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Commons Chamber

Volume 890: debated on Monday 14 April 1975

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House Of Commons

Monday 14th April 1975

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Wales

Employment (Public Sector)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is his policy on the dispersal of jobs in the public sector in Wales away from Cardiff to areas that have suffered from restricted job opportunities and on the centralisation of existing jobs in the public sector; and if he is satisfied with the operation of his policy in this regard.

I make every effort to ensure that public sector employment is located in the most suitable areas in Wales, but I have no proposals for dispersal of existing jobs away from Cardiff.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Is he aware that in Caernarvon there has been consider- able loss of jobs in the public sector because of the recent removal of employment in the Post Office, the railways, the gas services and the police? There is considerable anxiety that a further loss of jobs will take place because of the move by the Welsh National Water Development Authority to centralise the offices of the river division in Gwynedd. Will the Secretary of State give an undertaking that he will bring pressure to bear on the water authority to resist any such centralisation?

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Member. The location of the premises of the water authority is a question for that authority under the terms of the Act. I am always mindful of the need to ensure that if there are Government dispersal policies they will be of benefit to Wales generally. We have already achieved a successful programme and we hope to bring Government jobs to Wales in the future.

I recently had the privilege of opening a Crown court building in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Swansea and district is grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for his decision in the previous Government to site the MOT centre in Swansea. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes a decision tomorrow to abolish vehicle tax, is the Secretary of State aware that we look with confidence to him for some assistance in compensating the area for any job loss which may be involved?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. The MOT centre brought 3,750 jobs to Swansea. I cannot anticipate the Chancellor's Budget. My right hon. Friend and I are always mindful of the employment needs of West Glamorgan.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that he is aware of the grave employment difficulties facing Cardiff, and will he reject any proposal to take jobs away from the capital city?

I am certainly able to bring comfort to the hon. Gentleman. The Government have a major proposal to bring a large number of Civil Service jobs to Cardiff. This follows the bringing of the Mint to Wales under a previous Labour administration. The hon. Gentleman can be satisfied that plans for the future for Cardiff for Government dispersal jobs are high on our priorities.

Although we do not wish to take jobs away from Cardiff and if Government Departments are to move away into the Principality, will the Secreof State consider setting up offices at the Heads of the Valleys so that Ebbw Vale and other valley towns can have a greater choice of jobs rather than just the basic industries?

It is very much part of my philosophy on the Ebbw Vale problem that there should be much wider job opportunities in the valleys. My hon. Friend will be aware that the Civil Service jobs we shall bring to Wales will demand huge resources of manpower. Civil Service posts for the Cardiff and Newport areas announced last July will bring no fewer than 7,400 jobs. I am mindful of having wider job opportunities in the whole of Wales.

Does the Minister not agree that successive Governments over the last 20 or 30 years have neglected job opportunities in the public sector in mid-Wales? Is he aware of the table mentioned last week in Hansard which says that the number of self-employed is extremely high in three counties in mid-Wales? Cardigan came top of the league, followed by Montgomeryshire and Carmarthen. We are worried about the job opportunities for people in the public sector in mid-Wales.

The hon. Gentleman must be totally unaware of the growth of Newtown—a tremendous success story of the previous Labour Government—whereby we have ensured that the rate of depopulation has been reversed. I am mindful of the needs of mid-Wales for any opportunity that arises.

Newport, Gwen

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will visit Pillgwenlly, Somerton and the Marshes districts of Newport, Gwent.

My right hon. and learned Friend is always glad to go to Newport but he has no immediate plans to visit these areas.

With great respect, does my hon. Friend appreciate that the intervention of the Secretary of State is now urgently needed in Newport? These three districts are severely blighted at present and people are living in deplorable conditions there. Will he come and see for himself so that then he can authorise whatever emergency action may be needed?

My hon. Friend will know that the prime responsibility for resolving issues in these areas, and particularly their redevelopment, is the local authority. In many cases the people would bitterly resent it if we tried to intervene and interfere with their decisions, but, of course, my right hon. and learned Friend and I are very conscious of the problems of housing and redevelopment in Newport. We have paid a great deal of attention to them in the past and we shall continue to do so.

Rates

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what will be the percentage rise in the rates, including water and sewerage and the parish or community council precept, levied by local authorities in Wales as a whole in 1975–76 as compared with the total poundage of rates levied for the same services in 1973–74; and how this compares with the average rate levied by English authorities.

First estimates indicate that the percentage rise in Wales for domestic ratepayers will be 63 per cent., compared with 66 per cent. in England, and for non-domestic ratepayers 102 per cent., compared with 86 per cent.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the traumatic reorganisation of local government in Wales not only lessened local democracy in Wales and increased inefficiency but was a significant contributory cause to the staggering rise in rates? Is he further aware that it was the Conservative Government which embodied this reorganisation in legislation but that the original scheme was the brain-child of the previous Labour Government, who outlined it in their White Paper? Therefore, will the Labour Government and the Labour Party accept their share of the responsibility for the consequences?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the present reorganisation is the result of the previous Conservative Government. A number of ideas were proposed and went out to consultation through the Labour Government, but it was a Conservative Government who brought to pass the present system. However, despite the cost of reorganisation—it is difficult to quantify—I think that the hon. Gentleman would not be right if he were to ignore the fact that inflation has played a substantial part, if not the lion's share, in the immense cost of local government. The Government have done a tremendous amount to bring support to local authorities. The rate support grant has been increased from 60½ per cent. to 66½per cent. For England and Wales, that comes to about £2,000 million a year in increased support for local government.

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will now seek powers to enable Welsh local authorities to lessen the impact of the increases in rates which have recently been announced.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales, in view of the latest evidence of the scale of the proposals by Welsh local authorities to increase rates, water rate and sewerage charges, if he will seek powers to assist the local authorities to lessen the proposed increases.

Is the Secretary of State aware that that is an appallingly smug answer? Is he also aware of the furious reaction that there is in Cardiff to the 94½ per cent. increase in rates this year? Will he comment on his hon. Friend's statement earlier that the new water and sewerage rates represent a correction of a gross distortion, bearing in mind that in Cardiff they have risen by 89 per cent. and 366 per cent., respectively? Will he make them rebatable for those in receipt of rate rebates, and will he comment on the effect that they will have on small businesses in Cardiff and other areas, especially in view of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer is expected to do tomorrow?

The hon. Gentleman finds it convenient to forget the lack of reaction on his part to the favourable proposals which I announced in March 1974 and to the very small increases in many parts of South Wales. Indeed, in Cardiff there was a diminution in the rate. I remind the hon. Gentleman that when I brought my measure to the House, all Conservative Members representing Welsh constituencies, including the hon. Gentleman himself, were absent from the Lobby that night. Wales has done very well in the proposals that we have brought forward. We have pumped into local government an extra £2,000 million for the forthcoming year. This is what the increase from 60·5 per cent. to 66 per cent. means. It represents an increase from £3,400 million to more than £5,000 million.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the responsibility for the present situation lies fairly and squarely on the last Conservative administration, for placing on the statute book one of the worst pieces of legislation that we have had this century? Now that the people of Britain are having to pay the bill for it, will my right hon. and learned Friend give serious consideration to undoing this legislation in the near future?

I am not sure to which legislation my hon. Friend is referring. There were several bad bits of legislation by the Conservative Party. All I can tell him is that our priority has been massively to increase the amount of support for local authorities—I note the remarks of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards)—and that has meant major demands on public expenditure.

Is not the Secretary of State aware that this matter is much too serious for him to escape from the consternation and even anger of the public by references to the past? Is he aware that he has to take action to solve a problem whose effect on the public is now exceeding anything that I have seen in 20 years? I hope that he will not view it as a subject for party debate in the House, or for slinging retorts across the Floor. If he does not act, the anger being caused by the grotesque increases—

As for party warfare in the House, it is my recollection that it was the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Grist) who castigated me for being smug. The hon. Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) has put a supplementary question that is misconceived. I was referring not to the past but to the future. That is what the 66 per cent. increase in the rate support grant is about. Although Conservative Members are now wringing their hands about the rates position, they did nothing about it when in office. We have set up the Layfield Committee to investigate and to report on the whole subject of local government finance.

Despite what Opposition Members have said, will my right hon. and learned Friend remind them that Wales received a massive increase in the domestic element of the rate support grant 'last year in order to compensate areas, such as mine, that had had large increases in water charges? Is it not only fair that areas such as Cardiff should help to equalise the load this year?

That was one of a number of reasons for the domestic relief, from which I succeeded in ensuring that the people of Wales should benefit, intro- duced by our measures of last March. Perhaps that was why all Conservative Members from Wales were absent from the Division Lobby on that occasion.

I again put the emphasis on the need to reduce expenditure overall. Nevertheless, does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that rather than waiting for a commission to report, which is bound to take some time, early action is required to give relief to ratepayers? Should not the Government consider the proposals that have been put to them by the Opposition to relieve local authorities by transferring some of their responsibilities to the Exchequer?

