House Of Commons
Wednesday 29th January 1975
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
BRITISH RAILWAYS (No. 2) BILL ( By Order)
GREATER LONDON COUNCIL (GENERAL POWERS) BILL ( By Order)
LONDON TRANSPORT BILL ( By Order)
LONDON TRANSPORT (ADDITIONAL POWERS) BILL ( By Order)
Orders for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time upon Tuesday next.
Oral Answers To Questions
Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs
Cyprus (British Property)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has now made to the Governments of Cyprus and Turkey about compensation for British nationals who lost property and personal possessions in the Cyprus disturbances of 1974.
I told my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 19th December—[Vol. 883, c. 575–6]—that we have been considering an approach to the Governments of Turkey and Cyprus on this problem. After careful assessment of the responsibility for the various categories of loss and damage reported, my right hon. Friend has authorised Her Majesty's Am- bassador in Ankara to make representations to the Turkish Government. An approach to the Government of Cyprus is still under consideration.
Is the Minister satisfied that the Government are doing all they can to help these people, most of whom are not rich and many of whom are now destitute?
I fear that I must accept the definition given by the hon. Gentleman of the condition of some of these people, but I hope he will accept my assurance that the Government are doing all they can, and are doing it repeatedly, to establish their claims and the responsibilities of the Government in question. This is a matter of some difficulty, although I promise that we shall continue to pursue it.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that hundreds of thousands of Cypriots also lost property and possessions in 1974? Does he agree that the recent action of the Government in acquiescing in the transfer of 10,000 Turkish Cypriot refugees to Turkey who were then sent to the north of Cyprus is regarded as a betrayal by many of the Greek community in Greece and Cyprus and also those in this country, many of whom are my constituents? Does he not agree that it is time for the Government's policy to be made absolutely clear to avoid the charge of betrayal and of a complete reversal of policy?
I agree that there are many thousands of Greek Cypriots living in desperate conditions for whom something should be done—essentially by the Government of Turkey and the military authority in the north of the island of Cyprus. As for the Turkish refugees who were lately in the western sovereign base, we always knew that if we were to allow them to leave that base by air charges of duplicity would be made against us. We always knew that it would produce difficulties and embarrassments for Her Majesty's Government, but we took the view in January that their conditions, were they to remain there under canvas for the winter, would become so desperate that, out of compassion, it was our duty to allow them to leave by air. I am sure we were right to do so.
One accepts that the Government's judgment in that regard may be correct, but can the Minister say what representations were made to the Turkish Government and what assurances were sought from them in consideration of the concession we made?
My right hon. Friend rightly refused to bargain over this matter, saying that the lives and the health of several thousand Turkish Cypriots were not suitable subjects for making a deal with the Government of Turkey or anyone else. At the same time, however, he told the Turkish Government how strongly he and, he believed, this House would feel about their obligations to do something on behalf of the Greek Cypriot refugees. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will know that 1,000 Greek Cypriot refugees have already returned to their homes, but we continue to press as strongly as we can for the sort of humanity which we have shown to be shown by other nations.
May I give notice, Mr. Speaker, that I shall wish to raise a point of order on Question No. 35 at the end of Question Time, about the way in which the Foreign Office has avoided making a statement about this situation?Further to the questions already answered, may I ask what attitude the Foreign Secretary will take when or if he discusses this matter with Dr. Kissinger tomorrow? What will be the Government's position? Why have the Government now decided on non-intervention in the Clerides-Denktash talks, and what is the position of this Government as guarantor of the original treaty? I understand that the discussions next week will now be about the geographical allocation of territories in Cyprus, and many people are hoping that this Government will do something to avoid de facto recognition of the partition line, which is on the agenda for the talks.
I am sorry if my hon. Friend thinks that our answers have been less than frank. With great respect, I doubt whether that is how they will seem when read in Hansard tomorrow.As far as the Clerides-Denktash talks are concerned, it has always been the policy of Her Majesty's Government that these talks are the talks which are going on and which it is possible to see continued and, therefore, are the best prospects for making progress in the island. It is not known—but it ought to be—that the beginnings of these talks came about when the Secretary-General of the United Nations and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State had a conversation in August about how progress might be made towards a settlement in the island. Because of the very considerable progress that has been made on some issues and the willingness to expand the talks into political matters, Her Majesty's Government continue to believe that they are a prospect for progress. If my hon. Friend has any other material or practical suggestions about how progress should be made, I shall be happy to hear about them.
What about Kissinger?
Middle East Arms Supplies
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will ask the United States of America, the USSR and France for a joint embargo with Great Britain on arms and weapons spare parts to both Arab and Israeli contestants in the Middle East; and if the Government will give the lead by prohibiting such supplies from Great Britain forthwith.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will propose at the appropriate international organisations a total ban on all arms supplies to the Middle East by Great Britain, France, the USSR and the United States of America.
An effective agreement on some measure of arms limitation in the Middle East is likely to be possible only with the support of the parties to the dispute and in the context of a general settlement.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Middle East war could escalate into the third world war, which none of the four Governments mentioned wants? If agreement is difficult, as he suggests, why should not Britain give the initiative by getting out of this dirty business herself instead of selling arms to both sides? Lastly, is not talking of a balance in supplying arms, as some people do, a poor excuse, because it is really accelerating the arms race in that part of the world?
First, I agree with my hon. Friend that there are great dangers in the Middle East. That is why I think it is the responsibility of all of us to put as much pressure as we can upon the parties concerned. Most of us will welcome the fact that Dr. Kissinger is proposing to pay a further visit to the Middle East. I think we would wish him well in that. As to whether Her Majesty's Government by taking unilateral action would affect the situation, I very much doubt that.The main decision concerning arms is that taken by the countries themselves. They decide for themselves whether they want arms, in the same way as we decide whether to produce them. There is little doubt that if the British Government were to decide to impose a unilateral embargo, the orders would be taken up by other countries. I do not think that anything would be achieved.
Is the assumption made in the Question correct—that only the countries named are supplying arms to the area?
I cannot answer for my hon. Friend who put down the Question.
While I agree with the purport of the questions of my hon. Friends, may I ask the Minister to bear in mind when considering this matter that an embargo limited, in the terms of the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), to
would not be good enough, because there are other people who, as intermediaries, are willing to pass on arms to some of the contestants?"both Arab and Israeli contestants in the Middle East"
I think that my hon. Friend is right.
May I also ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind that if he is considering an embargo of this kind he should also be considering the complete division of the British Aircraft Corporation which has been set up for the supplying of sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia, which I believe is situated in the Middle East?
That is another question.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree, however, that in 1973 Her Majesty's Government made a unilateral declaration and decided, during the October war of that year, to refuse to supply arms to either side? Therefore, by doing as the Question suggests we would not be embarking upon any new policy but would be following a sensible decision made in 1973.
I do not think I can agree. I thought that the decision taken at that time was deplorable. I do not think many of my hon. Friends thought that the decision of the previous Government to deny arms to one country when it needed them was a decision that was promoting peace or anything else.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about the progress made in securing a constitutional settlement in Rhodesia.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on moves by Her Majesty's Government towards a settlement in Rhodesia.
My right hon. Friend has sent messages to Mr. Smith and Bishop Muzorewa. Mr. Smith's reply says that a proposed visit to Salisbury by British officials would not be helpful at this stage. The ANC has not yet replied. My right hon. Friend remains in consultation with the African leaders principally concerned.
While there will be widespread disappointment that the Foreign Secretary's offer to send an official to Salisbury has been turned down, may I ask the Minister whether he accepts that the somewhat ill-tempered and ham-fisted remark of the Foreign Secretary about comparing Rhodesian leaders to men stuck in an ice floe may well have contributed to this decision? What steps will the British Government now take to keep the tempo of negotiations going? Will the Government at one and the same time urge the African leaders to bring an effective end to terrorism and urge Mr. Smith to recommend the release of detainees?
Perhaps I should deal first with the serious part of that question. I think it is a disappointment. I think it is only a temporary setback. We cannot assume that there will not be an opportunity for exchanges with Mr. Smith. He has certainly not closed the door. I also agree that it is of great importance that the agreement reached in Lusaka should in every respect be carried through by all the parties concerned. I have no doubt that the African presidents are using their influence. I hope that Mr. Vorster will continue to use his influence. I think we would want to wish well to the talks which have begun between Mr. Smith's representatives and the African National Council. When my right hon. Friend made his statement in the House, he said that a constitutional conference could result only from these talks in Rhodesia. We would want to wish them well.As for the non-serious part of the supplementary question, the hon. Gentleman is fooling himself. My right hon. Friend said that Rhodesia was in a serious situation and facing serious problems. If the hon. Gentleman doubts that he must be alone in doing so.
Does my right hon. Friend accept two facts of life, as I have done for some years? The first is that since 1922, when Southern Rhodesia, as she then was, opted not to become the sixth State of the Union, Her Majesty's Government have had little if any constitutional status in Salisbury. Secondly, nowhere in Africa, outside the former colonies such as Kenya, has any white settler population voluntarily handed over power to the black masses. In the light of those two facts of history, does not my right hon. Friend think that we ought to leave it to Kenneth Kaunda and the other black leaders, because sooner or later there will be conflict in the territory such as that in Angola and Mozambique?
I think my hon. Friend recognises—if he does not, perhaps I can mention it—that Presidents Kaunda, Nyerere and Seretse Khama have been extremely anxious and have made it clear to my right hon. Friend that he should play as active a part as he can. The question is, how active a part? Clearly, although we have legal constitutional responsibility for what is still constitutionally a British dependent territory, our influence is not such that we can directly intervene. I think it is quite right, therefore, that my right hon. Friend should indicate his willingness to convene a conference at such time as the situation leads one to believe that it can succeed.
Is it not clear that a major factor in opening up even the possibility of a settlement has been the determination of the British Government, of both parties, to keep the illegal régime isolated in the international community? Have the Government considered what further negotiations may be useful in this very fluid situation? Will they keep in mind that a settlement must include reliable safeguards not only for the African majority but also for the European minority in Rhodesia?
Concerning the last part of the question, I think my right hon. Friend told the House on 14th January that if he were present at a constitutional conference he would certainly do his best to ensure that there were guarantees for the minority. That is one of the basic Six Principles.I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the decision, of both sides of the House—though many Opposition Members did not agree—to sustain sanctions and not to recognise the Smith régime, was a perfectly proper measure and was paving the way for this situation. As for further initiatives, my right hon. Friend is in close contact with the Africa presidents and with Mr. Vorster. We await also to see not only the reply from the ANC but such later replies as we hope to receive from Mr. Smith.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that all past records show that there is absolutely no possibility of constructive dealings with Smith and that until he is removed there is no possible way forward?
