New Towns Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
We have two and three-quarter hours for this debate, for four Front Bench speakers and approximately 12 hon. Members who represent new towns.
From time to time, as the new towns programme proceeds, it is necessary to ask the House for authority to increase the total borrowing limits for the new town development corporations and for the Commission for New Towns. This has resulted in an agreeable practice whereby the House is enabled to examine the way in which the new towns are progressing and to consider what ought to be the future policy.Before I deal with the wider issues, however, I should perhaps mention that the basis of the present Bill is to increase the borrowing limit for the development corporations and for the commission to a total of £2,250 million net. Immediately £250 million will be needed, raising the total required from £1,500 million to £1,750 million; but the Bill gives power for the Minister to ask for a further £500 million by instalments using the affirmative resolution procedure to see the programme through for the next two or three years. New town money Bills normally follow an established pattern, but the House will see that there is a new provision in Clause 2(i) which enables pensions to be paid to past and present development corporation chairman. This brings development corporations into line with other public sector bodies. Clause 1(i) is designed to bring new town practice into line with that in other comparable spheres. Hitherto the advance has been limited to the cumulative total of all moneys paid, but the Bill alters this by substituting for cumulative advances the net sum outstanding and thus takes into account repayments made. In addition, Clause 2(ii) allows payment to be made to members of local town committees of the Commission for New Towns. Members of the commission are already paid, as are the chairmen of the local committees, but, clearly, the work required for ordinary committee members justifies their payment also on the grounds of equity. In December of last year my right hon. Friend and I published a consultation document entitled "New Towns in England and Wales". A parallel document "New Towns in Scotland" was published in January. My right hon. Friend and I felt that the time had come to consider the development of new towns in general, and to ask those most concerned with new towns to give us their views upon the future programme. We ourselves set out in the consultation document not only the issues that we though ought to be discussed but the way in which we saw the future developments of the whole programme. If there is a common theme in all the points that were made in that document, it derives from the quotation with which we introduced the topic of the local community—the words of Nicias, 2,500 years ago—that
for, it is the basis of the new town philosophy that what is to be created is not just a series of houses, important as they are, not a just a group of factories, vital as they are, not just new shopping centres, attractive as they may be, but an environment in which men and women may bring up their families in new and happier surroundings than those in which they themselves were born and grew up. The idea is an accepted part of Britain today; indeed, so accepted that visitors not only from Britain but from every country in the world come to inspect our new towns and to take away with them ideas for their own countries. But when the first New Towns Bill was debated only 30 years ago, the philosophy appeared new, questionable and, to some, fanciful. Since then new towns, as an instrument of social policy, have widened their scope both geographically and functionally. The first new towns drew their populations from the overcrowded conurbations of London and Glasgow. Later, new towns grew up to help other places like Merseyside, the North-East and the West Midlands. New towns were used to extend existing towns like Northampton and Peterborough. New towns were used to deal with derelict land, as in Telford. Some new towns—for example, Washington—are a potent force in revitalising development areas in need of modernisation. Today in Great Britain there are 29 new towns in various stages of development. Now I suppose it is housing—first and foremost—that most people consider when they think of new towns. This is hardly surprising when one realises that one in 10 of the houses now being built in the public sector are in new towns. The early development corporations went into areas not necessarily happy to receive them. They built the houses sometimes in the teeth of opposition from the local inhabitants. But, as the years went by, and as the population increased, so the need for housing—not just for those who came into the towns, but for their children also as they grew up and had children of their own—began to be felt. Just over a year ago, when I first undertook my present duties, I found that under the previous Government housing waiting periods in the new towns had virtually doubled. In those early days I decided that I should see as many new towns as possible. I found the same complaint everywhere. There were houses for sale in all those new towns—many of them empty. I found that houses to rent were being sold while, at the same time, the waiting periods—particularly among the second generation of new town dwellers who could not afford to buy houses—were growing the whole time. Something had to be done. So, because of the overwhelming need for rented housing, I immediately gave instructions to stop the sale of tenanted homes, and I asked that greater emphasis should be placed on houses to rent rather than houses for sale. I am not against home ownership. On the contrary, I believe that a new town which consisted almost entirely of rented accommodation would not really reflect the society in which we live. Indeed, I would go further. I believe that there is room for a great deal of variety in new town houses. Housing associations, co-ownership and co-operative house building groups all have their part to play, and I hope that the development corporations will make the necessary land available to them. But as long as there is a need for rented housing, that need must be met. I am happy to be able to tell the House that whereas, as I have said, the waiting periods in the last 12 months of the Conservative Government doubled, they have now been halved again in the 12 months since I assumed office. Nor is the housing need confined to the second generation alone. We must take account of those who are moving to take a job in the new towns, and of those who want to live in a new town but work somewhere else. The parents of those who are already living in new towns, and the disadvantaged, too, must all be suitably housed. A new town will always appear to be something set apart unless it has the problems that are common to all other towns. So it must have its share of the incapacitated and disabled. It must provide hostels for single people who are in housing need and homes for single-parent families. In doing so it will not only assist the older and hard-pressed conurbations but will also enrich and vary the lives of its own citizens."Men, not walls, make a town",
Are not the new towns already under enormous pressure of resources for education, for which the rate support grant does not anticipate the incoming children? If the right hon. Gentleman is now saying that in addition the new towns must provide for old people and the physically and mentally handicapped, they must be given special financial help to meet the extra provision, or the right hon. Gentleman will be breaking the camel's back.