The hon. Member cannot have it both ways. He cannot, on the one hand, attack any increase in public expenditure and, on the other, ask for responsibility to be transferred from local authorities to the Government. The money must come from somewhere. We have made proposals to increase the amount of the rate support grant for Wales by £2,000 million next year. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that that amount should be increased?

Water And Sewerage Charges

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will issue instructions to the Welsh National Water Development Authority to spread increases in the water rate levied by the authority over a period of several years.

How can the hon. Gentleman refuse to use the admittedly limited powers which are available to him under the Water Act bequeathed by the previous Conservative Government? Is he not aware that both domestic and business ratepayers have seen their water rates increased by over 400 per cent. during the past couple of years? How can people possibly reconcile this with the expectations aroused in them by the Government's statement that the social contract means that everyone can maintain his standard of living? What possible recourse is there for ratepayers?

The hon. Gentleman is completely misunderstanding the issue. He asked me whether we would instruct the Welsh National Water Development Authority to equalise over a longer period. This was a unanimous decision of that water authority. If it had equalised over a period of years the rest of the domestic water users in other parts of Wales would still have had to pay the amount of money that it would have been necessary to raise. The water authority chose to correct gross discrepancies and distortions in charges for 1974–75. Communities such as Anglesey had increases of about 400 per cent. in one year.

Will the Minister look into the question of widening the borrowing powers of the authority, as it seems that the present inflexibility is resulting in totally unnecessary additional costs, which have to be borne on water and sewerage charges?

The chief executive of the authority made this point to me only recently, and other water authorities in England and Wales have complained quite strongly about their restricted borrowing powers under the Act. We are looking at this matter.

Order. I will call the right hon. Gentleman, but he has a Question down on this matter and if I call him now I may not do so for a supplementary question to his own Question.

I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker. In fact, my Question later on the Order Paper has nothing to do with this Question.

Will my hon. Friend say when he expects the publication of the Daniel Report, which will, or which should, present us with some solutions to the problems which worry hon. Members in all parts of the House? Secondly, will he and his right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind once again that what will help Wales most of all is the equalisation of water charges throughout the United Kingdom?

My right hon. Friend has mentioned the Daniel Committee's Report. That report has only recently been received in the Welsh Office. We are examining it. We hope to publish it as soon as possible.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received on the subject of the increases in water and sewerage charges in some parts of Wales this year.

My right hon. and learned Friend has received representations from 10 right hon. and hon. Members, 11 local authorities, the Farmers' Union of Wales, three other organisations and seven private individuals.

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that nothing that I say is intended to be a reflection upon the competence or integrity of officials of the Welsh National Water Development Authority, but will he comment on the purchase of cars for the directors of the authority and for their deputies? Will he ensure that they are made aware of the feelings of Members of Parliament, as they should be aware of the feelings of members of the public? This is a totally insensitive action on their part. If cars were to be purchased, they should have been made part of the "perks" of the jobs when those concerned started in them.

The purchase of cars is the responsibility of the Welsh National Water Development Authority, but I am sure that the authoritiy will wish to give serious consideration to the disquiet which has been expressed on this matter.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the concern in some parts of Wales at this time of the year, with summer approaching, that not only do they pay an excessive charge for water and sewerage services but that water supplies are not available? Is there not an overall case for making special funds available to the authority to ensure that everyone has available a supply of mains water?

The development of these services depends on the capital limitations on the authority. This is one of the dilemmas that we face. The greater the demand for capital allocations, the greater the cost in charges. There is frequently a difference of opinion in this House. Hon. Members ask that the water authority should exercise financial disciplines of all kinds, and then they press for every possible scheme to be made available in their areas.

Local Government Reorganisation

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate he has made of the extent to which the recent local government reorganisation has resulted in increased efficiency and better services, or any other advantages; and if he will make a statement.

Reorganisation has been in effect for little more than a year and it is premature to make an assessment of this kind.

Does not the Minister agree that many people in Wales are dissatisfied with the local government reorganisation that took place last year? Will he consider doing away with the county councils in their present form and reverting to the multi-purpose authority, under the old county boundaries? Is he aware that many people in Wales are worried in case we have an executive assembly with executive powers only, in Wales, which would mean that we should have another tier of government in Wales without legislative power?

I have made my position quite clear about this on previous occasions. The creation of the Welsh Assembly is not in any sense an additional tier of local government. It is bringing central Government closer to the people. I have no plans to change the present two-tier system of local government.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the Labour Party proposed that local government reorganisation should have waited until Kilbrandon had reported and we had taken the constitutionally important measure to bring about devolution? We might then have had a different form of local government reorganisation in Wales, which would not have been as bureaucratic as it appears at present, and the additional Government tier would not have involved the increased costs about which people are beginning to complain?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that, regrettably and unhappily, the previous Conservative Government tackled the whole issue in the wrong way. They should have settled the issue of the Assembly first and then gone on to local government. However, having said that, the present local government arrangement—whether popular or unpopular—has enormous difficulties already, in terms of carrying out day-to-day functions. I have no plans to interfere with that.

Is it not a fact that in the 10 years prior to reorganisation there was an increase of about 48 per cent. in the number of people employed in local government in England and Wales and that, therefore, we should not put all the blame upon reorganisation but should now give it the opportunity to work efficiently and effectively? Is it not right, therefore, that the emphasis should be placed on cutting central Government and local government expenditure wherever that is possible?

I have noted the hon. Gentleman's remarks about cutting expenditure generally. I have made it quite clear to local authorities that they must exercise the greatest possible restraint in their public expenditure commitments. I make that clear again. As regards staff numbers, this matter is being monitored, and we have told local authorities that they must limit their increases to those needed only for inescapable commitments. I make my position abundantly clear on this occasion again.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend publish the comparative figures of the numbers of people employed in local government pre-reorganisation and post-reorganisation and warn those, in various parts of Wales, who are anxious to cut back on the number of officers of the dangers of such activity?

Unhappily, this clear and unassailable comparison is not easily made. I have to consider the position as I see it at present and to monitor and ensure that there is no further increase in local government staffs, save for those to deal with inescapable commitments.

Schoolchildren (Concessionary Travel)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has had regarding concessionary travel arrangements for schoolchildren; and what action is proposed.

Representations are frequently received from parents regarding arrangements for transporting children to school. My right hon. and learned Friend is considering with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science the recommendations of the working party on school transport.

Will my hon. Friend look at this matter urgently and sympathetically? Is he aware that as a result of the recent increase in bus fares, many schoolchildren now have to walk to school along busy roads and by swollen rivers and other hazards, and that it is not good for their education to be sitting in wet shoes? There is serious concern about this problem. One mother trying to cope, remarked, "Duw, it's hard."

I am conscious that such problems exist. They exist in my own community as they do in every other community. The working party's recommendations have been received with widespread agreement, and long consultations have been going on on this matter.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the decline in value of concessionary fares for old-age pensioners as a result of the restrictions placed on them in the Government's circular of 23rd December?

That is a different question. We appear to have moved from one end of the age spectrum to the other. If the hon. Gentleman will table a Question on the subject I shall be glad to deal with it.

My hon. Friend said that he was discussing this matter with the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Are we to assume from that that national aspects are involved? If so, will my hon. Friend bear in mind that well-paid company directors, executives and the like can and do get cars and other allowances for travel, whereas children have to go to the schools to which they are directed, and that it is ludicrous that they should have to pay any fares at all? Should not there be a national scheme whereby all schoolchildren are allowed free travel to and from school?

I do not know what the cost of such a scheme would be to the taxpayer. In any event, I do not think that the working party discussed the broader issue of the cars and other expenses of company directors.

Land Authority (Local Authority Agents)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has made with local authorities in Wales concerning agency arrangements under the Community Land Bill proposals; and if he will make a statement.

Meetings have been held with representatives of the Welsh Counties Committee and the Council for the Principality. I hope that estimates will shortly be available of the potential of each Welsh local authority to act as an agent of the Land Authority.

How does the Minister propose to distribute the 750 additional staff which will be required under the Bill as between the proposed Land Authority and the local authorities? Is not this a serious underestimate of the number of additional staff who will be required, in view of the fact that capital disposals, especially, will amount to between £50 million and £55 million a year?

I cannot answer the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question until I have seen the position in each county and district authority in terms of staffing. That is why I suggested to both local authority associations recently that they should get together and work out the potential staff required to implement the Community Land Bill. When I have the figures, I shall be in a position to reply more effectively to the hon. Gentleman's question.

As for the second half of the supplementary question, I do not think that the figure referred to is a serious underestimate. It is the best estimate that we can make based upon the number of transactions. It is a reasonable estimate on the existing assumption that we make.

Television

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a ministerial broadcast on Government policies affecting Wales on all television channels received in Wales.

I already frequently broadcast on aspects of Government policy relating to Wales.

We always welcome the right and learned Gentleman's television appearances in Wales, since they are informative and interesting, but will he undertake to appear on television to discuss the change of heart which has overtaken him about the EEC and to point out the specific paragraphs in the excellent pamphlet which he produced in 1971 on the issue with which he now disagrees?

