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Commons Chamber

Volume 885: debated on Tuesday 4 February 1975

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 4th February 1975

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business





Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time upon Tuesday next.

Oral Answers To Questions

Education And Science

Direct Grant Schools


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether the grant payable to the direct grant schools will be paid in full in 1976.

As I told the House on 27th January, I shall make a statement in due course about phasing out the direct grant system. I have already told the House that the grant will remain payable in respect of upper form pupils already in the schools when the phasing out begins. The exact position in 1976 will be governed by the nature and timing of the phasing-out operation.

Will the Secretary of State reconsider this reactionary policy, which has neither educational nor social justification and which serves to drive many of the finest schools out of the State sector into the independent sector, ensuring that those schools are made available only to those who are most well-off?

I think that many educational and social reasons could be advanced. I suggest that the Opposition should consider whether independent schools should be truly independent, whether they want such schools to receive a State subsidy and what possible justification there is for paying—on behalf of a Government and Parliament which have declared their will to go comprehensive—a State subsidy indefinitely to schools which are by their very nature selective.

Where direct grant schools decide to go into the local authority system, will my right hon. Friend advise local authorities to ensure that their staffs receive the same protection as is afforded to local authority teachers in reorganisation schemes?

I shall take account of my hon. Friend's point. Many such matters are now under active consideration.

Is there not a further point to be added to the cogent point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Mr. Stanley): that parents of children at direct grant schools save the taxpayer approximately £18 million a year? In view of the small sum of £4 million for improvements of schools in the building programme announced by the Secretary of State, would it not show a much better sense of educational priorities to leave these schools alone and to devote that money to secondary school improvement in general?

No, Sir. The implications of this change for public expenditure are difficult to assess exactly. However, from the provisional assessments we are making it is clear that there will be both a saving to public funds and an increase in public expenditure, which I think will very nearly balance out. Certainly it will not make much difference one way or the other to total public expenditure in the next few years.



asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many newly qualified teachers he expects will seek to enter the profession in 1975–76; and if he is satisfied that they will be recruited, in view of the planned reductions in the year 1975–76.

About 36,000 are likely to seek first appointments in maintained primary and secondary schools. Many local education authorities have not yet settled their staffing plans for 1975–76, but preliminary indications are that authorities collectively will take up the teacher quota in full.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware of the great public disquiet which has arisen in Leicestershire at the county council's decision or proposal to reduce its 1975–76 education budget by £4 million? This will mean that as a direct consequence the gross intake of teachers into the county schools will be reduced by 350 next year, with a consequential reduction of two teachers per school, together with a reduction in the nutritional content of school meals.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of those actions in Leicester? Is he prepared to introduce emergency legislation to appoint education commissioners to look at local authorities to ensure that their educational standards do not go below the acceptable level?

No, Sir. I have no immediate plans to appoint education commissioners. However, I have made it clear to all local education authorities that we believe that the additional teachers available should be found employment during the coming school year. The quota was designed to achieve that. The replies we have received so far suggest that whereas 11 local education authorities wish to employ fewer teachers than their quota, 28 want to employ more than the suggested quota. The rate support grant figure was arrived at with the education component designed to achieve the full employment of the available teachers.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the method by which the Leicestershire County Council holds down its rates is a matter for the elected members of the county council?

Yes, Sir. It is a matter for me, and indeed for the House, to take a view nationally of the standards of our education system. I have expressed the view very clearly, I thought with the support of both sides of the House, that the community should find employment for the additional teachers available, find the money to employ them and, therefore, achieve an improvement in the staffing ratio.

How can my right hon. Friend justify the cutting back in teacher training in an area like my own in Bedfordshire when there is every indication that over the next few years the school population will rise, irrespective of what happens in the rest of the country, and where a number of children this term have already suffered from short-time schooling?

My hon. Friend will be aware that the teacher training plans in one locality are not designed simply to provide teachers for that locality. Looking at the national situation, it is clear that we shall have a school population falling off in numbers in the years ahead. We are trying to achieve a sufficient supply of teachers to improve staffing ratios, at the same time trying to avoid the risk of teacher unemployment, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) has just referred.

Would not it assist the situation if the right hon. Gentleman took up the suggestion made by the Conservative Party that teachers' salaries should be carried by the Exchequer as a short-term measure?

There are strong arguments for and against that proposal. My own view is that I am against it. But these matters, along with other aspects of local government finance, are being studied by the Layfield Committee, and there will be no question of a change in Government policy until its report is received and considered, even if then.

Nursery Education (Avon)


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many places in nursery classes are available in the county of Avon in the current year; and how many he expects to be available in 1976.

In October 1974 there were 1,995 full-time equivalent nursery education places in the county of Avon. The authority has informed my Department that it does not propose to take up any part of its nursery education building allocations for the years 1974–75 and 1975–76.

My hon. Friend will appreciate the very strong feeling that exists among Government supporters about the essential nursery education which is not being provided in the county of Avon, where the job is being left to playgroups, which themselves are feeling the pinch in the present economic situation. Can my hon. Friend say what pressure will be brought to bear on counties like Avon which refuse to provide nursery education with the building programme and the money available?

I am glad to say that there are only two other authorities alongside Avon which have turned down their allocation. The Government have indicated to authorities that where they are not taking up their allocations we shall reallocate the allocations to other areas, especially those of social need. I am pleased to say that 57 authorities have taken up additional allocations and are now providing places in areas where deprived children are in great need.

No doubt my hon. Friend will give an additional windfall to Wolverhampton as a result of some authorities not taking up their allocations for nursery education—

It is a question, Mr. Speaker. Is my hon. Friend aware that if many authorities refuse to take up their allocations he might consider not allowing those authorities to have their full allocations for other school building, and that the Government ought therefore to make this a condition?

I take note of what my hon. Friend said about the claims of Wolverhampton. As for the national position, we are determined to proceed with this educational advance and we are using all the options open to us to persuade authorities to go ahead. We are keeping the matter under urgent review.

University Research


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will increase the funds available to the UGC in the light of the effect of inflation on research by the universities.

I announced in the House last December that universities would receive an additional £15 million for recurrent expenditure in the present academic year on account of increasing costs, which include research costs.

Is not the shortage of funds yet another reason why it would be ludicrous to hive off the Scottish universities and research in Scotland from the UGC at this time—and for no better reason than that it would give the Assembly something to do?

The Government still have to decide what proposals to make to the House about the exact powers of the Scottish Assembly. The views which I have received from the Vice-Chancellors' Committee, from the UGC and from many representatives of university opinion in Scotland support the view strongly that the Scottish universities' link with the UGC should be continued.

Would it not be better both for the universities and for parliamentary control of expenditure if the universities were funded on, say, a rolling three-year programme rather than the present quinquennial system?

That alternative has been discussed very often by successive Governments and the UGC. The balance of view has always been that the present system is a better one.

Public Lending Right


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he can now give a date when he will introduce the promised Bill to create a public lending right for authors.

A Bill is being prepared with a view to its early introduction.

Although I welcome that rather vague statement from the Under-Secretary, may I ask him to reiterate the pledge which was given in the Queen's Speech and which was made by him that a Bill would be introduced this Session? Will he also say whether he intends to keep his electoral pledge that £5 million would be made available from the Exchequer to right this longstanding injustice to authors?

In answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, yes, Sir. As for the second part, there was no electoral pledge and, there fore, I have nothing to reiterate.

My hon. Friend will remember that

"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick."
In these circumstances will he speed the elementary act of justice which was not only mentioned in the Queen's Speech but foreshadowed in the Labour Party manifesto?

I have had several consultations with the authors, their representatives and all the various interested organisations, and I am aware of the views which my hon. Friend mentioned. The proposal which I shall bring forward shortly will take account of all these and various other matters as well.

University Finance


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received about the financial difficulties now facing universities; and if he will make a statement.

I have received letters expressing appreciation of the additional grant of £15 million for the current academic year. This should relieve the immediate difficulties of the universities. I hope to announce shortly new levels of grant for the next two academic years which will take into account that the numbers of students in those years will not increase as rapidly as was expected at the beginning of the quinquennium.

In looking at the universities' problems for the remaining two years of the quinquennium, will the Government consider an improvement in the present system under which supplementation for certain of their increased current costs is very much in arrear?

The universities want me as quickly as possible to study the basic levels of grant for these two years. I cannot give any undertaking about what might be done in response to future rates of inflation?

Will my right hon. Friend say to what extent this grant falls short of the increased inflationary costs which the universities are now meeting? I get the impression that at all levels they are having to cut back in their work.

I cannot put a precise figure on this. But the universities are having to face economies as a result of the economic situation. They recognise as we all do that they cannot avoid taking their share of the burdens in the economic situation.

Did the right hon. Gentleman receive a letter of appreciation from the Vice-Chancellor of Southampton University, who reckoned that the £15 million was only about half what was required?

Without notice, I am not sure. Certainly I received a letter from the Chairman of the Vice-Chancellors' Committee on behalf of the vice-chancellors expressing their collective view that this was very welcome help in their situation.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the vice-chancellors of the universities accepted the increase in grant with resignation rather than joy? Will he in future try to let inflation run side by side with rather than get so far ahead of the increase in grant?

I agree that the mood expressed fell short of joy, although it was better than resignation. I think that the vice-chancellors were hoping for some help and were glad that it came to as much as £15 million, but that still leaves them with severe difficulties. I think many of us feel that some universities—I say this with caution—could do more to improve their efficiency. For many years the ratio of lecturers to students in some universities has been and is overgenerous. In deciding priorities within the education system I have had regard to other parts of the system which have been existing more austerely and severely than universities. Nevertheless, the universities have problems and we have done something to try to alleviate the immediate critical situation.

Pupils (Maintenance)


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he plans to introduce legislation requiring parents to maintain their children while undergoing full-time education.

Is the Secretary of State aware that student poverty can often result from parents refraining from assisting their children in full-time education in the way that the State assumes them to do in assessing grants under the means-test system? Is he also aware that in West Germany, for example, there is a requirement that parents accept responsibility for children in full-time education? Has he any thoughts about introducing similar legislation here?

This is a real problem. It would be difficult in practice to legislate on the financial arrangements between individual members of a family. I have recently asked local education authorities to notify parents directly of the amount they should contribute to make up the difference between the grant from public funds and the grant to which the student is entitled.

Would it be possible to arrange for parents who do not make up the grant in the proper way not to get their tax allowances?

I will consider any suggestions that may be put forward, but it is difficult to assess, measure and monitor the precise financial arrangements between members of a family unit to arrive at a decision on my hon. Friend's or any other suggestion in this respect.

Exhall Primary School


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will make a statement about his refusal to see a deputation led by the hon. Member for Nuneaton about the replacement of Exhall Primary School.

My right hon. Friend received a deputation last July led by the hon. Members for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) and Meriden (Mr. Tomlinson) at which the need to replace this and other primary schools was discussed. Correspondence since then has explained why the school has not yet been programmed for replacement. It is simply not possible for my right hon. Friend to find time to meet all the people who wish to talk to him about the needs of two particular schools.

Does my hon. Friend accept that this school has far more than its fair share of temporary buildings which have been standing since the last war? Does he also accept that this is probably the fastest growing part of my constituency? While appreciating that his right hon. Friend courteously received a deputation that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Tomlinson) brought from the National Union of Teachers, that his right hon. Friend has a very crowded diary and that the Warwickshire County Council has a rôle to play in this matter in the priorities that it allocates to school building, may I ask my hon. Friend to press his right hon. Friend to reconsider his decision? If my right hon. Friend cannot receive a deputation, will my hon. Friend receive one?

We are well aware that a great number of primary schools need urgent replacement. Therefore, we allocated £20 million in last year's school building programme for the replacement of primary schools. Within the last fortnight we have indicated to my hon. Friend's local authority that £1,787,000 has been allocated for next year's building programme. Of course, priorities will be decided by the local authority concerned. However, if my hon. Friend wants to make special representations I shall give them careful consideration.

Secondary Education (Kingston-Upon-Thames)


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what, if any, changes he wishes to be introduced in the secondary educational system of the Royal borough of Kingston-upon-Thames and why; and by what methods he intends that they should be introduced.