I cannot accept that conclusion. It is too early to say what the outcome of the present negotiations will be. We must accept that representatives of the Smith régime accepted certain principles in Lusaka. They, together with others, declared their intention to carry them through, and it is our wish to see that agreement fully respected by all concerned.
The Minister of State will remember that the Foreign Secretary wisely overcame his initial reluctance to meet Mr. Vorster. Would the Foreign Secretary be prepared in appropriate circumstances to meet Mr. Smith?
It depends on what those appropriate circumstances are, but there would have to be a great deal of change before that became possible.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will take into account, in considering any settlement of the Rhodesia question, the need to restore the rights and homeland which have been illegally taken away from the Tangwena tribe.
I hope that any settlement of the Rhodesia question will lead to a satisfactory resolution of many problems including those of the Tangwena people.
I thank my right hon. Friend warmly for that reply, even though it does not contain any commitment. I ask him to bear in mind when these matters are being considered that the Tangwena were brutally evicted from their ancestral homeland in 1968; that the Supreme Court in Rhodesia, even under UDI, declared that eviction to be unconstitutional and was overruled only by Mr. Dupont, who usurped the powers of the Governor; and that the land is occupied by a ranching company most of whose proprietors are English or Irish. Will my right hon. Friend please ensure that when the constitutional talks start this point, perhaps small in relation to some others but large in relation to justice, is not overlooked?
I have deep sympathy with the point of view presented by my hon. Friend and with the conditions, the problems and the history of the Tangwena people. I agree that it is essential that the problem should be resolved. I know that part of the problem is that parents have been separated from their children. I have heard that parents are now free to take their children away from their present position, which is a welcome advance. Certainly this is one problem that must be solved as part of the settlement in Rhodesia that we hope to achieve.
Would not British influence in all these important matters be strengthened if Her Majesty's Government had a representative in this territory for which the Government claim responsibility? Despite the present difficulties with Mr. Smith will the Government pursue that matter?
Maybe the hon. Gentleman was not in the House when I answered an earlier Question—
Yes, I was.
when I said that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had suggested to Mr. Smith that there should be a visit from officials to discuss the situation and the state of the negotiations, and that Mr. Smith said that the time was not opportune. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting a way in which there should be diplomatic recognition by the back door, the answer is positively "No".
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will pay an official visit to the Persian Gulf.
My right hon. Friend has no plans to visit the Gulf at present. I am proposing to visit the Arab States of the Gulf myself early next month.
In view of the political and economic importance of the Gulf area to this country, and in view also of the deep dismay engendered in the Gulf by the remarks attributed to Dr. Kissinger earlier this month that the United States did not wholly exclude the possibility of circumstances in which it might intervene militarily in the area, will the Minister reconsider the possibility of a visit by the Foreign Secretary to the Gulf States. If he went he could carry with him the view of our Government that we have nothing but good intentions towards that part of the world.
I had better go first myself before I recommend my right hon. Friend to follow me the week after. I can assure the hon. Member that I shall be having wide-ranging talks in Kuwait, Bahrein, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. My visit will deal with political issues, including those referred to by the hon. Member, and economc questions. In so far as there are points which can be elaborated, I am certain that that will be done during this visit. I shall find it of great advantage to exchange views with countries which have had traditional friendly relations with us.
Will my right hon. Friend make clear to the Sultan of Oman that there is a considerable body of opinion in Britain which regards the war in Oman as being totally unjustified and which believes that British support in that war should be completely withdrawn?
I am not quite certain how widespread that support is. I have no doubt that the Sultan has seen the Questions which have been put by my hon. Friend, but I think that most people in this country who know much about what is going on in Oman recognise the great advances which are being made in social and economic development in the interests of the people under the present Sultan, and I think that we should give them every encouragement.
May I fully support my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley) in what he said and go a little further?May I ask whether, in addition to making visits, the Foreign Secretary will extend invitations to leaders in the Gulf and other areas which are so immensely important to us to visit this country?
Most of the leaders of the five countries which I shall be visiting in the Gulf have paid visits to this country during the past 12 months and have had valuable talks during their stay here.
Turkey (Computer Sale)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the sending out of a British team of computer specialists in support of the supply of a United States manufactured computer to the Turkish Government when this may be utilised to aid the disposition of Turkish troops in Cyprus.
As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade told the House on 13th January, Her Majesty's Government were not involved in the sale of an American computer to Turkey, nor have we been involved in the despatch of computer specialists to Turkey or to the Turkish-held part of Cyprus.
I am grateful to the Minister for clarification of the facts, but does he agree that the reports which are of such a nature as to show an apparent partiality towards the Turkish Government support the view expressed earlier in the House today that there is a feeling of betrayal of the people of Cyprus, and of the Greek Cypriots in particular? Does he accept that we need early action on behalf of the Greek Cypriots rather than fine words?
On the need for early action, I have expressed the view of the Government and I gladly reiterate it. On the matter of reports which imply partiality, since the reports about a computer were entirely false and were described as such six weeks ago it is unnecessary for me to deny them any further, and it is not helpful for hon. Members to raise the question.
Is not United Nations Resolution No. 353 the most significant resolution yet to be tabled about the Cypriot struggle? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Foreign Secretary, who is to meet Mr. Ivor Richard tomorrow to discuss initiatives to be taken by the United Nations in furtherance of the resolution, will meet Dr. Kissinger to discuss this matter? Does not my right hon. Friend believe in open government and, therefore, in saying so?
I agree with all the facts my hon. Friend has described. The Government have obligations as a member of the United Nations to the resolutions of that body. We have obligations as a member of the Commonwealth to a Commonwealth country. We have obligations as guarantor of the Cyprus constitution to Cyprus itself. My right hon. Friend will do his best to observe those obligations. Consultations will take place in New York and eventually in Washington which will provide an opportunity to consider what should be our attitude in the United Nations and the co-operation we might receive from the United States. My right hon. Friend will explain to Dr. Kissinger what our policies on these matters are. I think he will expect, and I think his expectations will be fulfilled, that the Secretary of State will go on co-operating with us in the helpful way in which he has done so since the Cyprus crisis began.
Iraqui Kurdistan (Refugees)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make funds available for humanitarian aid to refugees from the war in Iraqui Kurdistan.
No, Sir. British official assistance is given only in respect of a request from a United Nations agency or an overseas Government, and no such request has been made in this case.
Does the Minister accept that many people will regard the total inactivity of the British Government in this area as deeply to be regretted, particularly in the light of claims that there are now up to half a million refugees and that 10 children are dying of malnutrition and disease every day in parts of Kurdistan? In these circumstances, will the Minister of State bring pressure to bear on the Turkish authorities to open their frontiers for humanitarian aid? Will he invite the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to investigate at least the plight of hundreds of thousands of homeless and suffering people?
All hon. Members would regret a situation in which there was human suffering. Certainly my figures show that there are upwards of 120,000 Kurdish refugees who have crossed the border into Iran. As for representations to the Turkish Government, it must first be recognised that we have no status in this situation. It is also very doubtful whether if we made representations they would bring the required result. As for the border, my information is that it is not officially closed, but I do not have further details on that.
Will the Minister of State stop pontificating about our status? Will he recognise that this is a brutal genocidal war, that we have a historical responsibility as the country which established Iraq and that we have a humanitarian duty to aid the refugees and to protest insistently at what is being done?
However strongly the hon. Member may feel about the situation, he must recognise that this is an internal matter. I cannot accept that the Government have a responsibility in this respect other than a general humanitarian concern, which we would show. We have not been approached by the United Nations or any other member State to give assistance.
Is it not incredible that on a humanitarian issue such as this involving up to half a million refugees the Government are not prepared to make a diplomatic move? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that British voluntary agencies, including War on Want, have made an on-the-spot investigation and are appalled at the extent of the human suffering? Is it a fact that the Government are making arms available to Iraq? If that is so, will the Government reconsider the position and try to induce a change in a situation which has appalled all those who have had the opportunity of witnessing what has happened?
The hon. Gentleman refers to 500,000 refugees. As far as I know, there are 120,000 refugees. [Interruption.] I have no figures of those who are in Turkey.
The hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend said that the frontiers were closed. I was asked whether I would bring pressure to bear to see that they were opened. The refugees in Iran are being looked after by the Iranian Red Lion and Sun Society and, as far as I know, are being well looked after. The hon. Gentleman is coming to discuss the matter with me in a few days' time, when I shall be happy to consider further any points he wants to put to me.
South Vietnam (Military Aid)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise in the United Nations Security Council, as a threat to world peace, the recent provision of military aid by the United States of America to the Republic of South Vietnam.
No, Sir. The replacement of military equipment is permissible under Article 7 of the Parish Agreement.
I am concerned about arms supplies to Vietnam from any quarter. Does my right hon. Friend accept that recent escalations of arms supplies from the United States to Vietnam are an indication that President Ford is seeking to step up the warlike activity there? Does my right hon. Friend also accept that the Labour movement would like to see the Labour Government support the Democratic majority in Congress in seeking to curb the warlike aims of President Ford in Vietnam? Can he convey those sentiments to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in Washington as a matter of urgency?
I cannot accept all the points made by my hon. Friend. I think that not only the Labour movement but all thinking and caring people in this country will be desperately concerned about the increased level of violence and warfare in Vietnam. I do not think that the majority of the British public would want to start apportioning blame as between one party and another, and I do not want to add my apportionment of blame. There is a tragic situation in Vietnam. The most important thing is that the political talks between the Vietnamese people provided for in the Paris Agreements should be resumed. We have discussed these matters with representatives of both the North and South Vietnamese Governments, who are well aware of our concern.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that a far greater threat to world peace is posed by the intolerable invasion of South Vietnam by an army of upwards of 200,000 men, fully equipped and making no disguise of the fact that they appear as a hostile force upon the territory of an independent country?
I have already said that I and the Government deeply regret the increase in fighting and all the consequences in terms of loss of human rights, liberty and lives. The main thing, how- ever, is that it is clear that the Paris Agreements are not being properly fulfilled and that they should be fulfilled by all the parties concerned.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that nearly 2 million refugees have gone into South Vietnam as a result of the armed incursions and violations of Articles 3(c) and 10 of the Paris Agreement by the North? Are the Foreign Office and the Overseas Development Department taking steps to succour those refugees?
