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Industry

Volume 890: debated on Monday 21 April 1975

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Rolls-Royce Rb211 (Boeing Aircraft Company)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will issue a further invitation to Mr. Boullioun of Boeing Aircraft Company to meet him to discuss the prospects for fitting Rolls-Royce RB211 engines in the Boeing 747.

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what action he has taken to facilitate the offer by Boeing of a version of the 747 aircraft powered by the Rolls-Royce RB211.

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what discussions he has had with the management of Rolls-Royce Ltd. on its negotiations with Boeing.

My right hon. Friend has said that the Government will support the application of the RB211–524 engine to the Boeing 747 on similar terms to that for the Lockheed TriStar application as soon as a second major order is placed in addition to the requirements for British Airways. He has discussed the matter with Mr. Boullioun and Sir Kenneth Keith on several occasions and is well aware of their views. He has no plans for a further meeting with Mr. Boullioun at the moment.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that when Mr. Boullioun was invited here to meet the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State failed to meet him and left him, instead, to meet civil servants of the Department? Does the Secretary of State—indeed, does his junior Minister—think that that is the best way in which to conduct business on which the jobs of many men working at Rolls-Royce in Derby and other places now depend?

I much regret that the hon. Gentleman sees fit to raise this issue in that manner. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry was engaged in other Cabinet business that he could not avoid. Mr. Boullioun was informed of the reason why he was invited, instead, to meet senior officials and he fully appreciated those reasons.

Have the Government not been told by the director of Rolls-Royce in Derby that the delays by the Government in making the grants available for the further work on the engine are already causing a serious risk that the project will not go ahead?

I fully understand the importance of the deadline which has to be met. At the same time, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will realise that we have to take account of the size of the extra investment, including that required for the growth in thrust, and to take account of it in relation to expected revenue from sales in terms of the appropriate test discount rate. That is why we have not so far been able to give a firm decision on this matter. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are concerned about this issue and we are awaiting further proposals to be made by Rolls-Royce, if that company so sees fit.

Is the Minister aware that it is vital that the decision should be made fairly quickly? It is quite right that the engine division in Derby is concerned about the development of this uprated version of the RB211. I hope that the Government realise the urgency of getting the deal completed.

I assure my hon. Friend that we are very conscious of the urgency of this matter. Only today have we received the first part of further proposals from Rolls-Royce. I assure my hon. Friend that we shall be looking at these very carefully and urgently. It is obviously crucial that we take full account of any change in the economics of the project as regards the terms, the costs, and the profit returns. This we shall do.

Will the Minister bear in mind that Short Bros. and Harland of Belfast would be in a particularly advantageous position to tender for the podding of these engines in view of the success of its contract with Lockheed?

I am well aware of the importance of the position for the company that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

Is it not possible to press the Minister further on this missed meeting? Mr. Boullioun was invited by the Minister to come to the meeting. Was there no other Minister available? The hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that it is his Government which laid down the terms and conditions under which a second order has to be given before that engine will be funded by the Government. There is a grave discourtesy here to Boeing.

I assure the House that Mr. Boullioun, who is the person who matters here, certainly, fully understood the position and recognised that there was no discourtesy.

Aircraft Industry

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what further consultation he has had with management of the British Aircraft Corporation since publishing his proposals to nationalise the British aircraft industry.

My right hon. Friend has studied the comments from the management of the British Aircraft Corporation on his proposals and discussed these with the chairman and board members.

Is the Minister aware—certainly his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry is aware—that the present position is that his right hon. Friend talks almost exclusively to the trade unions and ignores the management? Although I realise the links between the unions and the Government, is not the Minister aware that the attitude over the past few months has caused concern, not to say demoralisation, amongst middle and senior management of the British Aircraft Corporation? Will he give an assurance that in future he will spend at least as much time talking to management as he does to the trade unions to try to retain what is left of the previously good relationship between management and unions?

The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense when he suggests that my right hon. Friend has not fully consulted a large number of managerial bodies on this issue. He is also quite wrong when he tries to stir up the idea of discontent. The proposals for public ownership have wide support among the work force, and that includes the distinct elements of middle management, who also strongly backs these proposals.

Has the Secretary of State any plans to meet all sections of the work force at BAC Weybridge? So far, he has studiously avoided coming to that particular BAC location.