My right hon. Friend wishes to see, in Kingston-upon-Thames as elsewhere, the abolition of selection and the development of a fully comprehensive system. This is because the Government believe that selection is unfair and deprives children of the wide-ranging opportunities that comprehensive secondary education can provide. It is for the local education authority, in response to Circular 4/74, to inform him of the successive measures to be taken to that end.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the council and people of Kingston and Surbiton are more concerned with the quality of education in their borough than with its organisational form? On that criterion, we have one of the 10 best records of any education authority in the country with almost double the average number of university places. Should not that be the real test of a secondary education system? If so, why seek to change it? If the hon. Gentleman is in any doubt, will he receive a local deputation to discuss this whole matter?

I shall be glad to receive a local deputation. It is precisely because we are concerned with the quality of education that we want to get rid of the selective system. [Interruption.] I do not think that shouting furthers the argument. Any system of secondary education which allocates without choice 80 per cent. of the children of a borough to schools which are not considered suitable for children who are academically able is denying the quality of education to the vast majority of children. We want to get rid of that system and give real equality of opportunity. That is why we are determined to get an early response from Kingston.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Conservative Party is, as usual, demanding special favours for itself, not only in education but in hospital beds and so on? Does he further agree that nothing better could happen to the education system, not only in Kingston-upon-Thames but throughout the whole country, than complete comprehensivisation?

Yes. We have expressed that view to the Kingston authority. We want to abolish selection because it is educationally unsound and unfair. We are not prepared to tolerate indefinite delay by any authority.

On what does the hon. Gentleman base his statement that the quality of education in comprehensive schools is better than in existing schools?

There are various yardsticks. I believe that every judgment about education is a value judgment. We cannot measure education and its success merely by examination results. The evidence is there for all to see. Since we started the move towards a comprehensive system, examination results have been better and better as the years have gone by.

Stress Area Schools


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will review the arrangements for listing schools eligible for stress grants.

The Burnham Committee has only just concluded an agreement on the payments to teachers in social priority schools. It intends to review the arrangements at a later date in the light of experience.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the experience of some teachers in the London borough of Newham is bitter? Over half the teaching force is eligible for an additional grant of over £200, but in some schools with equivalent catchment areas there are no such plans. Therefore, the system is being worked in an arbitrary fashion and the reaction of teachers in those areas is notably bitter. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that within a year there is a review and that, if necessary, the Newham Borough Council will be allowed to have an equivalent amount of money to share between all the teachers in the borough to avoid the bitterness that has been created?

The designation of the schools to benefit from this allowance was decided by the Burnham Committee. It is not a matter in which I have power to intervene, nor should I wish to do so.

The very fact that about 57 per cent. of teachers in Newham are in schools that will receive the allowance means that the problems of the borough—which my hon. Friend and myself, as Members for the borough, know are severe—will be alleviated to some extent. Considerable help will be provided to retain experienced teachers who are urgently needed because there will be a financial incentive for them to stay. At the margins of a scheme such as this there is bound to be resentment by those who do not come within its provisions, but I still think that the scheme will help Newham and many other parts of the country.

In some rural areas there are severe problems of social deprivation which do not fit into the categories outlined by the Burnham Committee. Will the right hon. Gentleman take all these criteria into consideration, particularly in my area where the local education authority believes that the bilingual requirement of teachers ought to be considered?

What the hon. Gentleman has said does not detract from the general benefits which the scheme will provide in both rural and urban areas, but it illustrates that the Burnham Committee had a difficult job in drawing up the criteria. When the committee reviews the matter in a year's time it will want to consider the practical experience of local education authorities throughout the country and all the various criticisms and the suggestions that are made.

Adult Education


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the anticipated rise in the rate of educational expenditure on adult education in the next financial year.

I have no means of knowing how much local education authorities will decide to spend on adult education in 1975–76. Subject to approval by Parliament, I hope to be able to afford a modest increase for the direct grant sector.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are disturbing signs that adult education is facing its greatest crisis for many years and that unless something is done the situation will get worse, many classes will be cut and many part-time teachers will be sacked? Cannot something be done by the Department to ensure that at least a modicum of standards is maintained in the adult education sector?

As I said, we are going to propose extra help to bodies which get their financial help direct from my Department. As regards local education authorities, the component in the rate support grant on this matter provides for some increase in student numbers and for rises in teachers' pay, which are relevant, and it also makes for some modest improvement or allows for it in non-teaching costs.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Workers' Educational Association faces ruin from inflation because the grant it receives covers only teaching and not the organisation and administrative side? Will he look at that and try to improve the situation?

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether in the Public Expenditure White Paper he has changed the definition of higher education, including further and adult education, because it is difficult to discover whether there is a shortfall on his estimates compared with those of the previous Government?

I should like to consider the latter point, and if there are ways in which the matter can be clarified to the House no doubt we can do that, perhaps through question and answer or in some other way. My officers have been in touch with the WEA in recent months, and we have agreed some additional grant to several districts which were facing particularly severe financial problems.

Chester (Direct Grant Schools)


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will pay an official visit to the direct grant schools in the city of Chester.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my constituents will be disappointed that he has no such plans, because they are proud of their direct grant schools in Chester, not least because they afford the opportunity to children of every background to have extra education? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that any decision he takes to abolish these schools will be contrary to the majority decision of my constituents?

My proposals are not to abolish schools. I hope that many direct grant schools will have a constructive future to play in local comprehensive secondary arrangements. If others opt to go independent, they must be truly independent and not expect to be subsidised from public funds.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the education debate last week the former Conservative spokesman on education said there was a danger that the Conservative Party would appear to be interested only in direct grant and independent schools? Do not this Question and a host of others on the Order Paper today show that not only does the Conservative Party appear to be interested only in such schools but it is interested only in them and cannot care less about the others?

I agree with my hon. Friend. I should like sometimes to hear Conservative Members address themselves to the point that under the selective system about three-quarters of all children find their way to secondary modern schools. They should also address themselves to the question of what improved opportunities are due to the majority of children, and they should judge our comprehensive plans against that criterion.

In view of the sharply rising running costs of all schools, in whatever sector, may I ask what steps the Secretary of State is taking to enable direct grant schools to meet these rising costs either by raising the direct grant or by allowing fees to be raised at the right pace?

I have no proposals to raise the level of grant. I am prepared to approve increases in fees provided I am satisfied that the schools concerned are being as austere in their standards as maintained schools are having to be in the present economic climate.

Bolton (Comprehensive Education)


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he now expects a system of comprehensive education to be introduced in Bolton.

The Bolton local education authority has informed my right hon. Friend, in response to Circular 4/74, that a working party which is now considering the position in those areas of the authority in which schools are not yet reorganised on comprehensive lines expects to finish its work by 30th June 1975. The authority has been told of the importance we attach to an early and substantive response to the circular with a view to the development of a fully comprehensive system as speedily as possible.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable feeling in Bolton that this extra working party is merely a delaying tactic on the part of members of the local authority who do not wish to see a comprehensive system introduced in Bolton? Will my hon. Friend assure us that his Department will put sufficient pressure on the local authority to ensure that Bolton goes comprehensive not later than September 1976?

We are in constant touch with Bolton, and we are determined to press ahead. The difficulty in Bolton, I am sorry to say, is that the Opposition spokesman on education rather misled the Bolton authority. Last July, in the midst of much election talk, he wrote to the chairman of the authority telling him not to worry because when a Tory Government got back to office they would rescind Labour's Circular 4/74. The working party, which is representative of elected members and teachers, did not get down to work until after the October election, and we are now looking to it for an urgent response.

Did not the hon. Gentleman wisely say a few moments ago that these judgments as between direct grant schools, comprehensive schools and so on are value judgments which cannot be proved one way or the other? We accept that. Is it not logical in a free society that the choice should be left to parents and that they should express their views through their elected representatives?

Our experience is that parental judgment throughout the country is in favour of abolishing selection. I do not go back on my comment about value judgments. How we organise education and the kind of school that we want to see abolished is an indication of what we believe about children and the society in which they live. I want to see a society in which every child has equality of opportunity.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, far from misleading the Bolton Council, I gave it a clear pledge that if a Conservative Government were returned we should make good any losses in the building programme which it might have suffered for standing up for its own independence? I repeat that pledge today.

By his intervention the hon. Gentleman postponed the decision of the Bolton authority to get on with the job of giving equality of opportunity to all its children.

Foetus Experiments


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what experiments are taking, or have taken, place using a live human foetus in university or research council laboratories.

The Medical Research Council assures me that no such experiments would be conducted in its laboratories or supported by its grants. I do not control university research but I am advised that it is both unethical and illegal to carry out experiments on a viable foetus which are inconsistent with treatment necessary to promote life.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that such experiments are deeply repugnant to many people? Can he say whether experiments on live but not viable foetuses are legal?

My advice is that a foetus which is live and viable in legal terms is a baby and is fully protected by the law. On the question of a foetus which is not viable, I understand that the question is at present one of medical ethics for the doctor or surgeon in charge of the abortion or whatever operation has preceded these events. These are matters which are departmentally the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and can be debated on Friday when the Bill before the House will seek to secure the statutory implementation of parts of the Peel Report, which dealt with this very difficult question.

Secondary Reorganisation


asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he now proposes to introduce legislation to compel local education authorities which have not already done so, to reorganise secondary education on comprehensive lines.

I am at present studying the responses of local education authorities to Circular 4/74. As I told the House on 27th January—[Vol. 885, c. 55–6]—I would prefer not to have to introduce legislation, but if satisfactory progress cannot be made without it the Government will not hesitate to do so.

While one welcomes the fact that there is at least a momentary respite from the threat of legislation, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman meanwhile to stop seeking to impose his policy by means of a bullying circular, which does not have the force of law and which can be resisted with absolute impunity by councils which have the courage to stand up to him?

The circular does not have the force of law. Therefore, if there are local education authorities—I think there will be very few, but there are a few—which stand out against all the experience of recent years and all informed opinion in these matters, and against a policy which was approved by Parliament 10 years ago and has been approved several times since, including last week, by implication, in the vote taken last Monday, Parliament will clearly want to legislate. In that event I would look to hon. Members of good will on both sides of the House to support the view that Parliament should legislate in order to secure for thousands of children who are still denied them the opportunities of comprehensive secondary education at the earliest possible date.

Will my right hon. Friend take on board the message that his major task in education is to educate the Conservative Party that selection and comprehensive education are mutually exclusive concepts?

I am afraid that I do have to spend more time on that than I would wish, but I am glad to have noted reports that there are many in the country active in the Conservative Party—leading members of education committees—who have been engaged recently in trying to educate the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) in these matters and to remind him that it has been part of the policy of many Conservative authorities for many years to reorganise their areas on comprehensive lines.

As the right hon. Gentleman has an enviable reputation for intellectual courage and openness of mind, why is he not prepared to have an inquiry into the relative values of the various forms of secondary education as proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas)?

There does not seem to be any need to spend time and energy on an inquiry on a subject on which we have practical experience all the time and on which the growing evidence from all parts of the country and other parts of the world over many years has been that boys and girls develop their talents better within a comprehensive system and without being divided artificially into two groups at the age of 10½.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this should no longer be a party matter, since the absurdity of the selective system was described in a White Paper issued by the wartime Coalition Government in 1943?

Yes, but since then there has been a division within the Conserva- tive Party between the minority who understand educational issues and the majority who do not and who do not want to understand them.

May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the last time his party introduced a Bill along these lines, it was lost owing to the defection of Labour supporters, including the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price)? Secondly, will he reflect that if he introduces a Bill of this character he will destroy the balance of duties, responsibilities and rights between local education authorities and the Department of Education and Science and will be taking a major step towards a State-centred and State-controlled system of education?

No, Sir. Education in this country has traditionally and rightly been a partnership between national and local government. It is a proper rôle for the national Government and for Parliament to define a policy in terms of saying that we should move away from selection and towards a comprehensive system. The method of doing it and, within reasonable limits, the timing of doing it are appropriate, I believe, for local decision. I believe, therefore, that what I am suggesting follows the traditional relationship between national and local government in these matters.