The Government are contributing £1 million towards the UNICEF programme in Indo-China, which goes to North Vietnam, South Vietnam and other parts of Indo-China. We have also contributed £100,000 to the International Red Cross relief programme.
In view of the clear breach of the Paris Agreements in that there is a substantial invasion force from North Vietnam in the territory of the Republic of South Vietnam, may I ask whether the Government are unable to establish the facts and to make representations to the guarantors of the Paris Agreements that they should be upheld?
I said in answer to a previous supplementary question that we have been in touch with both the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese Governments expressing our concern at the present situation. I think it is true that many parts of the Paris Agreements have not been fulfilled. We are deeply concerned about that and we have made known our concern.In welcoming the hon. Gentleman to his new position, may I say that it is encouraging to see the weight in numbers of spokesmen on the Opposition Front Bench this afternoon. I cannot say the same in other respects.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the issue of the demilitarisation of the Indian Ocean.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking in response to the United Nations resolution calling for a nuclear-free zone to be established in the Indian Ocean.
Although we did not support this resolution, we and the United States Government have agreed to consult about possible arms limitation measures in the Indian Ocean. We have also expressed our support for the Australian Prime Minster's proposal for consultations between the United States and Soviet Governments on the possibility of mutual restrictions in the area.
Does not my right hon. Friend accept that the CENTO naval exercise in November was the largest maritime exercise in history and that the defence review decision on Diego Garcia indicates that the Government support a policy of deliberate militarisation of the Indian Ocean? Is it not time we changed direction?
I cannot accept my hon. Friend's interpretations. I have never seen CENTO as a threatening, challenging organisation, and I cannot accept the suggestion that a CENTO exercise presents any threat or challenge to anyone. As for Diego Garcia, I do not see anything that is in conflict with our wish to see an extension of peace in the Indian Ocean. I see no contradiction between that and the decision to grant to the United States a limited expansion of services in Diego Garcia.
Will the Minister point out to his hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) that the recent naval exercises in the Indian Ocean are very small compared with those undertaken by the Soviet submarine and surface fleets and that the Soviet establishment in Somalia antedates considerably the expansion of the Diego Garcia facilities?
It is true that there has been an increase in the naval presence in the area.
Will my right hon. Friend explain why the Diego Garcia expansion is so limited when the American Government are budgeting £40 million for its expansion? Is he aware of the evidence given to the Senate Armed Services Committee that after expansion Diego Garcia will have the capability for F111 aircraft which have a nuclear capability? Is my right hon. Friend aware of the almost unanimous opposition to expansion from all the littoral States around the Indian Ocean? Why has he not listened to that opposition, and what reply has he given to the recent protest from the Indian Government over this matter?
I shall deal first with the services provided on Diego Garcia. I referred to a modest improvement of the facilities. The improvement is to enable Diego Garcia to have ships and aircraft. It will include a lengthening of the runway, an improvement of the ship support facilities and an enlargement of the airfield parking area. This is not in any way to provide base facilities for the United States. The cost of the expansion is expected to be about £35 million. Nevertheless, in current terms I do not believe that this modest expansion presents a threat to anyone.
European Economic Community
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement about his negotiations on continued British membership of the EEC.
We are continuing to make progress. We shall have an intensive period of negotiations in the next two months but I hope that we shall be able to conclude renegotiation by Easter.
Will the Minister say which he thinks is the most stubborn of the outstanding matters? Is it his aim that they should be gathered together and dealt with at the Dublin Heads of Government Meeting?
I do not think it is possible or wise in this situation to evaluate the various items of renegotiation and to say that some present greater difficulties than others. If it is necessary to use the Dublin Heads of Government meeting to give extra impetus to our renegotiation, the meeting will be used for that purpose. My right hon. Friend's hope is that the following meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers in February and March will see through the renegotiation on their own initiative.
What concessions to the British case have so far been agreed in the first 10 months of the negotiations?
My right hon. Friend is inviting me to go through the area of stubborn problems in rather the reverse way. I accept part of that invitation. He will recall that at the Paris Heads of Government meeting there was agreement that our case for an adjustment to the budget contribution was understandable and acceptable. It was, indeed, accepted. He will recall the enormous progress that was made regarding the relationship between the EEC and the developing world. I shall not weary him with every item of success, but there are others.
It is clear that supplementary questions on this Question will take up the whole of the 20 minutes allotted to EEC Questions. I propose to go on to the next Question. Mr. Dykes.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what outstanding policy areas remain to be discussed with the other member countries in the context of Her Majesty's Government's renegotiations of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Economic Community.
We have still to reach agreement on a number of important issues, including the details of the correcting mechanism for the budget, trade with countries outside the Community, particularly the Commonwealth, a new understanding on the Community rules for national regional aids, relations with developing countries and a number of matters relating to the common agricultural policy.
Will the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the prefix "re" to the word "negotiations" was inserted by the printers and not by myself? I am sure we can agree on their ruthless impartiality continuing. In the context of the list which the right hon. Gentleman has just read out, will be guarantee and reaffirm that no other additional items will be entered into the list of potential subjects to be negotiated?
I must confess that I do not understand the semantic point that the hon. Gentleman made at the beginning of his question. I can give him an absolute assurance that my right hon. Friend said in April that our list was complete and total and that no additions can be made to it now.
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that there is already concern in this country about the activities of that European civil servant Sir Christopher Soames, bearing in mind that his first loyalty now is to the Common Market? Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is the additional complication that presumably Sir Christopher Soames is using the resources of the Common Market, let alone those of the Conservative Party? As the Labour Party and this Labour Government gave a pledge that the people would be consulted on this matter, is it not essential to ensure that the referendum is held in a fair manner?
The Government, from the Prime Minister downwards, have expressed their determination to ensure that the referendum is held fairly and impartially. That is a matter on which none of us disagrees. On the rôle of Sir Christopher Soames, I recognise that there is disagreement. Sir Christopher is a British citizen who will be entitled to vote in the referendum. In that capacity he is entitled to take part in the campaign.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he now expects to complete renegotiation of the Treaty of Accession to the EEC.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) on 14th January.—[Vol. 884, c. 184.]
Is it not a fact that the Government have not renegotiated any of the terms of the Treaty of Accession? Will he therefore pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) who negotiated it to the complete satisfaction of the Labour Party? Does he agree that the concept of renegotiation has been a dodge to help the Labour Party to stay together in a period of time which is soon running out?
I noticed the hon. Gentleman's reference to the treaty in the Question and I put it down to an error of drafting. He will recall that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made it clear on 1st April that it was not our wish, if it could be avoided, to negotiate changes in the treaty. It is our wish to make substantial and fundamental alterations in the terms in which the treaty is applied. That we are doing with great seriousness and with some success.
I revert to renegotiation. Does my right hon. Friend see some anomaly in the fact that while this Government and the country are still concerned with renegotiation one of the Commissioners, with whom in theory we are renegotiating, is making his views known? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Questions which I have tabled concerning the terms of employment of the Commissioners have been ruled out of order? Will he tell the House the exact terms of reference, and where they may be found, concerning the terms of appointment and employment of the Commissioners of the European Community?
All the Commissioners are employees, if that is the appropriate word, and are responsible to the Community. Questions about their ability to take time off to take part in the referendum campaign, if hon. Members think such questions are appropriate, which I do not, ought to be addressed to their employers. I base my view that such questions are not altogether appropriate on the fact that so many of us are allowed time off by our benevolent employers to take part in local authority work, for example, and other activities. But on the question of Sir Christopher's participation in this campaign I must reiterate that he is a British citizen and a free man, and I have no wish to curtail his rights in either of these capacities
First, may I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on being appointed to the Privy Council? In a previous anwer he said that there would be no additions to the terms of renegotiation. Can he also give an assurance that there will be no subtraction from the renegotiation terms as set out precisely in the Labour Party manifesto?
I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance without pause or qualification. He has attended virtually all our debates and must have heard almost all the questions and answers on the subject, so no doubt he will agree that no item in either the February or the October Labour manifestos has been neglected.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that even the pro-Europeans on this side of the House are concerned about the lack of democratic control of the existing institutions? Does he not agree that the only way to solve that problem is to have a democratically-elected European Parliament?
I said earlier that I understand the democratic arguments in favour of democratically-elected membership of the European Parliament, but my hon. Friend will agree on reflection that were we during the next three months, to mount proposals for the setting up of such an electoral system, the seriousness of our renegotiations would be questioned, and since they are serious I do not believe that we want these questions to be raised.
European Parliament (Elections)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Government have yet reacted to the EEC proposal to hold direct elections to the European Parliament by 1978.
The Government's position remains as stated in the communiqué issued by Heads of Government after their 9th-10th December meeting, Cmnd 5830. We shall not take up a position on this proposal before the process of renegotiation has been completed and the results submitted to the British people.
Will the Minister reflect that it is rather extraordinary that the Government are not taking a position on the question of direct elections before this spurious referendum is held? Surely the British people are entitled to know whether the Europe to which they are being asked to be committed is moving in a democratic direction.
I cannot imagine how the hon. Gentleman comes to regard the referendum as spurious. I believe that the referendum will be a matter of seriousness and that it should be taken in that way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will do so when the time comes. As for a decision on the elections to the Parliament, it would be ridiculous if the Government were to make a major shift in their policy before the outcome of the referendum was known. Were we to establish permanent membership, that would be the proper time to examine the matter. Until that process is concluded, I do not think that the Government can move.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that some years ago we indicated to the Italian Government our support for that very proposition?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are a number of arguments which I could advance, and which no doubt could be advanced by my hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), which would show the advantages of such an organisation being given the added element of democracy. That is a matter that must be considered after the outcome of the referendum.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the terms of the treaty are mandatory? As the Government are accepting the treaty and are renegotiating within it, they must have accepted the principle of direct elections and are arguing only about detail.
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that we discussed the matter in a debate before Christmas. While the principle is there established, the timing of its implementation is a matter for the individual States. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear our views on timing at the Paris Summit.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the current extent of political co-operation with the European Community.
A report on political co-operation was included in the Government's White Paper on Developments in the European Communities, March to October 1974 (Cmnd. 5790). There is now regular co-operation on broad problems of foreign policy at many levels involving the Foreign Ministers of member States and their officials. It is increasingly helpful on a number of international questions.
In the light of my right hon. Friend's experience of political co-operation in the Community, will he tell us whether he believes that the political influence of this country in the world would be greater or less if we were to withdraw from the Community?