I note the way that the hon. Gentleman has put his point in the House today, and I compare it with the intemperate remarks reported recently, in which he accused me of "gross deception" and "slavish support" and wished that I would "come clean". In those remarks, it seemed to me that he was playing the man rather than the ball. I assure him that at the appropriate time I shall explain further the remarks that I have made already. However, I do not regard as my first priority running to the television studio or the other media. My first duty is to my constituency and then, in due course, to the whole of Wales. I shall do that at a time of my own choosing.

Fluoridation

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement of his intentions concerning the fluoridation of water supplies in Anglesey.

After full consideration of representations made by the Anglesey Borough Council and by my right hon. Friend. I have concluded that it would be best, on balance, to leave the existing long-standing arrangements in the island undisturbed pending the independent report on fluoridation from the Royal College of Physicians and a Government consultative document on preventive health generally. Both these documents are in preparation. I am today informing the Anglesey Borough Council and the area health authority of this view and will let my right hon. Friend have copies.

When is this independent report likely to be published? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that what he has just said will be received in Anglesey with considerable disappointment and dismay? Is he further aware that, whatever the merits or otherwise of the fluoridation of water supplies, the Anglesey Borough Council and the great majority of community councils in the county are asking for fluoridation to be discontinued, because they have no confidence in the claims made for it, because they do not believe that it should be imposed on them now by a nominated body and because, after nearly 20 years of the fluoridation of water supplies, Anglesey remains almost the only part of the United Kingdom where fluoride is added to the drinking water? Will my right hon. and learned Friend therefore consider, as a matter of urgency, suspending the fluoridation of water supplies in Anglesey until the report to which he hag referred is published?

I entirely understand the concern that my right hon. Friend has expressed to me and to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on more than one occasion, and I share his view of the importance of the strong feelings of local people in this matter, as expressed through locally elected bodies. However, he knows much better than I that it was a local body—the old Anglesey County Council—which introduced fluoridation. I am satisfied that no harm will come from awaiting the documents that I have mentioned and the public debate that may be expected to follow. I must therefore disappoint my right hon. Friend.

The report of the Royal College of Physicians may be expected later this year. Work is proceeding as quickly as possible on the Government's consultative document and I hope that it will follow shortly after the report of the Royal College of Physicians.

Housing (Noise Insulation)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he intends to publish a list of houses on and near Manor Way and Northern Avenue, that may be eligible for assistance under the Noise Insulation Regulations of 1973.

We hope to have the results of the noise studies in May. In the light of these, we expect to make an announcement shortly afterwards.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the effect of widening this section of the Merthyr-Cardiff trunk road is merely to increase the volume of traffic and consequently the volume of pollution? Is he also aware that there is considerable anxiety because of the very long delay in appointing a noise insulation agent?

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says in his latter question. There were difficulties about securing the appointment of noise insulation agents, but we now hope to overcome them. We are establishing these surveys precisely to see exactly how far the extension and alteration of this road affect the noise problem.

Cwmbran New Town (Inquiry)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when it is intended to hold the public local inquiry into the proposed Cwmbran New Town (Designation) Amendment Order.

A public inquiry will be held only if objections are received to the draft order and are not withdrawn.

On behalf of the Torfaen council and myself, I thank the Under-Secretary for having acceded, despite the present economic difficulties, to our request that the new town's original plan should continue. However, will he give us an assurance that the public inquiry will be held as speedily as statutorily possible, as house building now continuing is likely to end within the next 18 months, unless continuity is assured, with the result that the existing housing problems within the eastern valley will become exacerbated?

I assure my hon. Friend that every effort will be made to arrange this inquiry, if necessary, in the light of the issues that he has mentioned.

Is my hon. Friend aware that considerable disquiet has been expressed that the further development of Cwmbran may have an adverse effect in North Gwent and thus add to its depopulation problem?

That sort of issue may be the subject of a future public inquiry, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the designation is very modest. It is needed merely for the land necessary to achieve the target of a population of 55,000—a target established way back in 1968. I can give the positive assurance that it wil not in any way channel away funds or resources vital to the housing and industrial development of Blaenau-Gwent.

Industrial Production

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales by how much industrial production fell in Wales in 1974; and how this fall compared with the fall in the United Kingdom as a whole.

It is provisionally estimated that for 1974 as a whole industrial output in Wales was 5·3 per cent. less than 1973. For the United Kingdom the corresponding figure was 3 per cent.

Do not the Government figures show that the fall in industrial production is evidently greater in Wales than elsewhere in the United Kingdom? Does not that factor, together with the rise in unemployment and short-time working, and also the information about new job inquiries and job creation reveal a pretty grim situation as a result of the Labour Government's economic policies?

Surely the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards), who sits on the Opposition Front Bench, should be the last person to put that kind of question. He knows where the responsibilities lie—or at least he should know. The proportion depends substantially on the mix of the economy. Coal and steel—the hon. Gentleman may not know this—play a large part in the Welsh economy. The massive drop in coal production in Wales is a direct result of the confrontation policies which were pursued by the Conservative Government. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has the face to put such a question.

In view of the variation in the situation between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom, has the Secretary of State tried to assess by contacts with both sides of industry how much more traumatic for Wales, in respect of production, investment and jobs, would be a withdrawal from the EEC?

In view of what the Secretary of State said, will he give the House the figures for manufacturing in Wales?

The figures for manufacturing I cannot put my hands on now. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If Conservative Members table a Question on that matter, I shall be happy to give the House details but for the coal industry the figure is 23 per cent. and for steel it is 21 per cent., and increases are recorded in some sectors, such as food, drink and tobacco, coal and petroleum products, mechanical and instrument engineering, gas, electricity and water. These were not sufficient to counterbalance the sharp falls in the sectors of greater weighting in the index or to counter the influence of coal and steel, which play such a large part in the Welsh economy. Those figures for 1974 are a direct result of the confrontation policies so unsuccessfully pursued by the Conservative Government.

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the most important plans of the Government to alleviate the situation lies in a Welsh development agency? What is holding up publication of the Bill to set up that agency—a body which will be welcomed in Wales and which is necessary for the work of the Standing Committee considering the Industry Bill?

I am not aware of anything that is holding up my proposals. Contrary to statements made by the hon. Gentleman earlier in the year, I hope that my proposals, which I shall be publishing very shortly, will be welcomed. That body will play a major part in the regeneration necessary in the Welsh economy. In the interim, we have taken major steps to increase advance factory building and to pump the necessary money into the economy to increase manufacturing potential.

Civil Service

Government Offices (Dispersal)

27.

asked the Minister for the Civil Service how many Departments or agencies of central Government have their senior Civil Service staff located outside London.

Five Departments have their top management located outside London, including the Scottish and Welsh Offices. But many Departments have a substantial number of senior staff outside London. At 1st October 1974, 40 per cent. of staff engaged on headquarters work were located outside London. A substantial number of Government agencies have senior staff outside London.

I am grateful for that reply, and I am encouraged by its general tone. Is my hon. Friend aware that Sheffield still awaits with bated breath a decision about the future headquarters of the Health and Safety Commission? Will he give some information on that?

I appreciate the encouraging reaction from my hon. Friend over the Government's policies in dispersing Civil Service departments from London. The question he raised on the Health and Safety Commission is still the subject of study, but it is hoped that an announcement will be made in the not too distant future.

Working Conditions (Report)

30.

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what arrangements have been made for monitoring the implementation of the recently published Wider Issues Report on the conditions in which civil servants are obliged to work.

Each Department is preparing a follow-up programme and consulting its departmental staff side not only on the substantive problems and how they are to be tackled but on how progress is to be maintained and monitored. My Department is co-ordinating progress. The most recent and important step forward is the agreement recently concluded with national staff side on the cleaning of Government offices, which provides a basis for better standards of cleaning work and thereby improves the environment in which civil servants are obliged to work.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is dissatisfaction among public servants behind counters at the way in which they are treated? If the public is to get the service and civility it deserves, does he not agree that there must be an improvement in morale in the public service?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is essential that the public should receive efficient and civil service from public servants who work behind the counters at Government Department offices. Equally, the public at large is aware of the abuses, assaults and physical injuries sustained by many civil servants in carrying out their duties in the recent past. I hope members of the public will do their best collectively to bring this situation to an early end.

Will my hon. Friend say what progress has been made in discussions over the extension of flexible hours of attendance in the Civil Service?

My hon. Friend has highlighted an important development in the Government staff side relationship The extension of flexible working hours of attendance is proceeding, and negotiations are being carried out with the national staff side. As of December 1974, 80,000 civil servants were covered by agreements relating to flexible hours of attendance.

Referendum

31.

asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will place in the Library a record of his discussions with the umbrella organisations concerning the referendum.

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

No, Sir. These discussions were confidential.

What representations have been made by the umbrella organisations about those who are being disfranchised by the Lord President's statement that the earliest probable day for the referendum would be 19th June?

