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Commons Chamber

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 12 February 1975

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 12th February 1975

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Fishguard And Goodwick Harbour) Bill

Read the Third time and passed.

Oral Answers To Questions


Health Centres


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish a list of health centres in Scotland at which pharmaceutical services are presently available; whether his Department has undertaken any investigation to determine if such services could offer savings to the National Health Service; and if he will make a statement.

Pharmaceutical services are at present provided in the health centres at Sighthill, Edinburgh and Woodside, Glasgow. Health centres under construction at Kirkcaldy and Peterhead include pharmacies.

The present policy is to offer local chemists the opportunity to form a consortium to operate a pharmacy in any proposed health centre. Such arrangements do not alter the total cost of pharmaceutical services in the area served.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I give him two cheers for that reply? Does he not realise that the provision of a facility such as this would do two things? First, it would provide a considerable amount of finance for the running of the health centre. Second, it would provide a facility to patients using the health centre, without which the whole concept of the health centre, with its medical, dental, radiological and other ancillary services, is not complete?

I accept what my hon. Friend says. I shall certainly consider any evidence he is prepared to submit to me.

Will my hon. Friend clarify one point? Will the pharmacists who will work in the health centres be directly employed, on a salary basis, by the health board or will they merely be agents of some private enterprise which will use the health centre as a branch of its own business?

The current position is that ordinary commercial pharmacists take up accommodation in the same way as doctors and dentists.

Young Offenders


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what extra back-up resources in terms of trained staff and residential accommodation have been provided in the Glasgow area to cope with young offenders within the terms of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968.

The number of headquarters and field-work staff in Glasgow social work department has increased from 186 in 1970 to over 300. A number of projects providing residential accommodation for children and young people are in progress, and additional places are being provided at two List D schools near Glasgow.

It is gratifying to hear that some improvement is being made, but my hon. Friend will understand that many social work departments are losing credibility because the social workers do not have enough remedial places to which to send children requiring help, and that we are abysmally short of residential accommodation, hostel accommodaion and specialist resources. Will he do everything in his power to see that the social workers get the tools to do the job?

Yes. Additional accommodation is in prospect. For example, a unit of 18 places is being built at St. Mary's School, Bishopbriggs, and 41 additional places are being provided at St. Philip's School, Aidrie.

The report on the rate support grant order shows that there is allowance for increased staffing during the year, and other commitments. Certainly we shall encourage local authorities to give the back-up which the social workers require.

What regulations apply to those who are in List D schools as to the age at which they are allowed to get out of the schools, on what conditions they are allowed to come out of the schools, what sums of money are given to them when they leave the schools, and what other regulations apply to these people?

I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman should table a Question seeking that information.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received with regard to the powers of the proposed Scottish Assembly.

I have received representations with regard to the transfer to the Scottish Assembly of many aspects of Government functions with appropriate powers. These representations have come from a wide range of interested parties in Scotland, mainly in response to the Government's consultative document published on 3rd June 1974.

I am grateful to the Minister. Taking into account the Government's new approach to the question of collective responsibility, will he distinguish between his own published views on these matters and the views of the Government of which he is a member? Will he confirm that the Government will not forfeit Scotland's right to a place in the Cabinet or her entitlement to benefit from the future location of industry or employment in parts of the United Kingdom as determined by United Kingdom Ministers?

I am really surprised at the implication of that supplementary question. In all fairness, I thought that the hon. Gentleman made a first-class concluding speech on the first day of the debate on devolution. The Government are committed without any reservation to the retention of the Secretary of State for Scotland in the Cabinet, and to 71 Members of Parliament.

Will my hon. Friend indicate when these representations will come to an end and when the Government will bring forward their firm proposals for the Scottish Assembly?

The question of representations will obviously be a continuing one. At this stage it is impossible to say when the Government will be in a position to bring forward firm proposals to the House. These matters were debated on Monday and Tuesday of last week, and my right hon. Friends the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State did give an answer in kind to the questions which are now being asked.

Can the hon. Gentleman say when the Scottish Assembly will be established?

I should first of all apologise to the hon. Member that Scottish Question Time is being held in the middle of his week's holiday. We hope to keep to the timetable which the Leader of the House mentioned in the concluding speech in the debate on the Queen's Speech. At the same time, I should say that it is the Government's firm intention to get the matter right. If this means taking a bit longer, we feel sure that the people of Scotland will accept this as right and proper in all the circumstances.

Coming back to the powers of the Scottish Assembly, has my hon. Friend taken note of the observation of the Kilbrandon Commission that the Stormont Government had substantial powers over trade and industry which they chose not to use because they found it impracticable to do so within an integrated economy?

Yes, the Government have taken note of the reference to the Stormont situation in the Kilbrandon Report. I should mention that there is a very interesting paragraph in Lord O'Neill's book on this matter. That is one of the points of which we have taken note.

Capital Transfer Tax


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received with regard to the effect of the proposed capital transfer tax on farming in Scotland.

I have had representations about the possible adverse effects of the tax on farming structure and efficiency from the National Farmers' Union of Scotland and the Scottish Landowners' Federation, and from a few individual farmers.

I should first declare an interest in this matter. Does the Minister feel that a son or daughter has the right to inherit the father's business, be it a small business or a farm? Does he not feel that the confiscation level of CTT will mean that large units will be broken up and will become less efficient?

I do not think there is any inherent right for sons or daughters in this matter. They may not necessarily wish to inherit a farm. In order that they should be treated fairly, and bearing in mind that the argument is that one should ensure the efficiency of farming, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the representations received by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, including those from the meeting with the SNFU, have been passed on to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is some anxiety about the figure of 1,000 acres, owing to the low value of hill land in Scotland? Am I right in thinking that the Government will put this matter right in Committee?

The whole matter is under review. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the concessions which have already been announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The fact that land prices have fallen minimises the value of the concessions, and it is this aspect which is still being looked into.

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that this is not good enough? Will he understand that what his Government are proposing will destroy the present structure of agriculture in Scotland in relation to both owner-occupied farms and forestry? This will have a devastating effect on the farm side of the industry and on forestry workers. Will he put pressure on the Chancellor to give greater concessions than are offered at present?

I know that some hon. Members opposite are only half Scots. While the hon. Member may be fighting for his place on the Opposition Front Bench, he should recognise the genuine value of the concessions already announced. We recognise, of course, that there must be a continuing prosperous and profitable agriculture industry.

In view of the Minister's amazing answer to the supplementary question put by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie), will he confirm that the Government support, in the case of tenant farmers, the rights of succession to these farms?

I do not know what was amazing about my reply. I thought it was a very good one. The hon. Member is confusing two different things. There is security of tenure for tenant farmers in Scotland—a security which was created by the present Government—and it is better than that existing in England and Wales. I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's point.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he has made of the effect on the Scottish economy of the current difficulties facing Scottish businesses.

Scottish businesses are inevitably affected by the current economic problems of the United Kingdom. However, the development of North Sea oil and the Government's special measures to assist Scottish industry will continue to provide new job opportunities.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the extreme difficulties faced by Scottish businesses, including grave difficulties of liquidity and finance? Does he not realise that this has been made abundantly clear in the increase in unemployment to over 100,000? As he said that he would resign if the unemployment rate reached that level, and he now says that circumstances are different, will he say in what way circumstances are different?

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the figure I quoted was quoted in 1971. When he was a member of the Government and the unemployment figure had risen to 141,000, he was perfectly satisfied with it. I can assure hon. Members that the situation from 1964 to 1970 was very different from the situation when we took over from hon. Members opposite. We are now facing a world recession. If the hon. Gentleman will look at page 9 of the Glasgow Herald today he will see the excuses given by two Scottish firms. Reference is made to certain difficulties about returns, but he will find that they are related more to the time when his Government were in office.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that in Scotland we need an immediate reflation of the economy, and that the Scottish Development Agency should have much more financial muscle than is proposed in the consultative document. Will the right hon. Gentleman say at what level of unemployment he will resign?

We initiated the idea of the Scottish Development Agency. We have set out our proposals for consultation and we hope to get a Bill through the House and the Act into operation before the end of the year. We trust that we shall have the hon. Gentleman's help. This will have an effect upon our attitude in tackling the unemployment problem.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not simply try to shrug this off. In addition to the difficult economic circumstances facing this country, the Government have aggravated the whole business by their attack on the small family business, by the self-employed insurance stamp and the transfer tax. In so many other ways the Government have contributed directly to the problems in Scotland. Will not the right hon. Gentleman come clean with the House and tell us at what stage he will be prepared to resign?

I have no intention of resigning. Indeed, if the hon. Gentleman was serious in what he said I am surprised that he has been serving under the leadership of someone who was responsible for the disastrous consequences in Scotland which created over 100,000 unemployed as the new norm.

Education (Pupil Costs)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the expenditure per year per pupil in primary and secondary schools, respectively, in Lanarkshire, and in Scotland as a whole.