I have said very clearly that I believe that these are necessary provisions for the new towns. Other considerations must be given their priority, and obviously one of the priorities must be the resources. The new towns will not become the same as the older towns, will not become accepted as the older towns are, unless they have their share of the various categories of people of whom I have spoken.I have spoken of housing in the new towns as if this were solely the problem of the development corporations, but, of course, this is not so. As the older new towns have grown in size, so their district councils have matured. They have also grown in stature as a result of local authority reorganisation. They are now properly concerned to manage their own destinies. The time has come to consider with them the scope for closer co-operation and partnership, including the eventual transfer to the local authorities, on appropriate terms, of housing and other assets closely associated with housing. Such changes—particularly the transfer of assets—require great care in their operation. For this reason I set up a working party of officers of the Stevenage Development Corporation and the local authority under the chairmanship of an official in my Department. It has produced a report on the practical aspects of transfer as they concern English new towns. The report contains a number of specific recommendations, but I shall not, of course, reach decisons on these until I have received the comments of all interested parties. Among them are the financial basis of transfer, where the working party recommends outstanding loan debt, and the practical timetable of any programme, where it makes it clear that the earliest practicable date would be April 1977. I shall be coming to the House in due course with my proposals on all these matters. I am indebted to the Stevenage Borough Council for its co-operation in this exercise and to the working party for its detailed consideration of the means whereby housing assets could be transferred. Even in the early stages of transfer the number of new town houses which could be involved is of the order of 90,000. This shows at one and the same time the size of the problem and the contribution which development corporations have made in providing homes for those in need. I am particularly pleased that the working party has dealt with the problem of the effect of transfer upon staff in the corporations, the commission and the local authorities. In the process of transfer it would be ungracious to ignore the claims of those who have played so great a part in this changing field, and it would be short-sighted to lose the knowledge, skill and experience which they have demonstrated over the years. The House will understand that this statement of policy on the transfer of housing assets is one that gives me especial pride. The originator of the 1946 Act had no doubt that this was the right way to proceed. In doing this we shall be changing the political decision made by the Conservative Government in 1959 to establish the Commission for New Towns—a decision designed to avoid giving to the communities of the new towns their democratic rights in the housing field. Within the framework of a policy with which I disagree, the Commission for the New Towns has done a first-class job. Over the years it has created an expertise of management, and the four new towns in its care have reason to be grateful for its work. But its housing management has nothing to do with local accountability. For this reason, the Government propose to introduce legislation as soon as possible to change the rôle of the Commission for New Towns into one more fitting for the democratic age. The housing which, in any event, has been completed in Crawley, Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn and Hatfield will be among that to be transferred to the local authorities. It would be wrong to dispute the expertise and skill that has grown up in the New Towns Commission. In addition to owning the houses in the four new towns concerned, the commission also owns the commercial and industrial assets. It seems to us that the benefits of each new town should be shared between three groups—the local community in which the assets are situated, the taxpayer in general, who has supported the early expenses of the new towns, and the other new towns in process of building or yet to be built. The new rôle of the New Towns Commission will lie in the management of commercial and industrial assets in the interests of all these three parties. I should perhaps also say that, while the development corporations and the New Towns Commission in its new rôle exist, it will be a fundamental principle that commercial and industrial land shall remain the property of the community. I have never understood the argument that once a public authority has bought land and developed it, it should then sell it off to the private sector. On the contrary, it should then be kept safe for the generations to come. So, as with the proposals under the Community Land Bill, commercial and industrial land may be leased but not disposed of on a freehold basis. It is just over 29 years since Stevenage was designated by Lewis Silkin as the first new town, as you will recall. Mr. Deputy Speaker. Very few Acts of Parliament in so important and fast-moving a field can have remained virtually unchanged over the years as the New Towns Act of that year. But the first new towns have grown up, and it is time to take another look at our new towns policy—a look which, while maintaining the vision of the founding fathers, nevertheless combines with it the requirements of a new generation. In the meantime, I commend the Bill to the House.
The number of hon. Members wishing to speak in the debate is a clear indication of the welcome that there is for the opportunity the Bill provides to consider not only its terms, by which we are brought face to face with the scale of public resources involved in new town development, but the Government's consultative document, "New Towns in England and Wales", published last December. I listened with great interest, as I am sure all hon. Members present did, to what the Minister said about that.As I see it, the main question in the debate must be the justification for the vast sums involved, and whether they are being wisely used and directed, in ways which will produce the optimum social and financial benefits. The right hon. Gentleman has looked back to all that his father did for new towns and planning as a whole. The scale of expenditure is indicated by the fact that in 1946 the sum involved was £50 million. The limit of advances was raised to £1,500 million in 1965, and it is now proposed to be extended to £2,250 million. Those are tremendous sums of public money commitment. I should like briefly to recall the garden city concept and to refer to the tremendous pioneering work of Ebenezer Howard. It is appropriate to recognise the part played by the Town and Country Planning Association over the past 75 years. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has been closely associated with the commemorative celebrations. In the early days of Letchworth and Welwyn, effective development and good planning standards were ensured and land assembly achieved without the benefit of the Community Land Bill. The right hon. Gentleman appears to hold the view that his proposals are taking us to El Dorado and marching us towards a State abounding in gold. I think that that is not an unfair reference to his Second Reading speech. A glaring omission from the consultative document lies in the admission which appears in paragraph 4.17, which reads:
During this debate some of my hon. Friends may refer to the political bias which runs through the document, especially in section 4, under the heading "Proposed Action". In additon to the main question which I have already posed—namely, the wise use of resources—my purpose is to highlight the gravity of the financial position facing the new towns and the entirely unfair burden falling on the ratepayers in those counties and districts in which new towns lie. In the grave circumstances with which the country is faced, and with the continuing calls by the Secretary of State for the curtailment of local government expenditure, is the right hon. Gentleman able to tell the House whether or not resources will continue to be made available for new towns? Can he give a firm assurance in that respect? With the level of temporary debt at £1,500 million, how long is it anticipated that the extension of £250 million, as proposed, will last? I know that he will be aware of the concern, as all of us are, among the membership and staffs of the development corporations not only that the projects in hand can be kept going but that future plans can be made, confident in the certainty that expenditure in terms of staff time will not be wasted. The right hon. Gentleman will also know that in some parts of the country the building and contracting industry relies heavily on work in new towns, some of it on a vast scale. I am thinking here especially of Milton Keynes and Northampton, which I know well. The building industry relies heavily on such work to keep its work force engaged and to ensure continuity of employment for employees. These programmes are also significant in terms of manufacturers' plans and distributors' facilities. Reference has repeatedly been made in the House to the burden falling upon the ratepayers. I took the point made again this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) about a matter to which he has drawn the attention of the House on many previous occasions. With colleagues from both sides of the House representing Northamptonshire I joined in making representations arising from the circumstances there, where there are no fewer than three town expansion schemes in addition to Northampton, which was designated a new town in 1968. The county council has made continuing representations to the Department, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman has given the question careful attention and spent a good deal of his time on it. I am grateful to him personally because he has given me a deal of his time in which to discuss the issues involved. Here I refer to the provision of public services connected with the new town schemes, so that local authorities can develop the services for which they are responsible in pace with population growth. I quote from a document giving the views of the chairmen of the development corporations on the consultative document. They refer at paragraph 2.9 of their paper to the provision of statutory services, schools, health centres, social and recreational facilities, roads and transport, and policing and fire cover. Their paper says:"This paper makes no firm proposals with regard to finance."
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman or the Government spokesman who winds up will pay attention to that question. With rate burdens now excessive beyond the wildest of expectations, and further increases unavoidable in the absence of reform, a refusal to commit their communities to further expansion is entirely understandable. In the special circumstances of Northampton, the development of the southern district must be called in question because I am informed that the resources to finance the provision of a principal road network cannot be programmed within prospective budgets. I now refer to a letter addressed to the right hon. Gentleman by Mr. Gordon Roberts, the leader of the Northamptonshire County Council, on behalf of that county and five others similarly placed, in which he says:"These call for separate capital allocations by the Government for the expansion of local authority services in pace with each new town's planned population and housing growth; and provision for development corporations to contribute to the costs of advance provision so as to prevent any undue burden on the ratepayers as such."
The right hon. Gentleman is well aware of the situation and the depth of feeling there is on the matter. I know that he was successful in securing some support for the Northamptonshire County Council from the Treasury but I think that there is a great deal more to be done in this respect. I now turn to what I referred to earlier as the main question, which arises from the terms of the Bill and the consultative document. Public expenditure on the vast scale incurred under new towns legislation must be subject to close scrutiny and the proper establishment and monitoring of financial objectives and obligations. I believe that over the years there has been no real endeavour in that regard. Paragraph 100 of the memorandum which was submitted to the Department of the Environment and Home Office sub-committee of the Expenditure Committee, Session 1974, by McKinsey and Co. referred to information on new towns and said:"The county councils are caught between the restrictions imposed by the Treasury on development corporations' freedom to contribute towards the expenditure of local authorities and the wish of the Department of the Environment that housing programmes should continue unchecked. The objectives of the Treasury and the Department of the Environment are apparently irreconcilable and the county councils are caught between the two."