Those people took their holidays early so as to be back in the country to vote, but they now find that they will not be able to do so. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must listen to representations from those people if they are not to be disfranchised simply by the Labour Government's haste to get the referendum through before the Labour Party splits on the European issue?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that his hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) has tabled a Question on that subject, which will be answered later today.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, quite apart from the handful of people mentioned by the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), hundreds of thousands in North Staffordshire and Lancashire will benefit from the announcement of the earlier date for the referendum, and they are very grateful to my right hon. Friend?

I am extremely grateful for what my hon. Friend said. That is one of the reasons why we have put on the referendum at the earlier date, if we can manage it on that date. However, I realise that there are different views on this matter and I shall beat in mind all the points put in last week's debate. Indeed, a Conservative Member is coming to see me later today to explain his plans, and I shall listen to him.

33.

asked the Lord President of the Council how soon after the Referendum Bill has received the Royal Assent he proposes to lay the various orders that may be made under the Act.

35.

asked the Lord President of the Council how soon after the Referendum Bill has received the Royal Assent he intends to lay the orders that may be made under the Act.

The orders will be laid immediately the Bill receives Royal Assent.

Will the hon. Gentleman further clarify what his right hon. Friend the Lord President said a moment ago? Will the further discussions which the right hon. Gentleman is to have relate solely to those Britons who live and work overseas, or will they also concern the important issue of the situation of those who will be on holiday, whether at home or abroad, when the vote is held? Is it not the case that these people should be given a postal vote, and is not this issue of sufficient importance to override considerations of administrative convenience?

I am surprised that we do not get the same passion displayed before each General Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "We do."] Then it is rather hard to understand why there is such fervour on the Opposition benches today, since nothing of the kind happened before last February's election. When and if amendments are made to the Bill in its passage through the House, amendments will be made to the order.

Is the Minister aware that his answer just now was just as unsatisfactory as his answers to the debate last week? May I draw his attention again to the problem of Britons residing abroad with the right of abode in the United Kingdom? Last week the hon. Gentleman gave the impression that the problem of registering them was one of time. If so why should not the referendum be put back for a week, until 12th June?

In that case, will not the hon. Gentleman simply put back the whole ludicrous exercise for a month or two? The only reason for not delaying it is the convenience of the Labour Party, not the country at large.

I do not see why Conservative Members are so dedicated to the notion of enfranchising some who are not registered at the cost of effectively disfranchising a large number who will then be on holiday—not all abroad.

34.

asked the Lord President of the Council what is his estimate of the number of citizens of the Republic of Ireland, not being citizens of the United Kingdom also, who will be entitled to vote in the forthcoming referendum, if the Referendum Bill printed on 26th March 1975 shall become law.

How many citizens of the United Kingdom living in the Republic had a right to vote in the referendum held by the Republic about its membership of the Common Market? Will the right hon. Gentleman please carry out research so that he can answer the Question?

It is impossible to answer the Question, because the register does not distinguish voters by nationality, and there are no reliable figures. I can give the hon. Gentleman the figures from the 1971 Census returns. They show that there are about 710,000 people living in England, Wales and Scotland who were born in Ireland, and another 521,000 who had fathers who were born there. That is a total of 1·2 million, of whom 35,000 were aged 14 or under in 1971 and will not yet be old enough to vote.

Is it just that citizens of the Republic living in Britain should have a right to vote but our own United Kingdom citizens, working in Europe for this country, are not allowed to vote, when the Government have told us that this is a unique occasion for the future of the country and everybody in it?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we try to adhere as closely as possible to the normal electoral law—

I wish that Conservative Members would, just once in a while, allow a Minister to answer a question without interrupting from a seated position. We try to adhere to normal electoral law, under which Irish citizens living in this country are entitled to vote if they are on the register, but British citizens in Europe who have not taken the trouble to register are not. But I said a minute ago that I recognised that there were varying points of view about the matter. I have undertaken to consider very carefully all the points of view put in the debate last week, and I shall do that.

37.

asked the Lord President of the Council what steps he has taken to ascertain the difficulties which might be involved in the distribution of ballot papers to United Kingdom embassies, consulates and high commissions for the forthcoming referendum.

I would refer the hon. Member to what my hon. Friend the Minister of State and I said in the debate on 10th April.—[Vol. 889, c. 1424 and 1537.] The Government are, however, urgently considering the matter in the light of points made in that debate.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that answer, and for agreeing to see me this evening. Will he bear in mind that the amendment which has been tabled to the Referendum Bill is not aimed just at trying to enfranchise people living within the EEC area? That is a misconception, and it would be unfortunate if it took hold in people's minds. Will the Lord President tell his hon. Friend that the reason why the referendum is different from a General Election, and therefore why we want to try to enfranchise the people in question, is that no constituencies are involved in the referendum? We are not electing Members of Parliament. In the right hon. Gentleman's own words, this is a unique occasion. Therefore, there is no reason why people who are abroad and who are not registered in a particular constituency should not vote, provided they have the right of abode in the United Kingdom.

I am sure that my hon. Friend realises all that—but I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends who put that point of view will realise the difficulties. Many people who have gone to live abroad have turned their hacks on this country and are living on the Costa Brava, in Malta, and elsewhere. [Interruption.] I am just pointing out one of the problems. Under the hon. Gentleman's proposal they would be allowed to vote, but someone in my constituency who, because he lived in a slum tenement and had been moved during the currency of the register, would not have a vote. There are considerable difficulties. Nevertheless, I have promised to reconsider the whole question. I realise that there is a point of view here, but any scheme which could be worked out would be makeshift, of a Heath Robinson type, and full of holes, and there would be a great risk of bringing our electoral system into disrepute. However, in spite of all the difficulties—it is no good trying to laugh them off, because they are consider- able—I promise to examine the matter again.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we on the Labour benches realise that the quicker the referendum is held the better it will be for the British economy, and that he should not delay holding the referendum in order to give people living overseas the right to vote in it?

That is the other point of view. There are these two points of view. As I have said three or four times already, I promise to review the whole situation again this week.

I think that everybody realises that there are difficulties. We do not minimise them. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for saying that he will look into the matter. Is he aware that many individuals who are doing a useful job for this country, in Europe and other countries, badly want to vote about something which affects the future of this country? These are people who are not in a tax-free situation but who are working for this country as our representatives. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not wish to minimise their political rights, although many others do. Does not he think that "Heath Robinson" is not a particularly appropriate term for the referendum?

It is an inappropriate term for the referendum as a whole, but for any scheme for all the people living abroad it would be very appropriate. The vast majority of the people working in Europe could have registered in this country if they had wished. If they have registered, they can vote by proxy.

In view of the tremendous interest being shown by Conservative Members in the need to make elections as fair as possible, does my right hon. Friend agree that we should arrange a debate before the next General Election on how to make General Elections much fairer than they are now, and in particular on the way in which the two major parties are financed?

There is a case for setting up the Speaker's Conference again before the next General Election. I hope that we shall do so, and that we shall refer a number of matters to it.

With regard to my hon. Friend's second point, I hope in the very near future to announce the composition of the committee the setting up of which I announced in the House some time ago.

In view of the comment made by a number of hon. Members that there is a fundamental difference between a General Election and a referendum, in that the referendum results are not on a constituency basis, will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the pressure applied by such hon. Members with regard to people living abroad will not militate against the declaration of the result on a constituency basis if that is the wish of the House at a later stage?

It will not do that. I do not think that the votes need necessarily be sent to a given constituency. But that is one of the problems that would have to be sorted out if we worked out a scheme for people living abroad.

We are glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman will give consideration to the problem of British subjects living abroad. Will he consider whether, in this unique case, it is necessary to go through all the steps which are rightly considered necessary for a General Election, such as the publication of draft registers, the opportunity for challenge of the registers, transporting the ballot box to the scene of the count, and so on? In a General Election, one vote may make all the difference. Is not the referendum likely to be different?

Everyone will agree that it is in the interests of the country to get the referendum over as quickly as possible and remove the uncertainty about British membership one way or the other. But in view of the time factor it would not be possible to go through all the stages the hon. Gentleman mentioned. We should have to short-circuit many of them.

House Of Commons

Television Programmes

36.

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will arrange for a videotape viewing machine to be available within the Palace of Westminster so that Members may view tele- vision programmes of public interest or controversy.

This matter is at the moment under consideration by the Services Committee.

Industry

European Community

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what arrangements he has made to obtain the views of industry on Great Britain's continued membership of the European Community.

My Department has received and continues to receive representations from both sides of industry and its representative bodies on a wide range of Community matters, including the question of membership.

As the Secretary of State for Industry is more concerned to pursue his political prejudices than to represent the views of British industry, which unanimously wishes to stay within Europe, should not the Secretary of State follow his former junior colleague and retire to the back benches to make room for a Minister who is prepared to back up and express the views of British industry and Government policy?

We rather expected a supplementary question like that from the hon. Gentleman. It does not advance the case either for or against membership of the Common Market on the renegotiated terms. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry is concerned to ensure the success of British industry and is putting forward his point of view.