My right hon. Friend has not studiously avoided—to use the hon. Gentleman's phrase—meeting the persons whom the hon. Gentleman mentions. I assure him that the organising committee which we hope will be set up shortly after Second Reading, if the House so approves, will take the opportunity to have further meetings with the kind of persons to whom the hon. Gentleman has alluded.

Do the Government still believe that this legislation will be on the statute book in this Session of Parliament? Further, will the hon. Gentleman comment upon the hardship which may be faced, in view of the present compensation terms, if the legislation is not proceeded with and if shareholders, therefore, receive no compensation for the investment they would be expected to continue to make for a period longer than that originally intended?

I am very glad to welcome the hon. Gentleman's strong and warm support for legislation this Session, and I am glad to assure him that I have no reason to believe that he will be disappointed.

Aerospace

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next expects to meet his European counterparts to discuss the future of the aerospace industry in the EEC.

I have no plans for such discussions at present.

Will the Minister tell us his view on the question whether or not he ought to acquaint his counterparts with his proposals on nationalisation? Are these people not to be told? Is it not really necessary that he should hear from them that they believe that it should be left to Parliament in this country and not to the EEC to make decisions about the organisation of the industry?

I think it would be a greater courtesy to tell the House of Commons our proposals through the Bill before we consult European Ministers, but I shall certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's view that we should tell European Ministers before we tell Parliament.

In view of the importance of the Concorde project for the EEC aircraft industry, will my right hon. Friend consider going to New York to give evidence at the current inquiry, which, evidently, is assuming a highly political character?

In a private capacity, and with another hon. Member, I did go the last time there was an attempt to stop the Concorde from landing there. But I think that in this particular case the matter had better be handled in the way in which it is being handled, so long as it is clearly understood by the American Government that the British and French Governments have an absolutely basic national interest to see that our investment in this aircraft is not frustrated by arguments which do not stand up to serious examination.

Having said that, I hope that my words will be reflected, without my presence being necessary.

We all know the right hon. Gentleman's views about Europe, but surely he does not really believe that the British aerospace industry can live outside some sort of link with the European aerospace industry. May we have his assurance that his plans for nationalising our aircraft industry at least owe something to the creation of a stronger European aerospace industry?

This is not a question on which one would want to enter into a broader discussion about the Common Market. Concorde was begun many years before any question of British entry was considered. The Society of British Aircraft Constructors has told me that the aircraft industry has 1,000 collaborative projects of one kind or another, one of the most important being the RB211 in an American aircraft. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not take such a narrow view of the British or world industry as to suppose that "wogs" begin at the frontiers of the Common Market. We must make it world wide.

Shipbuilding Industry

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what proportion of the shipbuilding industries of Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland and France are State owned, according to the information available to him from international sources.

According to my information, about 35 per cent. of the merchant shipbuilding industry in Germany and about 20 per cent. in Sweden are State-owned. Naval shipbuilding and outfitting are largely State-owned in all the countries mentioned.

As one of the principal reasons for the Government's proposal to nationalise the whole of the shipbuilding industry in Britain is its alleged poor performance as compared with our overseas competitors, does not the Under-Secretary feel that the European example of State support rather than wholesale ownership should prove exactly the reverse?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not fully listening to my earlier reply. Certainly in the case of Sweden the successful yard at Uddevalla is fully 100 per cent. State-owned, and turned in £5 million of profit in 1974. In Germany, the Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft is also 100 per cent. Federal and State-owned. That also turned in a profit, in 1973, of DM 37 million. The hon. Gentleman's conclusion is not proven by the European example.

As inflation is now being generated by wage settlements in the nationalised industries and the public sector, will not the nationalisation of ship-building give a further boost to inflation, imperil exports and, incidentally, add to the cost of the defence programme to the taxpayer?

Certainly to the extent to which it promotes investment, improves production and increases exports, it will not have the effect the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what was the total net worth of the companies to be nationalised in the shipbuilding, ship repairing and marine engineering industries at book value according to their latest accounts.

The latest published accounts of these companies are available to the public. For my Department to extract the information required would involve a disproportionate amount of time and effort.