[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I believe that I heard hon. Members opposite applauding the content of that quotation. That quotation is important for the case which I am trying to make. Paragraph 143 of the memorandum continues:"Obtaining information from Government Departments is a slow and painful process, often ending in failure, since much of the information was not available in a form that would allow expenditures related to the new town to be established."
Paragraph 145 of the memorandum, which referred to the new towns' directorate and an overworked section of the Department of the Environment, said:"The accounts do not, for example, allow easy comparisons to be made between forecast and actual results, or between current expectations and previous forecasts."
That is to some extent a condemnation by McKinsey and Company, which submitted a comprehensive memorandum to that sub-committee in 1974. What it says is confirmed in a memorandum of evidence to the Expenditure Committee by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, paragraph 2 of which reads:"The Directorate is also seen by some in the corporations to lack sufficient staff with the technical and professional skills that would enable them seriously to challenge the assumptions and plans of the new towns as exhibited by the accounts."
Interesting points emerged during the examination of witnesses. In reply to subsequent questions, Mr. W. C. Evans, the chief finance officer to the Redditch Development Corporation, when asked to confirm an assumption in the report that, before an area is designated under the New Towns Act 1965, available alternatives have been considered and appraised, said:"The Institute believes that the financial implications of any large project should be considered at the earliest possible stage. It assumes that, before an area is designated under the New Towns Act 1965, available alternatives have been considered and appraised."
When asked if it had happened, he replied:"We have not any really. This is what we would expect to happen."
He went on:"I think it probably has not, but I cannot be sure of that."
That evidence shows that investment programming is not in operation as expected, quite rightly, by municipal treasurers and accountants. It is my submission that inadequate attention is given by the Department of the Environment to new towns' expenditure in terms of financial objectives and their monitoring. The creation of vast capital assets appears to be considered only in terms of eventual loan repayment. Would it not be wiser to apply judgment in terms of management, the utilisation and optimum use of resources, as McKinsey and Co. put it in paragraph 132 of its report:"What I do say is that there was no definite information available to us when Redditch was designated."
This is the whole issue of the roll-over of assets—the realisation of capital values flowing from the development should provide resources for further expenditure on both social and development provision. If a policy of this nature were followed in new towns, the Government could well find that the Bill and the substantial demand that it makes on public resources would be unnecessary, adequate capital resources flowing from the sale of residential properties together with office and industrial premises to occupiers or institutions for investment purposes. Private money would be used for development rather than Government sources funded over 60 years at the Public Works Loan Board rate, which today stands at no less than 14⅜ per cent. fixed for the full loan period. That is the burden with which new towns and development corporations are being lumbered. The whole concept of borrowing in these days of high interest rates fixed for a 60-year term plays havoc with the use of public resources. That is why I am utterly amazed that the right hon. Gentleman has not dealt fundamentally with the financial considerations in his consultation document."By capturing the value created by a new town development to finance the development and provide further amenities and services."?
As a Member representing a new town and as Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party New Towns Group, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would like the House to know the official Opposition view of the reference to finance in the consultation document. He spoke about the transfer of assets. Surely the Conservatives have a view on this subject. The hon. Member is right to raise the problem of finance, but will he say what is the Opposition's view of what should happen in terms of the transfer of assets?
I am not dealing with the transfer of assets. I hope the hon. Member understands that I am discussing the sensible use of the vast assets that have been created in the new towns. They could be utilised if sold off.
That is transfer.
It is not transfer. It is the sale of assets. That is the point that the right hon. Gentleman was making, and I shall deal with it in the final part of my speech.As on so many issues, the Government take decisions on ideological grounds and in the furthering of their stated aims of State Socialism. That was just the point that the right hon. Gentleman made when he said that once land had been taken into public ownership it should never be released, presumably whatever the financial consequences. He and his right hon. and hon. Friends will have to learn that lesson very soon now, or the whole of the new towns scheme will come to an abrupt halt. The consultation document tells us that in the new towns there are to be no further sales of houses—paragraph 4.13—and that land for industrial and commercial development will normally be made available on leasehold terms only—that is in the following paragraph. The Commission for the New Towns will retain in large part the industrial and commercial assets of corporations that have already been wound up—no suggestion here of the release of assets to save borrowing at the punitive interest rates that I have mentioned.
The hon. Gentleman should correctly state what is said in the consultative document. The words are:
That is the whole point. That is the basis of ensuring that those who are in need can get homes."For the time being also, there will be no further sales, without the prior approval, of development corporation or Commission housing built originally for rent."
We cannot look after those in need unless we handle the resources correctly and most effectively. It is no use having palliatives like "for the time being". What are essential are long-term objectives, especially in the use of money.The reputation that the Government have earned for themselves of the profligate use of the taxpayers' money and resources on a beg, borrow, or steal basis takes second place only to their blatant efforts to realise their political objectives of State Socialism. We have many examples before the House. Indeed, a guillotine procedure to accord with this policy is to be debated later this evening. The consultative document is clearly part of that overall strategy. It is to be regretted, and the changes inherent in its proposals will be damaging to the new towns and to their future.
I am astonished that the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones) is surprised that the objective of the New Towns Act in the first instance was a great ideological and sociological concept. If his ideas on sociological development are in keeping with the last few sentences of his speech, woe betide us all.I commend my right hon. Friend for the interest that he has taken in the whole new towns concept and the way in which he has kept me and some of my colleagues informed about the Government's proposals. As he said, the new towns idea is not about making speculators rich. It is about making a richer and fuller life for ordinary people who live in the new towns and who have come from areas not as pleasant as their new surroundings. I have the honour to represent a new town so different in its whole outlook from the congested areas from which its people came as to make my support of the concept complete, whole and total. It has nothing to do with the making of money for speculators. I want to discuss the possibility of even easing the situation in some respects, because I do not like the commercial and industrial rates being charged in new towns, especially the commercial rates, because the small shopkeeper, who can provide a good service for the community, is being squeezed out of any possibility of doing so because the multinationals can afford to pay the fantastic rents now being charged by the new town corporations. This may be a note of mild criticism. I am glad that the waiting time for housing in new towns in England and Wales has been reduced, but will my right hon. Friend note that that is not the case in Scotland and that in East Kilbride the waiting time for housing increases month by month? The Bill is all right as far as it goes, but it does not go very far. It does not deal at all with most of the problems associated with new towns. The new town of East Kilbride, which forms a large part of my constituency, is a case in point. The Bill is based on the consultation document, but I hope that it will not be long before much more comprehensive proposals are brought before us. The consultation document poses more questions than it solves and it certainly poses many more questions than are being attempted in the Bill. Perhaps that is the very nature of the document, it being consultative. My right hon. Friend the Minister alluded to the $64,000 question; namely, what follows after the consultative document and after the Bill is passed? I admire his continued interest in this matter. His late father's devotion and dedication to this subject was a tribute to that gentleman and was a tremendous advantage to the country. The Act may have been one of the most important Acts of Parliament passed at that time. As my right hon. Friend said, in England and Wales we have the New Towns Commission which can take over the functions of the new towns. I want to confine my remarks to Scotland. In Scotland the Secretary of State has power or authority of a similar nature. The new town of East Kilbride was born 28 years ago and is just one year younger than Stevenage. Therefore, it is no longer a baby; it is a big boy. It should now be weaned. It is the sixth largest town in Scotland, with a population approaching 75,000. It has over 300 factories of every kind on modern industrial estates. I want to pay tribute to the chairman and members of the board and to all the officials of the East Kilbride and Stonehouse Development Corporation because they have done a truly magnificent job during the time they have had control of the development corporation. I should like to ask the Minister of State, who is to reply, a few questions about current Government policy for new towns in Scotland in general and, in particular, the new town of East Kilbride especially in view of the period of economic stringency which we face. First, are any cuts proposed in the construction of schools for the new town of East Kilbride? Secondly, are all the community projects proceeding as agreed? I have in mind health centres, one small day hospital which is being developed and, in addition, the development of Hairmyres Hospital, which is a well-established institution. Regardless of what Conservative Members say, is there any sign of the rents of houses in East Kilbride being brought more into line with the lower level applying in Scotland, rather than the higher level?