Northern Ireland (Goc's Speech)

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the speech delivered to a public audience on Saturday 12th April by Sir Frank King, General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland.

The St. John Ambulance Brigade invited the GOC Northern Ireland some 11 weeks ago to take part in its Annual Medical Conference at Nottingham University. The general theme of the conference was related to the part that the St. John Ambulance Brigade might have to play in urban violence, including such things as football crowds, demonstrations and processions. It was not specifically related to Northern Ireland and the General was asked, with other speakers, including an academic expert, a senior police officer and a doctor, to take part in a symposium and panel discussions.

This was not a conference, seminar or discussion organised by Government or by a political party. It was a conference of people professionally concerned with their jobs. There was no question of the GOC's making an official speech, of giving a Press hand out, or of any Press briefing. Indeed. I understand from the GOC that he spoke from notes and did not believe that any members of the Press were present or that any of his remarks would be reported, let alone reported out of context. He was concerned solely with some of the practical problems that result from urban violence and he had no intention whatsoever of criticising Government policy.

His remarks have caused political embarrassment and the General has expressed his regrets to me that, quite inadvertently, his contribution at what was intended to be a wholly non-controversial conference has, when taken out of context, had such an effect. I accept this position and should add that I have every confidence in the advice which has always been given to me by General King on security matters and, indeed, his tour of duty in Northern Ireland has been extended by six months.

The Government's policy in regard to Northern Ireland was clearly stated in this House by me on 14th January and subsequently. It stands exactly as I have expressed it. This policy has been formed after full consultation with the security forces and with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I have made clear that the Government's actions with regard to the rôle of the Army and the ending of detention will be, and are being, directly related so far as the Provisionals are concerned to a genuine and sustained cessation of violence. I am fully aware of all the factors that have to be taken into account, which also include the sectarian and gangster-type murders, shootings and bombings that have taken place during the past few weeks. It is of the utmost importance that everything possible should continue to be done to bring those involved to justice before the courts, and this is happening with considerable success.

With regard to detention, I have to take many factors into account. I would repeat what I said on 14th January:
"The crucial point is that only the Government can decide, in the light of the situation as a whole, when to start bringing detention progressively to an end. I am prepared to say now that, if there is a genuine sustained end of violence, I shall progressively release detainees. I do not propose to act precipitately, and any early releases must, and will he, carefully judged in relation to whether the cessation of violence is genuine and sustained."—[Official Report, 14th January 1975; Vol. 884, c. 202.]
That remains my policy.

There is no question, and never has been, of political responsibility for security policy in Northern Ireland resting other than with me. This has never been changed, nor is it at issue now.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Press reports of General King's remarks have caused considerable concern both at political and military level? In view of the naïve explanation given by the General to my right hon. Friend, will my right hon. Friend when he next meets the General draw to his attention that at a time when a political initiative to set up the Constitutional Convention is about to begin, with the run-up to the elections, and when the cease-fire is balanced on a delicate knife edge, the General's remarks are particularly ill timed and constitute, in the view of a great number of people, a breach of the normal military etiquette of military commanders? Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that there will be a general welcome for his clear statement that he will require a high degree of evidence before signing ICOs? Will my right hon. Friend accept that we welcome his commitment to continue the phasing out of detention at a pace which is commensurate with the general political requirements of the situation and the maintenance and protection of the lives of the security forces?

Of almost all the generals I know, I would go so far as to say that Frank King is the least political. The General is fully aware of the effect of what he said, and in that context he has offered his regrets to me. He is aware of the effect it has had politically in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt about that.

Detention is a matter for me. In July last year I announced the phased programme. During the fall of last year there were releases by the commissioners. Since that time 400 detainees have been released. At the same time, when I sign an ICO I do so because of evidence in front of me that someone has been involved in physical violence.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Opposition warmly support the tribute which he has paid to a fine commander, Sir Frank King, who is doing a very difficult job. We are glad that the right hon. Gentleman has accepted Sir Frank's explanation. In view of the anxiety in many quarters at the mounting violence in Northern Ireland, could the House be assured that the ceasefire and the policy of release as a whole will be reviewed so that it does not work to the advantage of the terrorists, some of whom have been retrained after their release from detention in Long Kesh? This is frustrating the work of the Army, particularly on the intelligence side. Will the Secretary of State and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary also stop transferring convicted prisoners to Northern Ireland from this country while the elections for the Constitutional Convention are actually in progress?

There is one point which I must make clear to the hon. Gentleman. There has been some violence from the Provisional IRA in recent weeks, but very little—that is not to say that it could not happen again—and almost all the violence in Northern Ireland is internecine, between the UDA and the UDF. That horrible bomb of Saturday night—if it can be singled out—has been claimed by a Protestant organisation. There is the violence today, when, in the middle of Belfast, an official IRA member standing for the Republican Clubs has been shot by a member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party. The cease-fire on the part of the Provisional IRA should not be mixed up with other sorts of violence not connected with the PIRA. They are distinct.

On the question of the transfer of prisoners, my right hon. Friend and I co-operate in deciding who is to be moved in the context of space and of need. We shall continue to do so, and I shall continue to release detainees. I released five on Saturday and four this afternoon.

Will my right hon. Friend make clear as a matter of principle that the intervention of serving officers, including general officers, in sensitive political matters is against the public interest and must be deprecated in the strongest possible terms?

I agree absolutely. It is a wrong thing to do. I have tried to explain the circumstances of the general discursive nature of the minor conference that took place. Although it is politically embarrassing and bad from the point of view of the politics of Northern Ireland, I am absolutely convinced that it was not done with the intention of getting into the political arena.

In view of the misconceptions which have been created or confirmed by this unfortunate report, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the release of detainees cannot be the subject of a bargain, whether implied or explicit, between Her Majesty's Government and any other person or persons?

Yes, I can accept that fully. Release from detention is entirely a matter for me. It involves a value judgment. Perhaps I may tell the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that in May of last year an assassination squad attempted to assassinate me. I signed an ICO on the Loyalist concerned. I released him some weeks ago.

We accept that the General made an inept remark and that he has now apologised to my right hon. Friend, but is my right hon. Friend aware of the difficulties that the statement has caused in Northern Ireland? Will he underline that the truce or cease-fire, whatever it is called, has not been significantly broken by the Provisional IRA? Does he agree that that has to be understood in this country and in Northern Ireland so that temperatures can be kept down? When the Convention election comes, we do not want opposing parties and opposing groups rushing into their ghettos and achieving the sort of stalemate that we have had in the past few months.

I can only say that already today there is a division on sectarian lines. In the electioneering hustings the Loyalists say that I have the Army with one arm behind its back. The Catholics put the matter the other way round and suggest that the General tells me what to do. This has broken almost completely on sectarian lines. That is the sadness of the fact that this matter happened last week.

Further to the question raised by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes), is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the doctrine of collective responsibility is the seamless robe which applies not only to Cabinet Ministers or other Ministers but to officials and senior officers as well, and that the dispensation given by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to certain Ministers to express their own views is bound ineluctably to lead to other officials and senior officers expressing their own views in a way not normally acceptable?

I have not discovered Frank King's views on the Common Market, but when I see him tonight I shall ask him.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that what is unfortunate is that this event has happened at a difficult and delicate political moment, and that it involves a General who has given distinguished service for at least the past two years in Northern Ireland, and who no doubt will continue to do so? It is right that security officers should make known their views to the Government of the day, but does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the only people in an official position who can be the critics or protagonists of any political view must be Ministers who are answerable to this House, which has firm control over the affairs of Northern Ireland? Whatever may be the merits of this individual, that point must be made to him now if it is not already apparent.

The point has firmly been made. I say from my days at the Ministry of Defence, that, overall, we are lucky in this country that this general rule or convention, call it what one will, is well understood.

My right hon. Friend has agreed that the General made a very grave statement. He has also said that the General was speaking from notes. Yet he has accepted the General's explanation that he was quoted out of context. Will my right hon. Friend explain what he means by the cliché "quoted out of context"?

The St. John Ambulance Brigade has a tape of the general discussion. One of my officials has had the opportunity to listen to it. I have not heard the tape but I have the word of the official who did. If we take the question of the release of detainees, it is true that if we return to violence there will be real problems. There is no doubt that there would be real problems in that event. This is a judgment that I have to make.

The General made a mistake last weekend, but I am absolutely sure that it was not done for political reasons. This report has caused a problem, but I think the General's security advice is always of the best—and it is security advice that I want from Frank King.

International Energy Agreement

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about United Kingdom participation in the Agreement on an International Energy Programme.

Following my statement to the House on 30th October last, the Government signed the Agreement, which accordingly became provisionally applicable to the United Kingdom on 18th November, to the extent possible not inconsistent with United Kingdom legislation. A copy of the Agreement was laid before Parliament in January as Command Paper No. 5826.

As required by Article 67 of the Agreement, the Government intend, before 1st May 1975, to notify the Government of Belgium, as the depository power, of their formal consent to be bound by the Agreement.