Is it not incredible that we should be about to spend vast sums of public money on taking over this industry, at a time of grave economic crisis, in ignorance of the background? Is the Minister satisfied with the abysmal level of research carried out by his Department before putting forward his proposal?

The proposal was put forward by the Labour Party in two elections. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Department does not prepare policy statements for political parties as such in that sense. He will also know that our compensation provisions are based not upon book value but on share value. Therefore, there is no reason why I should ask my civil servants to spend time gathering published information which is not to be the basis of our compensation arrangements.

Is my right hon. Friend yet in a position to tell the House when we are likely to have the Shipbuilding Industry Bill?

I have nothing to add to what my hon. Friend already knows. The measures intended for the present Session include the public ownership of the ship-building and aircraft industries. I take on board what was said by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) about being anxious to get the Bill before the House and passed as soon as may be.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Chief Sec- retary to the Treasury on television was able to give the cost of the nationalisation of the shipbuilding and aerospace industries, a figure which he was quite unwilling and unable to give to this House? Is not that an affront to the principles of the sovereignty of and accountability to Parliament? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the figure of £300 million is correct?

Steel Industry (Investment)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will use the Industry Act 1972, or other means at his disposal, to ensure adequate investment in the special steels industry in Sheffield.

I am prepared to use the powers available to me to help desirable investment in the special steels industry in Sheffield, and I and my Department will study carefully any schemes submitted.

I am not quite certain whether my right hon. Friend qualifies as First Witch, Second Witch or Third Witch in the eyes of the ex-Leader of the Opposition. However, he can console himself with the reflection that all three witches prognosticated exactly what would happen—

Yes, Mr. Speaker. My question is this: is my right hon. Friend aware that Sheffield would welcome an assurance that we shall have adequate investment in the steel industry under the Industry Act or in some other way? Is he also aware that there was considerable resentment at the interference of the European Commission when the Jessel empire collapsed?

I am aware both of the feelings that my hon. Friend has expressed and of the anxieties which exist in Sheffield, and I hope that what I have been able to say will be some reassurance.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity of confirming that the private special steel sector in Sheffield has an outstandingly good record, as to profit, employment and its general success in contributing to our economy? Will he confirm that the Government see this as a very important part of the steel industry and that he will, therefore, wish to leave it intact and untouched?

I said nothing critical of the private sector. There are no significant projects being examined from the private sector in Sheffield at present.

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that there are now reports that 10,000 people are to be laid off in the Welsh steel industry? How far is this difficulty related to the vast quantities of steel being imported into Britain from the Continent? Under the Common Market regulations, what, if anything, can my right hon. Friend do about this?

I understand the anxieties that my hon. Friend has expressed, but it really is another question.

How does the Secretary of State think that there will be any major investment projects coming forward in the steel sector when management see his ambiguous statements about the future of the industry? How can this help the present situation when management also sees the thoroughly unsatisfactory terms he has produced for the shipbuilding and aerospace industries? How can it give management in other industries which might be threatened any confidence to invest?

The hon. Gentleman knows that the problem of investment is difficult, and has been so under all Governments. Under his own Conservative Government there was a major collapse in investment. That is one reason, as the hon. Gentleman knows very well, why we are bringing forward proposals, through the NEB and planning agreements, and an amendment to the Industry Act, to increase investment by direct methods, because the private system for stimulating investment has not met the nation's requirements under any Government.

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry for what purpose he wishes to control investment in the independent steel sector.

To ensure that future development of the United Kingdom steel industry as a whole is well-balanced and coherent.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that last year the British Steel Corporation's production was 4 million tons below its rated capacity? We are moving into a period of serious recession in the demand for steel. In this situation, is it not madness to try to inhibit private investment, which will provide employment and help to provide steel which is still required in some sectors of our engineering industry?

We are not inhibiting investment; we are ensuring the proper overall use of scarce resources. In the instance of cosmex of which the hon. Gentleman will be aware, there were great difficulties, which neither the European Commission nor the Government, who viewed the future with concern, were able to unravel. That is why proper control over investment to ensure that scarce scrap is properly used is still necessary.

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the limited supplies of scrap will be used in new electric are furnaces in Scotland, and will he further assure us that the direct reduction plant needed to supply existing electric are furnaces in the private sector will also be placed in Scotland?