Eec (Minister's Speech)


asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech made by the Secretary of State for Trade about the EEC to the southern regional council of the Labour Party on 19th January represented the policy of Her Majesty's Government.


asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Secretary of State for Trade on the EEC at Brighton on 19th January represents Government policy.


asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Trade at Brighton on 19th January on British membership of the EEC represents Government policy.


asked the Prime Minister if the speech made by the Secretary of State for Trade in Brighton on 19th January represents Government policy.

I refer my hon. Friend and the hon. Members to the replies I gave him and the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) in answer to supplementary questions on 21st January.

Is it not crystal clear from that speech that the Secretary of State for Trade believes that Britain should be renegotiating its terms of entry into the EEC with a view to coming out, while it is the collective position of the Government that we are renegotiating with a view to staying in? Is it not therefore incumbent upon the Secretary of State to continue his campaign for getting Britain out of the Common Market from the back benches?

The hon. Gentleman has got this wrong. My right hon. Friend and all of us on this side fought two elections on the manifesto, which says that we shall negotiate on these terms. When we have seen what the terms are, it will be decided by the country through the ballot box, which, of course, is now to be through the referendum.

What interpretation does my right hon. Friend put on the balance of trade figures? Does he agree with the interpretation put on them by the Secretary of State or with that of the Foreign Secretary? Since my right hon. Friend and others have made it clear that they are about to make a recommendation to the people before they take part in the referendum that we should like to stay in, can my right hon. Friend tell us when that statement will be made?

With such limited statistical qualification as I am capable of, I have been through the figures quoted on this occasion and all the other relevant figures. While, of course, one can have different base dates for figures, any reading of the figures confirms what are the facts—namely, that the expectations put forward in 1971 about the balance of trade between this country and the Common Market have been utterly falsified by the events, and that they are in fact much worse.

Of course this is partly due to high world food prices and the fact that we have been able to get food from the Common Market at high but not comparably higher prices. But if one takes the whole range of trade, the figures are far worse than those suggested by the Leader of the Opposition in those earlier debates.

Even accepting that collective Cabinet responsibility seems to have gone out of the window on this issue, may I ask the Prime Minister to confirm that the question of sovereignty, of which the Secretary of State makes so much, forms no part of the matters which are being negotiated between the Government and fellow members of the EEC? Will the Prime Minister clearly state his own view that if he is successful in obtaining the terms which he seeks this will involve no damaging erosion of our national sovereignty?

With regard to collective responsibility, there is on the part of the Government, and in all the foreseeable future, far greater collective responsibility than I can see now or foresee for three years ahead in the Shadow Cabinet. Parliamentary sovereignty is a very important issue in the negotiations. Perhaps, having a safe seat, the hon. Gentleman felt that he did not have to read our manifesto. If he will read it, he will see clearly stated that parliamentary sovereignty is one of the vital issues in the renegotiations. If, on questions of parliamentary sovereignty, which we insist is a very important matter, I and my colleagues are satisfied, I shall certainly be prepared to accept that the manifesto has been fulfilled. If not, not.

Labour Party—Tuc Liaison Committee


asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his meeting with the TUC Liaison Committee on 20th January 1975.

The Labour Party-TUC Liaison Committee meets at regular intervals to discuss matters of common concern. At the meeting on 20th January the Government representatives reaffirmed the central importance of the social contract in present circumstances. For its part the TUC underlined the need for firm adherence to the TUC guidelines.

Did the TUC also fully appreciate my right hon. Friend's anxiety about the dangers of the economic outlook and acknowledge that anything less than the strictest observance of the social contract guidelines would aggravate inflation, thus undermining the living standards of pensioners and those who cannot negotiate, and, inevitably make for other Government measures?

Yes, Sir. At no other such meeting have I been clearer. The TUC understands and very much agrees with my hon. Friend's analysis. It is very concerned, as we are in all parts of the House, about the dangers in this country and abroad of the spread of depression and unemployment. This was very much part of our discussions. I found the same awareness of—indeed, even great anxiety about—the problem of unemployment at a time of world inflation when my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and I met the leaders of the American Government last week. It is a world problem which must be tackled by world action and by the utmost domestic action within our several countries.

Was it a matter of general agreement at the meeting that the social contract still meant that the Government would maintain living standards? Was that agreed by both the TUC and the Prime Minister? Now that the White Paper on Public Expenditure has shown that the Government no longer believe that that is possible, when will the right hon. Gentleman be meeting the TUC leaders to tell them?

I answered the first part of that question, in relation to living standards, the week before last. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in planning the Public Expenditure White Paper we began from the expected increase in production in this country, but because of the need to deploy more resources to the foreign trade balance and to increasing investment we said that national expenditure must rise less than the expected increase in gross national production, and also that there would not be as much available for increased wage payments.

Has the Prime Minister had an opportunity since he returned from Washington to look at the latest CBI trends survey, which is obviously of great concern to the TUC as well as the CBI? What the trends now show is that the number of firms expecting to invest less in plant and machinery in the coming year has increased twelvefold since the present Government came to power almost a year ago and that the number expecting to shed labour during the coming year is the greatest since the survey was started in 1958, in the same way as the plant and machinery outlook is the worst since 1958. Is not the right hon. Gentleman appalled at this? Does it not show that in the past year the expectations for the future in investment and employment have become the worst ever?

I have studied these figures, which the whole House will agree are extremely serious. Investment has never got back to the now halcyon figures of 1970. They never did under the right hon. Gentleman's Government, despite his hubris at the Guildhall, where he said that our entry into Europe would lead to a great increase in investment. Investment fell after that speech. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these are matters for great concern.

As for unemployment, we warned a year ago—we did it in the election—what the prognosis was. All of this Government's policies are designed to restrain the then inevitable increase in unemployment and to get investment up.


asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on the current economic situation on Monday 20th January in London at the meeting of the TUC—Labour Party Liaison Committee.

That accounts for the fact that it is not in the Library. Is the Prime Minister aware that he has deprived me of a marvellous opportunity of hoping that he would answer "Yes" to the Question? He did, however, make a speech on that date, reported in the national Press, in which he discussed at length the social contract. Is he aware that a former adviser to his Government, Mr. Wilfred Beckerman, has said that the social contract is now about as effective in combating inflation as appeasement is in containing dictators? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—that we should all like to see the social contract work—

Order. We have had two supplementary questions from the hon. Gentleman already.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his marvellous recovery, with that supplementary question on the speech which was not made and which, as he has now discovered, is not in the Library. I made a speech on that day. It is possible to go from one engagement to another, and at lunchtime I made a speech to the provincial Press, a copy of which I think is in the Library. But that did not refer to the questions the hon. Gentleman is now trying to raise. If he had been to the right library and had got the right speech, he would have seen that it referred to certain aspects of the test of public opinion in relation to the Common Market. It was in fact a trailer for the statement I made in the House three days later. That statement is on the record not only in the Library but in Hansard.

President Ford (Talks)


asked the Prime Minister if, when he visited the United States of America he discussed with the President the question of military action being taken in connection with oil supplies from the Arab States.

My talks were confidential. I have nothing to add to the recent public statements by President Ford and Dr. Kissinger but it is clear that they were answering questions about hypothetical circumstances.

Whatever was said in those confidential discussions, will my right hon. Friend assure the country and Parliament that he is opposed to the use of military force against any nation because it refuses to sell its products, particularly as that could easily escalate into a third world war?

I take what my hon. Friend says very seriously. Although the discussions were confidential I can tell him what I said on the record in Canada before I went to the United States, and I will make it available if that is desired. [Interruption.] I must point out to the Leader of the Liberal Party that this is a serious matter which concerns peace and war. What I said on the record was that I had not discussed it with the President. I did not see any need to do so. I think Dr. Kissinger was perhaps making a warning to some wilder elements, and not the more responsible countries, that if they felt that they could use the oil weapon as itself a weapon of war, some kind of response would have to be shown. Dr. Kissinger has made it clear that he thinks it a distant and remote hypothetical contingency, and I agree with him.


asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his visit to the United States of America.

Yes, Sir. I welcome this opportunity to give the House an account of the visits which the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and I made to Canada and the United States last week. In Ottawa we had useful discussions with the Canadian Prime Minister and his colleagues, mainly on economic questions, and I look forward to welcoming Mr. Trudeau to this country in March.

In Washington our talks with President Ford and Dr. Kissinger also centred mainly on world economic problems and on the Middle East, although a wide range of other international issues was covered. I particularly welcomed the American recognition of the growing economic interdependence of the world, and the lead which the Americans have given in efforts to promote solutions to world energy problems. I also confirmed British support for American efforts to bring about a just and lasting settlement in the Middle East. Relations between the United States and the United Kingdom are extremely close and the meeting was an opportunity to develop even closer agreement about our main objectives and the means of attaining them.

My right hon. Friend and I also welcomed the opportunity to call on the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York.

The House will, of course, understand that apart from the information given publicly about the subjects covered, the details of all these discussions must remain confidential.

I thank the Prime Minister for making that statement. Was he able to reassure the Americans about the Government's taxation policy towards American companies operating in the North Sea on oil drilling? If so, how did he do it?

That matter did not come up between the President and myself although, as the House will be aware, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster accompanied me on the visit. On this matter he had a brief discussion of half an hour with the State Department experts. No anxiety on this subject was expressed to us during the visit but my right hon. Friend is having discussions with the interests concerned. He stayed on after I left.

Did my right hon. Friend have an opportunity of discussing with the President of the United States the continued presence of 25,000 American advisers in South Vietnam? Does he think that that enhances the prospect of peace in that area?

We had no discussion whatsoever on Vietnam. I was asked a question publicly on this subject on American television in the recorded interview which was published on Sunday. No doubt my hon. Friend will have seen in Press reports yesterday the answer I gave in that interview. Should he not have seen it, I shall be glad to let him have a copy of what I said.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of widespread concern in Scotland about the report which appeared in the Financial Times on 30th this matter and what pledges or assur-January suggesting that the American President was advising the Prime Minister against any control of our Scottish oil resources going to the Scottish Assembly? Will he advise the House on what repredent or by his advisers in connection with sentations were made to him by the Presiances were given about control?

No such discussion took place. I think that the hon. Gentleman is confusing the President of the United States with the President of Uganda.

Is there not one question on which there is a clear division of interest between this country and the United States—namely, the price of oil not over the next two or three years but over the long term? Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether he discussed that matter with the President of the United States? Has he noticed recent proposals by Dr. Kissinger which have the object of keeping down the rise in the price of oil over the long term? Will he tell us what consideration the Government have given to discussing these matters with our allies over the coming years?

My hon. Friend referred to a division. I should inform him that the President did not ask where he was when the Division took place last Wednesday night. On the long-term price of oil, we had full discussions with the President and the Secretary of State about arrangements for meeting all oil consumers and then all oil-consuming and oil-producing countries. One of the matters that we very much stressed was the importance of ensuring for the oil-supplying countries, despite our anxieties about present prices, some security for them in future as regards both their investments and their continuing market. In that context we suggested strongly—there was no disagreement—that we would like to see the oil-supplying countries investing much more of their money in technology both for their own countries and possibly in other forms of energy for those who fear the drying up of oil supplies. We had considerable discussions on how this long-term security could be achieved. With regard to the statement made yesterday by Dr. Kissinger which has been reported in our Press today, we did not discuss the text or the terms of that statement.

Did the right hon. Gentleman discuss with the President of the United States the fact that our trade deficit with the United States has increased many times faster than our trade deficit with the EEC? Will he explain how it is that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade is apparently opposed to cutting tariffs with the EEC, presumably on the ground that to do so might increase our trade deficit, whereas he is in favour of cutting tariffs with the United States?

This convoluted argument did not form any part of my discussions with the President of the United States.

Did my right hon. Friend have an opportunity to impress upon the President of the United States the urgency of convening the Geneva Conference if a new war is to be avoided in the Middle East?

We had a full discussion on the Middle East. In fact, it took pretty well the whole of our Friday morning session. I was asked about the matter afterwards and we publicly supported in the United States the step-by-step approach of the American Secretary of State. I believe that that is the right approach. We shall give it our full backing. We believe that it will need a great deal of understanding and give and take by the Middle East countries concerned.