That is a soft one.
If my hon. Friend thinks that that is a question I find easy to answer, he underestimates the difficulties in this situation. Certainly, over a whole range of subjects, including our relationship with the Arab world, our position in face of a potential energy crisis and our relationship as a European Power with the United States, our position is eased and made more powerful by membership of the Community. But were we to choose, as the Government or as the people, that we no longer wished to remain in the Community, we should be able to establish or re-establish a rôle in the world which would be satisfactory to hon. Members.
Scotland may be dragged into the Community after the referendum as a result of the vote of the people of England. Has the right hon. Gentleman told the other member States about the effect of the promised legislation for a Scottish Assembly?
The other member States were told of the proposals for devolution, contained in the Labour Party manifesto which carried the majority of seats in Scotland, and they know that when the referendum comes the Labour Government are intent on calculating the views of the people as a whole. That must mean, of course, the views of the United Kingdom as a whole.
The right hon. Gentleman is trying to get away with it.
Can my right hon. Friend assure us that if the renegotiated terms meet the terms of the Labour Party manifesto the Foreign Secretary will recommend them to the British people?
In his speech to the London Labour mayors, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear that he took the view—I do not see how any other view could be taken—that since the Government were operating according to the letter and the spirit of the Labour Party manifesto, on which we fought and won two elections, if the terms of the manifesto were to be achieved and if we obtained the results which we sought to obtain, it would be our automatic duty to recommend acceptance of those terms to the British people. That is the Prime Minister's view, clearly stipulated, and I may say that it is also mine.
Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify an important constitutional point? He said that it would be the duty of the Prime Minister and the Government to recommend the terms to the people. Could we be sure that we would first of all have a recommendation to Parliament?
I do not think that these constitutional aspects are for me but are for the party leaders and, if I may say so, aspiring party leaders.
Can my right hon. Friend, for the benefit of the whole House, give an estimate of the authoritativeness of a Government recommendation carried by eight votes to six, with five abstentions?
I take it that my hon. Friend has been making one of his books again. Since I find his bookmaking ability more reliable than his political judgment, I will leave it at that.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what calculations his Department has made about the effects of United Kingdom withdrawal from the EEC.
The implications of the United Kingdom's continued membership of or withdrawal from the EEC are kept under review. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear, the House will have an opportunity to debate the whole question at the appropriate time.
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that if we were to withdraw one very likely consequence would be that international companies which are now contemplating investment in this country would transfer their investments to the remaining members of the Community? Can he give an undertaking that the Foreign Office will carry out a serious examination of this quantifiable aspect of withdrawal and inform the people, when they come to vote, of the results of the study?
I must tell the House that we have had notification by some companies that their investment intentions are to some degree dependent on whether Britain remains within the Community or leaves it and finds its future and destiny somewhere else. Clearly, however, this is only one of the considerations we must face. The House regards the future as a matter of balancing the advantages against the disadvantages. My hon. Friend has drawn attention to one of the disadvantages, and that must be balanced along with the general package.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the considerations is that, if we left the Community, food prices to the housewife would be much higher than if we remained inside it, in view of high world prices and continuing shortages?
There is no question of that. Indeed my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection has told the House that the overall level of food prices enjoyed here is slightly lower than it would be were we outside the Community. That is the position that exists now. But it would be rash to make long-term predictions. There might be fundamental changes in the cost of raw materials in the world. As things stand at the moment, however, we are in benefit.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the most extravagant calculations are being voiced by Sir Christopher Soames from Tory Party platforms up and down the country? Will he take steps to ensure that investigations are made into who is financing Sir Christopher's appearances at these conferences? Will he also take steps to ensure that Sir Christopher concentrates on the job for which he is so lavishly paid?
It seems to me that it is not Labour Members but Conservatives who should be preoccupied with the future of Sir Christopher Soames. Having said that, however, I must repeat that, irrespective of our judgment as to the accuracy or the value of what Sir Christopher has said or may say, he has rights as a citizen of Great Britain, and I shall continue to defend them.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if the question of withdrawal arises, the withdrawal would have to be negotiated and the terms approved by Parliament, as the Foreign Secretary said at his first meeting with the Council of Ministers?
There can be no question about that. Those who will be most optimistic about our future outside the Community are people like my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), who believe that we should come to a free trade arrangement with the Community. That would be a long and, many of us believe, difficult negotiation.
Questions To Ministers
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise a point about Questions to the Foreign Office? Today we have reached Question No. 11 plus one or two Questions that were taken with them. We have had about five Questions on the EEC. On Wednesday there are only three Departments up for questioning—the Scottish Office, the Department of the Environment and the Foreign Office. On every other day there are at least four Departments. Could we not have four Departments on a Wednesday—Scotland, Environment, straight Foreign Office Questions and, as we are running up to the referendum, Common Market Questions?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a somewhat different matter but one which is related to today's Question Time. I wish to refer to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who should appear to answer Questions today. Not only has my right hon. Friend been unable to answer any Questions once again, as has happened since the last election, but he has also not been in a position to answer Questions on many of the fundamental issues with which he has been involved.It is a well-known fact that the Chancellor of the Duchy has to some degree been one of the most important people operating within the Cabinet. Although every other departmental Minister has to come to the House—albeit for only perhaps 10 minutes every four weeks—the Chancellor of the Duchy has not appeared at all. When we consider that he has had his finger in the pie with Finance for Industry, when we consider his involvement with North Sea oil and all the other areas of finance with which he has been involved, I would have thought that it was high time that we had the Chancellor of the Duchy appearing on the Government Front Bench to answer Questions. It is impossible to have them answered on a Wednesday afternoon because that coincides with Questions relating to the Foreign Office and the Common Market.
I understand that the Chancellor of the Duchy is down for Questions today but that no Questions were put to him.
As for the point raised by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), the Chair is in a difficulty as to how long should be allowed for each Question. For example, today we had Questions about Cyprus. I thought it was right to allow a considerable number of supplementary questions, which took up a lot of time. I remember, very nearly 30 years ago, that Mr. Speaker used sometimes to have a quick run through, with only one supplementary question. That meant that Ministers were not under any pressure at all. It is important to allow the probing of a Minister's attitude. The question whether the rota should be changed is not a matter for me.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would remind you that, although it is the general practice that you, as Mr. Speaker, being supposedly in charge of the affairs of this House, always seemingly have the last say, you would do well—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—to reflect on what you had to say a short time ago in answer to my request. The same request has already been made in the course of this Parliament. We attempted then, through you, to get a change in the procedures so that the Chancellor of the Duchy was in a position to answer Questions. The fact was that on that occasion it was said by the Lord President of the Council that an attempt would be made to readjust the situation so that the Chancellor of the Duchy would be in a position to answer Questions. That was accepted by the House, and I understood it had been accepted by you. It is your duty, Mr. Speaker, to see to it that the Chancellor of the Duchy is in a position to answer Questions, and that can only be done by changing the date.
The hon. Member has extended a number of invitations to me on debatable matters, for example, about who has the last word and who is supposedly in charge. I, of course, have to discharge my duties to the House. The order of Questions is laid down, and on Wednesday 29th January the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was down for Questions but no Questions were tabled for him.
There was no point. They would never have been reached.
If a Question is put down there is an answer. Also, the Minister has the option of saying that he will answer the Question at the end of Question Time. I do not think that I am prepared to argue with the hon. Member any more. Those who arrange the business of the House will have heard this exchange.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I mentioned earlier that I would raise with you a point of order about the Cypriot situation and the Foreign Office in relation to my Question No. 35. You will recall that the last time the House heard a formal statement from the Foreign Office on the Cypriot situation was 31st July last year. Last week I gave you notice of a request to table a Private Notice Question to the Foreign Office. I did this on two occa- sions. On the first occasion you rejected the idea because the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted to make a Financial Statement and on the second—
Order. The hon. Member is breaching one of the conventions of the House. The issue whether Private Notice Questions are allowed, the reasons given and any argument about them, are not matters for discussion in the House. Otherwise, I assure the hon. Gentleman, the position of Mr. Speaker would become impossible.
I will not pursue that point but I thought it was relevant to the point I now seek to raise. May I have some clarification from you about next week? You will recall that last week I asked at Business Question Time whether the Lord President could provide an opportunity for the Foreign Secretary to come to the House and make a statement about the Clerides-Denktash talks which were then taking place and are now in phase 2. These were relevant to us as a guarantor signatory to the treaty under discussion. The Foreign Office has confirmed this afternoon that talks are now to be held between Ivor Richard at the United Nations and the Foreign Secretary, and that the Foreign Secretary is now to discuss with Dr. Kissinger the British rôle in Cyprus.We heard last week from the Lord President that he saw no hope of any statement or debate. I would have thought that when the Prime Minister reports on his American visit next week he should not rule out the possibility of the Foreign Secretary also answering questions about what he had to say both to Ivor Richard and to Dr. Kissinger. I hope that this request can go down the line, because the House is entitled to know something about the talks now taking place in the name of the British nation. We ought to be able to participate and make our point of view known.
No doubt what the hon. Member has said will have been noted.
Television Licence Fees
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about the broadcasting licence fees.The current licence fees of £7 for black and white and £12 for colour have stood unaltered since July 1971. The British Broadcasting Corporation has applied to the Government for an increase in the licence fee to meet rising costs. In reviewing the BBC's forecast of expenditure over the next few years, the Government have had to bear in mind different and to some extent conflicting considerations. First, there is the need to ensure an effective and soundly based system of public service broadcasting. To starve this system of funds by failing to make some reasonable provision for rising costs would entail cuts of such severity as to damage the whole balance of services which the corporation has achieved and which are a national asset as well as an important part of individual amenity. But here is another factor. As a country we face a period of exceptional economic difficulty. No sector of our public life can be exempt from the stringency which this entails. In addition, the Government had to bear in mind the incidence of the fee, particularly on those who live alone on small incomes. We have sought to balance all these considerations and have reached the conclusion that, while an increase in the licence fee for both black and white and colour is inevitable, the BBC must recognise the need for some economies and the public for some limited reduction in the level of the services that the licence fee sustained in 1974. The Government have, therefore, decided that with effect from 1st April the licence fee should be increased from £7 to £8 for black and white and from £12 to £18 for colour television. I believe it right that the rate of increase for black and white, which will he 14·3 per cent. over three and a half years, should be kept as low as possible. The necessary regulations will be laid early next month.
