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Planning Agreements

Volume 890: debated on Monday 21 April 1975

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what representations he has received from the Trades Union Congress concerning the planning agreement provisions of the Industry Bill.

I have had a number of valuable exchanges of view with the TUC on many aspects of the Industry Bill, including the question of planning agreements.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the Prime Minister that planning agreements should be voluntary, or does he agree with the element in the TUC and the Tribune Group who think that they should be compulsory?

As I proposed and moved the proposal that planning agreements should be on a voluntary basis, I think that the hon. Gentleman's question does not arise. There has never been any proposal by a Minister of this Government that planning agreements should be compulsory, partly because we do not want to repeat the folly of the Industrial Relations Act and send industrialists to Pentonville.

As the right hon. Gentleman said, in his White Paper, that the compulsory powers would be restricted to information required for planning agreements, will he amend the Bill according to the Prime Minister's commitment so that it and the White Paper are identical?

During the debate on the Industry Bill certain Labour Members said that they would examine the planning agreements and see whether they were satisfactory from the point of view of the unions and workers and perhaps take industrial action against the company concerned if they were not. Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that that would be a satisfactory or an unsatisfactory way of operating these planning agreements?

I think the House knows that we have always taken the view that the extension of collective bargaining to include the future prospects of a company, including its investment, exports, and so on, would be in the interests both of British industry as a whole and of those who invest their lives in industry. Therefore, if it is argued that trade unionists would want to widen the range of collective bargaining to include subjects that would be in planning agreements, the whole nation would gain from it.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what representations lie has received to make planning agreements with the National Enterprise Board compulsory.

None, Sir. There will be no planning agreement between the Government and the NEB, or between the NEB and companies.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that answer because there is so little in the Bill about planning agreements, compared with no less than three pages in the White Paper. Will he give the House and myself an assurance that a planning agreement entered into will not necessarily lead to a move by the National Enterprise Board for a State take-over of a company?

We have not reached Clause 14 of the Bill, which concerns planning agreements, but I give the hon. Gentleman an assurance, as I have already done in Committee, that information gleaned by the Government from planning agreements will not be used to give the NEB any commercial privilege advantage.

Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that information gleaned under planning agreements or disclosure will be kept a little more confidentially than it is alleged the Ryder Report has been?

The hon. Gentleman is unwise if he believes everything that he reads in the newspapers. He can form his own conclusions about the leakage of the Ryder Report, but there is no truth in the suggestion that it has been leaked to the Press.

I have already made clear that no planning agreements will be entered into by the NEB. The hon. Gentleman should have listened to my answer to an earlier Question. I assure him that NEB-controlled companies will. if they are chosen, and if they are agreeable, enter into planning agreements with the Government, and Scottish companies will in no way be excluded.