If my hon. Friend is suggesting—I do not think he is—that the right thing now would be a return to the Geneva Conference, I think I would disagree with him. Indeed, I said so publicly in the United States. All that is going on is under the ambit or the umbrella of the Geneva Conference. At the right moment anything that is settled will have to go back there for agreement and ratification. But to say that because disappointing progress has been made so far we should now go back to Geneva would be a counsel of despair. It would be to suggest that no progress has been made. I do not think we should recommend a return to Geneva at this stage. We should try to make some progress and then take something back to Geneva to ratify.

I revert to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten). Is it the case that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is now assuring the Americans that the Government do not intend to take any additional revenue from North Sea oil from participation but will rely entirely on corporation tax and petroleum revenue tax? If that is the case, will the Prime Minister arrange for his right hon. Friend to come to the House to explain how we will achieve this miracle?

The right hon. Gentleman should not assume too much about these matters. He has been wrong so often in the past. My right hon. Friend has spoken in America exactly as the Government have spoken in this House—indeed, in the way my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy spoke when these matters were the subject of Questions on, I think, 23rd January. The right hon. Gentleman was present and he will know the date. When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy returns, if he has any statement to make about his talks in the United States I am sure he will be willing to consider making it.

On the Middle East, did my right hon. Friend stress to the President that Britain believes in the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure boundaries? Did he deplore the recent ostracising of Israel in UNESCO? What did he say about the rôle of this country in achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East?

On my hon. Friend's first point, he is stating the position, which, as is well known, I have always taken and which is the position of the British Government, about the right of Israel to exist within secure frontiers. We did not discuss UNESCO, but our position was made absolutely clear in our vote at UNESCO. As for the part that Britain should play in achieving a lasting peace, our rôle is to co-operate in the step-by-step approach. My right hon. Friend and I will be visiting Moscow next week and we naturally anticipate that this matter will come up. We shall express there the same view as the Government have expressed in Washington and as my right hon. Friend and I expressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. We shall pursue the matter further with the Soviet Government in any such discussions.

Did the Prime Minister receive any assurances or information from the President concerning the admittedly very difficult problem of stopping money going from sources in the United States to the IRA?

No, that matter was not discussed with him. The House will have seen the report, which is accurate, that my right hon. Friend and I met a very weighty and representative group of senators and congressmen and I was asked about the Irish situation. I described it to them in terms which I think will have the general support of the House, and I referred to my right hon. Friend's part in all these matters. My right hon. Friend made a very strong appeal to the senators and congressmen to use their influence in their constituencies to stop the flow of funds and arms to the IRA. While I did not discuss this matter with President Ford, I did have discussions with senior members of the administration subsequently.

President Amin apart, will my right hon. Friend satisfy our curiosity about what on earth President Ford said about the Scottish nationalists? Is it repeatable?

Although we discussed most other aspects of world import, the President of the United States did not at any point refer to the Scottish nationalists.

The Prime Minister is obviously aware of the deep anxieties both within and outside the House about the possibility of future conflict in the Middle East, particularly as spring approaches. Many of us will agree that the time has not come to reconvene the Geneva Conference, and we would not believe that there was any future in trying to take military action over oil supplies. However, as a result of the talks can the Prime Minister give any more of an indication as to how he thinks further progress can be made in the next two or three months in order to prevent an outbreak of strife in the Middle East?

From what the right hon. Gentleman said, and from what I know to be his position, I know that there is no difference between the two Front Benches on this matter about war, oil or the use of force to settle the Middle East question, whether there or from outside. We must look to the forthcoming visit of the Secretary of State, Dr. Kissinger, to the Middle East. He is going to try to advance the step-by-step position there, and we will naturally give him our full backing, as I know the Leader of the Opposition will. In our discussions with the Secretary-General of the United Nations we made it clear that this would be our position. I do not think that there is any alternative proposal at the moment, certainly no cataclysmic solution that anyone can propose.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman expressed the view on Geneva exactly as I would: that while the parties operate under the general ambit of Geneva, simply to go back to Geneva would be meaningless unless there was a policy to put forward there. We believe that the most promising prospect for agreement lies in patient negotiation.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in what he was implying, if not exactly saying, that time is on no one's side here. This cannot be left as a stalemate for a long period. There are problems of the extension of the United Nations troop mandates in different parts of the Middle East, and therefore we want to see progress made, but it would be wrong to try to force it by any contrived solution.

Steel Industry (Closure Review)

I will, with permission, Mr. Speaker, make a statement about the steel review.

On 23rd May I reported to the House the procedures we had agreed, with those concerned, for conducting the review of the proposed closures of steelworks, which we had promised in the Labour Party's "Programme for Britain: 1973". My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Beswick, undertook that review, and has now made an interim report, copies of which were made available to hon. and right hon. Members this morning, and I am circulating it in the Official Report. This report represents the first results of the most extensive and open examination of the plans of a public corporation that has taken place, requiring it to justify its proposals in detail in the light of its social responsibilities. The Government have accepted the conclusions in Lord Beswick's report, and hope they will also be acceptable to those who work in the steel industry and to the House.

We have carefully re-examined the capacity target of the corporation, set out in the previous Government's paper on BSC development strategy, about which many of my hon. Friends have been concerned. In the light of the review, the corporation proposes to accelerate its development strategy so as to achieve a capacity of 37 million tonnes a year in the early 1980s. This is as rapid an expansion as can be realistically expected in current conditions.

The plants covered by the interim report are East Moors, Hartlepool iron and steelmaking, Cleveland ironmaking, Shelton, Shotton and Ebbw Vale. Nothing announced today will pre-empt the decisions still to be taken on the BSC's proposals for Scotland or other cases still under review. For East Moors, we have secured the deferment of the closure by four years to not earlier than January 1980. At Hartlepool, the closure of iron and steelmaking will be deferred by at least two years until 1978. At Cleveland, the closure dates proposed by the BSC will be adhered to because the alternative employment is readily available at the BSC plants close by. As to Shelton, a new steel plant will be erected which will save about 800 jobs. The proposed closure at Shotton will be deferred at least until 1980–81, while further study is undertaken of the economics of modernised steelmaking there. At Ebbw Vale, we have accepted the BSC proposals for the closure of iron and steelmaking and, ultimately, of the hot mill. Production at the hot mill, as elsewhere, will be maintained until adequate supplies of replacement steel become available from other plants.

This review has therefore saved some 13,500 jobs for from two to four years or more at East Moors, Hartlepool and Shotton and has permanently saved the jobs of about 800 men at Shelton. Of the plants reviewed, the only closure now imminent is ironmaking and some of the steelmaking at Ebbw Vale. Discussions with the chairman of the corporation about the detailed phasing of redundancies and the provision of new jobs have already begun.

It is the Government's policy to ensure that resources are available to assist the provision of new employment and to improve infrastructure in the areas affected. We have also decided to ask the corporation to accept a special responsibility both in the phasing of redundancies and, to as great an extent as possible, for the provision of new job opportunities in steel-related and other projects. This latter concept, which I hope the House will welcome, needs to be examined and discussed more fully, but it could introduce a new dimension into redundancy problems in the public sector.

I am sure the House will welcome the announcement of the new developments at Shelton and Shotton. The House will remember that these were foreshadowed in paragraphs 57 and 49 of the Conservative White Paper "British Steel Corporation: Ten Year Development Strategy".

Will the Secretary of State confirm that full development at Port Talbot will not be delayed until the final decision about Shotton is taken, and will he say how many jobs will become redundant within the British Steel Corporation over the next five years?

The Secretary of State claims that the review has saved 13,500 jobs for between two and four years. That will cost the BSC at least £120 million. How will that be reflected in the accounts of the corporation, or does the right hon. Gentleman intend to give the BSC specific compensation for it?

The right hon. Gentleman claims that the corporation proposes to accelerate its programme to 37 million tonnes by the early 1980s. How can he claim that that is an acceleration when in paragraph 19(b) of the Conservative White Paper on the subject the corporation sets out a strategy for 36 million to 38 million tonnes by the first half of the 1980s, which was accepted in paragraph 29?

I will try to deal with the questions raised by the hon. Gentleman, and I am grateful to him for saying that he is glad to see that some jobs will be saved as a result of the review.

As I said, and as is made clear in the statement I put in the Library this morning, the closure proposals for Shotton are not only deferred but under further consideration. The relationship between Shotton and Port Talbot is one of the factors which are bound to come up in the further discussions.

As to the number of jobs forecast in the industry, I am bound to be speaking to some extent approximately because all the figures I have announced today are dependent on factors which are not entirely within our control. We are thinking in terms of 195,000 jobs in the steel industry in the mid-1980s but, because of the investment that will back them, they will represent much more secure employment than there would be in an industry which was not modernised.

On the question of the cost of deferring the closures, the hon. Gentleman should recognise that if the closures had proceeded at the rate indicated by the Conservative Government the imports of steel to this country or the loss of exports would have been very costly on our balance of payments.

Finally, on the capacity limit, we made clear at the outset of our discussions with the BSC that we did not set a firm capacity limit on the upward end of the wedge that had been identified by the previous Government, and the figure of 37 million tonnes, which I announced this afternoon represents the fastest realistic rate of acceleration in present world conditions.

Does the Secretary of State realise that, while Labour Members welcome the announcement about Shotton and East Moors, the statement will cause anger and dismay to the people of Ebbw Vale and North Gwent, for whom it represents the unacceptable face of nationalisation? Does the Secretary of State realise that it will be a devastating body-blow for North Gwent, which is already reeling from the effect of 700 redundancies in the last two months? Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how many redundancies he foresees in Ebbw Vale by 1st July this year and how many jobs he sees lost to Ebbw Vale by January next year? Has his Department worked out the overall job shortfall during those two periods?

My hon. Friend authentically speaks for his own area, and I accept that the passion in his voice and question genuinely speaks for his own people. The Ebbw Vale decision is forced upon us partly by the limit of capacity and the state of the blast furnaces, and that position has made it exceptionally difficult for my noble Friend in undertaking his review. The Government are, as my hon. Friend will have read from the statement, taking special measures which include the announcement today of a £12·6 million programme of factory development, land clearance, water and sewerage. The chairman of the BSC is also making a statement today about jobs that will be available on a tide-over basis, and my hon. Friend should not forget that there is development in Ebbw Vale on the tinplate side.

I must not seek to conceal from the House that the Ebbw Vale problem, particularly in the interim, is one of legitimate concern to those who live there, to hon. Members who represent the area and to the House. But, as the statement happens to correspond with the publication of the Industry Bill, it will not have escaped the notice of my hon. Friend that the National Enterprise Board, with considerable resources at its disposal, will have as one of its prime concerns the creation of jobs in areas of unemployment.

May I take the opportunity of telling the right hon. Gentleman that there is great appreciation for the way in which Lord Beswick carried out his difficult task?

Is the Secretary of State aware that the initial feeling of relief in North Wales will shortly give way to the deep anxiety born of uncertainty? Is he satisfied that steelmaking can continue at Shotton until 1981 with the existing open-hearth furnaces? Is not a massive capital investment necessary now if steelmaking is to continue at Shotton for a further five years?

The hon. Gentleman will recall the proposed fate of Shotton under the Conservative White Paper. I am grateful to him for recognising that my noble Friend Lord Beswick, in considering carefully the proposals put forward by the Shotton workers, has come out with a solution that may prolong the uncertainty, but uncertainty may be better than a certain closure in an area with difficult prospects for new jobs and close to Merseyside, where the chronic problem of unemployment is of concern on many grounds.

We recognise that in coming forward with final conclusions about Shotton we have to take into account the point made by the hon. Gentleman about the demand for fresh investment and to set it against other similarly unresolved matters about investment elsewhere. I think that what I have been able to say will go some way to reassure the people at Shotton.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the communities which will benefit from his announcement appreciate the urgency with which the noble Lord has carried out the review? Is my right hon. Friend aware that his announcement has brought substantial relief to Hartlepool? The considerable investment proposed for the tube mills is welcome. Nevertheless, the deferment of iron and steel production carries with it a degree of uncertainty, and uncertainty is not good for a plant unit of this size. Is my right hon. Friend's Department willing to receive further representations to enable a more permanent solution for Hartlepool to be reached?