The House will want to consider all the implications of the Home Secretary's statement. May I ask him three questions?First, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House welcome the Government's evident rejection of a direct subsidy from the Exchequer, and will he confirm that, whatever problems inflation brings, the independence of the BBC will be preserved? Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we agree that the BBC, like everyone else, cannot be exempt from the present stringency and the need to make considerable economies, and that any increase in fee will be sorely felt by people living on small incomes? Thirdly, can the right hon. Gentleman say for how long, at present inflation rates, the proposed increases will keep the BBC afloat? Will they be enough to last until the Government decide on the results of the Annan inquiry?
I am firmly in favour of an independent British Broadcasting Corporation. If there were to be any method of changing the finance, this should await a recommendation from the Annan Committee. To change it in the meantime would involve pre-empting an important part of the work of that committee.What the hon. Gentleman said about the need for a stringent approach on the part of the BBC underlined what I said in my statement. On the question of the time scale, it is hoped that this settlement will last for three years, which would see us quite well over the period of the report of the Annan Committee, leaving some time for implementation. But inevitably, with the rates of inflation which have prevailed under successive Governments for the last year or so, it is difficult to make predictions. The settlement must last for at least two years, and if there were to be any earlier review—before that year—it would be for the BBC to make a case in relation both to its own economy and to the external circumstances with which it was confronted.
I am glad that the Government have not given a direct grant in aid, which would have interferred with the independence of the BBC. However, is my right hon. Friend aware that I believe he has given the absolute maximum possible in view of the grave economic crisis and the minimum possible to preserve any hope for the economic viability of the BBC? It is right and proper that the BBC should share hardships with all of us, but it is wrong that pensioners should suffer hardship. Therefore, will my right hon. Friend have consultations with his ministerial colleagues with a view to making a special grant in aid for old-age pensioners?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said in the early part of his remarks, which indicated that he thought that, in a difficult situation I had got the matter, if not about right, then not too far wrong.I am aware of the difficulties confronting those who live alone on smaller incomes, many of whom are retirement pensioners. But the arguments which have prevailed hitherto—and they are substantial arguments—against dealing specially with this matter as opposed to keeping pensions as high as can reasonably be done continue to prevail. On the question of black and white—
What about the judges?
If my hon. Friend will keep quiet, I shall endeavour to answer my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Treat, South (Mr. Ashley).While I do not regard the position in 1971 as ideal, the pension rate in April, when the proposed licence increases come into force, will be 130 per cent. above the rate then prevailing, whereas the increase in the black and white television licence I am proposing is 14·3 per cent.
I recognise that there have to be cuts in the BBC, but does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be unfortunate if they fell most on radio and regional developments rather than on the more lavish areas of BBC expenditure? Does he realise that there will be a sense of injustice in areas which do not have a full range of service and therefore feel that they are paying the full licence fee for less than a full service? Will he consider the anomaly whereby concessions in the cost of the television licence are made to blind people but not to deaf and other handicapped people, with a view to making concessions to these other categories of handicapped people?
In reply to what the hon. Gentleman has said about the provision of services, the cuts will not involve any retardation of phase 1, which lasts until 1978, of the UHF programme, which is of crucial importance in relation to television coverage.If one believes in the independence of the BBC, detailed matters about where the cuts should be made are bound to be matters for the BBC and not for me. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish me or the House to instruct the BBC on exactly what it should do. The last point raised by the hon. Gentleman is not primarily a matter for me. I shall look into it, but I cannot say that it will be possible to meet it.
We welcome the positive element of discrimination between black and white and colour licences, but does my right hon. Friend accept that there is evidence that this can be only a very short interim measure because the pressures on the BBC are so great that unless a complete refinancing project is rapidly undertaken it will not be able to carry on and the discrimination against women's and children's programmes in the afternoon and local radio will be great? There is some evidence that the BBC is using these as counters, including the threat of redundancies among staff, as means of obtaining more money. It will not work for any length of time.
The BBC knows what the position is. There is no question of a bargaining position remaining, if it ever existed. My hon. Friend slightly exaggerated the extent to which it did. The BBC has been told the position, and, what is proposed, although not exactly what it would have liked, goes a long way to meeting its request. To have gone further would have been incompatible with subjecting the BBC to what I described as the degree of stringency appropriate for all public institutions.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the proposed increases will not enable the programme cuts to be restored and there will have to be further cuts? How would they affect BBC2? Would there be economies of staff or economies of artistes? The Minister responsible for the arts is looking anxious. The arts financed through the BBC are to be curtailed. Will the hon.Gentleman be allowed a quid pro quo in his efforts to maintain the tailing standards of the Arts Council?
I am dealing with the BBC and not with the Arts Council. The limited cuts which the BBC has introduced in the past few months will not be restored. There may have to be some further limited cuts and further economies, but there is no question of BBC2 as a separate channel being put in jeopardy.
Will my right hon. Friend note that once again an opportunity has been missed to remedy the injustice between those who live in accommodation with warden services and those who have to pay the full licence? Does he realise that there will be great dissatisfaction with his announcement and much impatience for a change?
I am aware that there is a real problem here, and I do not seek to deny its existence. As I think my hon. Friend recognises, it is easier to outline the problem than to propound a satisfactory solution. The increase in the black and white television licence is a very limited increase in view of the length of time involved. It would not have been possible to solve this problem without holding up a solution to the BBC's problems in a way which would have done grave damage to the corporation and provoked a great deal of rightful agitation from the House.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my constituents and others who get programmes in the Welsh language which they do not understand will not take kindly to the increases? Will he at least ensure that, as these people have to pay the same increase as everyone else, a higher priority is given to those parts of the country such as my constituency where the service is inadequate?
I have already indicated that the UHF programme will continue at the planned level. As to the possible implementation of the Crawford Committee's report in relation to language broadcasting in Wales, the financing of these developments will need to be considered separately, and a working party is looking urgently at that matter.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that politically there is never a good time for raising the licence fee, and that the careful way that the Government have approached it will be much appreciated and applauded? What will now be the position, as the BBC will be deprived of at least E1 per monochrome licence of what it said was the minimum to carry it through the next few years? Will it not mean a shortfall of £25 million over the three years before the Annan Committee reports? Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the cuts which will, therefore, have to be made will be across the BBC as a whole if it is to live within its new means and will not be made simply in the programme services?
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's earlier remarks. I take it that he means a total cumulative shortfall of £25 million and not an annual shortfall during the period.
With respect, that is a little difficult to predict. The immediate shortfall, compared with giving the BBC the full amount it requested, which was £9 on black and white and £18 on colour, will be about £10 million at an annual rate, but that will not persist in the probable development of events because as time goes on the fee from the colour licence will become proportionately more important. To that extent, the balance which has been struck, as well as having advantages on the ground of safeguarding to some extent the less well-off members of the community who depend not exclusively but to a great extent on black and white television, will also have the advantage that as one moves forward in the period more revenue will become available to the BBC.As to where the cuts will fall, that again is a matter for the BBC and not for me, but I should think it appropriate that the BBC, applying what I hope will be a reasonable economic approach, will regard the cuts as applying over a wide range.
As I had to buy a television set at the insistence of my children, this proposal affects me. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it will be difficult for my hon. Friends and me to support the regulations which he is to bring before the House unless there are considerable improvements in the BBC's services? Is he aware that it is impossible to get proper coverage of BBC services in many parts of Scotland? Some may say that that is an advantage.Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are becoming increasingly concerned about the low calibre of the programmes because of the low budget available to the BBC in Scotland, and that we hope that some of the money will go towards improving the quality of output? Is he also aware that we shall expect a corresponding increase for the independent companies, which have also suffered from inflation and which, in the opinion of many people, do equally as good a job as does the BBC?
Televsion coverage is essentially a matter of continuing with the UHF programme, which I have said will be continued without any retardation. That is the important point. I note the hon. Gentleman's hesitation about supporting the regulations unless he gets a better service. I assure him that if he were successful in not supporting the regulations he would get a much worse service. The choices are between having a much worse service, doing what we propose—which is reasonable—or going for a substantially higher fee, which I do not think would be reasonable in present circumstances.I remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that the nature of the programmes is a matter for the BBC and not for me. I do not propose to become a director of the BBC, and I do not believe that any hon. Member in the House would wish me to do that. The programmes would probably be a great deal worse were I to do so. The Independent Broadcasting Authority and the companies with which it is linked are not publicly financed and, therefore, cannot be subject to the announcement which I made.
I understand the need for an inrease in income to save BBC 2 and local radio, but is the Minister aware that there will be bitter resentment of his 50 per cent. increase by those whose only luxury is to have a colour televsion set? Is he aware that judges and low- paid workers will both have to meet the additional cost, and for that reason alone the Government should give a direct grant rather than increasing the licence fee for low-paid workers.
I do not agree with my hon. Friend. There is no alternative other than a severe cut in the service or the increase in the licence fee which I have awarded. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend dissents from the proposal being in favour of black and white television, to help the worse-off, and weighing slightly more heavily on colour television. But even on colour television during the three-and-a-half years which have gone by the increase is not very significant. It is little more—about 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. more—than is the increase in the retail price index, and in two or three years will almost certainly become significantly less than the general increase in prices. It would have been impossible and totally unreasonable to have asked the Annan Committee to consider future broadcasting, including the financing of the BBC, and then almost before it had started work to pre-empt it by a decision changing the basis. I know that my hon. Friend is in favour of the committee and is interested in it.
Will the Home Secretary consider the position of the many people in rural areas who are able to receive only one channel? The £18 is divisible into three, and it does not seem to be beyond the wit of man to provide that people who can receive only one channel should pay £6, those able to receive two channels £12, and those able to receive three channels £18, until the UHF programme reaches these rural areas.
As the fee does not finance one of the channels—the independent channel—the neat bit of arithmetic done by the hon. Gentleman is not wholly appropriate.
I appreciate the difficulties which the BBC faces and the need to increase its income, but does my right hon. Friend realise that most of my constituents have either inadequate reception or none at all? Will he urge upon the BBC the need to step up its programme of building relay stations and reconsider the position of people who have to pay twice over—for a licence and for cable?
If my hon. Friend cares to put that last question to me in detail, I will consider it. On the earlier point, it is difficult for me to urge on the BBC both economy and the stepping up of programmes. I have ensured that the UHF programme goes along without interruption. The recommendations of the Crawford Committee in so far as they relate to my hon. Friend's constituency need to be considered separately.