The estimated Scottish figures for 1972–73 are £150 and £333. Area figures are not generally available, as most education authorities, including Lanarkshire, do not distinguish between primary and secondary expenditure in their accounts.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that in future these figures are made available on a regional and sub-regional basis? If they were now available, would they show that resources for education in Lanarkshire are way below the national average and should be increased?

It is our intention that when the new regional authorities come into being they will make their returns in such a way that expenditure in primary and secondary schools can be shown as my hon. Friend requests.

What will be the effect on expenditure per pupil and on the quality of education in Scotland of the savage cuts in the school building programme which were announced last week in such a cowardly way by the Secretary of State in a Written Answer? Why did he fail so miserably to get a fair deal for Scotland on school building?

The position is that expenditure on education in Lanarkshire and elsewhere in Scotland will continue to increase. As for the rest of the question, we can discuss that later.

Kidney Transplants


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many of the 873 patients in Great Britain, registered on 17th January with the national organ matching and distribution service as waiting for a kidney transplant, are domiciled in Scotland; and what plans he has to help such patients.

Of the patients referred to. 38 were domiciled in Scotland. Although there have been, on average, 36 kidney transplants per year in Scotland over the last five years, I am very conscious of the need to increase the supply of kidneys. I have recently issued a revised version of the kidney donor card and this is being widely distributed. In addition I propose shortly to issue guidance which should help to improve the operation of the Human Tissue Act 1961.

In view of the British Transplantation Society's report, details of which have been sent to my hon. Friend, and one of the authors of which was Professor Brian Jennett of Glasgow, is my hon. Friend aware that we very much welcome the forthcoming circular?

Schools (Edinburgh)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will pay an official visit to schools in Edinburgh.

If the right hon. Gentleman is determined to continue with the educational folly concerning these schools will he at least ensure that financially the pupils who are already there do not suffer unnecessarily from the change in his policies?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thought that Question No. 9 was mine.

Great Western Road, Glasgow (Underpass)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will be in a position to announce his intentions with regard to the proposed underpass system on the Great Western Road, Glasgow.

No proposals on this have yet been submitted to my right hon. Friend by Glasgow Corporation.

Order. If there has been some mistake in the printing of the Order Paper, I am sorry, but we are now on Question No. 9.

When proposals are submitted to the Minister by Glasgow Corporation, as I understand may soon be the case, will he bear in mind that because of the economic situation it was decided to abandon the Channel Tunnel? Will he also abandon the tunnels which it is intended to construct in my constituency, since they will be costly and ugly, and since no one in the constituency or that part of Glasgow wants them? Will the Minister please be a democrat, listen to public opinion, and try to save money?

As I have explained, we do not yet have the proposals before us and therefore I cannot comment upon them. In any case, with the new local authorities coming into operation in May the scheme is likely to be subject to a decision by the Strathclyde Region as well as by Glasgow Corporation. Once that decision has been taken we shall be able to consider the question of priority.

In the event of the scheme going ahead will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there are a large number of fee-paying schools in that area, and that if what we have seen this afternoon in the confusion over Questions has arisen out of education at fee-paying schools he will need to give very clear instructions about the underpass?

A7 (Drumlanrig Bridge)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now make a statement outlining his plans for the proposed development of Drumlanrig Bridge on the A7.

As the hon. Gentleman will know from his correspondence with my noble Friend, Drumlanrig Bridge, which is subject to weight restriction, is to be replaced by a stronger structure. Work will start as soon as the necessary statutory procedures are complete.

Will the Minister confirm that the compulsory purchase order subsequently devised was technically defective and that the whole procedure may have to start again? If that is the case will the Scottish Office take the opportunity of exploring other routes for the A7 through Hawick, since there is universal feeling in the town that the last place for traffic is the High Street?

The second point raises a rather longer-term consideration. I think there is a large measure of agreement that the development of the existing bridge is urgently required. The technical objection to the procedure is now the subject of legal action, and I am afraid I cannot comment on that.

Economic Prospects


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with industrial interests about Scottish economic prospects over the next 12 months.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave him on 11th December.—[Vol. 883, c. 489–90.]

My hon. Friend the Minister of State will shortly be having meetings with representatives of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Scottish Council of the CBI and the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) to discuss my proposals for the Scottish Development Agency and related economic matters.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the most depressing prospects for the coming 12 months is that 80,000 young people will leave school and go straight on to the labour market, where about 4 per cent. of the working population is currently unemployed? In view of the social as well as employment implications of that, will he consider reintroducing a scheme which was tried successfully once before—of taking a large number of young people, through boards and industrial concerns, into pre-apprenticeship training for at least a year to keep them off the dole queue?

My hon. Friend's suggestion is worth examining. The whole question not only of young people but of shortcomings on manpower training generally must be looked at urgently.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the level of redundancies in Scotland is now beginning to rise rather alarmingly? Since he is having various meetings, will he arrange for a meeting with the Scottish executive of the NUM to press on it that unless its members abide absolutely by the terms of the social contract many of their workmates will be put out of work?

The NUM will be represented in the Scottish TUC on all these matters and it will put its own point of view very forcibly.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the figure of £200 million, which he mentioned in his Press release about the Scottish Development Agency, is not the limit of money available to that agency over the next five years?

I think that was made clear in the Press conferences I held on the subject. That was the first sum mentioned. If we go through that amount quickly, I am sure, judging from the feelings evinced in the House today, that Parliament will speedily give us more.

Among the Secretary of State's discussions, was he consulted by the Treasury about the proposal to increase employment potential in Scotland through varying the tax uplift for Scottish oil development?

If the hon. Member wishes to ask detailed questions like that he had better table a Question.

Primary School, Carnock


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has had from the parents' association in the village of Carnock regarding the proposed closure of the primary school; and if he will make a statement.

Two letters from the Carnock New School Action Committee, in addition to correspondence with my hon. Friend, but since I have not received any proposal from Fife Education Authority to close the school it would be premature for me to make a statement.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are real fears in Carnock that this will eventually mean the end of full primary education in the village? Since Carnock has had primary education for 100 years, does it not seem strange that when the population is increasing the education authority should seek to avoid building a school there? Is my hon. Friend aware that any intention to transfer second and third tier classes will be firmly resisted and regarded as a subversion of full primary education?

We have received no proposal from the Fife Education Authority. Until we receive such proposals, I cannot comment. Any proposal to close the school or to transfer pupils will require the approval of my right hon. Friend. We shall certainly take into account the views of parents if and when we have to make a decision.

Trades Union Congress (Prime Minister's Talks)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether it is his intention to be present at the Prime Minister's talks with the Scottish Trades Union Congress on 27th-28th February.

If my right hon. Friend meets the Prime Minister, will he remind him that especially after the statement made by the Secretary of State for Industry last week many people in Scotland are worried about the future of the Scottish steel industry? Will he seek an assurance from the Prime Minister that the additional £400 million for development in England and Wales will not be taken from money already allocated to developments in Scotland, especially those at Hunterston and Glenganock?

In his statement my right hon. Friend gave a clear undertaking that the conclusions reached for England and Wales did not prejudge or prejudice the review now taking place in respect of Scotland. I received the impression that that statement was reasonably well received in Scotland. However, my hon. Friend is an exception to that.

Will the Secretary of State, either at the February meeting or on a later occasion, discuss with the Scottish TUC his views on the merits of Britain's remaining within the Common Market on the terms negotiated by the Government?

I do not doubt that when we deal with these matters that problem will be raised.

Unemployment (Western Isles)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for reducing the rate of unemployment in the Western Isles.

The full range of regional incentives to industry is available, together with advice and assistance from the Highlands and Islands Development Board. Stornaway was identified as a "preferred development zone" in the coastal planning guidelines which I issued last year, and I have approved a major oil-related development there which should provide substantial new employment.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that, despite these advances, in view of the last recorded figure of 18 per cent. unemployment, the matter is much more serious and urgent than these steps envisage? Will he at least give consideration to going ahead with the suspended road schemes, which are long overdue and will provide much-needed work?

Priority of road schemes is a matter for local authorities. I shall examine any proposals that the local authorities put forward. I do not think that we should underestimate the work being done by the Highlands and Islands Development Board or by the Stornaway Trust to promote the settlement of industry in the Stornaway area.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans there are to develop tourism in south west Scotland.

The Scottish Tourist Board, the Countryside Commission for Scotland and the Scottish Sports Council are undertaking regional studies designed to assist the new local authorities in planning for the development of tourism and recreation in their areas. A conference is to be arranged in the South-West to discuss these matters with the local authorities concerned.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the great success of the Burns heritage trail in south-west Scotland and the recent excellent publicity arising from the Burns Federation visit to Moscow? Will he, put pressure, on behalf of Scotland, on the Post Office to issue a Burns stamp, as opposed to an envelope, in the near future?