I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friend for being generous about the review and the way it was conducted, because it has not met everyone's point of view.

The plate mill decision has been deferred. There will, however, be jobs at Redcar, Lackenby, while the pipe mill investment of, I think, £25 million will bring special employment prospects. Meanwhile, there is to be a deferment until 1978 of the closures that had been anticipated. I feel sure that the Steel Corporation, myself and my noble Friend would be ready to continue to develop the relationship of trust and confidence we sought to build up during the review.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that these decisions will in no way prejudice the future and fullest development of the Scottish steel industry?

That is said both in the statement I have circulated and in the statement I made this afternoon. I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity of repeating that.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that it is clear that both he and the noble Lord have made a real effort to minimise redundancies arising from the steel programme? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the steel workers to whom I have spoken in Scotland accept his assurance that nothing said today will prejudice consideration of the future of the Scottish steel industry? Is he further aware that his request to the corporation to accept responsibility for the provision of new jobs to replace jobs lost in redundancies marks a major innovation for the public sector? Does he realise that we look forward to seeing how this policy will be worked out in a Scottish context?

I repeat what I said to the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) about Scotland. My noble Friend will be visiting Scotland with the Prime Minister. He has done his first round of meetings carefully. We thought it right not to delay the interim statement until we had the whole picture, because it was not necessary and would have prolonged the uncertainty. As for the proposal made in my statement about the BSC assuming a wider responsibility, I am glad, but not surprised, that my hon. Friend has welcomed this, because he played a notable part in urging such a policy upon it. I hope that, having got so far, he will continue to press this and have it more fully examined.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I welcome any extension of steelmaking in the capital city of Cardiff? Does he accept that, without significant investment, there is a danger that the East Moors work force will cease to be viable by 1980?

The East Moors position—and I acknowledged this in my statement—represents a deferment. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government have also made Cardiff a development area and doubled the regional employment premium. This statement must not, therefore, be seen in isolation. The statement I have made about East Moors and its future is still, as with these other closures, subject to replacement capacity. I hope that the fact that about 4,600 people have been granted a further deferment will make the problems of adjustment, which I do not underestimate, at any rate easier.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the greater proportion of his statement puts off closures for periods of two to four years, rather than cancelling them? Can he say whether during that period the Government are prepared to have consultations with all workers in the industry rather than the trade union movement in the industry, since it is a fact that the directors of the Steel Corporation refused to negotiate with the workers' committee at Shotton, as opposed to the trade union movement there—and I am prepared to produce letters from the corporation to that effect? Furthermore, if the Government are to consider possibilities for retraining in these places may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered the possibility of the corporation obtaining grants from the EEC to help towards that end?

The provision for such help is there; I introduced the order which made it possible. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying, and I made this clear, that one of the results of the review has been to produce deferments. Deferment is important in that it gives time to create new jobs. Nothing has done more damage to the reputation of any industry than the idea that men are in some sense disposable.

The hon. Gentleman has done less than justice to the way in which my noble Friend conducted the review. It is true that there were problems at an early stage between the Shotton or Shelton action committees and the British Steel Corporation. There were certain problems associated with linking these consultations with the trade union movement at official level. These problems were all overcome at the tripartite meetings we had at the beginning when it was agreed—my noble Friend followed this—that there would be tripartite discussions with the BSC and the TUC steel committee at national level and discussions with Members of Parliament at every level in every area. The action committees were specially marshalled together with local authorities so that any problem of dignity or propriety in a trade union sense was overcome to allow these action committees to play their proper part with the local authorities in whose area they operated. This is a remarkable example of flexibility in consultation.

As a member of the Shelton Steelworks Action Committee for the past three years, five months and two days, may I thank my right hon. Friend for setting up this review? May I also congratulate him, as others have done by implication, on the choice of his noble Friend to undertake the details of the review? Is he aware that Lord Beswick combined, in the opinion of everyone who met him, a wonderful compassion and an analytical quality of mind that was most impressive? May I assure my right hon. Friend that we are grateful for this review and say that from Shelton we give the assurance that we will continue to be a highly profitable centre of strike-free production?

May I ask whether there is any time scale fixed for the investment in the new arc furnaces? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the quality of the work done by the Shelton Action Committee and others is impressive support for his thesis that it is time that workers played a much more active part in management?

I cannot answer the specific question about the timing of the electric arc furnaces. I will find out this afternoon and send a message to my hon. Friend. I am grateful to him for his tribute to my noble Friend, who has worked hard on this and has impressed everyone with whom he has dealt. If he were in my place now he would wish to express the words of appreciation I now express to the people at Shelton, Shotton and other places where the quality and constructive nature of their contributions to the future of the industry in which they work made a deep and lasting impression on those who met them, as I did during my years of opposition, when they came to the House. This certainly shows that we ought to be making greater use throughout industry of that constructive spirit wherever we can do so.

Order. This period is coming out of the time allotted to an important debate. I would ask hon. Members not to put questions which can be tabled in the ordinary way and, if they can, to refrain from general observations of a complimentary nature or otherwise.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House give qualified welcome regarding Shotton and East Moors but view with dismay the future of Ebbw Vale? On East Moors and Shotton, will he say whether the Government will come to as early a decision as possible, and, in the interim, does he expect the work force to dwindle as difficulty in recruitment arises? In regard to Ebbw Vale, will he give an absolute assurance that the proposals made by the Welsh Council were taken into consideration and that they will be published in due course? Will he give an assurance that alternative jobs are now definitely on the cards and are not something at the end of a rather uncertain pipeline?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales says that the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers will be published. As for the position of East Moors and Shotton, the situation of the two cases is slightly different because Shotton is subject to further review, whereas in the case of East Moors we are discussing a deferment. I wish I could say—and no doubt this applies to every Minister—that every job that goes will be replaced by another job. That is not the case. I express, and I must repeat, that there is anxiety about the short-term position, even though the BSC and the Government have done everything they possibly can to meet the problems concerning the workers involved. We shall keep closely in touch with them during that period.

Does my right hon. Friend recall that on Teesside we have already suffered under the Conservative Government redundancies at least equal to most redundancies even foreshadowed in the previous proposals? In return for the acceptance by the workers on Teesside and their unions of those redundancies as part of the price of technological change, will he now give the go-ahead for full development at Redcar?

I cannot this afternoon go beyond what has been said about the Redcar developments which were announced some time ago. But I recognise that on Teesside, as in many other steel and heavy engineering areas, there has been a rundown over a period, and even with new job creation—and there are a large number of jobs for men in prospect in the area—this gives some people the feeling that we are running up a down escalator. But I assure my hon. Friend that what has been decided is designed to minimise loss of jobs, deferring where possible, and we are bringing in new instruments, including the National Enterprise Board, with these problems very much in mind.

What will be the cost to the taxpayer of the short-term deferment of the closures announced by the Secretary of State?

I cannot give the figure because the details of the Conservative Government's proposals for closures were themselves not realistic in the interests of the steel industry. The steel industry has not been producing steel at the rate required, and had these closures not been deferred there would have been a shortage of steel. Therefore, there is a gain to the economy as a whole by the measures which I have announced today. That factor also should be taken into account. We should also take into account the cost of paying people to do nothing, which does not make sense if one can possibly avoid it.

In arriving at the figure of 37 million tonnes for 1980, will the Secretary of State tell the House to what extent account was taken of the successful energy conservation campaign, which would ultimately have had an effect on the amount of shipping required, the size of motor vehicle, and the demand for plate, strip and sheet in the years that lie ahead?

I said that the target at the highest rate of acceleration was realistic in certain circumstances, but the hon. Gentleman will know that I am not, and am not purporting to be, the management of the BSC. There are many variables, such as the development of North Sea oil, energy conservation and the effect of the level of world trade on domestic and international markets for steel. The BSC board must take account of those matters as best it can.

The right hon. Gentleman made a statement about the deferment of closures in at least six areas of the steel industry. This has been essentially a social statement. Will he say what is the view of the British Steel Corporation about deferment of an economic regeneration in the steel industry?

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, he has got it all absolutely wrong. The fact is that we have managed to combine a deferment of closures with an equal development of BSC investment strategy, which has not been delayed in any sense. What is remarkable about my noble Friend's achievement is that he has been able to authorise the developments of coke ovens at Port Talbot and Redcar without its affecting his capacity to look at these particular closures. Therefore, although we have had to balance the long-term investment and expansion needs of the industry with social responsibilities, my noble Friend has found a solution that meets the needs of both. That is the achievement of the review.

No matter what assurances are given in the House today, is my right hon. Friend aware that nobody in Scotland will accept that the changes which are proposed today will have other than a detrimental effect on the future of the Scottish steel industry? Today's statement in the present political climate in Scotland is a political diaster.

My hon. Friend says that nobody in Scotland will accept it, but it depends on what he and other hon. Friends say in Scotland. If he and other of my hon. Friends leave the House today and say that what has been done will pre-empt the Scottish closure review, he will be accidentally misleading his fellow Scots, because my noble Friend who undertook the review did so against exactly the same background of initial cynicism that this was just a public relations exercise. I heard that said by many people in the first few weeks. It was not the case. The review I have announced today was not a public relations exercise. Hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones), the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, and other Ministers, who have not been able to make public comment inside or outside the Government, have made powerful arguments that have been reflected in the review. What is thought in Scotland tomorrow may depend more on what my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) says than on what I myself say.

In that case will the right hon. Gentleman reconcile the assurances about the Scottish steel industry which he gave to the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Dr. Bray) and the right hon. Member for Renfrewshire, East (Miss Harvie Anderson) with the statement made to me in a letter by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in which the Prime Minister said that he accepted that redundancies in the Scottish steel industry were inevitable?

Nobody, least of all I myself, has ever said that as a result of revised strategy one can avoid some change in the structure of industry. [Interruption.] We have never said that one can modernise a steel industry which had been denied investment which it needed for years without some human consequences. What we have to do is to reconcile the need for a go-ahead modernised steel industry with a proper sense of social responsibility and the development of instruments which should allow people to find other work. We shall do that in Scotland as we shall do it in England and Wales.

Will the Secretary of State accept that it is not sufficient to say that the Scottish steel industry is being considered? Will he accept that what is needed in Scotland is an integrated steel industry which does not merely form a part of the BSC but is geared to needs of Scotland itself?

I accept—I know enough about Scotland to know—that these feelings are acutely held by the Scots, and particularly by Scottish steelworkers. It would be a great tragedy if Scottish steelworkers were pitted against English and Welsh steelworkers. In the long run the future of those who work in the steel industry in Scotland, Wales and England and their security depend on a modernised steel industry. I believe that what we are seeking to achieve will combine all this with a proper interest in a vigorous modernised industry in Scotland.

The right hon. Gentleman said that 13,500 jobs were to be saved. Will he give the House his revised estimate of redundancies in the next five years? On the general question of redundancies, will he take the opportunity to pay tribute to the BSC management, which throughout the original proposals and these proposals have put forward views which it thought were in the best interests of all its work force in the long term? Finally, will he confirm that the BSC has already been carrying out considerable work on site clearance and other activities which provide opportunities for commercial interests to offer alternative employment opportunities? Is not the right hon. Gentleman's reference to Government initiatives in this matter a public relations exercise?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman spoilt his supplementary question, for I certainly agree with him in paying tribute to the BSC. The board's members put forward the management point of view as to what they thought should be done. I have never criticised them, and never complained that they put their views. But where so many jobs are at stake and where an industry's future is under discussion, the accountability to Parliament and to Members of Parliament of those who work in the industry is right and proper.

I cannot forecast the exact pattern of employment, because this is an interim report. It hinges on other matters which are not yet absolutely resolved. But the hon. Gentleman would be doing a grave disservice, even to the steel industry, if he were to imply that what has been announced today is the result merely of a public relations exercise. That is not true, as the figures show. Very large numbers of jobs are being kept open long enough, at any rate, to ensure that alternative job opportunities can be created, and some reversal of existing policy has been brought about.

I call the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) a second time, reluctantly, for one question.