Did the hon. Gentleman read the article published in yesterday's Observer about the position of rents at present? Perhaps he could relate his remarks to that.
I do not have time to read all the newspapers. I did not read the Observer yesterday, although I am sorry I did not. However, I do not want to be diverted from what I was saying.Rents are a question for the community to decide and not for individual Opposition Members to decide. Is my right hon. Friend the Minister aware that in the Greenhills area of East Kilbride—an area which is growing, which has nearly 2,000 houses and a population of about 7,000—there is no community centre, bus facilities are totally inadequate, there is a scarcity of play areas for children, there is not a single public telephone—although I understand that as a result of representations from myself and others one is proposed in an entirely unsuitable location—and that the whole area requires landscaping? I hasten to add that this district is part of a much larger area. I am pinpointing it only because something should be done for it. When my right hon. Friend referred to the object of new towns I am sure he meant that when people are encouraged to move out of their old environment it is unfair not to provide them with the facilities and amenities which they were led to believe would be forthcoming. I should like to ask the Minister of State a further question about future employment. Gratified as we are in East Kilbride about the number of industries and jobs available—and it is interesting to note in this connection that there are 50 per cent. more male jobs than female jobs—we are not complacent about this, because there are problems associated with unemployment, and we are concerned about the rôle of the multinational companies in new towns, companies over which neither the Government nor the East Kilbride Development Corporation seem to have any control at all. I have already indicated that the new town of East Kilbride has come of age. I now ask the Minister the $64,000 question. Since it is of age and since it should no longer be dependent upon its mother's milk, would it not be better to let it go its own way under its new local authority structure, in the same way as other larger towns in Scotland? The concept of a development corporation is an excellent one. It is essential and of the utmost value in the setting up of new towns and in the intermediate stages of a new town's development. However, when maturity is reached it is time to move over to a more democratic structure of control. When will steps be taken to transfer the functions and assets of East Kilbride New Town to the East Kilbride District Council? I know that problems and difficulties are involved, but there is no reason why some formula cannot be worked out to arrive at a basis of assessment of the assets and how they should be apportioned. The East Kilbride District Council comprises 15 councillors and has three representatives on the Strathclyde Regional Council. Therefore, I would suggest to my hon. Friend that paragraph 9 of the consultative document is highly pertinent in a debate on new towns in Scotland. It is headed "Completed New Towns" and is concerned with their future. I would commend to my hon. Friend that this paragraph should be discussed now in order that action can be taken in the very near future.
I rise to speak for the first time on the subject of new towns in this House, having been elected last year as the Member of Parliament for Hitchin. That constituency includes Letchworth, the first of the garden cities, which has had honourable mention from my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones). I have a second constituency interest, because until the recent boundary reorganisations the constituency of Hitchin included the first of the post-war new towns, Stevenage. My constituency now surrounds that new town on three sides, rather like a wizened banana in that but in no other respects.I was interested in the Minister's remarks about the inquiry which he has launched to discuss the means and methods of transfering new town assets to local authorities, statutory undertakers and the New Town Commission. To some extent I find myself following the argument of the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) in that I wish to express concern over the perpetuation of development corporations beyond their natural and acceptable life in the area. The last debate on this subject was held on 11th November 1971, the very day of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the designation of Stevenage, which is a matter of pride for the Minister and for his late father. It is also a matter of some anxiety because in the meantime other new towns such as Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn, Hatfield and Crawley—the first three of which are in Hertfordshire—have been wound up. It was, I believe, expected that the development corporation of Stevenage might have been wound up in or about 1975, but this has now been delayed and there is strong local anxiety that this is because of the repeated proposals for the expansion of the designated area of Stevenage. Early in the 1960s there were proposals that the ultimate population of Stevenage should be increased from a projection of about 100,000 to about 150,000. After a lot of inquiry and consideration this proposal was squashed in 1965—to great relief. Then, in 1972, there was a revised proposal for 3,000 or 4,000 acres to be added to the designated area. Again there was much local resistance, both from within Stevenage and outside it, and regardless of political party. In 1973 these proposals were shelved. I remember marching at the head of a demonstration with the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection—which demonstrated that there was a common attitude and interest between both parties. The fact that the right hon. Lady represents Stevenage and I represent the neighbouring constituency of Hitchin indicates that these anxieties are widespread and are not confined to particular groups. These reprieves have in the past been temporary. Therefore, it is with some concern that we now view new proposals for an increase in the designated area of Stevenage, albeit on a smaller scale. I do not wish to give currency to this idea by repeating it, but many think that the development corporation of Stevenage has been to some extent interested by motives of self-preservation and perpetuation. I see that the Minister is, properly, shaking his head. However, the very fact that such suggestions have been made emphasises my point: that there is a time beyond which the development corporation does not retain the approval and sympathy with which it may have been launched. There is inevitably some conflict of interest between the proposals of a local authority and the county council and those of a development corporation, because the expansion of a new town inevitably, to some extent, must pre-empt development and plans for adjacent areas. After all, we have at present in Hertfordshire a county structure plan in preparation. The county planning officer has recently circulated a document seeking ideas from residents of Hertfordshire. In it he says:
That is not the procedure which is followed in the case of development corporations. I should like to quote from a leaflet circulated by the Stevenage Development Corporation in connection with the latest proposals for expansion. It contains a very sinister paragraph which, in describing what is calls the "next step", says,"The Members of the County Council and District Councils have not taken any decisions or expressed views on any of the matters … in this booklet. As County Planning Officer I put forward these choices so that your elected representatives can make their decision in the light of your comments."