The Fuel and Electricity (Control) Act 1973 contains sufficient powers to implement those parts of the International Energy Programme which require governmental direction. The Act is a temporary measure requiring renewal from year to year. I hope to introduce appropriate permanent legislation in the next Session of Parliament, and, if necessary to avoid any gap before that legislation is enacted, to lay an order for the renewal of the 1973 Act.

Does this mean that the Government propose to ratify the Agreement, which contains far-reaching supra-national powers, without giving the House even the opportunity to comment on it? How can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile that view of an international agreement with his opposition to the European Community, on which there has been massive opportunity for comment, debate and discussion in the House? Is this not all the more surprising when, as we read in the Press over the weekend, the international discussions which are being taken pursuant to Chapter 8 of the agreement look like going very much wider than the question of energy and comprehending the whole of the developed world's supply of raw materials as well?

It might have been interesting had the right hon. Gentleman indicated whether he supported ratification of the treaty. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the question of debate in the House is one not for me but for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I understand that the Agreement has been laid before the House in accordance with the Ponsonby Rules. There were agreements undertaken and ratified in this way by the previous Government, and nothing is unusual about the way in which we are proposing to do it today. There is no comparison between the right hon. Gentleman's reference to this agreement and the European Economic Community.

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that it would be of general interest to the House, in view of the statement made over the weekend by the Secretary of State for Industry, to know just how far this Agreement limits the sovereignty and the freedom of this country in terms of energy policy?

I have not had a chance to study what my right hon. Friend said over the weekend but I shall do so later today—and no doubt I shall read his words with interest. I think that my hon. Friend must be aware that this Agreement is in no way comparable to the provisions of the European Economic Community. The Agreement is designed to run for 10 years. After five years, there will be a general review. Any participating country can terminate it on 12 months' notice after it has been in operation for three years.

I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement but I must ask two questions. First, how many countries or Governments have signed the Agreement within the EEC and outside? Secondly, what are our responsibilities as a nation under the Agreement?

Our responsibilities are fully set out in the White Paper. I know that the hon. Gentleman will take the opportunity to look at the White Paper more closely. Very briefly, the provisions are to secure oil supplies in emergency situations, to co-operate with consumers and producers and to reduce dependence on imported oil. Of course there are many other provisions. The hon. Gentleman asked about the number of countries inside and outside the Community which have signed the Agreement. Eight countries within the Community have signed it but nine countries—the majority of those signing—are outside the Community.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that any changes in the law of this country which are necessary from time to time to comply with this Agreement, as long as we remain a party to it, will be made by Parliament in the normal way?

Not in the first instance. As I said in my statement, we hope fully to implement the parts of the International Energy Agreement which require governmental direction under the Fuel and Electricity (Control) Act 1973. That lapses this year. I am hoping, in the next Session of Parliament, to introduce permanent legislation which will meet the right hon. Gentleman's point. If that is not possible for any reason, the Fuel and Electricity (Control) Act will have to be renewed by order.

Can my right hon. Friend give us a complete and unqualified assurance that nothing in this Agreement or any other that the Government have entered into will prevent us from doing exactly what we like with our natural resources in the North Sea?

Nothing in this Agree-allow me to answer the question rather than constantly interrupt. Nothing in this Agreement—and this is the agreement that is before the House—in any way prevents us from controlling and directing our North Sea oil.

The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that under Article 7(3) there could be a direction on the Government making them export oil to a participating country above the requirements which are necessary for the United Kingdom. Surely this must be an infraction of the sovereignty which as an anti-Marketeer the right hon. Gentleman claims for us?

Every international agreement involves some diminution of sovereignty [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] I think it is possible for the hon. Gentleman to understand the great difference between this provision and others being discussed at the moment.

Standing Committee Proceedings

I said on Thursday that I would give a ruling today on the matter raised by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) with regard to the mention in the House of proceedings upstairs. In view of the length of the ruling and the pressure on our time today I propose to make the ruling on Wednesday.

Northern Ireland (Goc's Speech)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for a specific and important matter that should be given urgent consideration, namely,

whether the House should have adequate time to debate the situation whereby an Army General has taken over the rôle of the politicians and interfered in the politics of this country as Lieutenant-General Sir Frank King, the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland, has done in commenting adversely on the Government's policy of bringing internment to a swift end.
Whether this act is acceptable or totally unacceptable to this elected Chamber, it is a matter of serious public importance and of enormous importance for parliamentary democracy. It is important for the House to debate the situation. I do not accept that a Private Notice Question and a statement from the Secretary of State is adequate.

If we put to one side the issue of Northern Ireland, I see this as being an issue striking at the heart of parliamentary democracy and parliamentary government in this nation. If any non-elected public servant did this within the British Civil Service there would be a similar outcry. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you will agree to my request and give the House the opportunity adequately to debate this important transgression by this General who is in command in Northern Ireland.

I am much obliged to the hon. Lady for giving me her reasons in writing as well as for the way in which she has spoken. I have considered this matter carefully. I have also had regard to what has already taken place in the House today. The decision for me is whether I should allow the business of today or of tomorrow to be disrupted by a debate on this matter. I am afraid that the answer is "No".

Bill Presented

Scottish Development Agency

Mr. Secretary Ross, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Benn, Mr. Secretary Shore and Mr. Bruce Millan, presented a Bill to establish a Scottish Development Agency; to provide for the appointment by the Secretary of State of a Scottish Industrial Development Advisory Board, to make provision for assistance in connection with air services serving the Highlands and Islands; and for connected purposes; and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow; and to be printed. [Bill 130.]

Statutory Instruments

Ordered,

That the draft Winter Keep (Scotland) Scheme 1975 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments.—[Mr. Stoddart.

Orders Of The Day

Supply

[14th ALLOTTED DAY], considered.

Dock Work And Port Reorganisation

3.55 p.m.

I beg to move,

That this House rejects the Consultative Document, Dock Work, and the further proposals for ports reorganisation.
This debate takes place against the background of the publication of the consultative document, the recent dock strike in London, the state of the economy and tomorrow's Budget. I have never been one of those who wished to minimise the problems of the Government. I have generally tried to give Labour Ministers the benefit of the doubt. But I must say that after recent days and weeks I am disposed to do so no longer.

What is the Secretary of State for Employment doing at the Dispatch Box? Why is he here in view of his known attitude over the European Community? I presume, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's known views about his being overpaid, that he has now taken a voluntary reduction in his salary? After all, he said he was being paid too much. Presumably now that he is doing only half a job—

—he has taken a reduction in pay accordingly. [Interruption.] I always used to admire the right hon. Gentleman's integrity, if not his politics. When he sat below the Gangway he would state his views clearly. That is no longer the case. I do not think that many of us ever thought he would prove to be much of a match for those tough negotiators in the unions but we expected the right hon. Gentleman to act with true parliamentary dignity and his usual honour. I regret to see him where he is today. I do not think he should be here.

It is no good the Chief Whip telling me to get on with it. I will make my own speech in my own way. I believe very strongly indeed that there ought to be collective responsibility on the part of the whole Cabinet, and I do not any longer respect the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for Employment, for remaining a member of a Cabinet which is behaving in this manner. It is about time right hon. Gentlemen knew how much we on the Conservative benches and people in the country despise the attitude of the Cabinet. It thinks it can have its own view—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman to start a debate in this way when what he is saying has nothing to do with the subject under discussion?

I deprecate personalities and personal allegations. However, the right hon. Gentleman was referring to the Secretary of State for Employment, who is to reply to the debate. I do not think I can rule him out of order.

We will come to the docks. I want to tell right hon. Gentlemen that I do not see how—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I cannot and would never seek to disagree with your ruling. May I give you notice, however, in view of what you have said, that I may want to denigrate and question the honesty and integrity of a former Leader of the Opposition and a former Minister and call into question some of their statements and actions? Will I be allowed the same opportunity as the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior)?

I deprecate personal attacks or reflections. As regards the hon. Member's question, I shall deal with that situation when it arises.

Perhaps I can deal with that point. I had not noticed that Government supporters were backward in criticising the Opposition. I do not see why Government back benchers should resent it when I say what I feel. It is a disgrace to the House of Commons that some Ministers support a policy which is not that of the Government while continuing to be members of the Government. I think that the honourable thing for them to do is to resign. I think that many hon. Members on both sides take that point of view.

That is my point. However, many Ministers of the Tory Government said that they were not in favour of the wage freeze. Yet they remained in the Government and caused the confrontation and the three-day working week. Therefore, to be fair, the right hon. Member for Lowestoft must take into account the actions of Tory Government Ministers who remained in the Government whilst they said they were not in favour of the three-day week.

I hope that in the interests of the debate we can now move off this point. There are to be eight Front Bench speakers in the course of today. I therefore hope that we can resume the subject of the docks.

There is a considerable difference between an hon. Member voting against the recognised wishes of his party and Prime Minister and saying afterwards that he may not agree with every facet of Government policy.