I think that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I shall exert what pressure I can in relation to anything affecting Burns, but I think that it will be difficult to arrange for the issue of a Burns stamp. The least we can do is to consider franking all the envelopes leaving places connected with the trail. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman drew attention to this matter. It has been a great success. It is an imaginative idea.

Will the Secretary of State do something about the dreadful ferry services to the Islands, which are affecting the tourist industry, since the island people are very worried about the situation which builds up towards the summer?

I am aware of that problem. I believe that the hon. Member is scheduled to meet the Minister of State in the House of Commons in the near

Pleasant as it is for the Opposition to contemplate the development of the tourist industry, does my right hon. Friend realise that southwest Scotland wants industry, and that we should not concentrate too much on what the Opposition would like?

There are other areas in whose prosperity the tourist industry plays a considerable part. We must not neglect that. We should appreciate that one of the achievements of the last Labour Government was to create the Scottish Tourist Board. We did that because we felt it was necessary.

Is the Secretary of State aware that everyone involved in the development of the tourist industry throughout Scotland is worried about the proposals for two-tier petrol pricing now being discussed with the Department of Energy? Is he in touch with the Department of Energy about these matters?

Bannockburn (School)


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the up-to-date position of the plans for a new high school at Bannockburn.

I understand that Stirlingshire Education Authority expects to submit soon to my Department a formal application for approval of the plans for this project.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the full benefits of comprehensive education will not be available to all the children in Bannockburn until the new high school is open. Will he give an assurance that the cuts in the school building programme will not affect that project? Will he do all in his power to press his own Department and Stirling County Council to expedite the finalisation of the plans? This delay is hampering the educational opportunities of the children in the Bannockburn area.

Yes, I am aware of the benefits of comprehensive education in my hon. Friend's constituency. The authority hopes to be in a position to start the first phase before 30th June 1975, that is, during the current building year. However, an amendment to the county council's development plan is required, and that will be taken care of shortly. Certainly the project will go ahead soon.

In reviewing the Bannockburn situation, will the Minister consider the question of the numbers of children in hutted accommodation throughout central Scotland? The numbers are unacceptably high. What will the Minister do to reduce them?

I am aware that there are many pupils in hutted accommodation. How fast we can remedy that situation depends largely on what resources we have available from year to year. Certainly it is a problem which is constantly brought to my attention. One wants to see that situation disposed of.

Is the Minister aware that the Government, by cutting expenditure on school building in Edinburgh by almost three-quarters of the sum asked for, at a time when 432 parents have asked for application forms to transfer their children from grant-aided to comprehensive schools, may create a serious problem of overcrowding in comprehensive schools in Edinburgh, and that if nothing is done about it the teaching may be carried on in thoroughly inadequate circumstances in the future?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to exaggerate the position. So far there have been 211 firm applications to Edinburgh Corporation, some of which are from parents who want their children to sit their examinations in a State school and thus avoid the possibility of paying fees for the last term at the school they now attend.

Unpaid Fines


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the total amount of fines imposed by courts in Scotland which are still outstanding at the most recent convenient date, the value of those regarded as arrears, and the total amount regarded as irrecoverable.

The amount of fines imposed in sheriff courts in Scotland since 1st April 1970 but not yet received at 31st March 1974 was £403,232. Information is not available about the amount of this sum due but unpaid, but the amount of fines imposed during the year ended 31st March 1971 written off in September 1974 as irrecoverable was £18,333, or less than 1·2 per cent. of the total imposed. Corresponding information about burgh and justice of the peace courts is not available.

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is a pity that the information is not available, because it would reveal the substantial state of indebtedness to society in those courts? Will my hon. Friend take it from me that even means inquiry courts have been disregarded by fines dodgers? Can some action be taken to ensure that they pay for the offences they have committed against the community?

My hon. Friend will be aware that alternative measures are open to the courts, one of which is the arrestment of wages to recover fines that have been imposed and not paid. The courts have those facilities available. The amount of the fines outstanding at a particular date does not always give an accurate picture. Time is often allowed for the payment of a fine, and an answer that is given on a particular date does not always correspond with the amount of the debt outstanding.

Does the Minister agree that when this sort of information is given it tends to bring the law into disrepute? In view of the figures, will he consult the court authorities to see whether additional measures can be taken to improve the situation?

The Scottish Council on Crime has been considering the question of additional measures. It has recently published a report which has been circulated to interested bodies. The council has carried out a fairly detailed study of the question of unpaid fines, and no doubt comments will be received later on this subject.



asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the estimated average annual increase in rates expected for 1975–76 on the basis of the latest information available to him.

Will my hon. Friend estimate the effect on rates of the recent increase in teachers' salaries? All hon. Members wished the teachers to have a salary increase and must, therefore, accept the consequent rate increases, and not complain about them. As rates are a regressive form of taxation, will my hon. Friend issue a circular, advisory or otherwise, to local authorities to ensure that rent rebate systems are sufficiently generous to protect people on low incomes?

I am not quite sure what my hon. Friend has in mind about rent rebates. He knows of the current legislation which is going through the House. In so far as teachers' salaries fall on that portion of local authority expenditure which is met through the rate support grant—which has gone up to 75 per cent. for next year; an unprecedented increase—the cost will be borne by the taxpayer. The remainder will be borne by the ratepayer, and it will have an effect on the rates. We have to recognise that when salary increases are given to local authority employees rates are affected.

Does the Minister agree that if the total cost of teachers' salaries were transferred to the Exchequer a much fairer distribution of the burden would fall on the taxpayers generally?

The trouble about any transfer from local expenditure to central expenditure is that the money still has to be found from somewhere.

Inshore Fishermen


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now introduce an operating subsidy for inshore fishermen.

No detailed case for such a subsidy has been submitted, but the Government are aware of the industry's financial position and hope to make a statement soon.

That is a reasonably fair answer, but will the Minister bear in mind that the situation is particularly serious in the Clyde area, where escalating costs have not been accompanied by nearly such a big rise in the price of nephthrops landed on that part of the coast?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I met representatives of the inshore section of the industry in December. We are still awaiting information on costs and earnings and checking the figures which were produced then. I am aware that the additional cost of fuel for the fishing industry generally is a burden that has to be shared by everyone in the community, and we hope to be able to make an announcement about that in the near future.

I am grateful to the Minister for his reference, presumably, to the Scottish Trawlers' Federation, whose problems are at least as severe as those mentioned by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart). Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the new quota system, rising building costs, rising wages—particularly in competition with oil wages—and rising fuel costs are causing the Scottish Trawlers' Federation problems of unparalleled severity?

I met the inshore men in December, and last week I met the Scottish Trawlers' Federation. Again, I was impressed by the facts and figures that were produced. We are checking the details, and we have assured the federation that what was put to us will have sympathetic consideration.

Will the Minister for once recognise the full potential of the Scottish industry and see to it that his colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office go ahead and get the 200-mile limit?

I am in some difficulty in knowing where the Scottish National Party stands on this matter. One day it wants a 50-mile limit, and the next day a 200-mile limit. Unfortunately, fish do not recognise national boundaries. On a more serious note, we are well prepared for the Law of the Sea Conference and are taking into account all the official representations that have been made.

Travelling People


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has received the report of the committee chaired by Lord Birsay on Scotland's travelling people.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. It would be helpful if the Scottish Grand Committee could have an opportunity of considering the report when it is published. Is my hon. Friend aware that this is the fourth report on this subject that has been made to the Secretary of State during this century? Is he aware that after the previous report one Scottish local authority set up one designated site, which compares unfavourably with the 117 designated in England? Will my hon. Friend take steps to ensure that the recommendations contained in the report are translated into action by the Government?

What is discussed in the Scottish Grand Committee is not a matter for me, but I have no doubt that my hon. Friend's supplementary question will have been noted by those concerned. I was not aware that this was the fourth report this century, but I am glad to have that information from my hon. Friend. Once the report is published there will have to be a considerable amount of discussion with local authorities on the question of sites. Local authorities have statutory power to provide sites, but I regret that progress so far has been disappointing.

Secondary Schoolchildren


asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many secondary schoolchildren were receiving only part-time education at the most recent date for which figures are available; and what were the comparable figures in each of the three previous years, respectively.

Returns from education authorities show that 35,521 secondary pupils were receiving part-time education on 3rd February. The comparable figure for February 1974 was 11,784. Figures are not available for February 1972 or 1973.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that even if we discount the effect of disruption in the schools the figures he has given of part-time education are alarming? Although there has been an increase in the number of teachers in Scotland, the number of children receiving part-time education in certain areas, particularly Glasgow and Lanarkshire, has risen dramatically. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the result is that we have no real equality of opportunity in education? As existing methods have failed, has the Minister any proposals to put forward to ensure equality of opportunity throughout the system?