May I press the Home Secretary to give an assurance that the Government will seriously consider the position of rural areas in which only a limited number of channels is available? Does he realise that, even taking into account the arguments about the extra cost of bringing programmes to these rural areas, there is, in the light of the increases that he has announced today, a real case for reductions in the licence fee to be made in certain designated parishes and areas where programme reception is limited?
I understand the point made by the hon. Member and by hon. Gentlemen. It is not a new one. The situation is not new. However, it is not a point on which successive Ministers of successive Governments responsible for broadcasting have felt able to make a differentiation. I do not feel able to make a differentiation. I am extremely eager that high priority should be given to the question of the areas which have poor or deficient reception.
Will the Home Secretary obtain from the BBC, before the increases are applied, assurances that no wage or salary increases for the artistes, staff or executives will be outside the social contract? Secondly, will it be possible for the BBC to install efficiency teams within the BBC to prevent over-manning?
On the first point, as I think the House knows, we were not entirely satisfied with the BBC's handling of its wage negotiations during the summer. That is a matter which is behind us now. I believe we have set up better arrangements for consultations in the future. I think the BBC is aware of considerations which it must take into account.As to my hon. Friend's second suggestion I am not necessarily convinced that the expenditure of money upon efficiency teams always produces greater efficiency in proportion to the expenditure. We could all find examples of extravagance in the BBC which probably we have all witnessed, but we could find them in relation to most other organisations of comparable size. I have impressed upon the BBC the need for economy, and I have reinforced that exhortation with a financial incentive—indeed, a financial imperative—by not giving the BBC as much money as it wishes to have. At the same time, I point out, in fairness to the BBC, that the more important criteria of the cost per programme hour and the output per square foot of studio space compare well with both the independent companies and, by virtue of international comparison, television companies abroad.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the proposed full colour television licence charge will cost an individual the same as the cost of one first-class letter per day? I believe the viewing public think it is good value for money, especially in view of the fact that it is a lower charge than people pay for the hiring of the television sets on which they receive their programmes.Will the right hon. Gentleman take further steps to see that the licence fees are paid by as many people as possible and that there are not too many people slipping through the net?
One dislikes any increase, and particularly one as big as that for the colour television licence. The fact remains that, compared with many other forms of expenditure, this is good value.Evasion has been, and remains, a problem. It is one which we are extremely anxious to deal with. Compared with nine years ago, the number of licence evaders has been reduced from approximately 2 million to approximately 650,000. I think that the figure of 650,000 is too great but the two-thirds' reduction marks up progress against evasion, and I hope and intend that that will continue.
European Economic Community (Business)
I will, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, make a statement about business to be taken in the Council of Ministers of the European Community during February. The monthly forecast for February was deposited yesterday.At present four meetings of the Council of Ministers are proposed for February. Agriculture Ministers will meet on 10th to 12th February, Foreign Ministers on 10th to 11th February, Energy Ministers on 13th February, and Finance Ministers on 17th February. Agriculture Ministers will resume their consideration of farm prices for 1975–76 and other associated measures. They also expect to have before them the Commission's "stock-taking" report on the CAP. At the Foreign Affairs Council, Ministers will be concerned with budget renegotiation on the basis of the Commission's report on the details of the correcting mechanism. They are likely also to discuss the operating procedures for the Regional Development Fund; freedom of establishment and mutual recognition of qualifications for doctors; two proposed directives on pharmaceutical products and preparations for the multilateral trade negotiations. They may also discuss the relationship between the EEC and the International Energy Agency and the preparations of the oil consumer/producer dialogue. Foreign Ministers may also need to consider the preparations for the next Heads of Government meeting in Dublin in mid-March. Energy Ministers will continue their discussion of the general objectives for the different energy sectors. Finance Ministers will have their usual monthly discussion of the economic situation in the Community, and may consider a draft regulation on European monetary co-operation.
I thank the Minister for his business statement, which once again demonstrates, if I may say so, the wide range of matters of mutual interest and concern which Ministers can discuss within the framework of the European Communities. However, will the Minister clarify one point? He has said that the Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council may also discuss the relationship between the Community and the International Energy Agency and the preparation of the oil consumer/producer dialogue. Will he give an assurance that the Government will press for that to be included on the agenda, because it is obviously a matter of great concern to all people in this country and in Europe?
I give the right hon. and learned Gentleman that assurance gladly. I assure him that our twin aims during those preparatory discussions are to make sure as best we can that there is a co-ordinated community position and that the national interests of Great Britain are adequately recognised.
The Minister referred to the fact that the Foreign Ministers Council will be talking about the operating procedures for the regional fund. Is he yet in any position to give an indication of the Government's attitude towards the composition of the proposed advisory council for the regional fund that will be established throughout the Community, and how Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions of England, will be represented on that?
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary told the Council of Ministers this month that he hoped to see the fund in operation in March and that, as part of our hopes of making speedy progress for its organisation, we have made proposals about the committee to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I think it would be wrong for me to say today what our bid is within the committees of the European Economic Communty. I assure the hon. Gentleman that he will discover, when the conclusions are published, that we understand the various national needs and will insist on those national needs being fully safeguarded.
Will my right hon. Friend say something about the timetable? This is very important in view of the fact that we are working towards a time in respect of the referendum.
The Prime Minister told the House, I think, fourteen days ago that he hoped that the ministerial stage—the Brussels and Luxembourg stage—of the renegotiations would be completed by Easter. As my hon. Friend will see from the items of business I have announced this afternoon, we expect to see a good deal of progress on several fronts to be made in February. If that progress goes as we anticipate, the Prime Minister's timetable will be acceptable as being the one that turns out to be the case.
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the House has not yet taken note of the papers relevant to the meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture. Will he give an undertaking that the House will have an opportunity to do that before the meeting?
I understand—the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong—that the House has debated this already. It will have a second opportunity to do so in the near future. However, I take the point made by the right hon. Gentleman.
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that, whilst we debated the agricultural price review in Europe a couple of weeks ago, we shall be debating the other orders referred to by the right hon. Gentleman next Wednesday. However, could he elaborate further concerning the meeting of the Agriculture Ministers? Will the Agriculture Ministers be dealing with the MCAs at that meeting? What is the position of the Government regarding accepting the proposals?
Clearly, to discuss, as we expect to do, both the stock-taking report of the CAP and the price machine for the coming year, there is bound to be some discussion of the MCAs. The Government's attitude is a matter of substance which must be raised with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Foreign Ministers would be discussing the correcting mechanism. I presume that he meant the correcting mechanism in respect of the national contributions to budgets. Is that an entirely separate matter from the taxes which in theory are supposed to form the so-called "own resources" of the Community, and, if so, is it still the Government's position that they find those taxes representing the so-called own resources an unacceptable proposition?
The two are not entirely separate and, had the hon. Gentleman's Question on the subject been reached earlier, it was my intention to try to explain that. Certainly the Government were critical of both the incidence and the level of those taxes. The correcting mechanism is concerned with levels, and in a number of areas we have insisted that the incidence—for instance, the zero-rating of VAT—is also a matter for national determination. I think that we are fulfilling our obligations on both counts.
Can my right hon. Friend help hon. Members who represent the North-West Region of England on a matter which affects the textile industry and redundancies resulting from the importation of foreign cloths? Can he and his right hon. Friends arrange to put this matter on the agenda for discussion in order to give some protection to the British textile industry, especially that part of it operating in Lancashire?
If I understand my hon. Friend's question aright, it deals with knitted cloths of one sort or another from the Far East. If that is what my hon. Friend has in mind, I can assure him that it is now under urgent consideration. My hon. Friend will be reassured to know that it is not necessarily a matter of putting it on a series of Council of Ministers agendas. Whenever there has been a serious problem of this kind we have been able to talk to the Commission about it informally and quickly and to obtain derogations from damaging rules in a period of 24 or perhaps 36 hours. It happened to cotton yarn when Lancashire was in difficulties before Christmas. We shall look at this problem with equal urgency.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions? First, in the discussion on the preparations for the Dublin summit, will there be any discussion of the secretariat? Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman yet say, in the discussions on setting up the operating mechanism for the regional fund, how the money will be raised originally and whether there is to be virement of the kind referred to in the summit communiqué?
I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's second question immediately without notice. With regard to his first question on the setting up of the secretariat for the Heads of Government meeting, there will be no secretariat set up in and for the Dublin meeting. That continues to be a matter of discussion in the Community, and the British Government view continues to be that, although there may be a case for some body, it would be a small body with a minimum of staff and a minimum of obligations.
May I reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs)? The Lancashire textile industry was grateful and pleased to note the restriction on yarn imports, but I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that yarn is now finding its way into the country in the form of grey cloth and that there is some evidence to indicate that yarn from Turkey and Greece, on which restrictions were imposed, is now finding its way into Belgium, where it is woven into cheap cloth and then sent into this country. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that action is taken about this?
If my hon. Friends care to see me about this matter, I shall welcome it, and I shall try to do something similar on this occasion to what we did just before Christmas.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On today's Order Paper there is notice of the presentation of a Government Bill, the Long Title of which includes the sentence
It will be within your recollection that on 27th November last I presented a Bill, the Long Title of which was in exactly those words—"… to authorise local authorities to promote lotteries."
That Bill has been printed and published, and it is set down for Second Reading on Friday of this week. In the Commons Journal of 1st June as long ago as 1610 it is stated:"… to authorise local authorities to promote lotteries."
Page 479 of "Erskine May" repeats that rule. My first submission, therefore, is that under that rule you should not allow the presentation of this Government Bill, which appears to be an endeavour to sabotage Private Members' Business on Friday. It seems to me that I am being gazumped, if that is parliamentary language. My second submission is that if you allow the Government's Bill to be presented on the ground that it contains other matters also, you should not allow, in answer to your question, "Second Reading what day?", the customary answer, "Tomorrow". If in Government time the Government Bill is given a Second Reading tomorrow or on any day before the Second Reading debate on my Bill is concluded, my Bill falls to the ground. The Government seem to have adopted a fantastic procedure to stifle Private Members' legislation, and I ask for your protection."… no bill of the same substance to be brought in in the same Session. So agreed for rule."
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) for warning me that he intended to raise this point of order. This has enabled me to consider it in advance.The presentation of the Government's Lotteries Bill is completely within, order as
That rule is to be found in "Erskine May", 18th edition, page 479. What is more, on the assumption that the Government do not intend to move the Second Reading of their Bill tomorrow, since they have announced other business, the presentation of the Government Bill does not prevent the right hon. Gentleman from moving the Second Reading of his Local Lotteries Bill on Friday. I cannot forecast later proceedings on either Bill."There is no rule or custom which restrains the presentation of two or more bills relating to the same subject, and containing similar provisions."