Mr. Speaker, the question has been asked three times but it has not yet been answered: how many jobs are to be lost in the British steel industry over the next five years?

I have answered the question many times. This is an interim report. I cannot answer questions about the next five years until the review is completed and until the Scottish position has been examined, as I have said many times.

Following is the report:


Interim Report by Lord Beswick, Minister of State, Department of Industry

In statements on 23rd May the Secretary of State for Industry and I announced the procedures we had agreed with the British Steel Corporation and the TUC Steel Committee for conducting the review of the proposed closures of steelworks which we had promised in the Labour Party's Programme for Britain: 1973.

2. Last year we accepted the Corporation's proposals for Stanton and Irlam as their arrangements for closure were already very far advanced. At Workington, with the closure of Bessemer steelmaking, the Corporation gave me assurances that the plant had a long-term future as one of their major centres of rail-making and that the coke ovens would be fully maintained pending decisions on their long-term future.

3. I have now completed my review of the Corporation's proposed closures of Ebbw Vale, East Moors, Hartlepool iron and steelmaking, Cleveland ironmaking and Shelton, but have decided that further study is needed of the proposed closure at Shotton. My review has not covered Bilston since the Corporation have put forward no proposals for closure there. Consultations on the BSC's development strategy in Scotland and their proposals for Hartlepool and Consett plate mills continue. The workforces concerned rightly wish to have further opportunity to present alternative proposals and this will take more time. To reduce uncertainty as much as possible I make this report to Parliament on the position now reached. Nothing announced today will adversely affect the review of the BSC's proposals for Scotland or of unfinished cases elsewhere.

4. In each case covered by the Report, I have held tripartite meetings with the BSC and the TUC Steel Industry Consultative Committee together with local representatives of the workers from each plant. I have met with the constituency Members of Parliament, with local authorities and other interested parties, and have visited each plant and had further discussions with the workers involved. I have been given every help and assistance by the Corporation, and I have been immensely pressed by the positive and constructive attitude of management, trade unions and indeed workers at all levels.

5. The review has been principally concerned to help the development of a successful and expanding steel industry, essential for the country as a whole and for all those who work in the steel industry, both providing the best prospects of long term employment for steelworkers and reducing to a minimum the disturbance to the life and livelihood of steelworkers and their communities.

6. We have considered the BSC's capacity "target" announced in the Command Paper 5226 of February 1973 to see if a higher target would help to save more of the plants the BSC propose to close. That target was equivalent to 35 to 37 million tonnes of liquid steel (after adjustment for developments in 1973). The Corporation now propose to accelerate their development strategy and to achieve 37 million tonnes a year in the early 1980s. Our present conclusion is that this is as high as can be realistically expected given the market possibilities and the time inevitably taken in planning and construction.

7. We have already agreed that the Corporation should go ahead with the £210 million Redcar IIB iron and steelmaking project, and we have welcomed BSC's plans for expanding stainless steel capacity at a cost of some £60 million. My report today will enable the BSC to proceed with the proposed expansion of billet making at Normanby Park and Consett. The Corporation submitted to us very recently a proposal for the construction of new coke ovens and coal-handling plant at Port Talbot at a cost of £64 million. We have now agreed to this. The Corporation have just submitted proposals for further expansion at Port Talbot, and these will be urgently examined. There is no doubt that further substantial investment at Port Talbot will be needed.

8. In the case of East Moors, I have looked carefully at the various proposals ably put forward by the workforce as a means of saving the plant by modernisation. After making every allowance for transport costs, other advantages of close proximity to customers, the effects of the rescheduling of Cardiff as a development area, and the benefits offered by the submerged injection process, we have reluctantly concluded that significant investment cannot be justified. However, in the light of the review, the BSC now propose that the closure, initially set for not earlier than January 1976, should be deferred until not earlier than January 1980. Even this must remain subject to the proviso that adequate supplies of steel of the right qualities are available then from BSC developments elsewhere for processing by GKN in Cardiff in conjunction with the 400,000 tonnes per annum electric arc plant which GKN are now building there. Meanwhile, the deferment we have sought will give us more time to work out new plans for alternative employment.

9. At Hartlepool, BSC now accept that, in the light of the review, the closure of iron and steelmaking, initially set for 1975–76, be deferred at least until 1978. We cannot justify major new investment in steelmaking at Hartlepool, but steelmaking there will continue for at least two extra years and any closure then would still be subject to the proviso that adequate replacement iron and steel are available by then from Redcar/Lackenby.

10. About 24,000 jobs in steel will still remain in the Cleveland area. BSC propose to invest some £25 million in developing the two existing pipe mills at Hartlepool so as to produce a greater range of pipes and also higher specifications to meet North Sea oil requirements. This should provide some 200–250 new job opportunities. The deferment now agreed will provide more time to work out new plans for alternative employment. The Corporation's own plans provide for substantial recruitment at South Teesside in the next four years. The Government will study urgently how the daily travel facilities from Hartlepool to Redcar can be improved so as to facilitate Hartlepool steelworkers taking up employment at Redcar.

11. BSC propose to close some old iron-making plant at the Cleveland works over the period 1975–78 but there will be every opportunity for workers at the plant to take up employment at BSC Redcar and on that basis the proposals are acceptable.

12. On Shelton, BSC have reconsidered their plans in the light of all the representations made during the course of the review. The Corporation now propose to construct an electric arc steelmaking plant with a capacity of up to 350,000 tonnes a year to replace the existing iron and steelmaking plant. This will feed the existing continuous-casting plant; will ensure a long term future for steelmaking at Shelton; will preserve approximately 800 jobs which would otherwise have been lost; and, I am confident, will be welcomed by the workforce and the local authorities.

13. In the case of Shotton, I have carefully considered the BSC proposals in the light of the informed and thoroughly documented representations made by the workers, local authorities and other interested parties. At Shotton as at other traditional steelmaking centres there is a valuable heritage of a skilled and loyal workforce, and potential for development there must if at all possible be utilised. I consider that further study is needed of the economics of modernised steelmaking at Shotton and its implications for BSC's proposals elsewhere and this study has now been put in hand. The Corporation have meanwhile agreed to defer their proposed date for the closure of iron and steelmaking to 1980–81. In the meantime work is going ahead on developing the finishing plant at Shotton. A highly modern cold-reduction mill is now commissioned there, and work is under way on a £30 million coating complex. Further expansion in finishing is now being studied.

14. My review has convinced me that we cannot justify large new investment in iron and steelmaking at Ebbw Vale. Representatives of the workforce there put their case with as much force and skill and determination as the spokesmen of the other plants, and it is doubtless these qualities and the great tradition of steelmaking at Ebbw Vale which has kept the plant operating a decade beyond what might have been considered viable. But the limited capacity of the plant itself compels me to conclude that we must accept the closure dates of 1975–77 proposed by the BSC for different sections of iron and steelmaking there. The hot mill must also close eventually, but the closure date now proposed by BSC for 1978–79 must be dependent on adequate supplies of hot rolled coil for processing at Ebbw Vale becoming clearly available from other plants. Ebbw Vale is already an important tinplate works and the Corporation are committed to a programme of far reaching modernisation. Work is under way on a £40 million development scheme, and the Corporation plan to follow this as soon as possible with a second stage development, incorporating modern cold reduction facilities, to cost at least £30 million. These projects, together with developments at the Corporation's other Welsh tinplate works, should ensure for the Principality a position of pre-eminence in the world's tinplate industry.

15. Since the closure is imminent in iron and steelmaking at Ebbw Vale, it should be possible for both the Government and the Corporation to concentrate immediate efforts here to secure the establishment of more diversified employment alongside the development of the tinplate complex. Discussions with the Chairman of the Corporation about detailed phasing of redundancies and the provision of new jobs have already begun. In Ebbw Vale as elsewhere, of course, the services of the Manpower Services Commission and its agencies will be available and eager to help. However, the Ebbw Vale decision creates a situation which will demand the fullest co-operation of the Corporation with the Government to demonstrate that this challenge to our ability to combine social responsibility with the modernisation programme will be properly met. Special provision is to be made by the Corporation for alternative employment at the plant itself during these critical twelve months ahead, but the responsibility of the Corporation to give direct assistance with the provision of new jobs, including direct participation in individual projects, will be a continuing one. In addition the Government will play its part by putting into effect other measures to assist in the provision of new employment and to improve infrastructure. £12·6 million will be spent on factory building, clearance of derelict land, water and sewerage schemes and assistance to local authorities for the preparation of industrial sites.

16. It is the policy of the Government to ensure that everything possible is done to pro-

Cases considered

Number of job opportunities involved

Original proposed date of closure


Shotton (Iron and steelmaking and hot rolling).6,000Phased closure 1976–78Further study needed of economics of new steel plant. Meanwhile BSC defer their proposed closure date to 1980–81. Development of finishing plant, saving 500 jobs or more.
Shelton (Iron and steelmaking)1,7001976New electric arc plant to be built with saving of approximately 800 jobs.
East Moors (Total plant closure)4,700Not before January 1976Closure deferred to not before January 1980.
Ebbw Vale (Blast furnaces, steel plant and slabbing mill).3,3001975–77BSC proposal agreed. Further development of tin plating.
Ebbw Vale (Hot strip mill)1,3001978–79Closure to be dependent on adequate supplies becoming clearly available from elsewhere.
Hartlepool (Coke ovens, sinter plant, blast furnaces, steel plant and slabbing mill).2,8001975–76Closure deferred to 1978 at earliest, Pipe mills to be developed.
South Teesside—Cleveland Works(Coke ovens, sinter plant and blast furnace).1,4001975–78No change to BSC proposals given new job opportunities at Redcar.

vide alternative employment in areas affected. We have also decided to ask the Corporation to accept a special responsibility both in the phasing of redundancies and, to as great an extent as possible, for the provision of new job opportunities in steel-related and other projects. This latter concept, which we hope Parliament will welcome, needs to be examined and discussed more fully but it could introduce a new dimension into redundancy problems in the public sector.

17. The Government have, of course, been considering other measures to assist the provision of new employment and to improve infrastructure in the areas affected. Much has been done, or is already in hand, including the generous use of selective assistance under Section 7 of the Industry Act, factory building, derelict land clearance, road schemes and accelerated clearance of unfit housing. Further measures which we are considering include site and factory provision in all areas, help to local authorities in site preparation, improved roads, and assistance with water and sewerage schemes. The deferments in proposed closure dates will provide more time for this work to be done.

18. This interim report on the Government's review of the BSC strategy will, I hope, be acceptable to those who work in the industry and to Parliament. It represents the first results of the most extensive and open examination of the plans for a Public Corporation, requiring it to justify its proposals in detail in the light of its social responsibilites. The outcome, so far, preserves some 13,500 jobs for two to four years or more through deferments of proposed closures at East Moors, Hartlepool and Shotton, saves approximately 800 jobs permanently at Shelton and leaves the future of steelmaking at Shotton for further consideration. Moreover, the rôle of the BSC in creating new job opportunities to replace jobs to be phased out constitutes an important development in thinking about the rôle of public enterprise.

Bill Presented

Disablement Commissioner Bill

Mr. Lewis Carter-Jones, supported by Mrs. Lynda Chalker, Mr. Ivor Clemitson, Mr. Ioan Evans, Mr. John Hannam, Mr. Neil Marten, Mr. Cyril Smith, Mr. Donald Stewart, and Mr. Dafydd Thomas, presented a Bill to increase the powers of the Secretary of State in respect of a local authority which is in default of its duties under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Acts 1970: and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 11th July, and to be printed. [Bill 72.]

Statutory Instruments


That the draft International Cocoa Organisation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1975 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments.—[Mr. John Ellis.]

Health And Safety At Work (Amendment)

4.15 p.m.

I beg to move

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Health and Safety at Work &c. Act 1974 so as to ensure that no provisions of that Act shall in any way remove, reduce or limit the application of any provisions, in force at the commencement of that Act, imposing absolute liability in respect of health and safety at work.
This is a one-clause Bill which seeks only to clarify and to improve the Health and Safety at Work Act. Health and safety legislation needs to be strictly applied in view of the appalling loss of life and limb which goes on year after year in industry. I know that hon. Members are gravely concerned at this daily level of violence in industry, especially hon. Members in opposition, because every time an hon. Member on this side of the House mentions the Shrewsbury pickets many hon. Members on the Tory benches become purple and speak about violence used in picketing, although no violence was involved in the convictions against the Shrewsbury two.