I should like to be able to give those assurances, but the point remains that under the European Communities Act we lost the power that was vested in the Government under Section 15 of the Iron and Steel Act 1967. That would have enabled me to give the assurance my hon. Friend wants, but I cannot now give it to him.

If the public sector is falling down on the job again, particularly on this vital question of investment, about which the Secretary of State has been saying it has a deplorable record, why should not the private sector be free to get on with the job?

We are not stopping the private sector from geting on with the job. What we are concerned to ensure, if we have the power, is a combination of the operations in the public and private sectors to the maximum national interest.

Manufacturing Investment

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what estimate he has made of the level of investment in manufacturing industry over the next year.

The intentions inquiry carried out by my Department in November/December 1974 indicated that the volume of investment in manufacturing industry in 1975 would be 7 per cent. to 10 per cent. lower than the level then expected for 1974.

Will the Secretary of State tell us whether it is the Government's opinion that the level of investment in manufacturing industry is likely to he enhanced if we remain a member of the Common Market rather than if we leave? If he has difficulty in answering that question, to whom should I address it?

The hon. Gentleman knows that the investment performance of this country has not improved in the last two years and three months. He must also know that our failure to invest on a scale comparable with that achieved by our competitors over 10 years or more is the basis of many of the problems facing Britain, including our current inflation and unemployment levels. The hon. Gentleman should therefore welcome the Government's proposals, through the NEB and planning agreements, to get investment up by direct methods, which is what we intend to do.

When does my right hon. Friend expect to announce the level of investment in British Leyland? If something is not done soon, from what I am told by people at plants in the Midlands, the company and its morale are sinking so fast that we shall have nothing to invest in.

I am aware of that situation. There is another Question on that matter today. Without anticipating that Question, I am hoping to make a statement to the House on that subject as soon as possible.

Will the Secretary of State now answer the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Baker)? Will he at the same time explain why the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week gave figures for investment which had been revised since the last Budget, but which he apparently has not revised since last November? Are the right hon. Gentleman and his Department now able only to provide information about investment intentions taken in a survey dated last November? Is that the latest information that he has? If he has later information, why not make it available to the House when requested to do so by my hon. Friend?

I shall do my best to answer the hon. Gentleman's question. The figures which I gave were for November-December. The next figures are due, I understand, on 9th June, and on 13th May the CBI figures will be available. I have given the House the latest information available to me. However, the hon. Gentleman will be encouraged to know that the rather gloomy forecasts of investment which were made last year were less serious than the outturn, as it transpired.

Must not the level of investment, in the end, always depend on the return which the person who lends the money is likely to receive? Have the Government any plans, either by taxation reduction or at least by removing dividend restraint, to increase that return? If that return is not increased, it will incite people to buy Krugerrands or to put their money into port wine or antiques, instead of industry, where they should get a return.

Lord Barber's experience in attempting to follow the hon. Gentleman's advice was so unsatisfactory that we do not intend to repeat it.

West Stirlingshire

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he is taking to locate industry in West Stirlingshire.

Since I met my hon. Frend in February to discuss the problems arising from textile industry closures in his constituency, my officials have continued their efforts to find new occupants for the factory space which has become available. I am glad to say that a tenant has been found for half of the Kilsyth factory

I thank my hon. Friend for his efforts. Will he continue to give urgent attention to the need to attract industries to West Stirlingshire, particularly to the advance factories which are lying empty in Denny and Kilsyth, because unemployment figures there are abnormally high even by Scotland's standards? Will he also comment on the claim by John Collier Limited that it had to close its Denny factory because it could not afford to keep it going, and yet it has opened up business in West Germany? Is not that a clear case of Common Market membership acting against the best interests of workers in this country?

I know that arrangements are being made for a meeting between officials of my Department and the town clerk of Denny to discuss unemployment in the Denny area. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to take part in those discussions.

The second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is another question altogether.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Budget introduced last week will do nothing to help industrial expansion in West Stirlingshire in particular and in Scotland in general and that the only way that industry can be expanded is by the creation of a Scottish Government which will set in train plans for industrial expansion in Scotland and reduce unemployment to Norwegian levels —that is, to less than 1 per cent.?