We cannot discount as easily as did the hon. Gentleman the disruptive effects of working to rule, which in 15 schools affects 11,627 pupils. Nearly one-third of the total figure is the result of working to rule, and cannot be discounted. I am glad to note that the hon. Gentleman has suddenly discovered that there is not equal opportunity in Scottish schools. There never has been equal opportunity in the history of education. That is what we are working towards in the comprehensive system. We certainly want to increase the numbers of teachers in these schools, and I believe that the significant salary increases, as a result of the Houghton Report, and the much improved career structure, will make Scottish schools a more attractive place to work in. If the hon. Gentleman would spend less time egging teachers on instead of putting forward the advantages of working in Scottish schools and the improvements that have been made we might get a few more teachers in the schools.

If the Minister is so proud of the Scottish schools as a result of action taken by the Labour Government, why is there so much part-time education? Is that all he can point to in favour of the comprehensive system?

The hon. Gentleman should know that the reason for part-time education is the rise in the school leaving age and the fact that we have not had the expected number of teachers expected coming into education. The Conservative Government had four years in office during which to take some action. We are trying to clear up the mess which they left us.

Law Commission


asked the Lord Advocate when he next intends to meet the Scottish Law Commission.

The date of my next formal meeting with the Scottish Law Commission has not yet been fixed. The exchange of views and information, however, does not depend solely upon such meetings, and less formal exchanges take place as circumstances may require.

When the Lord Advocate next meets the Law Commission, will he ascertain its views on the Divorce Law Reform (Scotland) Bill presented by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook)? Does he appreciate that there is a growing demand throughout Scotland for the Government to give time for full and proper debate of the Bill? Will any time be found for such a debate?

That is a matter which I shall discuss with the Scottish Law Commission when next we meet. The hon. Gentleman is probably well aware that in the last few years the commission has referred to this matter in its annual report.

Wives (Assaults By Husbands)


asked the Lord Advocate whether he is satisfied with the procedures for prosecution in cases of wives assaulted by husbands.

Will the Lord Advocate clear up a widespread misapprehension and confirm that the police have power to interfere in cases of assault by husbands on wives without regard to the severity of the injuries caused, and that in certain circumstances they have the power of arrest, as in any other breach of the peace? Has there been an increase in the number of cases coming before the courts, and will the recently-announced Select Committee on violence in marriage include a Scottish remit?

That is a complex question. In reply to the middle part of the question, I regret to say that I cannot give my hon. Friend the figures. Perhaps he will table a Question on that point. On the last point mentioned by my hon. Friend, the Select Committee contains two Scottish Members of Parliament. Its terms are general, and apply to Scotland as well as to other parts of the United Kingdom.

In regard to the point put to me about the power of the police in these matters, it must be said that the police, naturally, are reluctant to interfere in a matrimonial affair unless it is clear that one of the spouses wishes a charge to be brought.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that assaults by husbands on wives need not necessarily be confined to a physical assault? Is he satisfied that the procedure applying to cases of mental assault is correct?

Perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend did not hear my supplementary question. I asked whether he was satisfied that since an assault need not necessarily be confined to a physical assault the procedure relating to assault through mental processes is the correct one?

I must confess that now I do not know whether to agree or disagree with my hon. Friend. I think that before I conclude I should take the opportunity of congratulating the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on assuming the place of honour which she now occupies on the Opposition Front Bench. I hope that she will occupy that position for a long time to come.

Northern Lighthouses


asked the Lord Advocate how many official visits he has made to the northern lighthouses; and if he will make a statement.

Since assuming office on 8th March 1974 as a Commissioner of Northern Lighthouses, I have visited three such lighthouses—Dunnet Head on 26th July 1974, and Cape Wrath and Stoer Head (Sutherland) both on 27th July 1974.

Is the Lord Advocate aware that the whole House wishes to pay tribute to the lighthouse keepers in northern waters? I am glad that on his visit he did not put the lights out. Is he further aware of the grave concern that the fishery protection vessel "Jura" has been taken over by the Ministry of Defence. Will he assure the House that the "Pharos" will not suffer the same fate, of becoming a river gunboat?

I note what the hon. Gentleman said, but none of these—not even the "Pharos"—are matters, which lie within my ministerial responsibility. I am sure that his remarks will have been noted by the responsible Ministers.

Representation Of The People Acts


asked the Lord Advocate how many prosecutions have taken place in Scotland in the past year for offences connected with the Representation of the People Acts.

Does not my right hon. and learned Friend regard it as surprising that the number of irregularities is so low, particularly in respect of the recent elections, involving illegal fly-posting, not to mention other illegalities and irregularities? Is he aware that although my election agent, Mr. Henry Dawson, has submitted well-substantiated and detailed complaints to the procurator fiscal in Stirling concerning certain irregularities about the election expenses of the SNP, the procurator fiscal has not so far taken any action? Is my right hon. and learned Friend in a position to investigate the reason for this lack of action? Many Scottish people are beginning to suspect that it is not for legal reasons but for politicial reasons that this situation is allowed to continue.

On the matter relating to my hon. Friend's constituency, I think that it would be inappropriate to reply at this time, but I shall write to him on the subject. As for the number of prosecutions, my hon. Friend should appreciate that of seven cases reported to the Crown Office one is sub judice, the charge having been served. In regard to the other six, no proceedings were ordered by Crown counsel, he having carefully considered the available evidence.

Does not the Lord Advocate agree that the most serious offence connected with the Representation of the People Act in Scotland in the past year has been the return of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock Mr. Ross to the Scottish Office, which in the last few weeks has resulted in increased unemployment in Scotland, to a figure of over 100,000, and the most severe cuts in school building in Scottish history?

The hon. Gentleman does not really deserve an answer to that question, but the answer is "No, I do not agree."

Law Society


asked the Lord Advocate when he next plans to meet the Law Society of Scotland.

As I have already said in answer to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) on 31st July and 20th November 1974, I have an arrangement whereby I meet the President of the Law Society every month and, in addition, I meet him on other occasions when he asks for a special meeting.

When the Lord Advocate meets the President of the Law Society, will he welcome the society's stated view that it would favour reform of divorce law in Scotland? Will he tell the President of the Law Society why, eight years after the Scottish Law Commission recommended reform, we have still not carried out this essential measure.

At present there is certainly a degree of pressure in Scotland about law reform. However, successive Governments have taken the view that because of the controversial social, moral and religious issues involved, divorce law is best left to private Members' legislation. Indeed, my hon. Friend has a Private Member's Bill on the subject, which I believe is to be debated on Friday. No doubt he will then press the points which he has made on this occasion.

How can the Lord Advocate justify that attitude? The divorce law is about the status of the citizen, and if there is one matter which should be the subject of Government legislation rather than private Members' legislation, it is surely that. Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that the basis of the present law in England was contained in the minority report of the Royal Commission by Lord Walker in 1948?

That is a legitimate point of view. It is one which has to be set against the controversial religious, social and moral issues. A balance has to be struck. Like their predecessors, this Government consider that the proper balance to strike is to leave a matter of this kind to private Members' legislation.

Civil List

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the Civil List.

Section 5 of the Civil List Act 1972 requires the Royal Trustees to keep under review the annual expenditure of the Civil List and the sums available to meet that expenditure, and to report to the Treasury if at any time it appears that expenditure for the coming calendar year will exceed the sums available under the existing provision. The Treasury is required to lay any such report before Parliament.

That situation has now been reached, some years earlier than was expected when Parliament passed the 1972 Act. The Royal Trustees have reported to the Treasury that, after every effort has been made to secure economies in the administration of the Royal Household, expenditure on the Civil List has increased to £1,180,000 in 1974—an average annual increase of 16 per cent. since 1972—and is expected to increase to £1,400,000 in 1975, a further increase of 18½ per cent.

This does not represent any increase in real expenditure. About three-quarters of the expenditure of the Civil List is on wages and salaries, mainly of staff engaged in manual and clerical work. Wages and salaries in the Royal Household are wherever possible closely linked with comparable Civil Service rates, which are themselves negotiated with the Civil Service staff associations and unions. Pay increases are, therefore, within the TUC guidelines. In respect of this part of the expenditure, the increased provi- sion is required to meet increases in wages and salaries of existing members, officials and staff of the Royal Household. The remaining quarter consists of other expenses, which have, thanks to continuing economies in the administration of the Royal Household, risen by considerably less than the increase in the Retail Price Index since 1972.

It is estimated that by the end of 1975 the increase in these expenses—that is, other than wages and salaries—since 1972 will have been 32 per cent. On the other hand, by the end of 1975 salaries and wages may be expected to have increased by something like 70 per cent. over the three years in accordance with the Civil Service link.

The surpluses built up by the Royal Trustees since 1972, under the arrangements approved by Parliament that year, were exhausted in the course of 1974; indeed, it was only with the aid of a contribution of more than £60,000 by the Queen from her own resources that the expenditure for the year was covered.

