House Of Commons
Wednesday 26th March 1975
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
The Clerk at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence, through illness of Mr. SPEAKER from this day's Sitting
Whereupon, Mr. GEORGE THOMAS, the Chairman of Ways and Means, proceeded to the Table and, after Prayers took the Chair, as DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation to provide that the English bank of the River Tweed, those reaches of the river which are wholly in England and the adjacent area of the Northumberland coast shall no longer be governed by Scottish law in respect of fishing and related matters.
I have no plans to do so.
Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that the present situation is something of an anomaly and is felt to be so by those fishermen who pay their rates in England but are governed by Scottish law. The gill net ban has led some people to feel that their interests have not been sufficiently carefully considered. Will the hon. Gentleman accept that if these powers pass to the Scottish Assembly this kind of government without representation will be unacceptable on the English side of the border?
I do not want to encourage English nationalism—[Interruption] We have enough bother with Scottish nationalism. There is a genuine difficulty here, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman recognises. All the previous legislation has recognised that it is impossible to consider the problems and prosperity of the Tweed and salmon fishing in isolation—in other words, it is recognised that it is impossible to differentiate between England and Scotland. For these practical reasons, and in the interests of all concerned, it has always been desirable to deal with this in United Kingdom legislation, but with the main emphasis on the fact that it is a Scottish river and the fish are mainly Scottish fish.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when the next issue of the Scottish Economic Bulletinwill be published; and if it will contain an estimate of employment prospects in Scotland over the coming 12 months.
The spring edition has just been published and the next is due in July. It is not our practice to give estimates of employment prospects, but each issue contains an article reviewing general progress in the Scottish economy.
Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the large number of factory closures in Paisley and get his astrologers on to the job of trying to find out how we can get these people other employment?
I should prefer to rely on a much more reasonable policy than that of astrology. I hope that when we come to the publication and then the enactment of the measure dealing with the Scottish Development Agency we shall get all the help that we usually do get from my hon. Friend.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he believes that the employment prospects in Scotland will improve or decline if the United Kingdom leaves the EEC?
One cannot isolate the economy of Scotland from that of the United Kingdom. One of the things about which I am pleased is that although there is evidence of rising unemployment the Scottish economy seems to be much more resilient because of the special efforts that have been made and the opportunities that we now have in Scotland. We cannot isolate Britain from the rest of the world, and we cannot isolate the Scottish economy from the United Kingdom economy.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the Scottish Development Agency. May I ask what additional resources will he placed at the disposal of the Assembly, bearing in mind the statement made in Newcastle by the Leader of the House to the effect that few additional resources would be going either to the Scottish Assembly or to the Scottish Development Agency?
It seems that certain individuals are quite speechless unless they read theDaily ExpressI suggest that it would be far better to wait a little while. A few days after we return from the Easter Recess the Scottish Development Agency Bill will be published. It will contain a Financial Memorandum and a list of powers, and the hon. Gentleman will then be able to make up his mind without getting guidance from the enlightened organ to which I have referred.
School Leavers (Employment)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to assist the Scottish economy to absorb the large number of children leaving school and seeking employment in the current year.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with industrial organisations about employment problems facing school leavers in 1975.
Between February and March the number of unemployed school leavers in Scotland fell by over one-third. In mid-March there were more vacancies for young persons notified to the Department of Employment than there were unemployed school leavers. These figures are an encouraging sign.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the people of Scotland will be pleased to note the encouraging trend of those figures? Nevertheless, is he aware that in Fife in particular in March of this year there were 141 school leavers still unemployed, compared with 52 in March 1974? Will he give encouragement to the people in my constituency, and in other parts of Scotland, by indicating that the Scottish Development Agency will have the powers necessary to ensure employment for school leavers?
I take my hon. Friend's point. The employment situation is not as good this year as it was last year, and this has affected unemployment amongst school leavers as well as elsewhere.Apart from particular things that one can do to help young people, the answer is a healthy Scottish economy within a healthy United Kingdom economy, and that is what the various steps that we are taking, including the establishment of the SDA, are designed to bring about. in this as in other fields the SDA will have a favourable effect upon the Scottish economy.
I thank my hon. Friend for the good news that he has brought us. It seems that things are a little better. However, is he aware that of the 80,000 school leavers this year 64,000 will find it very hard to get jobs? Is he considering doubling the regional employment premium for those firms which are prepared to take on extra apprentices? If we can develop the skills now for the great future that is ahead of us we shall have done a good job.
The level of unemployed school leavers at the minute is just over 2,000. That is far too high a level, but it is not comparable with the figure that my hon. Friend mentioned. His specific question is more a matter for the Department of Employment and the Training Services Agency, but I shall pursue his suggestion that employers might be given special incentives to take on young people in this difficult situation. I shall write to my hon. Friend about that matter.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from trade unions about the current rate of unemployment and what replies he has sent.
I have received no representations from individual unions but when, with the Prime Minister, my colleagues and I met the STUC recently we had a discussion in depth over the whole field of Scotland's economic development.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. Is he aware that over the past few weeks I have been asked about the position within the development area of Govan? Certain industries are closing down in Govan. Cape Contracts is moving to another area. Has it made any attempt to get in touch with the Government? The people who work in the King George V dock are in the same position. Have they made any overtures to the Government to the effect that a difficult situation may arise when Hunterston begins operations—
Order. Two questions are enough at one time.
My hon. Friend has put two detailed questions about firms in his constituency. In the first instance they would make their representations not to me but to the Department of Industry. However, on 1st July I take over new powers and I may then have much more detailed information to give my hon. Friend in respect of these matters. I shall gladly look into the point that he has raised about these individual firms.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Scottish unemployment situation is almost as bad as the situation in Denmark? Is he aware that Denmark is often cited as the worst European example? Does he realise that if Scotland did not have 40,000 oil-related jobs it would be in a situation similar to that which exists in the United States of America, which is now going through its worst slump since the depression? As the Government have made such a mess of establishing oil-related jobs, will they now consider the possibility of establishing jobs which are not connected with the oil industry and which will provide long-term employment opportunities?
I do not know whether the hon. Lady knows what she is talking about. The fact is that we have 40,000 oil-related jobs. The full implications of the go-slow policy preached by the hon. Lady's party are such that they would not have established 40,000 oil-related jobs.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the future of the Scottish fishing industry.
In Scotland, as in the United Kingdom as a whole, the fishing industry is currently facing some economic difficulty, and it was for this reason that the Government announced their intention of giving temporary financial aid. The aim of this aid is to give the industry time to adjust to changed circumstances.There is also natural concern about more long-term problems, including fishery limits and conservation of stocks. The Government will play their part, in co-operation with the industry, in seeking a speedy resolution of these problems through international negotiation.
1 thank the Minister for that reply. Is he in a position at this stage to say anything about yesterday's meeting about the banning of foreign fish? I appreciate that there will be a statement later today. Further, will he now change his mind and agree to meet representatives of the STF when he is in Aberdeen on 3rd April to discuss the continuation of financial support after the end of June, the need for a settlement of the EEC fisheries policy before the referendum, and the need for a 200-mile limit to be imposed unilaterally if the Geneva Conference breaks up without agreement?
The hon. Gentleman is obviously well-informed in that he knows about my activities. I say straight away that I would be delighted to meet the STF in Aberdeen next week, together with any of the other representative organisations in the fishing industry. There is lack of communication even within those organisations about what is going on. The hon. Gentleman obviously will not expect me to anticipate my right hon. Friend's statement, but I can assure him that we are well aware of the short-term problems, the long-term problems linked with the Law of the Sea Conference, and the need to give urgent attention to the EEC common fisheries, policy.
Welcome though the recently announced subsidies are, does the Minister accept that there is a great deal of resentment that vessels fishing for shellfish should be excluded? As a great deal of their catch goes to earn foreign currency, surely there is a case for seeing that vessels fishing for shellfish are included.
There is another Question on the Order Paper dealing with that point. Although the hon. Gentleman has skilfully avoided the 40 foot argument, he will recognise that this is a temporary financial aid to the industry and that it is based on operating costs. With great respect to the shellfish industry, its operating costs have not increased so much as costs in other sections of the industry.
Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that in his consideration of the problems facing the fishing industry he will seek to preserve the principal of priority for coastal States, as was negotiated originally when we entered Europe? As for the very much changed situation in respect of the 200-mile limit now under negotiation at the Law of the Sea Conference, will the Minister say when the Government will be in a position to give their answer to the herring section of the industry regarding interim measures to serve the herring industry until the Law of the Sea Conference is concluded?