I am certain, therefore, that the violence in industry which caused 920 death in 1971, 862 in 1972 and 895 in 1973 and which annually results in between 17 million and 20 million days' lost production—far greater than any such loss due to strike action—is a cause for great concern on all sides. Over the years various Acts have been passed by this House in an attempt to require industry to become safer. The Mines and Quarries Act 1954 and the Factories Act 1961 are two of the most important. However, the Health and Safety at Work Act gives powers to a Minister to modify and repeal, either in part or in whole, every Act affecting work in industry and mining, from the Explosives Act, 1875 to the Employment Medical Advisory Service Act, 1972.

Part I of the Health and Safety at Work Act empowers the Minister to make regulations and to approve codes of practice progressively to replace virtually the whole of existing legislation. Nobody would object to a tidying-up of the existing laws, but what is greatly feared is that a Minister, acting with the best of intentions, would replace some important section of an Act which imposes an absolute safety obligation, such as Section 14 of the Factories Act, 1961, with a code of practice or a weaker regulation. Such a move would be entirely within Part I of the Health and Safety at Work Act which provides that the regulations and codes of practice will be
"designed to maintain and improve the standards of health safety and welfare …"
Clearly, no Minister would produce codes designed to lower standards, but the substitution of a code of practice, for an absolute obligation might have that effect no matter how virtuous the design.

Consequently, my Bill will clarify this needlessly obscure position. It states:
"Nothing in the principal Act shall permit the Secretary of State to remove or limit the application of the provisions imposing absolute liability contained in any of the relevant statutory provisions or any regulations, orders or other instruments made thereunder."
The Health and Safety at Work Act contains yet more differences. The section setting out the general duties of an employer with regard to safety and health contains the words
"so far as is reasonably practicable"
some 14 times, and it is of some concern that these general duties might be regarded as superseding the absolute provisions of, say, Section 14 of the Factories Act, 1961, under which dangerous machinery has to be guarded. The words "reasonably practicable" have been held to imply a calculation of the cost of protection against the danger to a worker. They place a price on safety and a price on life. Those same words,
"so far as is reasonably practicable"
occurred many times in the Mines and Quarries Bill. Labour Members fought successfully to get them excluded. The same struggle occurred during the Committee stage of what was to become the Factories Act, 1961.

It would be an ironic quirk if the high standards of safety in those two Acts were reduced as a result of some judicial decision arising from the Health and Safety at Work Act which applied the words
"so far as is reasonably practicable"
across the board. Such a decision would also apply to Section 1 of the Mines and Quarries (Tips) Act 1969. This prosaic title hides an event that deeply shocked our nation when one horrible morning a tip slid down a hill and buried a school, and the name "Aberfan" became a synonym for tragedy. The Act that was subsequently passed did not say that "Tips shall be made and kept secure so far as is reasonably practicable." It said simply,
"Every tip to which this Part of this Act applies shall be made and kept secure."
It imposed an absolute duty, because the death and tragedy of Aberfan allowed for nothing less.

Death in industry is not so stark and dramatic, but the figures are grim enough. In almost every newspaper, tucked away in a corner, is a report of a trench falling in, some machinery slipping or an explosion. Sometimes there is a huge explosion, as a Flixborough, where we are led to understand a by-pass pipe was connected that was apparently safe "so far as reasonably practicable".

Whenever there is a demand for legislative improvement there are dramatic arguments against it. In the Mines and Quarries Bill it was said that if the words
"so far as is reasonably practicable"
were excluded, the National Coal Board members would have personally to inspect every safety device and would face imprisonment for breach. To date this has not happened. No National Coal Board members have been sent to gaol, at least not for breaches of safety regulations.

The Minister concerned with the Health and Safety at Work Act said that to preserve the absolute provisions of the Mines and Quarries Act and the Factories Act would defeat the whole spirit and purpose of the Act by making it difficult and legally risky to rationalise, up-date and improve on existing legislation. What utter nonsense! The attitude of the Minister, combined with the hitherto inert attitude of the factory inspectorate in prosecuting for breaches, makes it even more important to pass my Bill. The view of those experienced in industrial law differs from that of that Minister.

A solicitor who has been concerned with a large number of asbestosis cases in the North of England and has much practical legal experience has written to me as follows:
"I am a solicitor. I act for trade union members who have accidents at work. May I ask you to consider a point on the Health and Safety at Work Bill? Could the Government make it clear that absolute duties in forthcoming safety regulations will not be ultra vires in the light of the 'reasonably practicable' provisions in Clause 2? Absolute duties do more for safety than qualified duties. They also make it easier to get compensation for the injured.
"I fear that future regulations will be like the recent abrasive wheels regulations, which substitute for the Factories Act, 1961. They replace the absolute duty to guard grindstones (Section 14) by a qualified duty. It is harder now to get compensation for men injured on such wheels. I suspect it is more difficult for factory inspectors to prosecute.
"If future regulations require occupiers to do no more than is reasonably practicable there will be a step backwards for workers in industry.
"I have had some experience of conditions endured by constituents of yours in Keighley who work in the foundries there. In my view they and the Factory Inspectorate need all the help they can get. Their employers should be kept in line by absolute duties not qualified ones."
In my view, it is important to retain at least those sections of our laws imposing absolute duties and to prevent any watering down. I hope that the House will endorse this Bill and so ensure that the trade union movement and the mass of working people, which is growing increasingly aware of the weaknesses as well as the strengths of the Health and Safety at Work Act, can see that some action to improve the legislation is being undertaken by this House, hopefully, with the endorsement of the Government.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bob Cryer, Mr. Richard Kelley, Mr. Dennis Skinner, Mrs. Audrey Wise, Mr. Peter Snape, Mr. John Golding, Mr. Max Madden, Mr. Caerwyn E. Roderick, Mr. Geoff Edge, Mr. Alexander Wilson, Mr. Andrew F. Bennett and Mr. Bryan Davies.

Health And Safety At Work (Amendment)

Mr. Bob Cryer accordingly presented a Bill to amend the Health and Safety at Work &c. Act 1974 so as to ensure that no provisions of that Act shall in any way remove, reduce or limit the applica- tion of any provisions, in force at the commencement of that Act, imposing absolute liability in respect of health and safety at work: and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 21st February; and to be printed. [Bill 75.]


Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. John Ellis.]

Before I call the Secretary of State for Wales, I want to point out to the House that there were only 12 back-bench speeches yesterday. Five of these lasted over 20 minutes, two were 19 minutes long and two were 18 minutes long.

I wish very much that I had added to my discretions one to impose a time limit, at least for part of a debate. I hope very much that today hon. Members will not follow the example, if I may say so, of the Leader of Plaid Cymru, who spoke for 28 minutes yesterday, while he and his hon. Friends made seven interruptions in other speeches. Their chances are not very high today. I ask hon. Members to try to aim at speeches lasting for 10 to 12 minutes.

Order. I can anticipate the hon. Lady. The Leader of the Scottish National Party was very good. He spoke for only 11 minutes, so do not spoil it, please.

4.31 p.m.

Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council said that he would be listening with great interest to what right hon. and hon. Members had to say. I, too, have been listening to the debate with the greatest attention. Of one thing there can be no doubt—the importance that the Government have attached to the whole subject of devolution, and as a member of the Government there is no need for me to tell the House the importance that I myself attach to it.

Not unnaturally, the interest of individual Members will vary, but, not unexpectedly at this time, a much greater interest will be shown among my fellow Members from the Principality and Members from Scotland. But those concerned as Ministers in the work of furthering the Government's ideas on devolution, in putting flesh on the bones, in turning ideas and aspirations into hard legislative proposals, will carefully listen to what all right hon. and hon. Members have to say.

My personal commitment is well known. I take pride in the steps that Labour Governments have taken in bringing government closer to the people. It was a Labour Government who appointed the first Secretary of State for Wales. Last year, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Welsh Office. Its powers have grown under two different administrations. Those who scoffed ten years ago now acknowledge its success. No one wants to turn the clock back—that was the message, loud and clear, during last summer.

We also take pride in having appointed the Royal Commission on the Constitution, and it will be a Labour Government, dedicated to democratising the whole machinery of government, to bringing government and decision making closer to the people, who will advance further along the path we then started to tread. We have a twofold aim. There is the need to ensure that the peoples of Wales and Scotland are able to have a decisive voice in their own domestic affairs, and at the same time it is essential to preserve the political and economic unity of the United Kingdom.

It was interesting at the last General Election to note that those who were most strident in Wales in shouting at the hustings, "Implement Kilbrandon" were separatists who wanted to tear apart the bonds which welded us together, a number of different nations, into one country. Yet the Kilbrandon Report never, in any of its proposals, countenanced separatism or even federalism.

In the debates since the report was published, we must distinguish between those who sincerely advocate different forms of devolution and those whose commitment is to separatism, which is the negation of the whole thesis of Kilbrandon. Whatever one would propose would always be criticised by some as a step short of the next stage.

I do not believe that in Wales there is any significant demand for separatism or even federalism. Certainly, in my long consultations throughout last summer, it did not manifest itself to me. I believe, however, that there is a genuine demand to change our pattern of government in Wales so as to bring the process of decision making closer to the ordinary people who are affected by it. Democratic control over the institutions that govern us must be extended.

Wales and Scotland are both proud nations. We have maintained our national identities. The centuries have not dimmed them. Indeed, the feeling of belonging together has strengthened in the face of the storms which have been weathered. Who would have dared to prophesy at the beginning of the century, with two world wars to fight, that this would be so? Whether it be a village settlement, a long-established industrial community or a nation, one does not lightly throw aside the sense of community which can be such a firm foundation for the building of a new governmental structure.

What we are considering will necessarily have far-reaching consequences for the United Kingdom. The fact that solutions may be novel does not in my view constitute an argument against them. Novelty and innovation have never been regarded as obstacles to reform on this side of the House. What is important is that we adopt solutions which are the right ones—the solutions which are expected by the majority of our peoples in Wales and Scotland, the solutions that will ensure the fulfilment at the outset of our twin aims of unity and greater democracy.

I turn now to the question of the timetable. I appreciate that many hon. Members are anxious for us to move ahead with all possible speed. In the face of what we have done already since taking office, no one can seriously contend that we are hanging back. A great deal of work is already in hand and a great deal of ground has been covered.

Immediately following the last General Election, I set up a new devolution division to strengthen and co-ordinate work on the subject within my Department. At the same time, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands), undertook special responsibility within the Welsh Office for devolution matters. Our aim is to bring the proposals before Parliament as quickly as possible, but our first priority must be that of getting the right answers to problems of the greatest magnitude and complexity.

In our White Paper, we proposed forms of devolution different in some respects for Wales and for Scotland. In making these distinctive proposals, we recognise that the two countries have different historical backgrounds, distinctive existing governmental structures, and different systems of law. We do not feel that what is right for one country must be copied slavishly in the other. I believe that we know what we want in Wales, and we want to get on with it.

There have been calls for the same kind of devolution to be adopted for the Principality as that proposed for Scotland, but I am more concerned with the substance of devolution than the form which it takes. I am more concerned that the end product should be suitable, stable and fully acceptable government in Wales. What we do now must satisfy and must be done in such a way that it will endure. Acceptability is therefore vital. It is essential that, when the Welsh Assembly begins to function, it should do so not against a background of petty criticism but with the support of the ordinary people of Wales.

The House will be aware that I am not attracted to the devolution of primary legislative powers to the Welsh Assembly. There is, first of all, no general demand for it. Indeed, many would be deeply opposed. Many of the legislative needs of Wales and England are often identical and usually similar. The broad pattern of legislation has served us well. I am not attracted to having a difference for difference's sake. It is important that what we devise for Wales fulfils the objective of devolving real executive powers—that is, powers of policy making—as well as that of putting these policies into operation. I believe that what we propose meets that objective.