I would rather have the present Chancellor of the Exchequer looking after Scotland's affairs than the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends. During the last year we have doubled regional employment premiums and given specific help by way of controlled IDCs. In my view, the NEB will help throughout the country as a whole, and the Scottish Development Agency will be a great spur to Scottish industry.

Meriden Co-Operative

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will make a further statement on production at the Triumph motor cycle co-operative at Meriden.

As my hon. Friend knows, the Meriden co-operative commenced operations on 10th March. As with any other limited liability company the responsibility for its affairs rests with its management.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that this undertaking is capable of making a substantial contribution to Britain's export performance? Does he also accept that the performance of the undertaking so far shows that workers ought to be given an important part to play in the management of the place where they work?

Obviously I agree with what my hon. Friend said. I have had the opportunity of visiting the factory, both during the period when the workers were campaigning for their establishment and since. Anybody who visits a factory like the one at Meriden where the people concerned are running their own affairs is bound to be struck by the dedication which they show to their work. I notice that tonight in a BBC television programme they will have the opportunity of talking about it themselves. I wish that many hon. Gentlemen opposite who criticise the co-operatives would go and see it for themselves.

The right hon. Gentleman has twice said that £4·95 million represents the ceiling of the Government's financial commitment towards Meriden. Will he undertake that during the present financial year there will be no further call on public funds either from Meriden or Norton Villiers Triumph?

Industry Bill

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many companies have contacted him regarding the effects of proposed legislation on the Industry Bill.

Can the hon. Gentleman say how many were in favour of the proposed legislation?

The number that I have received represents 0·03 per cent. of companies on the Companies House Register. I should not care to say whether this was a concerted propaganda effort, but many of the letters were identical.

As regards the Industry Bill, does my hon. Friend recall that in Standing Committee an amendment of mine seeking to strengthen the National Enterprise Board by giving it powers to raise stock and therefore increase its financial resources received widespread Labour back bench and, indeed, Liberal support? He assured us then—can he repeat it now?—that the Government will take this seriously, despite the fact that the Tories voted against it on that occasion.

My hon. Friend is right in his record of the proceedings. I said then that the Government. having listened carefully to the debate, would return to this matter on Report, and that is what we propose to do.

Did these companies follow up their hostility by underlining it with the pledge that they would never seek financial assistance from the National Enterprise Board?

Steel Industry

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what views he has received from the British Steel Corporation about the desirability of Great Britain remaining in the European Economic Community.

I understand that the chairman and corporation take the view that it would benefit substantially from continued United Kingdom membership of the ECSC.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Can he say, in the event of Britain's leaving the Community, what would happen to the substantial loans which have been allotted by the Community to the British steel industry, amounting, according to my information, to £94 million at favourable rates of interest? Would they have to be repaid?

That would fall for consideration by the Government after the vote. The amount of the United Kingdom's gross contribution to the Community greatly exceeds receipts.

I appreciate that the Minister's original answer to the Question will then have been approved by the Foreign Office. Can he assure us that the supplementary answer was, too?

I have nothing to add to the speeches made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East in other parts of the country.

Planning Agreements

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.

European Community

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will list the limitations which will be imposed on the Government's domestic policies for British industry by continued United Kingdom membership of the European Economic Community.

Our industrial policies would continue to be subject to the relevant provisions of the Rome Treaty, in particular the rules relating to competition which apply to undertakings and to State aids to industry. The Treaty of Paris would continue to apply to the coal and steel industries.

There is ample evidence that the public are terrified of the actions taken in respect of Government policies, including that for industry, and the Secretary of State's own extraordinary ideas about the future development of British industry. Should not the right hon. Gentleman keep quiet about this so-called disadvantage, lest millions of additional voters seize this as an additional reason to vote "Yes" in the referendum?

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman is interested in the referendum, since the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party has made it clear that he and his party do not care a bit what the British public think if they vote to leave the Common Market.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the latest documents from Brussels concerning regional aid, which state that assistance to industries within central areas will be under the Commission's constant review? Does not the use of such a phrase suggest that the Commission would dissuade and eventually prohibit assistance from the State to industry if it went beyond the amount which the Commission agreed was desirable?

I do not think I can add to what the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers have said about the reasons for the Government's decision. As for the rest, it is a matter upon which each of us must form his own view.