If the hon. Gentleman concluded satisfactory agreements I must tell him that they are not appreciated by many sections of the fishing industry. I do not think that he should overdo the compliments to himself when he leaves me with the problems. We are well aware of the urgency of this matter, but the first thing to do is to see how the Law of the Sea Conference proceeds. If there is an acceptance of the 200-mile limit it will still be open to us, within that kind of framework, to pursue the right policies within the EEC.
Scottish Trades Union Congress
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to meet the Scottish TUC to discuss economic and employment prospects.
I had a full discussion of these matters with the STUC at the end of February, in company with the Prime Minister and my colleagues principally concerned. We propose to repeat this occasion annually, and, of course, I shall continue to meet the STUC myself as and when the occasion requires.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the meeting was warmly welcomed in Scotland? Will he confirm that when dealing with the middle- and longterm position the Scottish TUC put great emphasis on the Scottish Development Agency being controlled by the Scottish Assembly in Edinburgh? Notwithstanding the narrow defeat of the excellent composite Resolution No. 1 at Aberdeen last Friday will my right hon. Friend agree to give the most serious consideration to the point of view of the Scottish trade union movement, especially as it received such weighty support from, for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan)?
I assure my hon. Friend that I shall take full account of the views of the STUC. I shall give due weight to the decisions of the political wing of the Scottish trade union movement.
Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House what he believes would be the effects on employment in Scotland if Scotland and Britain as a whole were to leave the European Community?
I should be happy to do that if the hon. Gentleman managed to table a Question and if I managed to answer it.
Does my right hon. Friend remember that after his last meeting with the STUC at the Scottish summit the Prime Minister gave an assurance that Hunterston would be started by 1982? Later, in an effort not to be outdone, Monty Finniston, the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation, stated, in an interview with the industrial editor of theGlasgow Herald, that he would start the preparatory work now. When will my right hon. Friend get into step with the Prime Minister, Monty Finniston and everyone else in Scotland and start building up our infrastructure, and when will he open the new motorway connecting North Ayrshire with the M8 and the M74?
I shall be delighted to open it when it is finished.
If the Scottish TUC does not take the Government's advice to support Britain's staying in the Common Market. will the Secretary of State ask it who is to pay the huge grants that Scotland is currently receiving from theCommunity—[HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."]—and who will provide employment for those made redundant—[HON. MEMBERS: "Still reading."]—in the main Scottish industries for which the biggest market is in Europe?
The Question relates to my plans for meeting the STUC. If the hon. Member had the time to write that supplementary question down why did he not write it out and put it on the Order Paper?
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the prospects for the Scottish economy.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are his estimates of employment and investment prospects in Scotland during the next 12 months.
The Scottish economy is subject to the same difficulties which face the United Kingdom as a whole as well as other industrial and oil importing nations. It is, however, encouraging that employment in Scotland is proving more robust than in the rest of Britain, Scottish unemployment bearing a lower relationship to the Great Britain total than at any time since recording began in 1954. The establishment of the Scottish Development Agency and the development of North Sea oil will, with our general regional policies, help to sustain and create new employment and to encourage investment in Scotland.
Does the Secretary of State agree that the unprecedented wave of strike action in the Glasgow area is damaging the image of an area which desperately needs to attract jobs and is causing hardship to users of the airport and to residents in multi-storey flats, among others? Does he agree that in consultation with the Secretary of State for Employment he should appoint an independent inquiry to find out what is going wrong with labour relations in Glasgow and what can be done to put the situation right?
Like the hon. Member, I deplore the disruption, and I hope that he, like me, will use all his influence not to stir up trouble as some people in Scotland are doing but to strengthen the hand of the official trade union movement. He should direct his question about the inquiry to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.
Why is the Secretary of State so coy about giving us the benefit of his advice about Britain's continued membership of the EEC? Will he be less shy in commending the dustmen and the Army in Glasgow for the efforts they are making to make Scotland a cleaner and better place to work in? Will he follow through the idea of bringing troops into Glasgow by bringing the Royal Air Force into Abbotsinch, so that people can fly to and from London and elsewhere?
I have already paid tribute to the dustmen and the Army for the work they are performing, but I saw little indication of a similar approach by the Conservatives when they were in that situation before.As for the hon. Gentleman's impatience in getting a speech from me about the EEC, I can tell him that I delivered such speeches from the Opposition Dispatch Box and I have made speeches on the subject over a long period. I have had no influence on him, however, and I deplore the fact that he is still so dense in these matters.
On the question of the Scottish economy, does my right hon. Friend agree that the point of substance by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) in a supplementary question earlier today, about a major road link between Hunterston and Central Scotland is important? We are delighted that my right hon. Friend will come to open the road, but the people of Ayrshire want to know when that will be.
I would have welcomed far greater attention to this matter by the people of Ayrshire. The project was held up over a decision as to the line that the road should take. My hon. Friends were trying to put one point of view and other people were putting another, and until that matter was settled among those people, with the help of the Scottish Office, we could not make reasonable progress.
I welcome the conversion of the Secretary of State to the realisation of the importance of the development of Scottish oil resources for the benefit of Scotland. Will the right hon. Gentleman now admit that the real importance to Scotland lies in the investment of Scottish oil revenues within the Scottish economy? Will the right hon. Gentleman do something to persuade the Leader of the House to take action to prevent these vast resources from leaving Scotland for England, as is presently planned?
I shall be glad to look into any of the hon. Gentleman's suggestions, but I hope that they will be better than the ones he has made hitherto.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the nature of his reply to the representations he received on behalf of 1,000 persons from Coatbridge and Airdrie which called for legislation providing for longer sentences on those convicted in courts; and if he will make a statement.
Penalties are a matter for the courts and there is no reason to suppose that their maximum powers are inadequate. A reply to the Editor of theAirdrie and Coatbridge Advertiserwas sent on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 14th March and by me today. These discussed measures which, if taken by the services and, indeed, the citizens in the local community, could help to reduce the problem.
Is my hon. Friend aware that more than 1,000 persons wrote to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiserasking that tougher measures should be taken against those who flood high schools, repeatedly burn beautiful new primary schools, destroy industrial premises and even poison the guard dogs, and attack and brutally beat up innocent persons who are thus reduced almost to vegetables? Will my hon. Friend con- sider widening the court sentences to include useful community work under the prison service supervision where no labour force exists now, not forgetting the possibility of restoring corporal punishment for these persistent sophisticated thugs?
It is important to get this question in its proper perspective. TheAirdrie and Coatbridge Advertiserissued about 10,000 forms, of which 1,000 were returned. The forms contained a question which the people answered. I am sure that my hon. Friend would not wish to mislead the House into believing that 1,000 people actually wrote to the newspaper, because that is not the position.I assure my hon. Friend that longer and more severe sentences are now being imposed. In 1963, 8 per cent. of those convicted for vandalism were given custodial sentences, whereas in 1973 the figure was 13 per cent. Consideration is being given to the possibility of introducing some form of community service for those convicted of vandalism. But I think that my hon. Friend has a duty to be consistent. I know that he does not favour corporal punishment in schools, for instance—
No. The Minister is wrong.
It is important that we should get the question of corporal punishment clear in our minds.
Does the Under-Secretary agree that vandalism is a serious and worsening problem? What does he mean by his new initiative, and does he envisage a situation in which those who perpetrate acts of vandalism would, where practicable, be made to make good the damage they have done?
Any person convicted of an act of vandalism can be sued in a civil action for the costs of putting right the vandalism committed. The new initiative to which I referred relates to community service. We are looking at this matter, and when we are in a position to say something to the House that will be done.
In his travels throughout Scotland, has the Minister noticed the andalism being perpetrated by the SNP election propaganda which is still being displayed? I refer particularly to the horrible desecration of an important building in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend take steps to ensure that custodial sentences are imposed upon those concerned?
I have noticed that most of our road signs are still seriously disfigured with SNP election propaganda. This is a serious point which I trust the SNP will take seriously. Political parties have a responsibility to clear up that type of vandalism. I appeal to the SNP to take steps to have our road signs restored to their original form, to clear up the type of vandalism to which my hon. Friend rightly referred.
Does the Minister appreciate that, having with great difficulty got the District Courts (Scotland) Bill through the House in its present form, he has thus excluded the thousand burghers of Coatbridge and Airdrie, who might have imposed the sentences in the courts?
I appreciate that what we have done with the Bill, without the hon. Gentleman's help, is to introduce a system of courts that will be very acceptable and will perform a very good service within the law of Scotland.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made in the establishment of community councils.