It is, therefore, necessary to ask Parliament to approve an order under Section 6 of the 1972 Act increasing the amount to be paid from the Consolidated Fund from £980,000, the sum provided in the 1972 Act, to £1,400,000. The report of the Royal Trustees and the order are being laid before Parliament this afternoon; copies are now available in the Vote Office.

The Civil List now finances only the expenses incurred by the Queen in pursuance of her official functions and duties and includes no contribution to the Privy Purse, and the increase now proposed allows for no increase in expenditure in real terms—indeed, the reverse. Despite that, the Queen has intimated to the Government that, in view of the current economic situation, she thinks it right herself to make a further contribution from her own resources towards the increased cash requirement for the Civil List this year—that is, towards the £1,400,000.

Accordingly, Her Majesty has offered to contribute £150,000 towards the expenses of the Civil List in 1975. The Government have accepted this offer, which will reduce the actual net call upon the Exchequer in 1975 by that amount to £270,000. That means that the net provision by the Exchequer this coming year will be 27·6 per cent. above the 1972 provision made three years ago, and there have been three years of inflation since that time. I should like to express the Goverment's appreciation of the spirit which has prompted Her Majesty to make this gesture.

No increase is proposed for 1975 in the amounts of the annuities payable to certain members of the Royal Family under Section 2 of the Act, but the order increases from £60,000 to £85,000 the amount payable under Section 3(1) of the Act to the Royal Trustees for the purpose of making contributions towards the expenses of the performance of Royal duties by those members of the Royal Family for which Parliament has not made other provision.

The increases provided by the order are expected to meet the requirements of the Civil List for 1975, but do not provide any surplus for use in meeting deficits in later years. It will be necessary to seek parliamentary authority for a further increase in the Civil List provisions next year. Indeed, it is evident that, in a time of rapidly rising costs and prices, the traditional system of settling the Civil List by legislation at relatively infrequent intervals becomes unworkable.

The Government therefore propose, with the Queen's agreement, to seek the authority of Parliament to finance future increases in the provision for the Civil List and in the other payments authorised by Civil List Acts from 1976 onwards by means of a grant-in-aid made to the Royal Trustees by the Treasury out of moneys provided by Parliament. Grants-in-aid made in accordance with this arrangement would be included in Estimates and voted by Parliament in accordance with the normal procedure of Supply.

I will, with permission, circulate in the Official Report a more detailed note of the background to the increased provision now being made and of the basis on which Civil List provisions would be adjusted in future under the proposal to which I have just referred. The House will, of course, have opportunities not only of a debate on the order to which I have referred, which is subject to the negative resolution procedure, but also of discussing these matters more fully when the necessary legislation is introduced in due course.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Opposition welcome his statement and agree that proper provision must continue to be made for the Royal Household and the performance of its official functions? This is our most precious asset.

In view of the inflationary conditions prevailing, which affect the Royal Household and its staff as much as anyone else, we believe that the time has come to take a look at the way in which we provide for the Civil List. We shall, of course, carefully examine any legislation which the right hon. Gentleman chooses to lay before the House.

With your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, may I say that I know that I speak on behalf of all my right hon. and hon. Friends when I congratulate the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on her outstanding success in being elected leader of her party. We wish her happiness in and enjoyment of a life which she knows she can expect to be exciting but sometimes arduous and difficult. From a study of the right hon. Lady's speeches, I have formed the impression that there may well be a deep gulf between her and me in our respective political philosophies, but, having worked closely with her three immediate predecessors, as I have, I know that political disagreement between us need not mar the work that we have to do together in Parliament, and I look forward, as I hope she will, to the meetings behind your Chair, Mr. Speaker, and to the informality and, to judge from my experience with her predecessors, the intimacy, which such meetings afford.

I apologise to the right hon. Lady. I did not answer the very important questions she put to me. That is an oversight. I thank her for what she said at the beginning. It is absolutely right that the House should have not only abundant time to debate these matters but abundant time to think about them. That is why I think that the legislation will be best introduced very much later on this year so that hon. Members in all parts of the House, whatever their views, can give thought to them. As the right hon. Lady says, we must think about this whole question.

There was an all-party Select Committee three years ago of which I and others were members. We went into these things very fully indeed, as the right hon. Lady knows. Speaking for myself—other hon. Members may form a different view—on the whole I think that the right decision was taken at that time.

I know that it is important not to speak too often from this Dispatch Box, Mr. Speaker, but may I respond to the Prime Minister's kindness? I know that we shall have hard things to say to one another across the Dispatch Boxes, but I hope that we shall be able to keep the mutual respect of keen antagonists which I think is in the best interests of parliamentary democracy.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the right hon. Lady appears to have bowled him over at least through half of his questions? Whether that is a sign for the future I know not. Is the Prime Minister aware, further, that it is singularly appropriate today to congratulate the right hon. Lady on becoming the first lady of this House, which we hope is not a contested position, at least for the immediate future?

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that some eight years ago he was kind enough to assure me that the relationship between party leaders was one of warmth, friendliness and total understanding? We hope that the right hon. Lady will live to enjoy that relationship.

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that inflation inevitably hits any Head of State under whatever system it is operating, and the Head of State of this country is not immune from those processes? Would he also bear in mind that some of us who sat on the Select Committee on the Civil List believe that the present system is not only psychologically unfair but is totally misleading?

Will the Prime Minister again have a look at the Crown estates, which admittedly have the benefit of having been freed from death duties but which none the less are surrendered to the Exchequer at the beginning of each reign? In 1970 those revenues were as much as £3½ million. Would he consider the possibility of those revenues being paid into a joint Exchequer board for the actual expenses which the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and perhaps an official from the Royal Household, could agree, as the Inland Revenue does already in other matters, were wholly and properly incurred in the discharge of the Royal functions and see that this surplus was paid into the Exchequer each year? That would be much more accurate and much more fair.

Finally, so that we get these matters into perspective, will the Prime Minister confirm that the cost of discharging the functions of the Head of State of this country is slightly less than the cost of running the Embassy in Paris?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. He is, of course, right when he says that inflation hits Heads of State in common with everyone else. In fact I think the more accurate phrase to use is that it hits any large employer. The increase referred to in the statement which I made this afternoon, which is required because of the statutory requirement of the report by the trustees, is largely because of wages and salaries. I am sure no hon. Member begrudges the fact that the Royal servants received roughly the same wages and salary increases as those in comparable work and in comparable—in many cases the same—trade unions. No one disputes that.

The right hon. Gentleman was right when he said that this cannot be regarded as an increase in pay, notwithstanding the rather tendentious headlines we have seen about "Increase in Queen's Pay". It is not an increase in pay. It is not an increase in salary. The Queen has received no salary since the 1972 Act. It is in fact a reduction, not an increase, in the real value of the finance made available. In part it reimburses her as a very large employer on behalf of the nation for what she in an inflationary situation over three years has had to pay in increased wages and salaries.

Would my right hon. Friend agree that there was certain information about the effects of the Royal immunity from taxation which was not fully available to the Select Committee three years ago and which would be relevant and should be available to Parliament if we are to legislate further on this matter?

I know my right hon. Friend's feelings on this matter. Indeed, he has spoken to me about it. It is true that the Select Committee did not receive certain information on this matter, though I think that most hon. Members were able to make a fairly clear assumption about these things. The Select Committee considered the question of tax liabilities. As I have said today, without any question of tax there is a voluntary contribution from the Crown—from the Queen's own resources—to the £1·4 million which is contained in the order.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his statement today will go some way to deal with the grossly unfair and misleading remarks which have have been made outside? Does he agree that since the Crown surrendered various rights in exchange for the Civil List, the State has made a handsome profit out of the Royal Family, quite apart from the enormous debt that we owe them as ambassadors for Britain and the Commonwealth throughout the world?

Is the Prime Minister aware that the vast majority of Members on this side will be appalled at the statement that he has made this afternoon, and that I suspect that the vast majority of our supporters outside will share that view?

Does the Prime Minister know—I am sure that he does—that there is a tax-free income available to the Crown of not less than £300,000 a year from the Duchy of Lancaster which, if it were taxed, would be more than £14 million a year, and that that is likely to increase over the next few years? Does he not think that it would be desirable for us to return to the principle of having a Select Committee to go into all the details instead of this proposal being passed by an order of the House which we shall not have the opportunity to amend?

Will not the Prime Minister accept—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—that the whole of the Parliamentary Labour Party took the view, when the Civil List was debated, that we should establish a Department of the Crown—in other words, treat it as another Department of State with an annual Vote? His proposals this afternoon fell very short of that. We knew that he was a member of the establishment, but he does not need to go on all-fours to prove it.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would you give me some guidance? Should not the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) have declared an interest in the subject to which he was speaking, in that he has gone out of his way to seek publicity for a book which he has published about the Royal Family and he is now making use of the House of Commons in order to further the sales of his own creation?

It is not a convention of the House that interests have to be declared during Questions.