It seems to me that that totally prejudges the issue, before it has been considered. If we are told that there is to be a designation order regardless of what may be revealed by the public inquiry or an inspector's report, the whole exercise is a fraud. That is why anxieties develop about the continued behaviour of development corporations. New towns, after all, are very much part of their own region. The west-central area of Hertfordshire includes Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, a little to the west Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage, and just to the north the towns in my constituency of Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock. As the Minister, with usual parliamentary courtesy, advised me last week, like myself he spent the early part of last Saturday morning in Hitchin. He knows that it is not very far away from Stevenage and that there is only a matter of three miles between these urban areas. There is a real danger of urban coalescence if new towns are allowed to expand in an uncontrolled way beyond their original area. I am worried about the prospect of a long strip of industrialised and urban country stretching up through Hertfordshire towards the Midlands. This is not the concern merely of my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry. It must affect many other hon. Members who represent such areas. It is of vital importance that there should be truly rural countryside in between carrying on the business of agriculture, and not merely a few fields from which one can see houses in both directions. One needs to continue true rural life if one is to preserve the real amenity value of the countryside between urban developments. One needs this also for ecological reasons, because until the appalling rainstorms of last winter the water table in Hertfordshire had fallen by several feet. This was causing the drying up of ponds and the death of trees and had effect on brooks, streams and ponds. It affected not only farming but also rivers running through and near towns and villages, with all the consequences of that. Any area can support only so much in the way of housing, industry and infrastructure. Extra housing in one part will limit resources for other parts. There is bound to be a conflict of interest between further increases in population in new towns and the need for second generation housing and, indeed, the wider housing needs of the whole area. If an area such as Hertfordshire is overloaded with new development, it becomes increasingly unbalanced. There have been shifts of focus and activity from my constituency to Stevenage. Shopping facilities have been moved. The Lister Hospital is in Stevenage. The railway line with a new station at Stevenage means that long-distance trains now stop there instead of at the old railhead at Hitchin. Although these are gradual and to some extent inevitable changes, it must be understood that these are the consequences of the development of new towns for surrounding areas which have their own needs for housing, key workers and industrial growth. Decisions affecting them should be taken on an overall view, since there is a natural interaction with neighbouring areas which is essential for balance in the future. Like the hon. Member for East Kilbride, I believe that new towns reach their maturity when they have borough status and their own elected local authority councillors. The perpetuation of a development corporation when a vigorous local council is established can lead only to conflict and differences of opinion—a waste of time, effort and good will. Therefore, I support the hon. Gentleman in his suggestion that the development corporations should not be perpetuated beyond their acceptable and reasonable life. In the final period of a development corporation's life it would be very dangerous to depart from the original concept of a designated area. After all, each town has an optimum size, which may vary according to its location and according to surrounding towns. Most of the early new towns were set up with a view to a size of about 60,000 or more, and not as large as the present generation. Stevenage was contemplated to reach 100,000. One of the reasons why the designated area of Stevenage has now been proposed to be extended is a change in the population figures. The number per household is reduced from 3–21 heads to 2–95. That is equivalent to saying that if one is to have the same number of people, one must have up to 10 per cent. more houses. But surely in the original concept of the size of a town not only the number of souls living in it but also the physical area it was to occupy must have been of equal importance. When a new town is very close to other urban developments, it is very dangerous to fix solely on the population indicator and ignore the question of total area. Therefore, I believe that the decisions about the future of new towns, as far as they reasonably may be, should be planned with long-term needs in mind. That means that when local authorities are established and if they can do the job, they should be permitted to get on with it. Beyond that point, the longer the delay the greater is the risk to the natural development of the new town as a community and to its settled social fabric. I make these points with great emphasis but without acrimony, and I hope that the Minister will respond to them."These proposals are being considered by the Secretary of State and if he so decides he will make a Draft Designation Order. Thereafter, if objection is raised there will be a public inquiry and an Inspector's report leading to a final decision and Designation Order by the Secretary of State."
Debates in this House about the new towns are almost as unique as new towns. For that reason, the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Stewart) must not feel too badly if he has not spoken before in a debate about the new towns. There have only been three or four such debates in the past 10 years. However, hon. Members who have spoken before in debates of this kind, like my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens), will realise that we are a small and unique band and, therefore, that we get somewhat impatient when we hear Front Bench spokesmen on both sides talking in generalities about new towns and that we tend to enjoy discussing our own constituency interests. Today I do not intend to discuss my own new town of Basildon, because I consider it is more important to try to get down to some basic solutions to the problem of new town development and organization.Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones) has left what is to be a very short debate. However, I hope that someone on the Opposition benches will answer the question which I have asked before. The hon. Member for Daventry appears to be frantically upset because the consultative document contains elements of ideology. However, no one should be surprised at that. As a moderate member of the Labour Party, I hope that we shall have more ideology in new towns, and not less. I asked the hon. Gentleman for the Conservative Party's policy towards the statement in the consultative document which deals with the transfer of assets. Having failed to answer the question earlier, the Opposition should tell us now, because it would be unfair if we concluded this debate without some reference to that, and it might even help the hon. Gentleman's own back-bench colleagues. My right hon. Friend the Minister kept his remarks short because he was anxious for all hon. Members representing new towns to get a look in. He will concede that the consultative document is thin, though it raises many questions. My right hon. Friend should look again at paragraph 4.17. He says in that paragraph:
One matter which causes great concern in local Labour Parties and amongst the communities of new towns, as well as in the national Labour Party, is the way in which this should be done. It is important to have an intelligent understanding about how we are to deal with the financing. Some would want it done by the outstanding loan debt. I hope that we shall have some insight into this complex problem. The new towns are of great interest, not only to people in this country but to people abroad. The critical attack that was made on Government expenditure on the new towns by the hon. Member for Daventry failed to take into account the fact that the most famous of the new towns in the United States, Columbia, is also undergoing a critical time at this moment. We need to look beyond the financing of new towns which have been established or supported by the Government. The experience of private enterprise in Columbia is causing grave concern and is worthy of review. It is essential to look to the future rather than to the past. However successful the first 30 years of new towns have been, we must give some attention to the way in which they might be examined in the future. One of the omissions in the consultative paper is that there does not appear to be any attempt to relate the new towns to the total context of the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend's Department. There needs to be some sort of relationship between the industrial policy, the housing policy and the environmental strategy. I regret that this is not given sufficient emphasis in the consultative paper. Many of the practical problems that we face as Members of Parliament for new towns heighten this very unfortunate difference. There are serious risks to the new towns, and to the older cities too, if there is no overall strategy and if new town development is considered in isolation. An error in previous debates on new towns is that we have tended to look in isolation at the new towns. There cannot be new towns without reference to the commitment to rebuild the older cities. Many of the new towns are a reflection of the way in which decisions were made in those cities many years ago. That is my general point, and I come now to four or five specific observations. I deal first with the development corporations. They have done a fine job. I do not think that anybody doubts that. With enormous influence and great competence they have established the new towns. Now that they have started to grow up, however, one would like to see local authorities representing the people, many of whom have lived there for 20 years or more, working much more in co-operation with the corporation. As a result of the efforts of my right hon. Friend and his predecessors, this has started to happen. There is in some of the more mature new towns a much better spirit in the relationships between them and the local authorities, and one simply wants to see this continuing. The second issue is employment. One of the main aims must be to keep housing and employment growth in balance. Over the past decade this has not always been achieved, largely because there has been no special incentive to get manufacturing industry into the new towns unless those new towns were in development areas. This is what I mean when I say that new town development must be part of a total strategy. The rôle of the new town must be considered in any national employment planning, because houses without jobs for the people and without taking account of other aspects of the environment would make a mockery of what we are trying to do. My third point is that surely, after 25 years, it is apparent that the housing responsibility of the new towns is twofold—to accommodate newcomers from the inner city areas but also to accommodate the second generation. I suspect that most Members who have been concerned with the mature new towns certainly have far more inquiries relating to the second generation than to any other domestic issue raised by constituents. The second generation cannot be left to the local authority, on which already a tremendous responsibility falls to deal with the people there. The local authorities do not have the resources to meet the need which arises directly from the policy of bringing a vast number of young families into one area at the same time. It is necessary to explain to people who are not aware of the way in which the new towns have grown that it is because of the development and movement of this population in going through a phase of growing up and having families, that we have this complex problem of the second generation."This paper makes no firm proposals with regard to finance or to the terms on which any transfer of assets might take place."