Most of the new district and islands councils have in hand the necessary preparatory work for setting up community councils in their areas.
Will my hon. Friend try to ensure that the new community councils are as democratic and representative as possible, by seeing that they contain the maximum number of directly-elected representatives and also by ensuring that they are adequately financed by central Government, so that they are not entirely dependent on local authorities for their resources, some of which authorities may be reluctant to support bodies which oppose some of their views?
The preparation of schemes is a matter for the district and islands councils. Since we published our consultative document last December, there has been considerable activity by councils in this respect, particularly within the Strathclyde region. The regional council has promised to provide financial support, which, at the product of a penny rate, will amount to about Elf million. So I think that finance will be forthcoming.
Will the Minister confirm that there is no need for communities to wait until the district councils propose comprehensive schemes for community councils throughout the area before they get together to form provisional community councils?
A great deal of activity can go on now, but the first statutory step is for the advertisements to be placed. That has already been done in most areas. It is now up to interested bodies—local organisations, community organisations, and the rest—to put their ideas to the local authorities, so that this important initiative gets off the ground as quickly as possible.
What action does the Scottish Office intend to take against the ludicrous Treasury decision that any funds finding their way into community councils will not be regarded as of charitable status?
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about. The financial provisions for community councils were laid down in the Local Government Act.
Divorce Law Reform
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has received to introduce legislation to implement divorce law reform in Scotland.
In the past year my right hon. Friend has received 18 letters from private individuals and interested groups supporting the introduction of legislation to implement divorce law reform in Scotland. I am aware also of similar representations that have been made to my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and others.
I am sure that there is no need to remind the Secretary of State that the people of Scotland are fed up with being treated as second-class citizens. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that they have noted that Government time was allocated to discuss the matter on a specifically English basis, but that the Government have refused to allocate time to discuss it as a Scottish matter. Has the hon. Gentleman read the Law Commission report. which states that Scottish law is falling behind because there is no time to debate such matters? Does he agree that that is a strong argument for setting up a Scottish Legislative Assembly immediately?
I always understood that the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends were more interested in separation than divorce. I hope that she is as forthcoming with the people of Scotland outside the House as she appears to be with those inside the House, because one of the reasons why the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh. Central (Mr. Cook) is in such difficulty is that it was opposed in its early stage by the Leader of her own party—her hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart).If the hon. Lady is suggesting that the law of Scotland is falling behind the law in England and Wales and should be brought into line with English law, she should say so.
Has my hon. Friend noted the statement to the Press issued by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) that we should allow any English law reform to run for 10 years in England before we imitate it in Scotland? Does he agree that that is not acceptable to the Scottish people, and that the sponsors of my Bill, from all parties, have greatly appreciated the Government's sympathy and understanding of the difficulties we are in? Will my hon. Friend inform the House of the number of representations made to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, which I think have been passed to the Scottish Office for answer?
I cannot give the House the number. I noted what the hon. Member for Western Isles said in the statement, and also that when the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire. East (Mrs. Bain) was speaking the hon. Gentleman was violently disagreeing with what she said. Certain discussions are taking place about the Bill, and they will continue.
Why on earth should time be given for a hare coursing Bill, which many of us support, yet there is no Government time to be given for this Bill, which is on a matter causing acute anxiety to a number of families in Scotland? The opponents of the Bill on a Friday are a Scottish Tory Member who sought to use the English law to obtain his own divorce and the Leader of the SNP, one of whose colleagues is now shouting for harmonisation between the law in England and the law in Scotland.
I am not responsible for the management of Government business, and I am not in a position to say why time is given for one Bill and not for another.
I accept what the Minister has just said, but will not the Scottish Office change its traditional mind on this question and urge the Government to give time to debate the matter? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that in many families in Scotland great bitterness is felt about the lack of harmonisation between English and Scottish law in this matter, and that Members from all parties want the earliest possible debate, at least to see what the feelings of the Scottish Members are on the matter?
It must be within the hon. Gentleman's memory that during his time as PPS to the previous Secretary of State for Scotland approaches were made on the subject, and no sympathy or support were forthcoming from the Government of the day. Whilst I recognise the strength of feeling, 1 rest on the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central that these are matters for discussion and that we should wait and see how the discussions develop.
Will the Minister dissociate himself from the unfair personal remarks made by the hon. Member for Fife. Central (Mr. Hamilton), and agree that a Bill of this importance should be fully debated, and not approved on the nod at 4 o'clock on a Friday afternoon?
I am not responsible for what any hon. Member, on either side of the House, says at Question Time or in debate. The matter has been debated in the House many times. Most hon. Members, whether they are for or against divorce reform, have made up their minds where they stand. We should leave the matter there, and see how it progresses.
Mentally Handicapped Persons(Education)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many centres for the education of the mentally handicapped are in the process of construction.
Ten for children and five for adults.
Is my hon. Friend satisfied that enough has been done to begin implementing the Education (Mentally Handicapped Children) (Scotland) Act 1974, which is widely acclaimed by many people in Scotland who have a special interest in educating the mentally handicapped? Those people are worried about the lack of visible progress in the building of accommodation. Will my hon. Friend say whether anything is being done and what new developments he has in mind, particularly in relation to profoundly mentally handicapped children?
As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Education (Mentally Handicapped Children) (Scotland) Act 1974 comes into operation on 16th May this year. There are 10 centres for children and five for adults at present under construction. There are a number of problems, but many of the premises already used will be taken over by the education authorities which will be responsible for the education of mentally handicapped children after the appointed day. One problem, for example, concerns the 1,500 children in mental deficiency hospital wards, many of whom receive no education or training at present. Most education authorities are making short-term arrangements for taking over hospital wards for teaching purposes, as is being done, for example, at Lynebank Hospital, in my hon. Friend's constituency.
Public Service Employees
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether be has any plans to introduce a weighting allowance for public service employees in Scotland similar to the London weighting allowance.
Is the Minister aware that that answer will be received with deep disappointment and some anger in Scotland, particularly by people who work in the public services and whose cost of living is similar to that in the south-east of England, although they do not get the benefit of the weighting allowance which is paid to people working in the public services in London? Will not the Minister stand up for Scotland for a change and impress on his Cabinet colleagues the importance of securing social justice for the working people of Scotland as well as for the working people of London?
I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said. The London weighting allowance is specifically directed to the high cost of housing and travelto-work in the London area. These matters have only recently been studied again by the Pay Board in a report which was initiated by the previous Government. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will be happy to have the information that the overall average earnings for all manual workers in all industries, on the latest figures available, are, in England £48.75 per week and in Scotland £48.37 per week, so that the figures are now absolutely, on all fours. I hope that that information will be set against the lying propaganda of the Scottish National Party in this matter. Generally speaking, it would be much to the detriment of Scotland, both in the public service and generally, to move from national agreements to a series of local agreements. It is a great illusion to imagine that Scotland would benefit from that system. In my opinion, it would suffer very much.
I recognise the general need for better wages, but will my hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) that according to Department of Employment statistics many Scottish workers earn more than do their London counterparts, because of the hard work of Scottish trade unionists working within the Labour movement? Will my hon. Friend also remind the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East that although he may never have attended a trade union meeting in his life, he can at least try to equalise Scottish wages by asking his fellow SNP member, Sir Hugh Fraser, to pay the lassies who work in his Scottish shops as high wages as those in his London shops.
Order. This is not the time for an Adjournment debate.
I am sorry to hear that, Mr. Deputy Speaker because I thought that my hon. Friend made a very good point, which I hope will be noted. It is true that there are many industries in which Scottish wages are considerably ahead of wages in England. That applies, for example, to sections of the engineering industry in the west of Scotland. It is an illusion to believe that all these matters can be looked at in any general way. The situation is patchy. There are reasons for the present disparities which are sometimes to the detriment and sometimes to the benefit of Scotland. The idea that basing wages or salaries generally on local indices of cost of living would produce benefits for Scotland is a great illusion. I rest on that, whether one talks about Scotland generally or parts of Scotland like the west of Scotland or, for example, Aberdeen.
"Roads To The Isles" (Study)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what decision he has made in response to the submissions of the Highlands and Islands Development Board in its study "Roads to the Isles".
I have considered the HIDB paper within the general context of the review of shipping services which I am conducting. I hope to announce the results of my review soon.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that this is another attempt by an independent body to bring pressure to bear on the Scottish Office and the Government to ensure that the Western Isles and other islands of Scotland get a fair deal in transport? As the railways are heavily subsidised—very properly—throughout the rest of the United Kingdom, is it not time for urgent action to be taken on freight charges?