The views of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) on this matter are well known and have been well canvassed over many years. Indeed, he has every right in a free country, as I said of another politican yesterday, to speak for himself and some others. But he does not have the right to claim to speak for the majority of the British people. Naturally, I do not accept some of his remarks. I know how strongly he feels and it will perhaps be better for me to pass them by.

My hon. Friend referred to the Select Committee of which he and I were both Members and in which we played a considerable part together.

My hon. Friend has always been a full-timer on this subject. Some of us have to spend time on other subjects.

My hon. Friend did not point out that in the debates on the Bill that followed the Select Committee, the procedure under which I have to take action today, as required by law, was not contested by a vote called by either of the Front Benches of the major parties or by him.

Perhaps my hon. Friend was away. Some of us were full-timers at that time.

If my hon. Friend was in his sick bed, I understand and withdraw that remark.

My hon. Friend will be aware that, in his absence, even those whose support he claims did not move an amendment to the Bill relating to the procedure under which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I are required to act.

I was interested in what my hon. Friend said, because the point was pressed in our discussions. Incidentally, in most votes in the Select Committee he and I voted on the same side, but perhaps for slightly different reasons [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not accusing my hon. Friend of guilt by association. I am just saying that we did.

My hon. Friend suggests that the Royal Household should be treated as a Department of State. I think he will realise the implications. If it were a Department of State—in other words, an employing Department—with 75 per cent. of its total expenditure being staff costs, it would be automatic for that Department to come to this House to ensure that there were votes of sufficient money to pay those wages and salaries.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, even after the increase that he is proposing, the cost of our democratic monarchy is far less than that of most of the corrupt and despotic dictatorships of Eastern Europe which are so warmly supported by his hon. Friends behind him?

The hon. Gentleman's concluding words are typical of the nonsense that we get from some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not accept the words that he used. I thought that this House wanted good relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Some of us hope to do something to help those good relations tomorrow. I do not intend, while I am in Moscow, to make any inquiries into the total cost of the administration of the Head of State office.

Does the Prime Minister agree that most people in this country believe that the services of the Royals, even at the expenditure of such moneys, are cheap at the price if they prevent the emergence of populists such as President Powell or President Wedgie Benn?

My hon. Friend is the second of those behind me to parade his favourite obsession this afternoon.

My hon. Friend had a Shadow job once. I have the greatest regard for my hon. Friend. Indeed, I remember when he acted as sponsor to the would-be President Taverne. Leaving aside the concluding words of my hon. Friend's remarks, which he read beautifully—he needs a new script writer, if I may say so—I agree with his opening words.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Even from my right hon. Friend, for whom I have such high regard, I cannot accept the accusation that I ever read my questions or that anybody writes my scripts.

That was the point. I apologise to my hon. Friend. I was not suggesting that he was reading his question. That would be out of order. I was saying that I thought that he was following his own script. When I suggested that he should change his script writer, I meant that he should have someone other than himself to write for him.

Since the Labour Party is so concerned with the public expenditure consequences of what the Prime Minister has announced, may I ask whether he is aware that the salaries alone, not counting other expenses, of the additional 250 civil servants to be recruited to do the unproductive paper work of the National Enterprise Board will cost more than double the entire cost of the Royal Household? If hon. Gentlemen opposite are concerned about public expenditure, will the Prime Minister remind them that in terms of value for money we do a great deal better from the monarchy than we shall do from all these new retainers at the court of King Wedgwood Benn?

The hon. Gentleman is now the third hon. Member to parade his well known obsession. The hon. Gentleman should just have stood up and bowed and we would have known what he wanted to say. What he said does not arise from the statement that I made this afternoon. I hope that we shall long continue to hear the hon. Gentleman from the Opposition back benches.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, despite the large amount of money involved, contrary to popular belief many employees of the Royal Household and estates are not getting anything like the increases recommended within the TUC guidelines? Does he also accept that, as the Royal Household and estates represent such a large proportion of our national resources, now is the time to reconsider seriously the productivity and purposes of those estates and whether we can devise some means of putting them to better use or increasing their productivity rather than having unnecessary similar statements at such frequent intervals? Is there not a case for having a fresh look at the position of the monarchy and the purposes of the Royal estates in future?

I thank my hon. Friend for what he said. It is a fact that where comparability can be established and demonstrated—many employees of the Royal Household and estates are members of the same trade unions as those employed in other Civil Service or quasi-Civil Service jobs—the employees are given the same conditions and payments as those in the Civil Service proper. They are not civil servants, but they are treated in that way.

Over the years the Civil Service has scrupulously followed both the statutory controls of the previous Government and the TUC guidelines, and this example has been followed in the determination of the salaries and remuneration of comparable grades at the Court. My hon. Friend says—and I should like to know more about this—that he thinks that on the whole the employees concerned have been unfairly treated compared with people doing comparable work—work which I think is described in the Civil Service by the horrible word "analogues". If that is so, it still further strengthens the case for enabling Her Majesty the Queen, as employer, to pay those who do a thorough job of work for her in accordance with what is regarded as reasonable remuneration.

Following is the information:

Section 1(1) of the Civil List Act 1972 provided for the payment of £980,000 a year from the Consolidated Fund for the Queen's Civil List. That sum exceeded the annual expenditure at that time. The Act provided for surpluses to be accumulated by the Royal Trustees and applied to meet deficits in subsequent years. At the time when Parliament was considering the 1972 Act it was expected that the provisions in the Act would suffice to cover expenditure for a period of about five years.
When the position was reviewed at the end of 1973 it was estimated that the existing provision under Section 1(1) of the Act, together with the surplus accumulated from 1972 and 1973, would suffice to meet Civil List expenditure in 1974 and 1975. In the event, however, costs and prices have risen faster than was foreseen. Despite continuing economies in the Royal Household, Civil List expenditure in 1970 rose to £1,180,000, which was met as to £980,000 from the Consolidated Fund grant for the year, as to £137,000 from the accumulated surplus at the disposal of the Royal Trustees (which was thereby exhausted), and as to £63,000 by Her Majesty herself from her Privy Purse.
The legislation which the Government propose to introduce for the future would allow the payments authorised under the Civil List Act 1972, as amended by the order now being laid before the House, to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund under the authority of the Civil List Acts, and would authorise the Government to pay such additional amounts as might be required from 1976 onwards to be provided by means of a grant in aid to the Royal Trustees out of monies provided by Parliament.
It would be the Government's intention that, in so far as the provision was to meet expenditure on wages and salaries in the Royal Household, it should be adjusted each year to take account of pay increases negotiated for the Civil Service on the basis of the agreed and established pay links; and that, in so far as the provision was to meet other expenses, it should be adjusted to take account of movements in prices. But the adjustment would not be automatic: this system of providing for increases in the Civil List in the estimates would enable the amounts of the provision to be adjusted to take account also of changes in the level of expenditure in real terms, reflecting, for example, changes in the pattern of the official activities of the Royal Family.

Social Security Act 1973 (Amendment) Bill

4.1 p.m.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend Section 1(7) of the Social Security Act 1973 so that those holding elective office revert to being classed as self-employed.

Order. Will hon. Members who wish to withdraw please do so quietly and conduct their conversations outside the Chamber?

We have been concerned today with matters of the remuneration of those in the public eye. It is perhaps fitting that we should now look again at the status in employment terms of hon. Members and elected councillors.

After the immediate post-war social security legislation, Members of Parliament were regarded as being self-employed. We remained so until the Social Security Act 1973, when we changed our status to that of being employed—employed by whom, I know not. We should have been more vigilant at that time to look after our non-dependent status, and should not have passed that part of the Act. My purpose is to reverse it.

As employed persons, we shall pay a national insurance contribution of about £197 a year. If we were to revert to being self-employed, we should pay a contribution at a flat rate under Class 2 of about £125 and a further contribution of £163 under Class 4, making £288 in total. My suggestion will certainly cost us more money. However, if the House seeks to place upon the self-employed the burdens placed upon them by the recent Act, which have been much resented, the first thing we should seek to do is to saddle ourselves with similar burdens. We should not try to evade the consequences of the increase in the self-employed's contribution. We should not get out of paying it by remaining employed.

I admit that there was some coincidence in the matter, in that the previous Government introduced the Social Security Act 1973 and the present Government increased the contributions of the self-employed. I make no party accusation. I merely say that the coincidence of circumstances is such that it is offensive to those outside who are called upon to pay the new contributions, and that it ill-behoves us to accept that situation.

Secondly, those of us who have employments outside the House as well—I declare an interest, as one of them—will be called upon to pay extra contributions by virtue of those other employments. We shall be paying the maximum of £288. Therefore, the Bill will make no difference to those with other employments besides membership of the House. The only people whom it will affect financially will be those who have no other employment, who will be called upon to pay an increased contribution.

I do not know whether there is any intention to vote against my motion. If there is a Division, hon. Members should bear in mind that they will have to explain to their constituents how they could vote to resist paying more from their salaries to put themselves on a level with others outside the House whom we have called upon to pay higher contributions.