As the Minister responsible for industry in the House, will the right hon. Gentleman please tell the House how much quantification he can make of the limitations carried out by Brussels, since he has been responsible for British industrial policy?

I have given the best answer I can give. I gave a very full answer to the original Question. The hon. Gentleman will know well that any Government will formulate policies with treaty obligations in mind. Therefore, that does not bear on the question whether the treaty obligations should or should not be continued in operation. The hon. Gentleman had better make clear to the House now whether he is prepared to accept the view of the British people on this matter on 5th June. Until the House of Commons knows whether the hon. Gentleman is going to take any notice of the British people, his questions are an insult to the British electorate.

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what consultations he has had with leading British companies on the effect on their expansion programmes of withdrawal from the Common Market.

I and my Department have received views from many companies and bodies representative of British Indus- try on this and other matters relating to membership of the Common Market.

As the EEC takes 33 per cent. of our exports and we take only about 7 per cent. of it exports, is it not clear that our manufacturers rely far more heavily on EEC markets than they on us? Has the Secretary of State a shred of evidence that if we leave the EEC we will be able to negotiate a free trade agreement on terms anything like as good as those available to us as a member of the EEC?

This country is a very good market indeed for the other member countries of the EEC. I have yet to see a very good customer being kicked in the teeth by suppliers. It is quite fair that this argument should be discussed as part of the referendum campaign, on which the Government's view is quite clear.

Has my right hon. Friend tried to estimate the consequent job loss to areas of high unemployment like my own as a result of a down-turn in investment intentions following withdrawal from the EEC?

I certainly hope that whether we leave the EEC or stay in we shall do better, in investment terms, than we have in our first two years within the Community, and that, whether we come out or stay in, we should do a great deal better in our trade with other Community countries. If only it were possible to get the debate upon these matters set against a background of many years of industrial decline in Britain, some of the rather silly scare tactics that are being used by hon. Members opposite would not be relevant.

Will the Secretary of State now answer a direct question which he has been asked on several occasions this afternoon? Does he or does he not agree with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that investment will fall if we withdraw from the EEC?

The hon. Gentleman should not feign surprise or confusion. He knows very well that the Government and the Cabinet have agreed to differ in their assessment of this matter and that we believe that agreeing to differ on arguments, but being willing to accept the verdict of the people, is better than a monolithic unity and an absolute contempt for the opinions of the public.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that before we joined the Common Market we were told that it would be disastrous if we did not join, and that now we are in we are told that it would be disastrous if we left it? The two most disastrous years for British industry have been those while we have been in the Common Market.

Without being drawn into a wider discussion of this matter, I thank God that we have handed this matter to the British people, in whose common sense I have great confidence.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that we fully understand that Ministers have agreed to disagree on the matter of the referendum? Is he further aware that arrangements have been made so that when Questions are put to a Minister and he is unable to give answers in terms of Government policy the Questions are transferred? Does he not agree that he has consistently refused to answer, or has given misleading answers by way of supplementary questions this afternoon, which has consistently frustrated the guidelines of the Prime Minister?

The Cabinet guidelines would not be best interpreted by the hon. Gentleman. He will notice that every one of my answers has faithfully reflected the Government's view that it would be in the interests of this country to remain within the Community as a result of the vote on 5th June. That has been made absolutely clear in all my answers. I would rather have an agreement to disagree on the merits than have a pledge to confront the British public, whatever they think on the Common Market.

Motor Industry

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what information he has as to the effect on overseas investment in the British motor industry if Great Britain withdrew from the EEC.

I am aware that the British motor industry considers Europe to be an important market in any circumstances. The effect of withdrawal on inward invest- ment would depend on the terms of continued access to that market.

Is not the certainty of being able to sell in a large tariff-free market essential for this industry, in view of the enormous and increasing costs that motor manufacturers have to bear before new models go into production? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is no similar parallel large tariff-free market?

The hon. Gentleman must also appreciate that the British motor industry includes those who work in the industry, as represented by the trade union movement, which, in many important respects in that industry, takes a contrary view. The hon. Gentleman must not argue that the tariff arrangements that may be reached with any country or group of countries are necessarily in-separable from political links as tight as are involved in membership of the EEC. That is a quite different argument, which does not arise under the Question tabled.