Concerning the demand for legislative functions for the Welsh Assembly, if there is no demand in Wales, on what basis does the right hon. and learned Gentleman base the demand in Scotland—on the vote of the Scottish National Party in Scotland? Secondly, when it is said that Scotland has its own legal system, is it not the case that over the two and a half centuries since Scotland and England united, that fact has not led to a separate Assembly? Is it not the case that it is the substance of legislation that matters and not the colour of the ink in which it is written?

The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the Scots already have their own form of lawmaking which takes place in this House. If he speaks of a demand, he knows that his party's vote has gone down in three General Elections from 175,000 to 166,000 now. I commend these words for his consideration, if no more:

"Initially, the exact powers of the assembly are not vitally important. They can be adjusted according to the needs of the time and the wishes of the people of Wales. The important thing is to get an elected assembly established without delay."
That is a quotation from the Welsh Nationalist leaflet in February 1974. I find it odd to hear now the carping criticism of what we seek to do.

I am seeking to put before the House policies that will be accepted and effective. There are those who now seek to denigrate executive devolution. They denigrated the establishment of the Welsh Office and they sneered—I recall those sneers—at the setting up of the Kilbrandon Commission. They also fail to recognise that executive devolution is bold and radical with Westminster yielding enormous powers of policy making and implementation to a directly elected Welsh Assembly.

Although as Secretary of State my decisions occasionally involve legislative action, the overwhelming proportion of them involve the exercise of executive powers. I make crucial decisions over the allocation of resources available to me for the development of our schools, roads, health service and housing. I do so through executive decisions. No one has suggested that I do not have power and major responsibility in these areas that matter so much to our people. These are the kind of decisions the Assembly would have to take. They would have to shoulder the burden of allocating the block grant.

Within many subjects there is a whole range of decision making which is executive, the whole pattern of road development and transport—the priority we are giving to our main strategic links such as the M4 and the A55 is promoted by executive action, and in the same way the whole pattern of education. Is there anything in the type of executive policy making at this level which bears any resemblance to that of a local authority? The critics have failed to understand.

I followed with interest what the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) said yesterday. When commenting on our road pattern, and speaking of a North-to-South road, he said,
"But now the people of Wales can do nothing about it. They cannot decide even to build a road for themselves. I wonder whether their power will be any greater when they have their elected Assembly."—[Official Report, 3rd February 1974; Vol. 885, c. 1009.]
What nonsense. First, I could, as Secretary of State, decide to give priority to this road. I have not done so because I and no one else would accord it that priority. The priority is to ensure that there is built speedily a good M4 motorway and an A55 in the north. Those are the important roads to ensure that our centres of production can send their goods to the areas of consumption.

Our proposals for executive devolution have not been understood. I wish to educate the critics on this point. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) will keep quiet, he will hear my point in due course. There can be a little courtesy in the House of Commons and, I hope, in the Welsh Assembly as well.

Under our proposals for executive devolution, it would be possible for an elected Assembly to decide to allocate priority for such a road. Perhaps it will be a rude awakening to the members of Plaid Cymru when they find that the democratic decisions of the Assembly do not accord with the priority they seek to give to their own projects.

In taking the large executive decisions about which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has told us, is he acting upon collective Cabinet responsibility or upon his personal responsibility?

If the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) had read the two White Papers published last year, he would know of the indications we gave and the views of the Government. With respect, I presume that he did not read the White Papers we presented on that occasion.

Last summer, during our consultations with bodies representing a wide spectrum of Welsh opinion, we ascertained as best we could the views of those bodies. It is worth mentioning the views of the Welsh local authorities, whether expressed through their associations or individually. Those were overwhelmingly in favour of an executive form of devolution for the Principality. They were of course, and still are, understandably concerned that their present functions should remain with them. We made clear in the White Paper that the Welsh Assembly would not be expected to assume existing powers from local government. I repeat that commitment now and draw hon. Members' attention to it.

I now wish to consider in more detail what the powers of the Welsh Assembly might be. We have already decided provisionally that the Assembly will have a block expenditure allocation voted by the United Kingdom Parliament. It will be for the Assembly to judge its own expenditure priorities within that block allocation. This would give the Assembly considerable powers of decision in an area which is now reserved to central Government.

The Assembly will also have wide powers in terms of delegated legislation. It is true that under the present framework there are considerable variations as between different subjects of Government. In some areas, wide powers of delegated legislation are conferred. In others, primary legislation is far more specific.

Devolution means a quite new partnership between Parliament on the one hand and the Welsh Assembly on the other. In the development of this partnership, new principles will almost certainly evolve which may make the primary framework more general with regard to Wales, laying down broad principles and leaving the Assembly to fill these out by means of delegated legislation. This I visualise as a growth area for the Assembly, and that is not the only legislative rôle the Assembly might have. It may be possible to involve it in the legislative process and devise a means for it to bring its views on primary legislation affecting Wales to the attention of Parliament.

Further, the Welsh Assembly will assume responsibility for the work of nominated bodies within Wales. This would transfer to the Assembly a substantial block of powers and would at the same time extend democratic control into many areas which for too long have been remote from it. In Wales, we have had a surfeit of nominated bodies, and it is high time that they became politically accountable.

Finally, the Assembly will exercise certain of my present powers, many of which are not detailed in legislation. All this will give the Assembly considerable discretion to govern as it chooses, subject only to primary legislation, financial constraints imposed by the block expenditure allocation and any special provision which we might apply to both the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies to deal with cases where their activities might conflict with the essential interests of the United Kingdom as a whole.

What I have just described would amount to a formidable set of responsibilities and powers if devolved to the Welsh Assembly. They would nevertheless take account of the distinctive needs of Wales and the wishes of the Welsh people. For these reasons, I am satisfied that our proposals contained in the White Paper are right for the Principality.

I now turn to particular problems which arise on the work and operation of the Assembly and on its relationship with Parliament and the central Government.

One question which has given rise to no little interest is the form of Executive to be established. Broadly, as hon. Members will know, there are two options. The devolved powers might be vested either in a ministerial executive—that is, the system that we have here in Westminster—or in the Assembly as a whole and administered through Committees of the Assembly.

The choice between what might conveniently be called a ministerial system and a committee system is by no means straightforward. Both have their advantages and disadvantages in the context of Welsh devolution. One advantage of the ministerial system is its familiarity to people in this country. We are well used to an arrangement under which individuals holding government responsibility are closely identifiable and can be held accountable for what they do. In the Westminster environment, this works reasonably well. At least, many think so, though the system is not free from criticism.

On the other hand, we need to bear in mind that we are seeking to make the system of government for Wales as democratic and open as we can. I believe there is merit in an arrangement in which there is wide consultation and opportunity for the sharing of power among the representatives of the interests affected. One way of achieving this is the adoption of a system of executive committees, each of which would so far as practicable reflect the balance of representation in the Assembly as a whole.

Another question concerns relations between Parliament and the Government on the one hand and the Assembly on the other. Devolution will call for co-operation and good will. Indeed, without these, it cannot be made to work. There is no reason to believe that both sides will not have the interests of Wales at heart, and, with this as the guiding principle, a true partnership in government should be possible.

We have a long tradition, whatever our political views on the issues of the day, of a responsible system of government at every level. I have no anxiety on this score when we devolve governmental functions within the United Kingdom.

Important elements in the Assembly's freedom are the width and depth of its responsibilities. We are carrying out a detailed study of the complex considerations involved in delegating responsibilities for such subjects as health, education, roads and housing. As the White Paper made clear, the intention is that the Assembly should undertake many of the executive functions now carried out by myself. We fully intend to honour that pledge.

A great deal of work is in hand in studying the problems involved. Much of our present legislation, which was not of course drafted with devolution in mind, allows wide latitude to Ministers of the central Government. By and large, the Assembly should have similarly wide discretion, but we have to examine with particular care those matters which Parliament deliberately intended to operate uninformly throughout Great Britain, for instance the qualifications and conditions of employment attaching to various professions.

Concern has been expressed over the position of the Civil Service after devolution. Consultations have already taken place between the Government and the Staff Side of the National Whitley Council, about the implications of devolution for the Civil Service. We are most anxious to ensure that the interests of the staff of Government Departments are taken fully into account, and I have myself discussed these matters with the Welsh Office Staff Side. I fully understand the issues which worry them, and I want to assure them that I will pay the closest regard to their views.

Before I leave questions relating to the operation of the Assembly, I should like to touch briefly on the matter of nomenclature, which is not without significance, especially in Wales. The name given to the Assembly needs to be right, both in English and Welsh. I have said in the past that I am unhappy about the way that the word "Assembly" is translated into Welsh. In saying that, I am no way blaming the translators. The word "Assembly" in English seems to have gained broad acceptability, and it fits our conception. One suggestion which seems to have support is that the equivalent to the word "Assembly" in English should be the word "Senedd" in Welsh. These are not precise synonyms, but it may be thought that they carry the right connotations in both languages. There is also the question of what title should be given to members of the Assembly. It should of course be readily distinguishable from that applied to hon. Members of this House. In these as in other matters, I shall welcome further suggestions.

I turn now to the future rôle of the Secretary of State for Wales. I heard a great deal about this during the long consultations last summer. From our consultations in Wales and from the representations which we received, it is clear that there is a widespread—I think I may say almost universal—desire that there should be a strong continuing rôle for the Secretary of State. This, I must say with all modesty, I take to be a tribute to the office, rather than to anyone who has occupied it or to myself as the present occupant. I hope that the right hon. and learned Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Thomas) will not take that amiss. But there was great concern that the office should have a strong position. The problem is, of course, how to achieve this desirable aim if many of the powers formerly exercised by the occupant are devolved to the Assembly.

These are stirring times in the evolution of the machinery of government in Wales. Not only are we now taking decisive action to create a Welsh Assembly, but we are also engaged in creating new institutions to deal with the particular needs of Wales. I have in mind the proposed Wales Land Authority and the Welsh Development Agency. Furthermore, the rôle of the Secretary of State is being extended into new areas. As the House will know, as from 1st July, I shall be responsible for the administration of selective financial assistance under Section 7 of the Industry Act. This is a major development since it involves crossing a new threshold into a completely new area of activity for my office.

There will also be the vital rôle of watching over the interests of Wales when legislation affecting the Principality is passing through this House. Again, the Secretary of State will have an important responsibility in advocating the claims of Wales within the central Government when national resources are being allocated.

Finally, there will be a liaison function with respect to the relationship between the Assembly and Westminster. Therefore, while there will be reduced concern at the centre with the day-to-day matters of administration which will fall within the purview of the Assembly, there could well be greater concentration on broad economic and other strategic issues which vitally affect the well-being of Wales.

I turn now to Welsh representation in Parliament. If these broader responsibilities continue to be exercised at the centre, as they undoubtedly must, it follows that Wales will continue to need strong representation in this House. The Government therefore see no case for a reduction of the present representation as a consequence of their proposals for devolution to Wales.

Why should the people of Wales be entitled to more than their share of representation in this House than the English people?

I am not suggesting that they should have more than their share. Great areas of responsibility will remain in the House for broad strategic matters—the sharing of the national cake. Therefore, it will be of the utmost importance to have strong representation in this House from the Principality to safeguard those interests and to take part in general legislation affecting the whole of the United Kingdom. I hope that I have the support of the Opposition Front Bench on that score.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

This is a two-day debate. The hon. Gentleman may yet catch Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye.

In various ways the pattern of government in this country will be undergoing substantial change. We have set ourselves determinedly on this path, and I am sure that in so doing we are following a deep underlying desire in both Wales and Scotland. It is the duty of politicians elected by the people of both Wales and Scotland to be aware of, to reflect, and even to anticipate these wishes of the population. If we fail to do this, we shall be increasingly seen as irrevelant.

We are an innovating and also an accountable Government. We seek to reflect the needs and aspirations of our people. We believe that distance between those who govern and those who are governed—I do not speak of geographical distance—does not help good government. In every sphere of society there is a need to involve people and to bring decision making closer to them. I believe that our proposals will give to the people of Wales the power of decision on many matters which affect their daily lives.

Novelty, if necessary, stability necessarily, and acceptability are our three aims. I am confident that we shall fulfil them.

5.3 p.m.

Mr. Peter Thomas
(Hendon, South)