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful for your ruling. When the Government ask that the Second Reading of their Bill be tomorrow, surely this House must consider that it may well be tomorrow or on some other day before the Second Reading debate on my own Bill has been concluded. If the Government Bill had a Second Reading, you would be unable to put the question on my Bill, "That the Bill be read a Second time". That is sabotaging Private Members' Business.
Strictly speaking, the right hon. Gentleman is correct. However, the occasions on which I have heard the word "Tomorrow" in this House when it has borne no relation to what happens tomorrow are beyond count. Clearly, it is not the Government's intention to proceed tomorrow. But it is not a matter for me. I am sure that the Government will have noted the right hon. Gentleman's point.
Mr. Secretary Jenkins, supported by Mr. Secretary Crosland, Mr. Secretary Prentice, Mr. Secretary Ross, Dr. John Gilbert, and Dr. Shirley Summerskill, presented a Bill to make further provision with regard to lotteries promoted on behalf of societies or as incidents of entertainments; to authorise local authorities to promote lotteries; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed [Bill 70].
Requisitioning Of Empty Houses
I beg to move,
At the last Census in 1971, there were 676,000 empty houses and flats in England and Wales. If one adds to that the numbers in Scotland and Northern Ireland, one finds that the total represents three times the number of new dwellings built in the whole of the United Kingdom last year. Since then, the number of empty houses has increased. Many thousands of houses and flats have been empty for years, at a time when millions of men, women and children are desperately in need of proper homes. When a house is left empty, within a matter of weeks children throw bricks through windows. They climb inside and light fires. Sometimes the house is set on fire, together with neighbouring houses. Thieves steal the lead from the roof, and they steal lead piping, with the result that in some cases they cut off the water supply not only of the house concerned but of a whole terrace of houses. Rubbish is dumped inside, leading to rats, mice, bugs and flies congregating there. Before long, the council have to brick up the empty house and often demolish it entirely. This is an obvious provocation to squatters. There is nothing more galling to people who are homeless or having to share houses with an in-law than to see sound houses and flats going to ruin in this way. It is a major national scandal, and often occurs because property owners are holding out for a high selling price or a high rent. In some cases the owner cannot be traced since he has died, gone to Australia, or disappeared. I should like to give some examples of this scandal which have been provided to me by hon. Friends within the last few days. I refer first to Consort Management, part of the Freshwater Group, which has 223 vacant units, 81 of them in Camden. They have been vacant for up to 18 months. The owners are deli- berately keeping them empty with a view to obtaining high selling prices. In other words, those units are more profitable when not tenanted. In Manchester an attractive bungalow has been empty for seven years because the elderly widow who owned it died without leaving a will and the nine near relatives have still not sorted out who is the rightful heir to the property. In Putney nine out of 32 flats in a modern and highly desirable block have been empty for a year. The owners refuse either to sell or to let. In Barrow-in-Furness the council recently discussed the fact that there were more houses empty for a long period than an average year's supply of new homes in that town. In a recent court case Mr. Justice Templeman criticised the owners of the Nash houses in Cornwall Terrace, Albany Street, for leaving property empty for five years when there are so many homeless people. The rating of empty property has not had the desired effect, nor has the CPO procedure. Compulsory purchase powers exist, but the procedure is so lengthy and cumbersome that in many cases it can take more than a year. The Bill would provide that at the end of the fifth month notice of intent would be served by the local authority on the owner or his agent. Requisitioning would be selective. Councils would not have to take over rubbish which was not worth maintaining. They would take over empty properties and let them to those in greatest need. Requisitioning under the Bill would cost the council, the ratepayer and taxpayer nothing. No loans would have to be raised for purchase or repairs. Instead, fair rents registered on the properties and paid by the new tenants would be paid to the owners, less the amount spent on management and upkeep. The main effect of the Bill would be to give owners an incentive to let or sell quickly and at more reasonable rents or prices, and thus would ease the severe housing shortage. It would also deter speculators from entering the private dwellings racket—or perhaps I should say market, although it certainly is a racket. Some of my hon. Friends think the maximum period for keeping a house empty should be three rather than six months, but, since everybody in the House knows what a moderate person I am, I suggest that we should set a six-months' limit in the Bill. We can then wait to see how it succeeds. One argument against the proposal is that it would be contrary to our sense of justice to deprive owners of their right of appeal. However, in the Bill there is right of appeal, but without the long delay which is at present involved in the CPO procedure. At the end of the fifth month the owner would be given notice by the council. If no action were then taken the council would install a tenant regarded as a priority case from its waiting list. The owner would be able to appeal although meanwhile the tenant was living in the dwelling. Should the owner later win the appeal, he would regain possession and the local authority would rehouse the tenant elsewhere. There are other vitally needed housing reforms which are being held back because of lack of finance, but this reform, in contrast, would not cost the Government a penny. I do not expect any support for this measure from the Conservative benches, but I should like to see the Labour Government take over the Bill, and, indeed, I would gladly hand it over to them. I wish to thank Councillor Sam Waldman, of Camden, chairman of one of the largest associations of private landlords' tenants in the country; I also wish to thank the hon. Members for Paddington (Mr. Latham) and Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann), and also Mr. Ormandy, of the Public Health Advisory Service, for their help and advice. The 11 Members of Parliament who are the joint sponsors of the Bill are housing experts and represent different areas where this scandalous situation exists. This Bill for the emergency occupation of empty houses and flats is not intended as a permanent or complete solution to the housing problem. I wish it were. But we are living in a time of grave housing shortage. So long as the emergency lasts, this reform should remain. People must come before property. Although this is hardly an original doctrine, nevertheless it is a good one.That leave be given to bring in a Bill to give local authorities the power to requisition all dwellings when unoccupied for six months, except an empty flat in an owner-occupied house.
Does the hon. Gentleman wish to oppose the Bill?
Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I start on a non-controversial note by wishing you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a very happy birthday? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] That is probably the last non-controversial thing I shall say today. I hope that the House will not grant leave to introduce the Bill. I have no doubt at all about the genuine sincerity of the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), and whatever I may say in my remarks will not take away from that attitude about the hon. Gentleman. However, the Bill is yet another step in the Labour Party's inexorable policy and campaign against private ownership of property. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member wanted to introduce the Bill, he could have done so instead of making sedentary comments, when he knows that none of us intervened in his hon. Friend's speech. I have no doubt that successive pieces of legislation culminating in the Housing Act and the Rent Act enacted in 1974 have played their part in drying up rented accommodation and forcing owners to leave their properties empty. Our legal system is so slow that they cannot get rid of people who are squatting on their premises. Why do owners leave properties empty? There is a wide variety of reasons. I could mention planning permission, death and what follows, builders' estimates and other matters. I could also quote in this context what was said by a junior Minister on 22nd January:
It is far too easy for blanket condemnations to be made such as those we heard in the speech of the hon. Member for Salford, East.
"Houses may be empty for many reasons. They may be in process of being let, sold, converted or improved, or they may be vacant because of coming redevelopment."—[Official Report, 22nd January 1975; Vol. 884, c. 403.]
No, I am sorry but I have only 10 minutes in which to make my points.The hon. Member for Salford, East is seeking in his Bill to expropriate property and hand it over to the local authority. But will this help? Anyone with eyes who is not blinkered will know that local authorities are as guilty as private landlords of leaving properties empty, and for far less reason. Equally, as the most recent Government circular showed, their standards of management and maintenance leave much to be desired. Until a few months ago I had 25 years of local government experience, and I have criticised councils of both political parties for this. It is clear that we might need to use more penalty rating. I have no time for the Bergers and Freshwaters of this world, but not all landlords are like them. Local authorities already have too much property which they manage inadequately, as many tenants tell us in our mail. I can give examples from three London boroughs. In Redbridge eight houses in two streets have been empty for five years, in Ealing four houses have been empty for four years and in Lewisham 41 properties have been empty since before 1971. All are in the ownership of the local authority. I doubt whether Salford owns no property which has been empty for that sort of period. I take my figures not from the Estates Gazette or the Estate Times or Aims of Industry but from one of the most recent publications of Shelter. The Bill will achieve nothing for the homeless but much for Socialism. I hope that the House will be sensible enough to refuse the hon. Member leave to introduce it.
Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring
DIVISION No. 75.]
|Abse, Leo||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Newens, Stanley|
|Allaun, Frank||Freud, Clement||Orbach, Maurice|
|Archer, Peter||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Ovenden, John|
|Ashley, Jack||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Owen, Dr David|
|Ashton, Joe||George, Bruce||Padley, Walter|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Ginsburg, David||Palmer, Arthur|
|Atkinson, Norman||Golding, John||Pardoe, John|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Gould, Bryan||Park, George|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Gourlay, Harry||Parker, John|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel||Graham, Ted||Parry, Robert|
|Bates, Alf||Grocott, Bruce||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Bean, R. E.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Penhaligon, David|
|Beith, A. J.||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Perry, Ernest|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Hamling, William||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hardy, Peter||Prescott, John|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Radice, Giles|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Hatton, Frank||Reid, George|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Bradley, Tom||Heffer Eric S.||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Henderson, Douglas||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Hooley, Frank||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Buchan, Norman||Horam, John||Rooker, J. W.|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Huckfield, Les||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Callaghan. Jim (Middleton & P)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Ryman, John|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Cant, R. B.||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hunter, Adam||Selby, Harry|
|Cartwright, John||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Jackson, Miss M. (Lincoln)||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Janner, Greville||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Coleman, Donald||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Sillars, James|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Jenkins. Hugh (Putney)||Silverman, Julius|
|Corbett, Robin||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Kelley, Richard||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Crawford, Douglas||Kerr, Russell||Snape, Peter|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Spearing, Nigel|
|Cronin, John||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Cryer, Bob||Lambie, David||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Lamborn, Harry||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Lamond, James||Stewart, Rt Hn M. (Fulham)|
|Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Stoddart, David|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Stott, Roger|
|Davidson, Arthur||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Lipton, Marcus||Swain, Thomas|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Litterick, Tom||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Loyden, Eddie||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Luard, Evan||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Dempsey, James||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Dolg, Peter||MacCormick, Iain||Thompson, George|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||McElhone, Frank||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Dunlop, John||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Dunn, James A.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Tierney, Sydney|
|Dunnett, Jack||Madden, Max||Tomlinson, John|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth||Magee, Bryan||Torney, Tom|
|Edelman, Maurice||Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Edge, Geoff||Marks, Kenneth||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Marquand, David||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Ward, Michael|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Watkins, David|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Meacher, Michael||Watkinson, John|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Watt, Hamish|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Mikardo, Ian||Weetch, Ken|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E. Kilbride)||Weitzman, David|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Flannery, Martin||Molloy, William||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||White, James (Pollock)|
|Forrester, John||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Whitehead, Phillip|
in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at the commencement of Public Business):—
The House divided: Ayes, 223, Noes 204.