I shall try to help the Minister, if he will let me. Is not the greatest threat to further overseas investment in the British motor car industry the prohibition and nationalisation orders which he is proposing in the Industry Bill? That is the real threat to further overseas investment.

I cannot accept that the difficulties experienced by, for example, the Chrysler company in this country are attributable to policies that the Labour Government have adopted. Neither, indeed, would any objective observer think that the problems of Volkswagen, Citrën and other world-wide companies in the motor industry could all be attributed, as the hon. Gentleman would like to attribute them, to the policies of the Labour Government in London. It is a nice thought, but it has no relation to reality.

Postal Charges (Books And Printed Matter)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how much revenue was received by the Post Office in the past financial year from charges on the postage of books and printed matter to Commonwealth countries.

The information as requested is not available, but for overseas surface printed papers as a whole the revenue for 1974–75 is estimated, on the basis of 10 months' figures, at between £13 million and £14 million.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the damaging effect of the increase in these charges in postal rates for printed matter and for books? Is he aware that the charges have risen by about 167 per cent.? Will he confirm that another increase is in the pipeline? Is he aware that books and periodicals—and, indeed, advertising material—are a means whereby information about this country and the influence of this country can be spread to overseas countries? Therefore, will not this increase have a very damaging effect on Britain's influence world wide and, indeed, affect our future chances for exports in world markets?

I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern in these matters. After considerable discussion of the original proposals submitted by the Post Office, it has been decided that there will be no abatement. The increased charges will not take effect until the early part of next year. I am conscious of the representations made to me by the trade, but there can be no question of subsidy by the Post Office to any other industry.

What views have been collected by the Secretary of State for Trade as to the detrimental effect on exports of this section of the price increases by the Post Office?

I know that the trade consulted my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, as it consulted me, but the overriding consideration must be for the Post Office. The Post Office cannot go out of its way to subsidise any other industry. We have lived for a very long time under the shadow of large deficits. We cannot continue in that way much longer.

What is the hon. Gentleman's estimate of the likely decrease in traffic as a result of the increased charges both in this field and in the more general postal one, particularly bearing in mind the evidence that even local authorities have now adopted hand delivery of their rate demands?

That is quite another matter. I remind the hon. Gentleman, although I should not need to remind him above all other Members in the House, that the Universal Postal Union has made its recommendations, which will apply to all these countries.

Manslaughter

40.

asked the Attorney-General whether, in a case in which a coroner's jury has returned a verdict of manslaughter and magistrates have subsequently been satisfied by the evidence so as to commit a defendant for trial on that charge, he will instruct the Director of Public Prosecutions to cause a full explanation for offering no evidence to be given at the trial.

In any trial in which counsel instructed by the Director of Public Prosecutions proposes to offer no evidence, it is the practice to explain to the court why such a course of action is justified, and the court has full opportunity to probe the matter further. I am not aware of any case in which this practice has not been followed.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that a young constituent of mine named Adam Grier died in hospital last year and that two tribunals subsequently decided that it was a case of manslaughter? Yet, at the trial, prosecuting counsel—against whom I make no criticism—bypassing the function of judge and jury, said that he offered no evidence. Does the Attorney-General know that the judge in that case said that the cause of death remained a mystery? In those circumstances, does he not feel that the public requires a fuller explanation of the reasons why no evidence is offered in a case of that kind, where there is so much public mistrust and disquiet—if only to avoid the charge of a cover-up?

I know the case to which the hon. Gentleman refers and I have looked into it very carefully. I have read the opinion of counsel and also the proceedings before the learned judge. It was a case which depended very much on highly technical medical factors, and counsel gave what seemed to me to be a very clear opinion. They certainly put the matter carefully before the learned judge. The learned judge had the opportunity, which he took, to probe the matter and was, as I read the transcript, satisfied with the evidence

Legal Costs

41.

asked the Attorney-General if he will seek to amend existing legislation to enable a successful claimant to be awarded full costs when claiming amounts less than £75.

No, Sir. The provision by county court rule that costs shall not normally be recoverable where the claim does not exceed £75 is necessary in order to enable a litigant in person to bring or defend county court proceedings without fear of incurring high legal costs if he loses. It is an integral part of the new small claims procedure which has been running with considerable success since its introduction in October 1973.