The subsidies to the Western Isles are disproportionate to the subsidies anywhere else. I do not complain about that. It is essential and desirable. I just wish that the hon. Gentleman who represents these areas would not continually pretend that they receive no subsidies at all. The subsidies are high, and the proposal by the Highlands and Islands Development Board would probably have the effect of trebling them from the already high figure. The Government's conclusions on the services will be announced soon.
Is the Minister aware that compared with general transport subsidies, the subsidy for shipping in the Orkney and Shetland Islands is small and that we look forward with keenness to the result of the general review? In making that review, will he bear in mind the effect upon the islands of the increase in postal charges?
That is a different question. We all send letters, as well as the people who live in Orkney and Shetland. It is true that the subsidy for the shipping services of Orkney and Shetland is comparatively modest compared with that for the Western Isles, but large sums of money are being spent in the development of other services to Orkney and Shetland, including, for example, the air services, and a large sum is being spent on the development of the airport at Sumburgh.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will publish a White Paper on Scotland's educational system.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will publish a White Paper on policy towards education in Scotland.
Will the Minister be flexible over the timetable for phasing out the grants to grant-aided schools in the discussions which are due to take place with those schools?
Yes, we shall certainly be flexible in the discussions. One reason for the discussions on the phasing out period is to examine the various propositions which might be put to us. We have an open mind about the length of time over which phasing out takes place, but we certainly do not have an open mind about the principle.
Will the Minister explain why, in a Written Answer to me, the Secretary of State refused to give the assurance which was given by the Secretary of State for Education and Science that arrangements would be made to safeguard the interests of children presently at grant-aided schools?
The circumstances of grant-aided schools in England and Scotland are totally different, and require different solutions. In our discussions with the grant-aided schools I have no doubt that one issue which will arise is the question of pupils who are already in those schools. We shall certainly listen to what is said. These are matters for discussion.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what amounts and value of fish, excluding shellfish, are at present landed in Scottish ports by vessels under 40 feet in length.
Vessels under 40 ft. contribute between 1 per cent. and 2 per cent. of the quantity and value of such fish landed at Scottish ports. Provisional estimates for 1974 indicate a value of the order of £700,000 and a quantity of about 100.000 cwt.
With the large amount of fish involved and the need to support the fishing industry, is it not unfair to leave vessels under 40 ft. out of the present arrangements?
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. However, he should not talk about a "large" amount.I have already indicated the provisional figure for 1974. In 1972 the figure was £1 million, and in 1973 it went down in value to £800,000; the quantity fell from 200.000 cwt. to 100,000 cwt. Therefore, although 1 recognise that it makes an important contribution to Scottish fishing, it is still only in a proportion of 1 per cent. to 2 per cent.
If all members of the fishing industry are prepared to take a slightly lower subsidy to enable those who fish from boats of under 40 ft. and those who fish for shellfish to participate in the subsidy scheme, will the Department take a fresh look at its decisions?
I have already indicated that this is a purely temporary contribution. The hon. Gentleman knows the problems, because we have discussed them together. If there is any desire on the part of either section of the industry to make a voluntary and co-operative effort, there is nothing to stop anybody taking action if he is willing to help somebody else. If there is some intention to do so, we would not stop such action, and possibly would encourage it. I wish members of the SNP would appreciate that there is a difference in operating costs between vessels below 40 ft. in length and those above that length, up to 130 ft.
Human Tissue Act 1961(Circular)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he hopes to complete his consultations with health boards and representatives of the medical profession on the proposed circular of guidance on the Human Tissue Act 1961.
Consultations should be completed and the circular issued within the next few weeks.
European Economic Community(Aid)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish in theOfficial Reportthe various forms of financial assistance given to projects in Scotland by the EEC in the last 18 months.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the comprehensive information given in reply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) on 11th March.—[Vol. 888, c. 130–2 and 131–4,]
Is my hon. Friend aware that his reply is not comprehensive? Does he deny or confirm that more than £30 million has been given in grants or loans for onshore and offshore development of North Sea oil? Is he also aware that several hundred thousand pounds have been given to help build fishing vessels in the north-east of Scotland and elsewhere and that a figure of £2,000 was given by the EEC to the Seafield Colliery disaster fund in Fife? Will he publish in much greater detail than given in the original answer the enormous benefits which have accrued to Scotland through our membership of the EEC?
I invite my hon. Friend to look at the answer again, because all the points that he mentioned are included in it.
North Sea Oil Installations (Offences)
asked the Lord Advocate whether he will list his statutory powers in relation to prosecutions involving offences committed on North Sea oil installations.
The statutory powers of the Lord Advocate in relation to prosecutions involving offences committed on North Sea oil installations depend on where the installation is situated. If an offence takes place on an oil installation situated out with territorial waters in a designated area, the Lord Advocate has the same powers which he has in relation to offences committed in Scotland. If the oil installation is situated within territorial waters, the relevant powers are given to the Lord Advocate by the 1964 Act, as extended by Section 8 of the Mineral Workings (Off-shore Installations) Act 1971. If the oil installation is in transit, both the 1964 and the 1971 Acts apply.
I am grateful for that reply. Is the Lord Advocate satisfied that this rather complex system is the best way to deal with prosecutions that may arise from the ever-increasing activities in the North Sea? If not, has he considered suggesting how the supervision of law and order in the North Sea might be more simply controlled?
I am satisfied that this is an effective method of policing installations at present. I take the view that improvements are possible, and these matters are under active consideration by the Government.
The Lord Advocate says that he is satisfied with the situation. Is he satisfied that the responsibility for law and order on all oil installations will still be carried out by the Chief Constable of Aberdeen? What advice will he give to his hon. Friend, who is reviewing the situation presumably because he believes it to be unsatisfactory?
If the hon. Gentleman had paid closer attention to my answer, he would have heard me express qualified satisfaction. Some of those qualifications cover his point.
Scottish Law Commission
asked the Lord Advocate whether he will make a statement on the progress of the Scottish Law Commission.
The commission's progress in the various fields with which it is currently concerned is narrated in its Ninth Annual Report, published last month. Since completion of that report a further two consultative memoranda have been published, dealing respectively with liability of a paramour, and powers of judicial factors. Also, two reports prepared jointly with the Law Commission have been presented, namely, "Statute Law Revision Sixth Report" and "Supply Powers".
Will the Lord Advocate do everything in his power to ensure that the recommendations of the Scottish Law Commission are implemented? Will he try to ensure that parliamentary time is made available for this purpose?
The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that government is a matter of priorities. I assure him that it would be impossible to implement every one of the Scottish Law Commission's recommendations as soon as a report was published. However, it is one of the Government's objectives to achieve a continuous pace of law reform in Scotland. We shall endeavour to abide by that objective.
Will the Lord Advocate use his legendary charm on his sensitive colleague the Leader of the House to provide parliamentary time to legislate the important reforms which the distinguished work of the Scottish Law Commission has proposed—or will he bring them to his office, declare them redundant and stop wasting public money?
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has already answered that point sufficiently.
asked the Lord Advocate when he next intends to meet the Council of the Sheriffs Association.
I have no proposals for such a meeting at the moment.
Does the Lord Advocate realise that there is some dissatisfaction in rural areas about the distance which members of the public may have to travel to attend sheriffs' courts? Will he bear in mind the fact that it is a matter not simply of mileage, but of other equally relevant factors, such as bus routes, which must be considered when determining the future location of sheriff's courts?
These matters are fully taken into account by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Will the Lord Advocate, with his intimate knowledge of the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles constituency, take particular note of the representations made against the proposed closure of the sheriffs' court at Hawick, which will mean inconvenience to the public and also increased costs for police, social work departments and solicitors?
I have taken note of these matters, as has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend take careful note of what is happening in Edinburgh? Has he noticed the decision of the Edinburgh magistrates not to appoint a stipendiary magistrate because they fear that a substantial volume of work will be diverted from the sheriff court? Has he any estimate of the amount of work which would be diverted if such a magistrate were appointed? Does he not agree that the proper functioning of the burgh court—the second largest in Scotland —will be greatly improved by the appointment of a professional maeistrate?
If my hon. Friend desires to have an answer on that matter, he should table a detailed question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is a question which I guarantee my right hon. Friend will be able to answer.
If the Lord Advocate intends to meet the Council of the Sheriffs Association, will he ask whether it is prepared to undertake additional work in dealing with divorces, if that work is transferred to the jurisdiction of the sheriff courts?