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not here when I asked the Minister to make sure that there were so many community facilities per 1,000 dwellings. Will the hon. Gentleman encourage the idea that for every 1,000 or 2,000 dwellings there should be a minimum of community facilities prescribed by Parliament in terms of play schemes, adventure playgrounds, shops and so on, so that a community is built rather than simply a large number of houses?
That will probably depend very much on the stage that a new town has reached.There is a critical stage in the development of a new town, as I have no doubt will be confirmed by another hon. Member who leas represented my constituency, about the way those facilities can be improved. However, this is less of a problem in the mature new town. I suggest that when it comes to the stage where there is already a second generation there is quite an interplay with the new locality. With the city, of course, this is much less of a problem. In general, however, I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman. It is a matter to be considered. I ask, fourthly, how far have the new towns succeeded in creating real communities. Between 1946 and 1973, nearly 2 million people came to live in the designated new towns. In other words the new towns have become big business, involving capital expenditure of more than £1,400 million. In material terms, the environment of the new towns is excellent. But all too often a sense of real community is lacking. It takes time and demands from development corporation officials and local authorities a keen understanding of what is involved. Finally, in developing our new towns we have failed to think about what we leave behind. One of the main purposes of Howard's garden cities was the re-ordering of cities whose populations were thinning out. In Paris this is being translated into action, but in Britain there has as yet been no more than a late mention in the Layfield Report on the Greater London Development Plan. The development of those areas, opened up by the demolition of hundreds of acres of slums in cities like Liverpool and London, is too big a problem and burden for the city authorities, who need something like the powers and backing of a development corporation to plan the housing, jobs, open spaces and recreational facilities which will make them live again. The hon. Member for Daventry referred to the Select Committee. We are both Members of the current Select Committee. Therefore, it would be wrong and improper for me to comment on the current evidence of the Select Committee, and which has still to reach a decision. The hon. Gentleman quoted from the evidence of the last two or three years, which has been published, and I should like to do the same. The Select Committee, dealing with the environment of new towns, has already begun to point to the problems. Are we making the right judgments in terms of the mechanics and organisation of the new towns? Despite the considerable volume of evidence taken by the Select Committee in the past, little material has been placed before the Sub-Committee by the Department which would enable Members to judge the extent to which the towns are effectively doing their jobs in relation to housing or, indeed, regional policy. For example, while the preferred size of a new town has risen over the years from about 50,000 up to 250,000 people, there was little evidence before the Sub-Committee about the effects of variations in size on costs, revenue, regional impact and so on. Nor is the impact upon the surrounding areas or existing local communities clear, despite the fact that larger partnership schemes are clearly favoured, and the Department openly admitted in evidence that the effect of size is problematic. Therefore, when we come to try to solve the controversial matter about whether we are making the right judgments on the structure, organisation, size and financing of new towns, we begin to realise that the management accounting system is not directed towards answering these questions and that the rôle of the management accounts as an instrument of policy evaluation as opposed to on-going annual management is questionable. I have referred to finance, administration and planning. Therefore, it is only right that I should end on the most important aspect of all associated with new towns—the people themselves. It is because I feel so much that the people in new towns matter that I raise the question of democracy and the Government's intentions in terms of a commitment made by the Labour Party at successive annual conferences towards the question of partnership, control, administration and the transfer of assets. There can be no dodging that important point. I am sure that is not my right hon. Friend's intention. We want reassurance on that matter, because we have to go back to our constituencies and explain why there has been delay up to this moment and why there has been no major debate. However, we are grateful that this debate has taken place today. Above all, new towns are people. I should like to conclude with a quotation from an important work, "Mental Health and Environment", by Taylor and Chave, who state:
I suggest that most hon. Members who have some connection or association with or who represent new towns sincerely believe in that expression. Those who have had no connection with new towns might be cynical. They may believe that new towns are merely extensions of large cities—a couple of estates placed together and perhaps with pressure to bring some industry together. But there is, I suggest, both accuracy and validity in the statement. It is up to the Government to implement the intentions of the consultative document. I should think that there will not be a great deal of conflict on either side of the House and that all hon. Members will give them the support and time to get a Bill through as quickly as possible if a new deal is offered to our new towns on the lines proposed."By conventional standards a new town is a good society. It is happy and healthy. Its families have good homes. Its children have good schools. Work is varied and close at hand. Working conditions are good. There are wide facilities for active recreation. The strains of industrial life are reduced to a degree not achieved in unplanned communities."
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman). As he made his speech, the thought passed through my mind that hardly any hon. Member does not have a particular perennial problem. Mine seems to be the problem of new towns. In my former constituency there was the new town of Basildon, which the previous speaker now represents. I thought that now town was one of the best.The Central Lancashire new town is to be built in South Fylde. We are fortunate in having as chairman of the new town corporation for the Central Lancashire new town Sir Frank Pearson, who was and is a friend of many who sat in this House with him when he was a Member. Sir Frank has described the Central Lancashire new town as he sees it for the future—there is nothing much to be seen at present—as
The Lancashire Evening Post, which circulates largely in the area which will compose the new town when it is built, used the words that the new town"Lancashire's biggest opportunity of the century … an absolutely unique urban development."
Of course, one has only to talk of plans as ambitious as a new town for Lancashire to get immediate benefits. One of the benefits has been that the express trains from Euston to Glasgow make their first stop at Preston, which will be the centre of the new town. The journey takes two and a half hours. It is very comfortable and is enjoyed by all those who can afford it. Basildon, as I remember, did not have a railway station, and all the best and fastest trains used to pass through Basildon on their way to Southend without stopping."is the biggest think ever to hit Lancashire."
Basildon has a railway station now.
