minister are another matter. The doctrine of collective responsibility is completely unimpaired.—[Interruption.] All we are doing is following a precedent of 43 years ago.

Has my right hon. Friend within his Department a medical practitioner who could give attention to the bile duct of the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), in view of the repeated difficulty he appears to have in this House with that organ? Will he accept that the difficulty associated with written statements is not that they are not distinguishable from Written Answers but is to do with the fact that they sometimes appear on the last day of the Session, before we go into recess, and concern important matters?

Fortunately, I am not responsible for the human organs of the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). As to the second part of my hon. Friend's question, there is always a problem immediately before a recess. The Government have many announcements to make. It is always a matter for question whether they are made in the House orally or by a written statement, or by a statement outside the House. All Governments have experienced this piling up of statements immediately before a recess. It is a difficult problem.

Knowing how willing the right hon. Member is to respond to any suggestions from the Tory side of the House, may I express the hope that he will look at this matter again? There ought to be some way whereby Ministers can distinguish from other information the answers that they are volunteering. For instance, this afternoon a very important statement on housing is being made in the guise of an answer to a Written Question. This is undesirable.

Turning now to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) about Cabinet solidarity, it is difficult to believe that all the answers given by the Secretary of State for Trade command the total agreement of every Member of the Cabinet. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to exercise his ingenuity and consider this.

I have already replied to the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's question. I realise that there is a problem about statements. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to complain if we had too many oral statements at the beginning of each day's business. They take up a great deal of time. It is a matter of deciding as best we can. These matters come to me for decision. I must bear responsibility for them. I try to hold the balance between written and oral statements to prevent the business of the House being unduly delayed by oral statements.

Welsh Assembly

42.

asked the Lord President of the Council what is the Government's timetable for the establishment of a Welsh assembly.

It is too soon to give a firm answer to this Question, but I can assure the House that we are proceeding as quickly as possible with this very complex issue. The House will, of course, have a full opportunity to debate devolution next week.

As the Lord President assures us that matters are proceeding quickly, and that he expects the establishment of assemblies for Scotland and Wales within a few years, will he tell the House whether any preparatory work is being done in Wales in the matters, for instance, of communications between the North and South, which are very poor; of a home for the assembly; and, especially, of developing a Civil Service which can take over the necessary work?

An enormous amount of preparatory work is being done in London and Wales. The question of a home for the assembly is one of the matters being dealt with at present, but it is much too early to give the whole timetable. The hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree that we must get this matter right, and that it is much better to get it right than to do it very quickly and perhaps not get it right. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will bear with us and will perhaps put his point of view more fully in next week's two-day debate.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that devolution is not a subject which is constantly on the lips of our people in the pubs, clubs and chapels of Wales, and that if it must come at all they would rather have it done correctly than speedily?

Will the right hon. Gentleman convey to his fellow members of the Cabinet the feeling adverted to by the Secretary of State earlier today about resentment in Wales at the growth of bureaucracy and centralised local government organs? An enormous increase in the expense of local government and the imposition of what is virtually, according to the Government's proposals, only a glorified county council will be very unwelcome in Wales.

The assembly will be a great deal more than a glorified county council. It will be a question not of taking powers from the existing council structure but of real devolution of power from Westminster.

Questions To Ministers

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As it has been impossible to deal with all the Welsh Questions tabled today, and as several hon. Members did not have time to put supplementary questions, will it be possible to devote an hour to Welsh Questions between 2.30 and 3.30 so that they are not again interrupted at 3.10 and 3.20, as happened today?

That is not a matter for me, but no doubt it will be noted by those with responsibility for it.