Many matters of that kind are discussed at such meetings. Again, priorities must be considered. I would not have thought the point raised by the hon. Gentleman was one of the most important matters to be discussed by the sheriffs at present.
asked the Lord Advocate if he will invite the Scottish Law Commission to consider the question of criminal procedure.
No, Sir. This is being considered by a departmental committee under the chairmanship of Lord Thomson. The Scottish Law Commission has submitted comments, and a former commissioner, Lord Stewart, is a member of that committee. The commission's views will no doubt be reflected in the departmental committee's conclusions in due course.
When the Lord Advocate sees the Scottish Law Commission, will he make publicly plain in Scotland the opinion of the Attorney-General in England that dislike, disapproval, or ignorance of the law are no good reason for breaking it?
I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Attorney-General has no jurisdiction in Scotland.
Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for the first week after the Easter Adjournment?
Yes, Sir. The business for the first week after the Adjournment will be as follows:
MONDAY 7th April, TUESDAY 8th April and WEDNESDAY 9th April—Debate on a motion to approve the White Paper on the Membership of the European Community, Command No. 5999, and the Recommendation of Her Majesty's Government to continue Britain's membership of the Community. EEC documents R/650/75 and R/1372/73 on regional aid will be relevant.
At the end on Monday,
Remaining stages of the Reservoirs Bill [ Lords].
Remaining stages of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Bill [ Lords], which is a consolidation measure.
Tuesday 8th April will be the 13th Allotted Supply Day.
THURSDAY 10th April—Second Reading of the Referendum Bill.
Remaining stages of the Coal Industry Bill.
FRIDAY 11th April—Private Members' motions.
First, may I ask the Leader of the House to confirm the date for the Budget which I understand is on the tape?Secondly, we are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for agreeing with our suggestion that there should be three days on the European motion. We think that it is extremely important. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Prime Minister will be making a statement about the guidelines, in respect of dissenting Ministers, for the conduct of business? There was some concern about that matter at Question Time earlier this week when the Secretary of State for Trade was answering Questions. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us some idea of the date in his mind for the referendum? My right hon. and hon. Friends and I find that we are being asked questions about this matter, and it would be helpful if we could give a reply. Finally, we understand why it has not been possible to arrange for a debate on defence the week immediately after Easter, but, as the White Paper is extremely important, may we know when we shall be having that debate?
I confirm what I understand is on the tape, namely, that the Budget will be on 15th April.I note what the right hon. Lady said about the three days for the debate on the European motion. The guidelines are part of the guidance that the Prime Minister gives to his Ministers. All Prime Ministers give guidance to their Ministers from time to time, and sometimes parts of the guidance are made public. The content of the guidance and whether it is made public are matters entirely for the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I wish that for once in a while the Opposition would listen. I am afraid that I cannot yet give the date for the referendum, but I will make the date public as soon as possible. A number of factors are involved, including the progress of the Bill in Committee. I hope to be able to make the date public by the time that we come to Second Reading in the week after Easter. I note what the right hon. Lady said about the defence debate. This will be held as soon as possible. I understand the general desire for a debate on the White Paper.
Turning to that other White Paper on devolution, if we are at all clear about what is to go in a Devolution Bill, why should there be that much extra work involved in producing a White Paper?
We have not yet completed the briefings for the Bill, let alone the Bill. We did not promise the Bill before the end of this year. We said that we hoped to achieve a Bill by the end of this year. I have told my hon. Friend before—I will bear in mind what he said —that if the production of a White Paper will not greatly detract from the work being done on the Bill, I will certainly consider it later this year.
Is the Leader of the House aware that many hon. Members would like an urgent debate on the fishing industry? Is he aware that, for example, last night in Peterhead over 300 skippers signed a declaration stating that they would take strong action unless they got a satisfactory reply from the Government? If any such action were to take place during the recess, would the right hon. Gentleman consider recalling this House to enable us to debate the matter?
I understand the feelings about this matter. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food met the fishermen's representatives yesterday. I will certainly pass on to him what the hon. Gentleman said.
The Lord President mentioned some EEC documents on regional aid in his statement on the White Paper debate. Will he clarify that statement? Will he tell the House whether these regional documents and regulations from the EEC have been debated in the House, whether they will be debated on a separate day, and why he has bracketed these documents with the White Paper debate when there are many aspects of our relations with the European Economic Community other than regional development?
I understand that these two documents are directly relevant to part of the renegotiated terms. Therefore, I thought that it would be for the convenience of the House to take note of these two documents at the same time.
Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to what was said from the Treasury Bench last night, in the debate on the census order, about the desirability of more time being found for the discussion of that order, which came under severe criticism? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear that in mind?
I understand that that debate was completed last night, but I will certainly look at what the right hon. Gentleman said and what was said in the debate last night.
Would it be possible for English regional business to be discussed, other than on the Floor of the House, in some way similar to the Scottish and Welsh Grand Committees?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for putting that question. As he knows, on a number of occasions recently I have said that I have been looking at this matter. I hope later today to table a motion for the setting up, for an experimental period, of a Standing Committee to discuss regional matters. We shall look at that matter after Easter, but I hope to table a motion today.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether Ministers will be free to take part on both sides of the issue in the debate on the White Paper? Will he also tell us when we are to debate the Finer Report?
On the last point, I cannot yet give a reply to the hon. Gentleman. However, I know of his interest in this matter and I will arrange a debate some time this Session.On the first point, I told the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition that the guidance that the Prime Minister gives to his Ministers is a matter for him regarding both content and whether it will be made public.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that yesterday this House, by a majority of nearly four to one, gave a First Reading to my Liquor Licensing Bill? Is he also aware that there is now a clear demand in the House for implementation of the Erroll recommendations? Will he either give time for my Bill to proceed or persuade his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to bring in a Bill of his own as fast as possible?
I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will note what my hon. Friend has said. I am afraid that my hon. Friend must use what opportunities there are for Private Members in the same way as other Private Members do.
The Leader of the House has been less than candid about the rôle of dissenting Ministers during the three-day debate. This is a matter of constitutional importance. Are they free to participate in the debate? If so, from where will they speak—the Government Dispatch Box, the back benches, or the Opposition Front Bench?
I have twice said that the extent to which the Prime Minister makes public the guidance that he gives to his Ministers is entirely a matter for him.
On the referendum, I recognise that the Government have their own problems of timing, but will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that it also creates problems of indecision for the two campaigning sides? Would it not be better if the Government went nap on a slightly later date—for example, 19th June—to allow for any obstruction in the other place, so that we all know where we stand? Will he look at that point?
We certainly intend to go nap on a date as soon as we can, but a number of factors are involved in deciding the date. Therefore, it is not possible today to give the date. However, I will announce the date at the earliest possible moment. I understand the difficulties of the hon. Gentleman and the two campaigning organisations.
My right hon. Friend will be aware of the acute public distress, which is reflected in every part of the House, at the recent reports of the conditions of workers on the British-owned estates in Sri Lanka. Will he consider in the first week after the recess tabling a motion to set up a Select Committee to inquire into that problem?
No. I cannot undertake to do that. However, I will pass on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what my hon. Friend has said. I know of his concern and that of many hon. Members on this matter.
As a matter of priority, and for the safety of die public, will the Lord President undertake to bring forward the long-overdue Safety of Sports Grounds Bill well in advance of the Hare Coursing Bill?
I cannot say which will come first. Certainly they will both be taken in this Session.
Is the Lord President aware that I put down a Question about the Common Market to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for answer at the next sitting week? It has been transferred to the Secretary of State for Trade. I know that usually the Lord President would say that that was no concern of his, but in the present circumstances would he persuade both his colleagues to answer? I could then pick which answer I preferred.
Have not the answers of the Leader of the House on dissenting Ministers been typically arrogant and complacent? Is it not time that hon. Members received some clarification, because when Ministers reply from the Front Bench on European matters we have a right to know whether they are speaking on behalf of the Government or of themselves?
The hon. Gentleman is an expert on arrogance, so I shall not comment on that.With regard to the substance of the question, I said that all Prime Ministers from time to time give guidance to their Ministers, but whether or not it is made public is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister. I have no doubt that he will read what was said today in the House.
Leaving questions of arrogance aside—which is rather surprising for the right hon. Gentleman—is it not a fact that the Prime Minister promised my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) that he would make public the guidelines w Ministers? If he made that promise to my hon. Friend, will not that be honoured?