There is a railway station for the Central Lancashire new town.Basildon was near completion when I first knew it. The Central Lancashire New Town is still suffering, and will continue to suffer for many years to come, from the pangs of birth which always attend the creation of a new town. I am sure all hon. Members will agree that nothing so profoundly affects the life of a man as the change in use of the land on which he lives and works. Nothing so dramatically changes the use of land as the development of a new town. Unhappily, the pangs of birth for most new towns, and certainly for the Central Lancashire new town, are made worse and more uncomfortable and painful by the attendant evils of delay, uncertainty and secrecy. The way that delay and uncertainty affect people who are about to have their land taken from them or are about to become part of a new town, if the House will not think that I am becoming too domestic and local, is well and vividly illustrated by what has happened in the area which will compose the Central Lancashire new town. There are two villages, Grimsargh and Haighton, in some of the attractive parts of the Flyde. Families have been living there for generations back. The people, who are very fond of the countryside, are concerned about the future. They do not want anything to happen which will injure the future of their area or of the larger interests of Lancashire. In 1967 it became clear that Grimsargh was to become part of the area where the new town would be developed. In 1969 there was a public inquiry into the issue of designation and the inspector recommended that Grimsargh should be taken out of the new town plan. The Labour Minister of Housing at that time did not accept the recommendation of his inspector and put the village back into the plan. In 1972 the farmers in the area were told that compulsory purchase orders were to be imposed on their farms and on the land. In 1973 the compulsory purchase orders were served. In the same year there was a public inquiry to deal with the issue of the CPC's, and the new town corporation said that it wanted 2,700 acres of land—mostly good agricultural land—upon which 68 owners and farmers, mostly farmers, lived and worked. The land was wanted for a land bank, and from the time when the announcement was made that 2,700 acres were required the whole thing was shrouded in silence and secrecy and no one could discover what on earth was happening. Now, after the inquiry which started in November of last year and ended in January of this year, it seems that instead of 2,700 acres being wanted immediately, all that will be required until about 1986 is some 300 acres of land. Ever since the inquiry, which ended in January of this year, those who live in the Grimsargh and Haighton areas whose land has been subject to this uncertainty have been wondering whether their areas will, in the end, be included in the new town. I hope that I do not use extravagant language, but this seems to be planning gone crazy and it is driving the people in these areas to despair. They want certainty, and I beg the Minister to let them know as soon as possible precisely what is to happen to them and their land. They ask for no more.
Is not the true position that the people of Haighton and Grimsargh know for certain what the plans were but are fighting them because their chief concern is not over the countryside but to prevent corporation tenants from living in the area, and that for that reason they have formed an organisation called Scrap which wants to scrap the new town entirely?
One could not hear a more absurd suggestion, and that intervention on a point which I was trying to make with some gravity and seriousness could not be more inopportune or inexact.These people are farmers. They have owned and worked the land for many years, and in some cases it has been in their families for centuries. If they wish to fight the invasion, as they see it, of a new town into their area, they have every right to do so and I shall give them every support I can in their fight. I am shocked to hear the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) suggesting that the only motive for opposing the use of this good agricultural land is that the people do not want council tenants to move into their area.
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is ersatz indignation he ought to visit the area and hear for himself what these people say and feel about their land. I, as their Member of Parliament, am trying to express their indignation. It is my duty to do so, and I shall do it in spite of the kind of comment made by the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr). I ask the Minister to assure the people who live in these areas that delays will be kept to a minimum.As I understand it, the Bill increases the amount of capital that will be available for investment in the new towns from £1,500 million to £1,700 million, and with the consent of Parliament up to £2,250 million. These are astronomical sums. The original cost of the Central Lancashire new town was estimated to be £500 million, but the figure is now £900 million. It was said originally that it would take about 20 years to establish, but now it will probably be 30, 40 or even 50 years before it is developed, and what the cost will be then I should not dare to calculate. My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones) said that getting information from the Government was a slow and painful process. Anyone who has tried to get information about the future of a new town knows that the process is even slower and more painful. I address the Minister on just one matter. I am sure it is one that troubles him just as it troubled many of his predecessors. It is the problem of how to balance the need for confidence, which in some issues must be preserved in the public interest, with the need to keep the public who are immediately affected by decisions as fully informed as possible. I know that there are difficulties—we all appreciate that—but I ask, and I know that I shall not ask in vain, the Minister to understand that the people in these areas need to know, and deserve to know, as soon as they can properly be told, just what is to happen to them and their land. I beg the Minister to do all in his power to achieve that simple exercise in communication.
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak in the House on the New Towns Bill. As the House knows, I represent Cumbernauld new town. In fact, it is the major part of my constituency. Apart from having that honour, I have personal and happy associations with the new town because I stayed there for three years after my marriage and taught at two of the local high schools. I have also had the great pleasure of working in local elections in Cumbernauld new town, invariably with great success for my party.Cumbernauld is the third oldest of the Scottish new towns, having been designated in 1955, and no one in the West of Scotland can doubt the service which it has provided in giving decent accommodation to the overspill population of Glasgow. In fact, 80 per cent. of the current population of Cumbernauld—which is 44,000—about 40,000 are Glasgow overspill, and surveys on Cumbernauld have shown that the people of Glasgow like living in the town. The University of Strathclyde conducted a survey which showed that 87 per cent. liked the town as a whole, 89 per cent. were satisfied with their houses, 76 per cent. felt that they had bettered themselves by moving to Cumbernauld and more than 90 per cent. commented on their friendly neighbours. Cumbernauld is not there just to solve the housing programme of Glasgow, major though that problem is. It must become an economic growth point in West-Central Scotland, an area that is crying out for economic growth and revitalisation. Two years ago, the new town doubled in size in one day when an extra 3,638 acres was given to it for development. The Cumbernauld Development Corporation has worked hard and long to build up the present community but it has expressed several fears about this new designated area. I hope that the Minister will be able to answer some of these points—if not today, perhaps when we have a fuller debate at some later stage. Cumbernauld relies heavily on service and distribution industries and would like more manufacturing industries. We hope that the Government have some schemes in mind. Perhaps when the official Opposition stop blocking the Scottish Development Agency it will have some powers to do just this. Second, we are concerned about the lack of employment opportunities for school leavers. Since the town was designated a new town in 1955, and we have a predominance of young people, our school leavers are now looking for employment. Cumbernauld should not be just an outer suburb of Glasgow. We should like more offices—perhaps Government offices, whether of the British Government or, as we hope, ultimately the Scottish Government. Third, there is a fear that the cut in Government education expenditure will affect the new towns adversely. The educational facilities of Cumbernauld have been one of the major attractions to industrialists as well as to ordinary people. We want to ensure that children who live in the new designated areas will not have to cross the busy Glasgow-Stirling trunk road to reach the schools in the older part of the town in Ravenswood and Seafar. Could the Minister discuss this problem with Strathclyde Regional Council, which has a great problem in providing educational facilities? We do not want Cumbernauld to be adversely affected. Many hon. Members have spoken of the development of a community as a new town. One of the most important things is that it should have all the vital services. Cumbernauld sadly lacks one vital service—that of a hospital. There are very poor dental and medical facilities there. Although we have a predominantly young community, we also have our share of old-age pensioners. We were greatly distressed to learn that the Greater Glasgow Health Board has said that it can no longer cope with the geriatric patients from Cumbernauld. Those people now have nowhere to go. We hope that a geriatric unit will be set up in the near future and that ultimately we shall have a full general hospital. This is essential since the town is to have a population of 90,000 by the mid–1980s. Turning to local government relations with the development corporations, I was distressed to read in paragraph 8 of the consultative document that the Government have no plans to encourage direct elections to the corporations. When I go around Cumbernauld and in my surgeries residents refer to members of the Corporation as the faceless bureaucrats, the people they do not know and who are not interested in them. This is very sad, because the development corporation has worked hard for the community. Direct elections could help to eradicate that attitude. The people would then feel that they were participating in local decision making which affected them. The appointment of people to development corporations lays them open to political patronage, to which my party is strongly opposed. I should like to cite an example of this from Cumbernauld New Town, One of the leading lights of the local Labour Party, soundly beaten at the local elections, was immediately appointed deputy-chairman of the development corporation on a salary of £2,000 a year. That has caused very bad feeling in the community, and I am sure that such things happen in other new towns, irrespective of the parties concerned. This kind of patronage cannot go on if the people in the new towns are to feel that they are participating in decision making.