|Whitlock, William||Wilson, Gordon (Dundeo E)|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Willey, Rt Hon Frederick||Wise, Mrs Audrey||Mr. Dan Jones and|
|Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)||Woodall, Alec||Mr. Mike Noble.|
|Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Adley, Robert||Hall, Sir John||Nott, John|
|Alison, Michael||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Arnold, Tom||Hampson, Dr Keith||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H.(Spelthorne)||Hannam, John||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Baker, Kenneth||Harvie, Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Banks, Robert||Hastings, Stephen||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Bell, Ronald||Hawkins, Paul||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Benyon, W.||Hayhoe, Barney||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Raison, Timothy|
|Biffen, John||Heseltine, Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hicks, Robert||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Blaker, Peter||Higgins, Terence L.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Body, Richard||Holland, Philip||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hordern, Peter||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Howell Ralph (North Norfolk)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hurd, Douglas||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||James, David||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Buck, Antony||Jessel, Toby||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Burden, F. A.||Jopling, Michael||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Carlisle, Mark||Kaberry, Sir Donald||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Kimball, Marcus||Scott, Nicholas|
|Channon, Paul||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Churchill, W. S.||Kirk, Peter||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Lamont, Norman||Shepherd, Colin|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Lane, David||Silvester, Fred|
|Cope, John||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Sims, Roger|
|Cormack, Patrick||Lawrence, Ivan||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Costain, A. P.||Lawson, Nigel||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Crouch, David||Le Merchant, Spencer||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Spence, John|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Lloyd, Ian||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Loveridge, John||Spicer, Michael (S. Worcester)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Luce, Richard||Sproat, Iain|
|Drayson, Burnaby||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Stainton, Keith|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||McCrindle, Robert||Stanley, John|
|Dykes, Hugh||Macfarlane, Neil||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||MacGregor, John||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Stokes, John|
|Elliott, Sir William||Madel, David||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Eyre, Reginald||Marten, Neil||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Mates, Michael||Tebbit, Norman|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Mather, Carol||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Fell, Anthony||Maude, Angus||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Mawby, Ray||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Mayhew, Patrick||Viggers, Peter|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Wakeham, John|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Mills, Peter||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Miscampbell, Norman||Walters, Dennis|
|Fry, Peter||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Moate, Roger||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Molyneaux, James||Wells, John|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Monro, Hector||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Goodhart, Philip||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Morgan, Geraint||Younger, Hon George|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Morrison, Peter (Chester)||Mr. Nick Budgen and|
|Gray, Hamish||Mudd, David||Sir Brandon Rhys Williams.|
|Griffiths Eldon||Neubert, Michael|
|Grist, Ian||Newton, Tony|
Question accordingly agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Frank Allaun, Mr. Arthur Latham, Mr. Douglas-Mann, Mr. Blenkinsop, Mr. Robin F. Cook, Mr. Andrew F. Bennett, Mr. Ron Thomas, Mrs. Wise, Mr. Dan Jones, Mr. Jim Callaghan, Mr. Mike Noble, and Mr. Julius Silverman.
Requisitioning Of Empty Houses
Mr. Frank Allaun accordingly presented a Bill to give local authorities the power to requisition all dwellings when unoccupied for six months, except an empty flat in an owner-occupied house; and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 28th February and to be printed. [Bill 71.]
Social Security Benefits Money (No 2)
Queen's Recommendation having been signified—
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further provision with respect to basic scheme benefits and benefits in respect of industrial injuries and diseases; to increase family allowances; and to amend Parts I and III of Schedule 2 to the Supplementary Benefit Act 1966, it is expedient to authorise any payment out of moneys provided by Parliament which is attributable to provisions for extending the noncontributory invalidity pension under the said Act of the present Session to women who are incapable of performing normal household duties.—[Mr. O'Malley.]
I should like to make some comments about this money resolution, which begins our proceedings on the Report stage of the Social Security Benefits Bill.There was considerable concern in Committee about the original money resolution. Indeed, this money resolution is an amendment forced upon the Government as a result of pressure and defeats in Committee. The original resolution upon which the Committee proceedings were based was a tightly drawn, mean-minded resolution which tried to restrict to the utmost the scope for debate and for amendment of the Bill as it made its way through the House. The original resolution, which is now, fortunately, to be conceded to some slight extent with the fresh resolution, incorporated what was then the deliberate intention of the Government to exclude disabled housewives from the non-contributory invalidity pension. It was so designed that the Committee was supposed not to be able to discuss or to move matters pertaining to disabled housewives. It was in order to back up what was then the Government's policy intention of paying them later than other recipients of the new benefit and paying them at a lesser rate than that which other recipients would have received. Not only did the Government stick to that deplorable policy position but, by means of the money resolution, they tried to stop Parliament amending or discussing that intention. This money resolution arises because, as the result of great ingenuity, amendments were carried in Committee which brought disabled housewives into the position in which they could have been paid out of the National Insurance Fund. That ingenuity was, in fact, that of Mr. Peter Large and Mr. Stuart Lyon, of the Disablement Income Group. They are well known to hon. Members who follow this subject. They provided the drafting for extremely carefully chosen amendments which my hon. Friends, assisted by the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones) and the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop), were able to carry against the Government votes in Committee. Therefore, because the draftsmanship was ingenious and, therefore, a little clumsy, the Government have been forced to bring forward this extra money resolution so that now the provision which has been forced upon them to include disabled housewives in this new benefit can be put in more sensible legislative form. The resolution before us gives no other concessions. It excludes important matters from our debates on Report. It still totally excludes married women from receiving the new invalid care allowance which is being set up by the Government. It also introduces a cohabitation rule for this new allowance, thereby extending that somewhat unfortunate feature in social security provision into yet a new benefit The Under-Secretary agreed to look at that particular point when we mentioned it in Committee on 14th January, at column 337 of the Official Report. But, despite the fact that he undertook to look at it, no amendment has been made to the money resolution and nothing is incorporated in this resolution which enables us to move amendments to discuss this exclusion of married women and the cohabitation rule on invalid care allowance. The Opposition amendments which would have sought to do this have been ruled out by Mr. Speaker because they are outside the rules of order. The only change to the new invalid pension is to enable disabled housewives to be brought in, which we very much welcome. We are glad that we have forced that on the Government. But still the invalidity pension is subject to a 100 per cent. earnings rule, and still those who receive it have to be, for 196 days, incapable of work. Those matters are not to be capable of discussion or amendment on Report because the money resolution does not go far enough to enable us to do that. It also seeks to exclude family allowance for the first child being introduced, contrary to the Government's policy position. It also ties the rates of family allowance and of most other benefits. Because the second money resolution has been dragged out of the Government in response to the Committee and is a concession to face up to one of the defeats which they suffered in Committee, we shall allow it to pass without dividing the House. But we should go on record as saying that we deplore the tightness of drafting of these resolutions and that we should like the Minister and the Treasury to realise that there remains far too much pressure in all legislation on social security to get it quickly through the House with the minimum of decisions and attempts made to exclude Members from opportunities of amending or increasing expenditure significantly. When Government proposals come forward in future legislation, we shall scrutinise such resolutions with great care. We regret that this resolution does not go much further.
May I welcome the resolution which permits the introduction of a new and unique benefit? It will enable us to accept Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8, which delete the amendments I made in Committee with the support of Conservative Members.May I enter a plea on behalf of back benchers? On neither side do we want to be treated as Lobby fodder. If the Treasury drafts money resolutions in such a way that hon. Members cannot move amendments in Standing Committee we might as well not go into Standing Committee. The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) pointed out that through my contacts with the Disablement Income Group a man in a wheelchair found a way of beating the Treasury, and I am delighted to have been the vehicle for that achievement. I and my hon. Friends—if I may call them that—on the Conservative side managed to get the proposal in. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench welcome the new money resolution since they were stifled by the Treasury. Through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would urge that the interests of back benchers be protected in the future so that money resolutions are not drafted in a way which prevents us from moving reasonable amendments in Committee.
I strongly support the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) and—if I may call him so on this occasion—my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Mr. Carter-Jones), because these matters are entirely cross-party.Like the hon. Member for Eccles, I welcome that the Government have accepted and have now incorporated in the money resolution extension of the new invalidity pension to disabled housewives. May I fortify the hon. Member's point that the House is put in a very difficult position if the Treasury always insists on drafting money resolutions so tightly? We do not want to go into Committee points on Second Reading when the Chair is always inundated with potential orators and has a difficulty in selecting who are to speak. It invites hon. Members on both sides of the House to be brief. But it creates difficulties if hon. Members are, therefore, compelled on Second Reading to raise narrow points because the money resolution precedes discussion of them in Committee. We have to resort to various devices which are far from elegant and add very little to the dispatch of our business. I would not object to narrowly-drawn money resolutions if the House had a Select Committee on social security in the way that it has a Select Committee on Science and Technology. Such a Committee would keep these matters permanently under examination. The Departments concerned and appropriate outside bodies could give evidence and be examined. However, since we do not have such a Select Committee we have virtually no opportunity of discussing in detail the sort of points raised by the hon. Member for Eccles. My hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe talked about whether family allowances should apply to the first child. Under this money resolution we could not discuss that matter in Standing Committee. Quite rightly, the Chair ruled it out of order, but it is a proper subject for discussion. These matters were discussed by the admirable Select Committee on tax credits, but that Committee was a one-off job and was not permanent. I apologise for detaining the House on this point, but this is one of those rare opportunities when one can raise these matters. If we do not have a permanent Select Committee to look into these points the Government must allow more time in Standing Committee and, in spite of their desire to get the business through, permit much wider-ranging money resolutions. It is for the Government of the day to decide which they prefer. I should be happy with a Select Committee on a permanent basis, and then I would be satisfied with the present method by which money resolutions are drawn. In the absence of such a Select Committee, the Government must draw their money resolutions less tightly and permit the Treasury only to provi