Of course, if my right hon. Friend made a promise it will be honoured. May I say that the right hon. Gentleman's opening remarks were completely out of character for him.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying that if the Prime Minister niade a promise to my hon. Friend it will be honoured. because in that case the right hon. Gallic-man will know that the Prime Minister will make the guidelines public. since that is what he promised.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the reply which he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Davies) with regard to the establishment of a Select Committee to look into the Sri Lanka tea estates and the British interests there will be noted with regret? We look to the Leader of the House for the establishment of Select Committees—not to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Will the Leader of the House please look again at this matter?
There is a limit to the number of Select Committee which we can set up. We could set up Select Committees to inquire into everything under the sun. However, I shall consider what my hon. Friend has said. I have no intention to set up a Select Committee on that matter the week after Easter. That was the question which I was asked.
Is the Leader of the House aware that when Ministers speak in this House they are expected to explain the policies of their Departments? Will the right hon. Gentleman say what will happen when the policy of a Department conflicts with a Minister's views on the Common Market?
I have answered that question already. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am now answered questions on the business to be taken during the week after Easter. I cannot see how the question arises out of that matter. This is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister, who I am sure will bear in mind all that was said today. If my right hon. Friend made a promise he will, of course, honour it.
Regarding the business to be taken when the House resumes after the Easter Recess, and those Ministers who will speak with different voices on the question of the Common Market, will the Leader of the House take into account the fact that a large number of Government supporters are not terribly concerned about the show of Departmental differences between Cabinet and other Ministers, and that we regard it as part of our manifesto campaign to have open government? [Interruption] Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall be only one minute more.
I am deeply pleased to hear that, but the hon. Gentleman should address his question to the business for the next week.
Does the Leader of the House appreciate that in the course of the debates in the week following Easter and hon. Member, perhaps even of ministerial standing, will have to represent not only those in the Labour Party outside the House who are against the Common Market but also the views of perhaps 25 per cent. of the Tory voters and half of the Liberal voters who are against the Common Market? That is nothing to be concerned about.
During the three-day debate which I have just announced I am sure that all points of view on the Common Market will be put with vigour in the House.The Prime Minister took the view, in my opinion rightly, that on this unique issue, which divides parties and the country, where Ministers have deep conscientiously-held feelings, they should be allowed to dissent from the collective view of the Government.
Is there to be a debate soon on the Gardiner Report relating to security and other matters in Northern Ireland, which is important now in view of the fact that the Price sisters have been transferred to Northern Ireland, and because there is a possibility that other Irish bombers may be transferred to gaols in that Province in the near future?
I was asked about this matter last week. I said that I could not arrange a debate in the near future, but that I thought this was an appropriate subject for a debate in the new Irish Committee. I shall be happy to arrange that if that is the general wish.
We must move on as there are two statements to be made.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you help us over the matter with which the Lord President attempted to deal? This is a matter for the Chair. Every day hon. Members receive letters. We have no means of assessing whether answers to questions represent Government policy.
That is not a matter for the Chair. A three-day debate on the matter will take place after the recess.
I told the House on Monday that I was meeting representatives of fishermen and would make a statement to the House afterwards.The discussion was frank and constructive. The fishermen drew attention to low quayside prices for fish in relation to the increased costs of fishing. They said that earnings were reduced and many voyages undertaken at a loss. Heavy unloading of imported frozen fish was a major contributory factor. If this situation were to continue, vessels would go out of fishing, supplies of fresh fish to the consumer would suffer and prices thereafter would rise unduly. The Government have for some time been aware of the depressed state of the market. We introduced temporary aid to ease the situation while price adjustment took place. Within the European Community, we have been having discussions. The intention is shortly to introduce a system of reference prices for frozen fillets with a view to stabilising the market at satisfactory levels. We have also been having other talks. Arrangements by Norway for minimum prices for frozen cod and haddock coming to our market come into operation today. This is an important move towards market stability. In view of it, there has been no need to ask the Community for use of the safeguard clause. The fishermen also gave me their views on other matters, including points about fisheries limits. I have taken full note of their views; but I made it plain that the Government would not act unilaterally or in advance of the outcome of the Law of the Sea Conference. The discussion was helpful. I am glad to see that the blockade has been lifted in some ports I am hopeful that others will follow this responsible example.
The House will be most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for making a statement the day after he met the fishermen. Having listened so carefully to their views, we trust that he will follow that up and take urgent and practical action. We are glad, too, that the blockade has been lifted in some ports, but there are other relevant aspects about the crisis on which I should like to question the right hon. Gentleman.First, is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the dissatisfaction with the herring quota, which is causing some boats to be idle? What hope can he hold out for improvements in the quota? As he will be aware, this dissatisfaction has exacerbated the anger of the fishermen and caused them to press for a 50-mile limit to preserve their livelihoods. How in present circumstances can these fishermen maintain their incomes? Secondly, what are the facts about rising imports? We are glad about the action taken by Norway, but how will that action effect the level of imports? What we are concerned with here is fair competition. Thirdly, is the right hon. Gentle:nan aware of the real fears that exist in the industry of overfishing by foreign boats? What is required is reassurance about the future safeguarding of the livelihood of these fishermen, and we should like to hear something about that. Finally, in his statement the right hon. Gentleman refers to a reconsideration of existing provisions of the common fisheries policy. Has that reconsideration begun, how quickly will it proceed and when will the results of it be likely to be made known?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, his Government and the Conservative Party accepted the common fisheries policy. It is there. I shall be having discussions on this matter in the Community when I visit Brussels in April. There are some aspects on which I feel that we need to have assurances. There is no question about that.The herring quota is not a matter which has affected the dispute with which I have been dealing. Here we are dealing basically with imports coming from Norway affecting the market, and this is the matter to which my attention was drawn. I recognise that the herring quota is a matter of importance, and 1 have been having discussions with my Scottish colleagues about it. On the 50-mile limit, I thought I had given my views to the House. We could not do something unilaterally on this matter. We are bound by the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference discussions. This is right and proper, because we ought to see what emerges from that conference. The question of overfishing is an important matter but does not affect this dispute.
Bearing in mind that my right hon. Friend the Minister is now fully aware of the desperate mood of inshore fishermen following his talks with them, may I ask whether he is further aware that the deep-sea fleet men are fully in sympathy with these men in the stand they are taking? The deep-sea men do not condone their tactics, of course, but they are in sympathy with their view about the state of the market. As the nations which are now—not dumping exactly—unloading fish on to our market are outside the EEC, will my right hon. Friend say a little more about the proposed negotiations and arrangements with the Norwegians in particular but also with the Icelanders, if possible?
I know that my hon. Friend represents a fishing constituency and is in close contact with the British Trawler Federation. I understand that the federation accepted that the inshore men have a case. In relation to my hon. Friend's specific question about the countries which are supplying fish here, I should like to say about Norway that I am happy to pay tribute to the Norwegian Government, who have taken a constructive and helpful step. With permission, I shall circulate information about the minimum export prices in theOfficial Report. They come into force today and will be kept under review. 'We have had discussions with Norway on this matter and they have been constructive.
May I also thank the Minister for the early part of his state- ment? However, may I impress upon him the fact that anxiety is felt all round the coasts by all sections of the fishing industry and ask him a little more about the limit? We appreciate that the 200-mile limit may have to wait upon the Law of the Sea Conference, but will he impress upon all those concerned that what we have in mind is that unless steps are taken to preserve stocks, particularly herring, in the North Sea, there will be no fish to fish for at all very soon?
Yes, I agree, and the right hon. Gentleman rightly has stressed the point raised by the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym). Conservation is vital. At all conferences the British Government's point of view, I know, is that which previous Governments have always expressed. I shall certainly bear it in mind. There is anxiety on this matter. I accept that. But what we have achieved from discussions will be helpful.
Will my right hon. Friend inform the House of the amount of frozen fish stocks in EEC countries as a whole? Second, what is likely to be the effect upon the inshore and other fleets when the derogation from the Treaty of Rome negotiated by the previous Conservative Government comes to an end? Thirdly, has he sought the opinion of the Law Officers as to whether the fishermen, in the way that they are handling their dispute, might become guilty of a common law conspiracy?
I do not want to get involved in that question. I met the fishermen. Some of my colleagues in the House, from both sides, were with me and represented certain interests. I am anxious to see this dispute settled amicably. I do not like to use threats in this way. [Interruption] I have not threatened anyone. I hope that my lion. Friends will listen to what I am saying. I am anxious that the blockade should cease, and I hope that nothing which is said in the House will prevent that.On the question of imports from Europe, I have no figures. The problem has been imports from Norway and countries outside the EEC. I shall try to get those figures and write to my hon. Friend about them.
is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great problem now facing the commercial ports of Immingham and Grimsby, where the blockade is still being maintained? Is he aware, for example, that there are ships in Grimsby and Immingham that have been prevented from sailing since last Friday because of the dispute? Is he also aware that the very vague nature of his reply today will unfortunately not give much satisfaction to the Humberside fishermen?I reinforce the right hon. Gentleman's plea to those blockading these ports to call off the blockade, particularly because a court injunction has been granted. However, these men are very firm indeed in their view that they will not call off the blockade unless they get a really satisfactory answer from the Minister.