Today we are discussing the threat of unemployment to dockers and inefficiency in our docks system. In the old days of casual employment the threat was the trade cycle. The system was humanised in the 1940s, and was ended eight or nine years ago when casual employment was abolished. Today the threat is the technology of containerisation. In 1972 that resulted in strikes in the docks followed by the Aldington-Jones recommendations, which boosted the recruitment of dockers in container depots and resulted in a generous redundancy pay scheme for a large number of dockers. Following that, there was a lull in strike activity and there was full employment in the docks.

In 1975 the trade cycle again turned down. There was new recruitment in the docks in 1974. All the old problems are now once again on the boil. There are fears of loss of jobs and of unemployment, which run very deep in the docks. Those fears are easily whipped up by unscrupulous men. That is what happened on this occasion. If evidence was required, the statement made by the Prime Minister in Parliament on Thursday in answer to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) made that abundantly plain. The Prime Minister said:
"It is true that for a time the militants got control dishonestly and deceptively and gave false tallies of the numbers who were voting."—[Official Report, 10th April 1975; Vol. 889, c. 1409.]
He went on to say that he felt that nothing could be done because of the deep sensitivity in the docks at present. I felt that that was a total negation of Government responsibility.

Let us examine one or two of the men who have been behind the recent troubles, such as Mr. Nicholson, Mr. Billy Powell, Mr. Eddie Prevost, Mr. Light and Mr. Turner. I understand that some of them are members of the Institute for Workers' Control, which aims to overthrow capitalism and achieve complete workers' control of all industry. I would have thought that they were not greatly interested in the workers. They are much more interested in the control which they might exercise thereafter.

The International Socialists are also stirring this up. I know that some Government supporters will not like this. However, a group of dedicated International Socialists and Communists in the docks have acted in such a way in the recent strike that a large number of decent dockers will lose their jobs.

I hope that the Government will inquire why Mr. Nicholson has been on the sick list for all these months. Has he been drawing supplementary benefit? Has he been examined by the regional medical officer of the Department of Health and Social Security? If not, why not? This man is able to play an active part in stirring up trouble in the docks, but is unable to do any decent work.

I know some of the individuals concerned. I think that it is very unfair to use the privileges of the House to make a statement which I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman would make outside. The employers of Brian Nicholson have never queried the position or been in any doubt. I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman casts those aspersions on persons who cannot defend themselves.

I have not found Mr. Nicholson unable to defend himself so far. The employers have said nothing. All employers in the docks know what happens if they say anything. If we cannot raise these issues in the House, where can we raise them? What have I said about these five characters which is so defamatory to their records? I have said that they are International Socialists and Communists. Is there anything wrong in saying that? That is what they are. Some people would be proud of that fact.

On 1st January 1975, before the dispute began, there were 1,000 surplus dockers in London. Since that time, as a result of the dispute, 1,500,000 tons of cargo have been lost to the Port of London, probably for ever. That represents 15 per cent. of the total cargoes passing through the Port of London. It is likely to mean a further reduction of 15 per cent. in the number of dockers required. That is what Mr. Nicholson and what the Prime Minister calls "militants" have managed to do on behalf of the decent dockers of London.

There is a great deal wrong with the efficiency of our docks. In London a 12-man gang moves 50 tons per shift. The equivalent gang in Antwerp moves 350 tons per shift. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which cargoes?"] I refer to equivalent cargoes in London and Antwerp.

The United Kingdom has the worst record for dock strikes in Western Europe. Rotterdam has experienced no major strike for 30 years. Antwerp has not had a strike since 1955, and that strike lasted for only a few days. It is calculated that if dockers worked normally for their full shift, productivity would increase by 25 per cent.

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

It is not as if the situation were a happy one. It is most unhappy. It would not be unreasonable, therefore, to expect that in the present economic situation the Government would come forward with some sensible modernising proposals—sensible, perhaps, until one considers the right hon. Gentleman's attitude to these matters.

There is no mention in this disastrous document of what should be the prime and overriding objectives—a reduction in the cost of handling exports, efficiency and speed, freedom of importers and exporters to choose how and where goods are handled, and more competition instead of less.

I am sorry to interrupt; I know that the Chief Whip should not speak in a debate, but I am a Dockland Member of Parliament and I cannot take much more of the rubbish which we have just heard. I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman got his figures about cargo handling and output. In the dock industry in the last few years the labour has been halved, and this has happened without any disputes. There has been a good deal of injustice. If the right hon. Gentleman wants examples of the most appalling behaviour by dock employers I can give those to him, but I will not do so now because it would not help. Much of the output of our dock workers compares more than favourably with that in other ports. If the right hon. Gentleman wants proof of that, he should ask the ship owners.

The right hon. Gentleman, of course, is right to defend his constituents but he ought to have more knowledge than he has of what is happening in the London docks. If he wishes to know where my figures come from, I can pass to him a copy of Accountancy, which produced those figures some while ago, figures which no other publication has made any effort to refute. It is time that we came out with the facts for a change and faced up to the problems.

What do the Government intend to do? They have taken the most extreme demands of the Transport and General Workers' Union and have proceeded to put them into this document. They have taken the views of one small section of the Transport and General Workers' Union as against the rest of that union. Proceeding by new legislation, they will seek to avoid the need for a public inquiry during which all the points which have been mentioned could come out into the open. That opportunity is denied by having new legislation instead of proceeding under the old Act. The interests concerned will be denied the opportunity of submitting their views to an independent tribunal. If those views could be submitted to an independent tribunal, we might get much nearer to the facts than has so far been possible in this House. The dockers are trying to claw back or obtain jobs which are now being done by other workers who are members of their own union. How unfair can one get?

Let me read the dockers' viewpoint as expressed in the Port newspaper of 9th April:
"Some method must be found to put registered men into these places and to phase out the men currently employed there"—
"these places" referring to work which is not at the moment carried out by official dock labour. Let us have no more mealy-mouthed talk about it. The dockers are after the jobs of their fellow workers.

Where this did happen under Aldington-Jones and registered dock labour was put into, for example, a container company, Chobham Farm, this is the view of the employers as expressed in a recent report issued by the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service, in paragraph 79:
"… the company had subsequently agreed to employ registered men for cargo and container handling whilst still retaining its current work force. Those of the original work force who had remained had lost the jobs they had been engaged on since these jobs were now designated as dock work. All attempts by the original work force to register as dock workers had failed—they could not register through the trade union, since the TGWU had a policy of nominating only the sons of registered dock workers, and the employer could not nominate them since he was not a member of the relevant employers' association. Many of the original employees were now still engaged on menial tasks."
It is grossly unfair, to put it at its lowest, that the thousands of people who at the moment are in work in places just outside the dock area and work in perfect harmony with their employers should now be pushed out of their jobs so that dockers can have them.

If there is a problem about the employment of "cowboys" in the loading of containers, why could it not be dealt with under a licence, which was one of the recommendations put forward some while ago by the port employers, so that it could be done if there was a desire to do so? The truth is that there are no extra jobs available. All that would happen would be that jobs which at the moment are carried out by people who are not dockers would be handed over to dockers, and I do not believe that we should permit such a state of affairs. More jobs would be lost.

If the right hon. Gentleman had consulted the profession of commodity markets he would have learned why merchants avoid storing goods in premises staffed by dock labourers at the scheme ports. They do so because of the fear of strikes, higher costs, lower productivity and general inefficiency. I am in a position to speak with authority and knowledge because, as a former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I know something about the food distribution problems of Britain. I am aware that our efficient food distribution network is due to the fact that depots and warehouses are outside the control of the docks.

I now turn to the subject of the non-scheme ports, where there has been great development in recent years. One reason for this is the bad labour at the dock labour scheme ports. They now carry one fifth of the traffic, and in the live years from 1966–71 they increased the tonnage from 45 million to 70 million. The main objection to the non-scheme ports was that in a few cases there were the remnants of casual labour. The National Ports Council's survey, which looked into all this, came to the conclusion that of the people employed in the non-scheme ports 357 were employed casually and 2,553 were regular employees. We are dealing with a situation where the Government wish to bring the non-scheme ports into the dock labour scheme because 357 out of 35,000 dockers have been treated as casual employees.

In other words, if ever there was a case of taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut, this is it. The only trouble is that when one has cracked this nut, one cracks a hell of a lot else with it. This will only make industrial relations worse. The non-scheme ports would suffer all the worst problems of the scheme ports.

If one wants evidence of that, why do not hon. Members opposite take the trouble to ask the dockers of Felixstowe or Shoreham whether they wish to join the dock labour scheme? They do not wish to have anything to do with it at all. Why do we have all this talk from hon. Members opposite about participation? Have they asked the dockers of Felixstowe or Shoreham or other non-scheme ports whether they wish to join the scheme?

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that at the National Docks Conference in 1972 the unregistered ports representatives agreed to the registration of their ports and of their jobs.