But that is not the main burden of my argument in favour of this short Bill. My main point is that, as hon. Members, we cannot be employed by anyone, and should not demean ourselves with the implied employed or dependent status in the expression "employed". I do not know who is supposed to employ a Member of Parliament under the 1973 Act. If it be the Crown, it is odd that we should recently have been discussing whether we should increase the emoluments of the Crown. If it be the Government, it is all the worse. The Leader of the House has demonstrated his abilities as an employer in relation to the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse). I should hate to be dependent upon him or any executive for my employment. I go further, and suggest that the position of being employed is in contravention of our duties to hold no office of profit under the Crown. I even doubt whether it is right for us to be Members while we remain employed.

Therefore, it seems to me right that we should change the situation before April, so that we then cease to be employed and revert to the status of self-employed which we had always had. That would be in accord with the traditions of this honourable House and more nearly in tune with the feelings of the public, when those who have been classified as self-employed have been called upon to pay bigger social security contributions.

I ask the House not only to give me leave to bring in the Bill but to give it a speedy passage. If the House accepts that it should be introduced, it is incumbent upon hon. Members to give me time to pass the Bill through all its stages before the beginning of April. Otherwise, the House will be seeking to evade the issue, meeting me on the matter of principle which I have just advanced but hoping that the Bill will never find its way on to the statute book simply because of the inactivity of the governing party. If leave is given to bring in the Bill, there will be an onus on the Government to make sure that this small but important measure reaches the statute book in time to prevent our remaining "employed"

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Nicholas Ridley, Mr. Peter Rees, Mr. Norman Lamont and Mr. Eldon Griffiths.

Social Security Act 1973 (Amendment)

Mr. Nicholas Ridley accordingly presented a Bill to amend Section 1(7) of the Social Security Act 1973 so that those holding elective office revert to being classed as self-employed: and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 84.]

Orders Of The Day

Trade Union And Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill

As amended ( in the Standing Committee), considered.

Clause 1

Repeals Of The Principal Act

4.10 p.m.

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 8, leave out paragraph (a).

With this we can also discuss the following amendments:

No. 3, in Clause 2, page 1, line 22, at beginning insert:
'( ) For section 5(3) and (4) of the principal Act (Rights of workers as to arbitrary or unreasonable exclusion or expulsion from trade union) there shall be substituted the following subsections:
"(3A) A worker aggrieved by his exclusion or expulsion from any trade union, branch or section may apply to a Tribunal appointed for the adjudication of such grievances for a declaration that he is entitled to be a member of that union, branch or section.
(3B) The Tribunal shall be appointed by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the Conciliation and Arbitration Service and shall have an independent person with legal qualifications as chairman and two other members.
(3C) The procedure at such a Tribunal shall be in accordance with rules made by the Trades Union Congress and approved by the Council on Tribunals.
(3D) If at any time there is not existent such a Tribunal and such rules, such an application may be made instead to an industrial tribunal in accordance with industrial tribunal regulations.
(4) Where any such declaration has been made or by the Tribunal or by an industrial tribunal, as the case may be and has not been implemented by the union, branch or section concerned within any period specified in the declaration or if no such period is specified within a reasonable period, the worker may apply to the High Court or, in Scotland, the Court of Session for an injunction, interdict or such other relief (including compensation) as the Court may think just and expedient in all the circumstances of the case"'.
No. 5, in Clause 2, page 1, line 22, at beginning insert:
'( ) For section 5(3) and (4) of the principal Act (Rights of workers as to arbitrary or unreasonable exclusion or expulsion from trade unions) there shall be substituted the following subsections:—
  • "(3A) A worker aggrieved by his exclusion or expulsion from any trade union, branch or section may apply to a tribunal appointed for the adjudication of such grievances for a declaration that he is entitled to be a member of that trade union, branch or section.
  • (3B) The tribunal shall be appointed by the Secretary of State in consultation with the General Council of the Trades Union Congress and the Chairman of the Conciliation and Arbitration Service and shall have an independent person with legal qualifications as chairman and two other members.
  • (3C) The procedure at such a tribunal shall be in accordance with rules made by the Trades Union Congress and approved by the Council on Tribunals.
  • (3D) If at any time there is not existent such a Tribunal and such rules, such an application may be made instead to an industrial tribunal in accordance with industrial tribunal regulations.
  • (4) Where any such declaration has been made or by the tribunal or by an industrial tribunal as the case may be and has not been implemented by the union, branch or section concerned within any period specified in the declaration or if no such period is specified within a reasonable period, the worker may apply to the High Court or in Scotland, the Court of Session for an injunction, interdict or such relief (including compensation) as the court may think just and expedient in all the circumstances of the case".'

    Amendment No. 1 is a paving amendment for the other amendments which you. Mr. Deputy Speaker, have indicated we can discuss with it.

    We regard this as a thoroughly bad Bill. We do not like any part of it. However, the House gave it a Second Reading and some minor changes were made in Committee. We seek by this amendment and by others which will be moved by us to improve the Bill. By this amendment we seek to maintain rights and safeguards for individuals who have been excluded or expelled from trade union membership in an arbitrary or discriminatory fashion. I think there is total agreement in the House that, though the numbers involved are small, the principle is important and it is right that the House should consider and seek ways of dealing with it in a proper fashion.

    Safeguards were written into the 1974 legislation when Parliament insisted that they be included. They were the subject of quite tight votes, but Parliament decided that provision for them should be made. Now the Governemnt are seeking, once again, to eliminate those safeguards, despite a series of undertakings given by the Secretary of State and others in our debates on these matters. The right hon. Gentleman has gone back on his repeated undertakings or indications that the Government would deal legislatively with the situation.

    I remind the House briefly of those commitments. On 22nd March 1974 we were informed that
    "Consideration is being given to providing either in this Bill"—
    that was the 1974 Bill—
    "or a later one, safeguards against arbitrary exclusion or expulsion from union membership".—[Official Report, 22nd March 1974 Vol. 871, c. 1488.]
    That was the trailer for something which was to follow either in the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 or in later legislation.

    On 7th May, in column 231 of the Official Report of that date, there was a clear implication that legislation would be prepared. On 23rd May, in columns 202 and 212 of the Official Report of the Standing Committee proceedings on the Bill, the Minister of State referred to this matter. I accept that he did not give an absolute assurance, but what was said on that occasion and on other occasions clearly indicated that the Government were considering a legislative solution.

    On 10th July, during the Report stage of the 1974 Bill, the Secretary of State said that the Government would deal with the matter
    "either in this Bill or in the later Bill [Official Report, 10th July 1974; Vol 876, c. 1391.]
    In column 1395 there was reference to the possibility that the method of dealing with it in a Bill would be by a code of practice.

    On 30th July, when the House considered the Lords amendments, we had a clear statement from the Secretary of State when he said:
    "I repeat all the undertakings that we certainly intend to proceed to deal with it in some form or other, either in a code of practice or by some other means, but following consultations with the General Council of the TUC, when we introduce the next Bill in the autumn—the Employment Protection Bill."—[Official Report, 30th July 1974; Vol. 878, c. 503.]
    In other words, the matter would be deal with in a Bill.

    4.15 p.m.

    On 3rd December, on Second Reading of this Bill, the Secretary of State said:
    "… we have always claimed and said in all our debates that if we were to reinstitute the legaliy of the closed shop it would be necessary to have some kind of special further safeguard over and above the common law."—[Official Report, 3rd December 1974; Vol. 981, c. 1373.]
    After all that build-up, over every stage of the former legislation and during the Second Reading of this Bill, indicating that legislation would be forthcoming, the Government now say "We shall not legislate. We shall do nothing to protect and provide safeguards for the individual". The Government will be totally inactive and will leave the matter to the TUC. The Secretary of State indicated on Second Reading what the TUC had in mind. However, although it has put forward proposals for a review committee, it has vetoed any Government action. When the Secretary of State and other Ministers have said that they will do certain things, they meant that someone else would do them and that they would do nothing.

    We welcome the TUC initiative and the setting up of the review committee. It is reasonable for us to suppose that if it had not been for the debates initiated by the Opposition precious little would have come from the TUC. However, putting that on one side, I welcome the action it has taken. But that action alone is not enough. How can it be, in view of what the Secretary of State said last year; namely, that safeguards and protection for the small number of individuals who might be adversely affected would require legislative backing and authority and at least the barest bones of some enforcement provisions to ensure that decisions would be brought into effect?

    The good faith of the Government and of individual Ministers is at test, and for that reason we have tabled Amendment No. 3. It would make provision in the Bill for the review committee which the TUC has said will be set up. Indeed, we use the same words as were used by the TUC about the composition of the tribunal. We have given it just a touch of statutory backing by including it in the legislation and saying that the procedure it follows should be that approved by the Council on Tribunals. We have gone on to put in a minimum of enforcement or implementation backing for these arrangements.