I am aware of that, but I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should make those remarks. This is no contribution to a constructive solution. We had discussions with Norway about this. As I have said, the important step, which I stressed with the men yesterday, is to get market stability. That is what they wanted. Indeed, my reply fulfils that.
I think we all realise that the Minister is doing his best. However, may I ask him this question on the herring quota? Is he aware that this quota affects longshore herring as well? This involves the small boats and not the big drifters. Could not an exception be made for the longshore herring, particularly as he talked about fresh fish? Heaven knows, there cannot be much fresh fish left among the quota that has already been fulfilled because the fishermen are not allowed to catch them. We have these wonderful longshore herring swimming around the coast and my people are not allowed to catch them.
I recognise the inshore problem in relation to herring but this is not a matter which affects Norway as such. This affects our own waters. 1 am having discussions with my Scottish colleagues.
I appreciate the difficulties in which the Minister finds himself, but will he not recognise the fact that virtually no skipper around the Scottish coast will be satisfied with his statement today? Will he realise that this situation cannot be cleared up piecemeal and that he must go for a package deal, on which the fishermen insist—for example, minimum prices at ports, control of imports, and a complete renegotiation of the common fisheries policy so that our men may have exclusive use of the first 50 miles of water around our coast?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate what I said about the common fisheries policy. This was not a specific issue which the fishermen raised with me. This is a matter which I volunteered to the House. When I go to Brussels in April I will put our point of view. It is a formidable one, because the British are the largest fishing nation in the Community. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should say that my statement will not satisfy people. Of course it will not satisfy those who do not want to be satisfied. I hope he will appreciate what we have achieved. I stress the importance of market stability and the arrangements about minimum prices. These are matters which affect frozen cod and haddock coming into our market, and they will come into operation today.
Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that, while I welcome what he has said about prices and imports, these matters take us only part of the way? May I ask him about the use of registered dock labour for unloading fishing vessels? Is he aware that this ties up with the official definition of an inshore vessel, which is causing a great deal of concern in the small ports?
I appreciate that the hon. Member represents an important fishing area. He will know that the Government have recently issued a consultative document dealing with registered dock labour and containing proposals for legislation. The proposed dock labour schemes exempt inshore fishing vessels. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will be taking serious account of the views which have been put to him about these proposals. At his request I am conveying to him the general representations which the fishermen made on this point.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that answer. may I take up the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall)? Is there to be any definition of an inshore fishing boat, because this seems to be the point on which the whole issue hinges?
This is not an easy question to answer directly. I could not answer it now. I have taken note of it.
May I reassure the right hon. Gentleman by telling him that the Scottish fishermen are international in outlook and appreciate that these negotiations have to be carried out and agreed internationally? Does he accept that they are asking for this 50-mile limit simply as an interim measure, to be agreed internationally? If the Government reject this, can the right hon. Gentleman say what measures they would support to achieve conservation in the interim? Is he aware that the fishermen are prepared even to accept a temporary ban on herring fishing? Does he accept that the timing of the referendum creates a new situation and that it is important that he tries to achieve agreement on the common fisheries policy before the referendum?
I hope that I shall not be influenced in what I do at any time because there happens to be a referendum. I must do what I think is best for the industry. I have always behaved like that when I have gone to Brussels and achieved what I have achieved. I know that a lot of people may be critical of my achievements but I believe that the interests of Britain are more important than the issue of the referendum. I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said about the fishermen of Scotland. It would be wrong for Britain to act unilaterally when we are committed to holding discussions at the Law of the Sea Conference.
While I agree with all that has been said about the urgency of action on the fishing limits, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the Government's view that these imports of frozen fish come within the definition of dumping, or are the proposed measures part of the generally restrictive approach of the EEC towards food?
No, this is nothing to do with the attitude of the EEC towards food. It would be wrong to draw that conclusion. I know the right hon. Gentleman's views but I can assure him that that is not so. This is specifically related to imports from countries such as Norway, which has now agreed to this pricing policy.
Order. We must move on. Mr. Orme.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is with great diffidence that I raise this point. If this dispute should, unhappily, be protracted and there is occasion for a future ministerial statement, may I ask you to give consideration to calling those Members whose constituents consume fish as well as those whose constituents merely catch it?
That is something I shall ponder on during the recess.
Following are the figures
The Norwegian Minimum Export Prices for the United Kingdom are:
|Boneless/skinless fillets frozen in blocks (industrial blocks).||3·65||3·65|
|Frozen catering fillets,skin on|
|under 8 oz.||2·80||3·20|
|over 16 oz.||3·70||4·00|
|Frozen catering fillets,skinless|
|under 8 oz.||3·20||3·70|
|over 16 oz.||4·10||4·50|
|(All prices are in £/stone, cif British ports).|
Harland And Wolff
With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and with that of the House, I wish to make a statement about Harland and Wolff, the Belfast shipyard. This is not the first time it has been necessary to make a statement on this subject. The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) told the House on 21st December 1973 about proposals to provide financial support. In a further statement on 22nd July 1974 I announced that, as a rescue operation, the Government had decided to extend the shareholding in Harland and Wolff Limited already held by the Northern Ireland Department of Commerce, with a view to providing the additional finance required by the company to make good its heavy trading losses, and to bring about the changes which the Government believed to be necessary. Following that statement, the Government put a project team into the yard to undertake a review of the company's affairs.That review has now been completed. The company's annual accounts for 1973 published in November 1974 showed a £38 million provision for estimated prospective losses on contracts entered into prior to 31st December 1973. In the light of the review it appears that the provision for prospective losses needs to be increased by over £22 million, that is, to about £60 million. These are very heavy losses. However, a modernisation programme costing £35 million, mainly financed by Government, and making this yard one of the best-equipped in Europe for the construction of large tankers, bulk carriers and similar ships, is nearing completion. The company is the largest single industrial employer in Northern Ireland, with a long tradition of technical excellence in shipbuilding. It still has a substantial order book. The Government have accordingly decided that they have no alternative but to give the company a chance for survival. Everybody in the company must realise that the only hope for the future lies in such efficient use of their own skills and of their excellent technical facilities that, as the present order book is worked off, the company can quote acceptable prices in worldwide competition with reasonable expectation of making a profit. We cannot contemplate a fresh succession of loss-making orders. With the world market for large ships in its present doldrums, the going will be tough and the outcome uncertain. The Government's intention last July was initially to take a substantial majority in an expanded equity, leaving existing shares in the hands of their present owners. However, the issued share capital has been eroded by the enormous losses and large sums of new money will have to be put in. So we have concluded that the only satisfactory way in which the company can be financially reconstructed is for the Government to become the sole share- holder. Legislation for the compulsory acquisition of all the issued shares, ordinary and preference, which are now in private hands will be introduced in due course. Like all Northern Ireland legislation in the interim period, it will take the form of an Order in Council, under the Northern Ireland Act, 1974. Terms of compensation will be announced which will take account of the realities of the situation and the particular circumstances of the company. These matters will take a few months to accomplish and meanwhile the undertaking needs to be kept in funds. To this end an interim Order in Council will be introduced immediately to enable the appropriate payments to be made by the Northern Ireland Department of Commerce. We have invited the company to make the necessary adjustments of its borrowing powers. The Government have made clear to the board that the company may not conclude new contracts to build ships without the approval of the Secretary of State, which normally would not be given unless they satisfy him that all direct costs and overheads can be covered in the building years beyond 1978. It has also been made clear that they may develop, but not without the Secretary of State's approval implement, plans to use the resources of the yard in other ways. The future of the yard is now in the hands of those who work there. No Government could go on supporting the yard indefinitely. Unless it can obtain orders which can be completed without loss, a halt must be called. I am convinced that if the company is to survive this can only be through the determination and effort of everyone in Harland and Wolff. Increased productivity is vital, and I mean vital, but productivity deals alone are not enough. A new approach to industrial democracy is required. This is why we need to advance towards genuine worker participation in the decision-making processes at all levels in the yard. We have now sent to unions and management within the yard the promised discussion paper on worker participation and it is the spirit of this that we want to see influencing the attitudes of everyone in the yard. This paper is not a blueprint—there is so such blueprint available to fit any given situation—nor does it cover every possibility. The inten- tion is to indicate possibilities which can be discussed freely and tailored to suit the particular circumstances of the yard and its employees. We are entering upon an exciting experiment, with all the problems that this will entail. There will be difficulties, but if these can be overcome it may enable the yard to survive. A new managing director is required. Now that the decision has been taken on the future of the yard the post will he advertised publicly as quickly as possible. Anyone already working in the yard will, of course, be free to apply. In the future the yard will in a real sense be owned by Northern Ireland. Those working in the yard will no longer be working for private shareholders, or for themselves alone, but for Northern Ireland. It is their responsibility to ensure that, in the interests of Northern Ireland, the yard will survive.