We have heard all that before. What we on this side mean by participation is people joining in and saying what they want to do, not just a few people who, by one tactic or another, have got into a position where they can say what they want to do. If the hon. Gentleman goes to Felixtowe—I hope he has been there as he talks with so much authority—and asks the dockers there what they wish to do, he will get a very clear answer. The answer is that they do not wish to join the scheme. They are happy with their conditions of work and pay. In fact, some are amongst the highest paid dockers in the British Isles today. Therefore, there is no reason why they should be taken over and brought within the dock labour scheme.

In the old days the Labour Party used to say that organisations had to be nationalised or taken over by the Government because they were failing the nation. Now the situation seems to be the other way round. These are the only ports which are helping the nation. It is the nationalised ports which are failing the nation. However, rather than do the right thing, the Labour Party insists that they must be taken over. This is a hopeless proceeding for the future of this country.

What about the future? I hope the Secretary of State will allow more time for proper consultation with all the interested parties than he has shown any indication of allowing so far. When some of those who will be affected have written to the Department, they have been told to submit their written evidence, if possible, within four weeks. The right hon. Gentleman knows that by this document and the legislation he will be taking away the right of objectors to put their cases to proper tribunals. Therefore, he has an even greater responsibility to see that there is ample time for consultation, to see these people himself and not to fob them off with some Under-Secretary in his Department. The right hon. Gentleman has a duty to see these people and to hear their objections. I hope that he will give us an unqualified statement this afternoon that he will be prepared to see the people who wish to put views to him.

The Secretary of State knows perfectly well—he must have been told by his officials, not by other interests because he has not bothered to consult them at all —that the extension of the dock labour scheme is not the answer. In fact, the scheme makes matters worse rather than better. Indeed, the scheme needs to be made more flexible, not extended, for London. Surely the right hon. Gentleman recognises that the right answer to help the dockers who are bound to be made redundant is to concentrate on providing and making new jobs, not trying to take jobs away from those who already have them. If the Secretary of State comes to this House with a scheme for re-employment or for spending cash to provide new jobs in the docks, we will wholeheartedly support him. We will also wholeheartedly support him if he brings forward a redundancy scheme to thin the industry down to the right size.

We cannot turn back the clock. We must go forward and provide new jobs rather than try the whole time to take away jobs from some people to give to others. That is no answer to the problems facing Britain. It is not right for us to feel that we are barred from discussing and stating plainly and bluntly the problems in the docks. Right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite delude themselves if they think that there is no problem here. Much of the problem is caused by the militancy of a few acting against the interests of the many. I believe that we shall have done a duty to this country and to this House by stating these facts as plainly as possible. I shall invite my right hon. and hon. Friends, when the time comes, to reject this disastrous document.

4.25 p.m.

At one point in the proceedings you, Mr. Speaker, complained that the House would have to endure four speeches from the Front Benches today. I can understand the feelings of any of those—

Fortunately, Mr. Speaker, we shall have to endure only four. We will watch carefully to see whether you endure the whole of the eight speeches. However, I grant that it is a difficulty for the House.

The motion contains two parts. The right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) has not referred to the second part of it. I am not complaining on that score. That will no doubt be dealt with by another of his hon. Friends and will be answered by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport when he replies to the debate. However, I must start by underlining the fact—I hope to underline it much more severely at the end of my remarks—that this is a most curious motion with extremely serious implications. I should like to spell out to the House at the end of my remarks what I think will be the consequences if the House is unwise enough to adopt the motion.

First, I will do my best to reply to several of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman. For example, he mentioned, as have others in these controversies, that what should be at stake—I am not denying the importance of the matter—is the efficiency of the transport system generally of this country. The right hon. Gentleman tried to claim, as have others, that the evidence shows that the non-scheme ports have shown themselves to be more efficient than the scheme ports and that that is proved by the general increase in traffic that has taken place over recent years. If the test of efficiency is to be applied in that way, the facts do not prove it because they are neutral on the subject.

The scheme ports and the non-scheme ports increased their traffic between 1969 and 1973. Some of the non-scheme ports have increased their traffic dramatically: Felixstowe 88 per cent., Harwich 43 per cent., Mostyn 76 per cent., Portsmouth 46 per cent., and Shoreham 38 per cent. Those are quite considerable increases. But the scheme ports have also increased their traffic: Immingham 80 per cent., Great Yarmouth 66 per cent., Fleetwood 361 per cent., Sharpness 60 per cent., Southampton 118 per cent., Lowestoft, even with the sour and melancholy presence of the right hon. Gentleman to discourage it, 60 per cent. The 60 per cent. at Lowestoft compares roughly with the average at the other ports.

The figures show that 30 scheme ports have gained traffic and 17 scheme ports have lost traffic and that 27 non-scheme ports have gained traffic and 13 non-scheme ports have lost traffic in that period. The figures are roughly the same. I am not sure what the goal average on those figures is, but only the goal average between them would test the matter. Therefore, the figures do not bear out what the right hon. Gentleman said. I suggest that people should be a little more careful than the right hon. Gentleman has been in using these figures.

The right hon. Gentleman is right in what he said about percentages. May I give him a fact and ask for his comment? In the non-scheme ports the average time taken to clear goods varies from five to six days. In the scheme ports the average time varies from 13 to 20 days. Would the right hon. Gentleman care to comment on that comparison?

I should like to see, first, how the comparisons are made and, secondly, where the figures are tested. What I was doing—I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not blame me for this —was to take the precise test selected by his right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft of the growth of traffic. I was making a comparison in general terms, which I think is a better comparison. I do not claim to be a statistician, but I should have thought that it was a broader and more apt comparison than that made by the hon. Gentleman.

The complaint made against me by the right hon. Gentleman is peculiar. What Tory Members are saying is that the Government's crime is that we are proposing to take action.

I fully agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the seriousness of the recent strike in the London docks. It was a most serious and regrettable strike and, I believe, a most unjustified strike. We have to see how we are to avoid such perils in the future.

I therefore claim that what the Government have done and, despite all the attacks which have been made upon myself, what I have sought to do is to see haw we can take action to deal with these problems. It is not just a matter of having more inquiries. The right hon. Gentleman talked about having fresh inquiries. The dockers have said to me clearly "We have had 17 or 18"—whatever the figure is—"inquiries. What has happened about them?"

I remind the House of one very important inquiry which was held. It was not conducted by some International Socialist or member of the Communist Party. It was the inquiry into the London docks in 1960 and 1970 by Mr. Peter Bristow, an eminent Queen's Counsellor. He produced a report which made many suggestions for dealing with the problem, suggestions not so different from those we have incorporated into our own document. He called for a new definition of "dock work". He made proposals somewhat along the lines contained in our document, although we have elaborated them further. That was way back in 1969 and 1970.

Many dockers have put it to me that they believed that the Bristow Report, which came after so many other reports by Lord Devlin and other eminent people, should have been carried into effect. The Bristow Report was presented to the previous Labour Government, who went out of office within a few weeks of its presentation. Thereafter nothing whatever was done about the report.

The right hon. Gentleman had not by then arrived at that eminent office, but there were several others. The right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Carr) was there for three and a half years. The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) was at the Ministry of Transport. The right hon. Member for Penrith and the Border (Mr. Whitelaw), who is now Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was there for a few months. There was also the right hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Macmillan). Nothing was done to deal with the dock situation in any radical way.

Nothing was done to deal with the dock labour scheme. The right hon. Gentleman asserted today that the dock labour scheme is an appalling disaster. Tory right hon. and hon. Members had three and a half years in which to think about the matter and act. Today the right hon. Gentleman did not have a single good word to say for the dock labour scheme. Indeed, he denounced it in every sentence he uttered. Such behaviour is not the best way of going about changing the dock situation. Right hon. and hon. Members who are not so familiar with these matters, like myself, should he more reticent when speaking on these questions.

If the dock labour scheme was such a disastrous affair as the right hon. Gentleman asserted, why did not the Tories do something about it in their three and a half years in office? They did not propose to do anything. Now they denounce us because we propose to do something about the 20 per cent. of docks which are out of the scheme. If it is such a disastrous scheme, why would they propose to leave 80 per cent. in the scheme? After all, for decades to come that 80 per cent. of docks will probably deal with the mass of traffic coming into and going out of this country.

As I say, for three and a half years the Tories were in a position to take action but took none. It was not for lack of anybody making suggestions. Mr. Peter Bristow's Report following his inquiry in 1960–70 was there when the Tories came into office in 1970. That proposed action. Then the National Ports Council recommended action and an elaboration of the scheme. Then the Tories had recommendations for action following the Aldington-Jones investigations. I know that some action was taken about severance pay and other such matters, but as regards extending the scheme, which is what we are doing, and seeing how it should be carried into other fields, nothing was done in the whole of that period. Now when we come forward with proposals for action—this is a great crime, in this Government, of course—the Tories hold up their hands in horror and say "No, let us have some more inquiries."

What I suggested to the right hon. Gentleman was that at least he should allow those who have objections to an extension of the dock labour scheme the rights they have always had in the past to present their case. This will not happen under his proposals.

Mr. Foot