Is the right hon. And learned Gentleman aware that in one case brought to my attention the costs Mr. Steel: Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in one case brought to my attention the costs of pursuing a claim successfully exceeded the claim that was gained by the pursuer? Surely there is no point in people pressing their claims in court if such claims are going to cost them more than they will get in doing so successfully.

There are, of course, bound to be difficulties about a situation in which no costs are normally allowed. However, the registrar, under the order, has a discretion to award costs in certain cases, particularly when an important question of law or fact arises. In the end we have to decide whether cases of this kind, which involve comparatively small sums, should be available to be litigated at all, inasmuch as they will not he if plaintiffs are afraid that they will be called upon to pay high costs if they lose.

County Courts

43.

asked the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the progress of the discussions being held by the Lord Chancellor's Department concerning the restructuring of county courts.

My noble Friend has asked his circuit administrators to carry out a review of the number and location of the county courts in each circuit. The circuit administrators are now engaged in consultations with local bodies. On completion of these they will submit their recommendations to my noble Friend.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that answer. W ill he give an assurance that he will use his influence to resist any proposals from the circuit administrators which will make the county courts more remote and access to them more difficult? Does he agree that any action on those lines would tend to destroy the good work done to make access to the county courts easier for most people and, in particular, will he seek the views of local people involved before he agrees to any proposals which will abolish county court districts?

I think I can give my hon. Friend reassurance on those matters. The review is the necessary consequence of changes in local government boundaries brought about by the Local Government Act 1972, and one of the primary factors being considered is—as it must be—convenience to the public. I am sure that all those who are in any way concerned with the matter will be consulted.

I am sure the House will be very glad to have heard the right hon. and learned Gentleman's assurance that the convenience of the public will be a high priority in this consideration. All too often, as he knows, administrative convenience tends to come first. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House what area of consultation is proposed? It is important, if the convenience of the public is to be considered, for consultation to be on a very wide basis. Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any idea when we shall receive a report upon these matters?

I do not think I can go beyond the answer which I have already given—that all those who have a contribution to make towards a decision in this matter are being considered by my noble Friend. That will be, and indeed is, very much on the basis of convenience to the public as a major priority. I am afraid I cannot tell the hon. and learned Gentleman offhand when this review is expected to be completed, but I shall certainly make further inquiries and give the best estimate I can, in letter form.

Legal Aid

44.

asked the Attorney-General when the White Report into the need for an extension of legal aid will be presented; and whether it will be published.

It is expected that before the end of the summer my noble Friend will have received advice from those of his officials who are at present urgently studying the nature and extent of the need for legal services which is not now being met. My noble Friend will study that advice and consider in what form the conclusions he reaches can best be communicated to hon. Members.

I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that reply, but will he indicate whether he is prepared to undertake that review before he gets the White Paper? Is that what he is telling the House?

I think there is some misunderstanding here. In his Question the hon. and learned Gentleman refers to the White Report. Mr. White, is, in fact, now a member of the Department of my noble Friend, and therefore the matters that will come before my noble Friend will be very much influenced by the thinking of Mr. White, but he will in practice be receiving advice, as he does in other matters.

Does the Attorney-General recall that it was in November last year that the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee recommended the extension of legal aid to all sorts of tribunals? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman persuade his Department to get a move on in implementing those recommendations?

I have already said that it is hoped that the advice which is being collated will be available before the end of the summer. As I have said on an earlier occasion in answer to previous Questions on a similar subject, there are a great many priorities for the extension of legal aid or the provision of legal services where there is a need for it. They have all to be looked at together, and that is what my noble Friend will do as soon as he receives his advice.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that he will be prepared to undertake an investigation into charges levied by solicitors and barristers on litigants? Is he aware that many people cannot afford to be represented in court appearances and that this is due largely to the excessive charges which the legal Mafia is able to levy?

My hon. Friend is in a much better position to speak about the legal Mafia than I am, because I have not met any members of it. I assure him that the whole purpose of legal aid and of the inquiries now going on into better satisfying the need for legal services, which undoubtedly exists, will be directed to the problem which he has posed.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many cases coming before the courts are never properly heard, because of the lack of legal aid? Will he give this matter his personal attention?

That is one of the factors—and there are many—which my noble Friend has under constant review and which this special study will deal with in one form or another.