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in view of the great seriousness of his statement and what he describes as "an exciting experiment", we shall press for a debate on Harland and Wolff in the context of Northern Ireland as a whole? On the question of industrial democracy, would he confirm that the Government will acquire 100 per cent. ownership? Will the managing director he has mentioned he responsible direct to the Secretary of State or to a national board? What will be the basis of compensation and, as the losses are to be met from the Northern Ireland budget, how will this affect development and social services in Northern Ireland as a whole?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. The question of worker participation and "an exciting experiment" caused some hilarity in the House. I hope it does not cause hilarity in Northern Ireland because we are talking about the survival of a major industry employing 10.600 workers, crucial to the economy of Northern Ireland. If this company were to go into liquidation, the cost to the Government would be substantial; therefore, it is in everyone's interest to make this experiment work, and I am hopeful that that can be achieved.I will certainly mention the question of a debate to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. My right hon. Friend might consider either having a debate upstairs in the Northern Ireland Standing Committee which he is seeking to form or pressing for one on the Floor of the House, but I will discuss that with my right hon. Friend. The advertisement for a managing director will be coming out in a day or two. I have announced it publicly today. We want somebody who can play a leadership rôle within this yard. I can assure the House that the conditions will not be similar to the previous conditions and terms which were offered. We want to see somebody appointed and, whilst we have not ruled out anybody in the yard, the post will be publicly advertised and people will be free to apply. There is no reason why the consultation about which I have been talking could not start at the level of this appointment. The basis of compensation will have to be worked out. I am not in a position to give the hon. Gentleman details and I do not think it would be advisable to do so in the House, but I can perhaps let him know at a later date exactly what that position is. As for the losses and the decision of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to levy some of the costs for this yard against expenditure in Northern Ireland, certainly some of the cost will have to be taken into account by future Government expenditure—not the whole of the cost, but the Government have said on a number of occasions that there is a Northern Ireland responsibility here and that nobody in Northern Ireland can avoid it.
The Minister will be aware that the size of the projected losses will cause shock and alarm not only within the industry but throughout Northern Ireland. I should like to assure him, however, that there will be general appreciation of the Government's willingness to give the yard another chance. However, the important part of the statement, to my mind, is the sentence,
Of course that is a right and proper attitude. Can the Government indicate why the yard is in this position of making continuing losses? Have they been able to identify the root cause of the yard's problems?"Unless it can obtain orders which can be completed without a loss, a halt must be called."
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the first part of his question. He quoted to the House the crucial sentence within the statement. It is absolutely crucial, and I would underline it: no Government could go on in this position. The reason we have taken these decisions is that we believe that there are possibilities and that the workers in Harland and Wolff will respond to the challenge. It is a challenge.The right hon. Gentleman asked why we are in this difficulty. There are all sorts of problems from the past, such as problems of industrial relations, problems of fixed pricing, problems of the world shipping market. These are real problems. It may be of interest to the House —hon. Members interested in this subject will already know—that there is not a shipyard in the world at the moment which is not receiving some Government support, whether it be in Japan, West Germany, Sweden or Britain. But the fact is that we cannot go on in this way. We have to try to get the output, the steel throughput and the pricing acceptable, so that the company can compete in world markets. The facilities are there, the money has been spent. Physically, on the ground, everyone can see the facilities, fed by a skilled labour force. Therefore there is no reason why this cannot be got off the ground. These are the bases of the problems facing us at the moment.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that all political parties and political representatives in Northern Ireland will be grateful that the Government have once again given this opportunity to Harland and Wolff to survive? In view of what he intimated in his statement, could he say whether there is still a market for large tankers and bulk carriers, bearing in mind that there is now the possibility of offshore oil? Can he say that in contemplating any orders which are forthcoming in the interim period the Government will have a say—not may have a say, but will have a say—in whether such orders are accepted or rejected? Can he further indicate to the House that in the compulsory acquisition of shares the Government will not be taking any steps which would make it appear that they were giving golden handshakes to people who have been running such an inefficient company in the past?Next—this is, perhaps, most important will the Minister be responsible to the House as to the person to be appointed managing director? Finally, will the Minister accept my congratulations on the excellent discussion paper which has been published today? In the contacts he had with the trade unions and others involved in the preparation of the Discussion Paper on Industrial Democracy, did he have discussions on the possibility of achieving an integrated work force at Harland and Wolff and ensuring that a man's religion will be no bar to his getting employment at that establishment?
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. I have already explained that there is a world recession. The order hook is full until 1978. It is beyond then, when new orders are negotiated, that the crunch situation arises. My hon. Friend's guess is probably as good as anybody else's about the oil situation and about whether large tankers will be needed. I am not a pessimist. Things tend to ebb and flow. One minute it looks as if there will be no more orders. Then orders come in. We shall have to wait and see. Any new orders will have to be fulfilled in accordance with the criterion I have set out in my statement.The Government will be directly involved in the question of the appointment of the managing director. At present the company is answerable to the Department of Commerce and, through the Department of Commerce, to the Secretary of State and myself, who are answerable to the House. We would be answerable in future in the same way. As for my hon. Friend's question about golden handshakes, the acquisition will be on the normal basis of share value. The price of the shares does not give the Government cause for any concern I have had continuing discussions with the trade unions. Nobody more than the Government wants to see a more balanced work force. One of the ways in which we are tackling this question is through the apprentice training scheme. There is now a Government training centre in West Belfast. We hope to build a special training centre outside Harland and Wolff for apprenticeships in Harland and Wolff. I have been given assurances by the representatives of the trade unions that they will co-operate with the Government in this regard.
Several Hon. Members rose—
Order. Long questions and long answers make matters difficult. There is a great deal of business to follow.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I shared his indignation earlier at the comments of some hon. Members, particularly Labour Members, who show a strange ambivalence when we arc dealing with workers in Belfast compared with workers in Great Britain?The right hon. Gentleman has not given us any details of the findings of his project team. Has the project team come to any conclusions with regard to manning at Harland and Wolff, not only at the craft level but also in the service and administrative sectors? What action does the right hon. Gentleman intend to take to strengthen the management team apart from the sackings which he undertook a few months ago? Will the right hon. Gentleman accept my thanks for and congratulations on his Discussion Paper on Industrial Democracy? Is he aware that all sensible people in Northern Ireland realise that industry can go forward only on a partnership basis? I particularly welcome the fact that the discussion paper contains no dogmatic assertions but puts forward points for discussion, which I think will be valuable.
It was unfair of the hon. Gentleman to criticise hon. Members on this side of the House. His criticism was not justified. I assure him that my hon. Friends expressed great concern about the situation in Northern Ireland. The Government have received support from this side of the House in difficult times on this issue, and we appreciate it.We have given the main basis of the report of the project team, which is that it has made a forecast of the losses, which are substantial. Proposals have come forward about manning. These will be discussed with the appropriate trade unions. Adjustments will have to be made.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, because of the enthusiasm with which his statement was received by the United Ulster Unionist Members, we look forward to their voting with the Government on the Third Reading of the Industry Bill?We warmly welcome the statement about industrial democracy and hope that there is to be a ripe future for the yard, but the statement on losses is somewhat disconcerting. Does the £60 million go only to the end of 1974, or is that a projected loss until 1978? If it is not a projected loss until 1978, what is the amount of the loss between 1974 and 1978? When talking about projects after 1978, are we talking about each project having to be on a break-even basis? Finally, what are the other resources of the yard which might be used in different ways?
I thank my hon. Friend for his warm welcome of my statement. I take note of what he said about the attitude of some hon. Members opposite on other subjects. I welcome the support I am receiving from Northern Ireland Members on both sides of the House in this matter.The losses are projected losses to 1978. I have emphasised that the break-even point will be the critical issue when new orders are taken.
Is the Minister of State aware that this is not the first time that we have asked for a debate on an important Northern Ireland