    The amendment tabled by members of the Liberal Party, Amendment No. 5, goes beyond the proposal in our amendment. It reiterates the position adopted in earlier debates by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), who felt that it would be right for the Secretary of State to appoint and to have responsibility for the review body, after consultation with the TUC and the CAS. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends would be happy if the Government were willing to accept Amendment No. 5. We sought in our amendment to narrow the scope down to the smallest intervention by Government. I accept we may not have the drafting as satisfactory as it should be, but I hope that we will deal with the real issues rather than such pedantic points. There are ways in which these matters can be put right.

    There is a further argument used by the Secretary of State against provisions of this kind. On 3rd December he said that they would lead to industrial pressures. He referred to the effect of the 1971 Act. The right hon. Gentleman is guilty of grotesque exaggeration. The figures issued by his Department show that in the last four months of 1974 many more days were lost as a result of industrial disputes than were lost as a result of the existence of the Industrial Relations Act—or proposals for that Act—in the four-year period from the 1970 General Election until the repeal of the Act last year.

    Those are the figures contained in Hansard in answers to Questions and in the Department of Employment Gazette. The Secretary of State's argument that this legislative protection, this safeguard for the individual, can lead to damaging industrial clashes does not bear examination. If we take 1974 quarter by quarter and compare it with the previous year we can see that in the second quarter, after the Labour Government came into power, for every four days lost in 1973 five days were lost in 1974. That was when the Government had announced that the Industrial Relations Act would be repealed.

    In the third quarter of 1974, when the repeal measure was going through the House, for every four days lost in 1973 six days were lost in 1974. If we now take the fourth quarter of 1974, when the Industrial Relations Act had been fully repealed—and when the General Election of the autumn was over—for every four days lost through industrial disputes in 1973 nine days were lost in 1974. This cuts the ground from the Secretary of State's assertion that legislative proposals of this kind were leading to a large number of days being lost.

    I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will respond positively to these amendments. Or is he so tightly constrained by the TUC that no departure, however small, is possible from what that body seeks to achieve in legislation? Is the TUC veto upon the Secretary of State so utterly complete that the right hon. Gentleman cannot move at all to give legislative backing to an attempt to provide safeguards for those who may be adversely affected by arbitrary exclusion or expulsion from a union? The test of the Secretary of State will be in his response to these amendments. I hope that he will find it in his heart to agree to them.

    I support Amendment No. 1 but wish to speak to Amendment No. 5 standing in my name and the names of my hon. Friends. I would have thought that at the present stage the Government could have found a better use for their time rather than using it to insist upon having their own way in this Bill. All that the Bill is about is removing from the previous measure those things on which the Government were defeated when they were a minority Government, from February to October last year.

    Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Labour Party has no right to carry out its election promises?

    No, certainly not. I am suggesting that there are certain parts of the election manifesto which I would have thought would have been considered to be more important than an attempt to deal with six fiddling little amendments all of which were inserted in an attempt to protect the individual against massive trade union power. Collectively they are not of such importance that the Government need to make their removal a priority. I do not challenge the Government's right to do this.

    Of course, when the Secretary of State says "We will do this and that" he is referring to the TUC. I am surprised that anyone should be in any doubt about that. It is becoming increasingly obvious, certainly to my right hon. and hon. Friends and me, that the Minister and the Department are very much in the hands of the TUC. The right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to move in any way if his view is not in accord with that of the TUC. It does not surprise me that he is not willing to make the slightest concession. This is not necessarily because he does not want to do so but because the trade union movement is not prepared to see any concession made. It is obvious that he is virtually a slave of the trade union movement.

    I am glad to hear that the hon. Member considers that 39 per cent. of the total vote cast is a mandate. I and my party have always made it clear that we are opposed to the principle of the closed shop and furthermore—

    If the hon. Member wishes to interrupt me I will let him. I am delighted to see that he is so keenly interested in industrial relations. I hope that he is as keenly interested in ensuring that unskilled labour is not paid at skilled rates and that Members who choose to employ people as private secretaries and draw their salaries for them will ensure that they employ qualified people. I am sure that the hon. Member gets the message.

    4.30 p.m.

    This clause is concerned about the exclusion or expulsion of an individual from a trade union in a closed shop situation. The Liberal amendment seeks to ensure that there is a statutory right of appeal for the individual in that kind of situation, and to ensure that the appeal tribunal, so set up, shall be set up statutorily and shall have statutory powers. As the hon. Member for Brent-ford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) said, our amendment goes much further than that of the official Opposition. It goes further because we take the view that justice must not only be done in this matter but must be seen to be done.

    While we appreciate very much the TUC's gesture in offering to set up a sort of voluntary tribunal, we believe that it is not sufficient for that tribunal to be set up by the very people against whom the appeal is to be made. In other words, if a person is expelled from or excluded from a union and he wishes to appeal against that, the body to which he appeals would be the trade union movement.

    What we are being asked to accept is that the trade union movement should have the right to appoint the tribunal that is to hear the appeal of the individual against the decision of a trade union. In our amendment we are arguing that it is right that such a tribunal should be set up but that it should be set up by the Secretary of State, and that its members should be appointed by him and not by the TUC. That, basically, is the only difference between us. Who shall appoint the tribunal? Shall it be the TUC or the Secretary of State?

    We believe that however independent may be a tribunal appointed by the TUC, and however it may attempt to give an honest, balanced view of the case before it, ultimately any person who appears before that tribunal and loses his case will inevitably say that he has had a raw deal because the people who tried his case were the people against whom he was appealing.

    I have heard Labour Members talking about the police in relation to such matters. I do not believe that complaints against the police should be investigated by the police, so nor do I believe that complaints against a trade union should be investigated by trade unionists.

    What the TUC suggests is that there should be three people on the tribunal and that one of them, the chairman, should be an independent man who has a knowledge of law. As I said on Second Reading, two from three or one from three means that inevitably, unless the two appointed by the TUC because they are trade unionists disagree, the views of the independent chairman will not be relevant in voting terms, as his vote will be relevant only if the other two are split.

    Our amendment has been tabled because we are extremely anxious about the individual case. We concede that the cases arising will be few. But even if there is only one, we believe that it is the duty of the House to protect the liberty of that individual. Even if only one person is affected adversely by exclusion from or expulsion from a trade union, we believe that it is a vital job for the House to protect that individual and his liberty and to give him or her the opportunity to appeal in that situation to an independent tribunal appointed by the Secretary of State.

    I hope that the Government will feel able to accept our amendment, even at this late stage. I hold out little hope, but with what little hope there is I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. Neither on this amending Bill nor on the original Act has he made any concessions, or very few, to the views of minorities, or even to the views of substantial majorities. This is an opportunity for him to make a concession which would go a long way to alleviating the fears of many people that the trade union movement is really becoming too powerful. But whether or not it has become too powerful, it is at least necessary to have some sort of braking mechanism within the system to ensure that if the trade union movement were to use its power wrongly, at least the individual would have some right of appeal to an independent statutorily appointed tribunal.

    The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) have spoken briefly on this subject, but I know that they attach great importance to it. I also attach the greatest importance to it. Therefore, if I reply also briefly that does not mean that I am seeking to minimise the importance of the question in any sense.

    It is the fact, however, as the hon. Gentlemen know as well as anyone, that we have discussed this subject on numerous occasions and, therefore, it is not necessary for us all to cover all the ground on each occasion. I say that in order that no one should think that I am trying to treat the subject in any derogatory fashion. That has not been the way in which I have approached the whole question throughout, or the way in which we have approached the discussions that we have had with the TUC about the matter. As I shall underline shortly, I believe that the agreement which has been reached, or the proposal that has been made by the TUC, is a great step forward and one which should be welcomed by the whole House.

    I am grateful that the hon. Gentlemen have welcomed the proposal, even if they would like something further. I believe that that, at any rate, is an important advance. Therefore, I hope that after the speeches we have now had, no one will say that the proposal of the TUC is in any sense being dismissed as a proposal which is not of considerable significance.

    Let me come to the speech of the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth. I could make some controversial remarks about the figures on strikes. The hon. Gentleman showed his marksmanship when he picked the year 1973 rather than 1972. If he had picked 1972, the first year of the Industrial Relations Act, when that Act was having, perhaps, its full immediate impact, he would have discovered figures very different from those he cited, and very different comparisons. He would have had to face the figure of 24 million days lost—I think it was—during that period. The comparison would be quite different.

    I do not want to spend much time on this matter. We have other occasions on which to discuss these matters.

    But I underline the fact that many of the heavy figures on strike action and days lost owing to strikes during 1974 we certainly attribute, in the main—not entirely, because there are always complicated reasons which may be adduced to explain different figures—either to the operation of the statutory incomes policy or to the hangover of the statutory in- comes policy. For example, great numbers of the lost days in the National Health Service were certainly due to the way in which the statut