The hon. Lady is making extremely sweeping criticisms. Is she suggesting that appointees to development corporations should not have party affiliations? If it was always the same party involved, one would agree with her, but surely people who take part in public life and politics are the best appointees, if there are to be appointees.
The hon. Gentleman does me a disservice. I never said that these people should not have political affiliations. Of course people are entitled to their political affiliations, but that should not guarantee them a sinecure on a board which is responsible to the local people. Direct elections to the corporation would also ensure that, when the time came, local authorities would be more able to cope with the commercial and industrial assets of their communities. When development corporations are only steering committees, it is essential to move towards something more suited to the time when the town has matured.I congratulate the Government on having this debate. I hope that we shall have a much fuller debate soon when we can go into these points in greater detail.
I will follow the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) in some of her remarks in a moment. I have the exciting and rewarding job of representing one of the four completed new towns, Hemel Hempstead, which is currently under the heel of the Commission for the New Towns. By the year 2000, one in seven of our population can expect to be living in the new towns, so it is important not only to continue with their development but to try to learn some of the lessons of the last 30 years. The development of the new towns has been one of the most successful examples of public enterprise and one of the lasting achievements of the 1945 Labour Government.Clause 2(2) gives the Secretary of State authority to make payments to local committees of the Commission for the New Towns. I do not object to that in principle, but two questions arise. First, do we need these local committees? Second, do we need their parent, the commission itself? At the moment, these committees are unelected, unrepresentative and totally unaccountable, appointed by the commission with no right of representation for the local authority or such local organisations as trade unions. So there is no obligation on these committees to take account of the policies and decisions of people living in the new towns, as reflected in the ballot box. That is wrong. These local committees—I stress that my remarks apply to the completed new towns—are no more than clockwork soldiers wound up and worked by their masters at commission headquarters, impervious to the feelings and decisions of the people whom they are supposed to represent. In Hemel Hempstead I have never known the local committee to meet the tenants to hear their views, let alone consult them as a matter of course. The Minister might like to know that one member of the Hemel Hempstead committee has attended only three of the last eight monthly meetings, although he did find time to return to the town to take part in the committee's annual dinner in February. He has not been at a local committee meeting since January. We shall wait with great interest to see whether May brings any improvement in the performance of this aptly described "absentee landlord". This is the kind of thing that will happen if we do not make these committees more representative, accountable and public. That will not happen unless the Government see that it does—that is, if we want to retain the Commission for the New Towns. Why do we need that commission at all? Its area of responsibility, when development is largely completed, is between the development corporation and the elected local authority. It is seen in my new town as something akin to a latter-day feudal baronetcy, invented by the Conservatives to act as a shock absorber between tenants and local democracy. It is unwanted, unnecessary and a superfluous administrative body put between the development corporation and the local authority. I was delighted to find that the Labour Party opposed the creation of the Commission for the New Towns when it was wished on my new town. I invite the Minister to think again about allowing the commission a continuing rôle. I understand that last year, worried about its image, the CNT called in beauticians in the shape of a firm of public relations consultants. Hemel Hempstead would prefer to see the morticians called in. The commission is an unwanted and expensive layer of bureaucracy, especially now that local government has been reorganised into larger units. In the four completed new towns the commission is doing jobs which are the responsibility of the elected local authority. I come now to the transfer of assets. The consultative document proposes the hand-over to local democratic control only of housing and associated assets. We are too timid. Let me call to my support the Minister's distinguished father, who said in June 1946 that it was the intention when the development of a new town was substantially complete, to wind up the corporation and, by agreement with the local authority, to transfer the assets and liabilities of the corporation to the local authority of the area in which the new town was situated. That statement refers not to some assets, not to most of the assets but to "the assets" without qualification. Regretfully, along came a Conservative Government to create the Commission for the New Towns and to frustrate that original intent. Because my right hon. Friend wishes the commission to have a continuing rôle he has to look for things he wants it to do. Hence the proposal that the commission should be left with the commercial and industrial assets.
My hon. Friend does not quite understand my thinking. Does he not agree that it would be utterly selfish to allow a new town to have all the assets in its area, particularly as the first-generation new towns are in the South-East and, therefore, prosperous, when there are other new town areas which need assistance and when the Exchequer has provided the money that has made those new towns prosperous? Are we not talking about a three-fold division?
I take my right hon. Friend's point, and if he will allow me to do so I will deal with one or two of the issues as I go along. I am not claiming that because a person happens to live in one new town he should say "To hell with the others". My principal concern is with management and administration. I still maintain that the Commission for the New Towns is an unwanted and unnecessary body.In completed new towns such as Hemel Hempstead a large number of houses are 25 years' old and older. The local committee is faced with repair and renovation bills for wiring, and so on and these items are increasingly expensive. The local bill in Hemel Hempstead will be increased in the current year by 25p in the pound to take account of the deterioration in housing which is presently the responsibility of the commission. It is unfair to load this on the back of the tenants, their elected council and other ratepayers, leaving the Commission for the New Towns like a fat cat licking up the profitable commercial and industrial assets. In the last financial year in Hemel Hempstead the commission, according to its report, made a profit of about £1,750,000 from commercial and industrial assets. In the four new towns under its control it made a profit of more than £3 million. It would make more sense to transfer all the assets so that there may be cross-subsidisation. New towns are not just bricks and mortar; they include the people who live in them. The bricks and mortar and the amenities that go with them have a lot to do with the happiness of life in new towns. In deciding that the transfer should be limited to "housing related" assets, the working party has led itself into trouble. For example, argument arose between the development corporation representatives and the local authority representatives over shops and shopping centres. The working party's report seems to say that if there are under 10 shops the council has them, and if there are over 10 shops they are to stay with the commission. In Hemel Hempstead the neighbourhood shopping centres were built for that purpose. That is why they were called neighbourhood shopping centres. They were not designed to attract people from other parts of the town or from outside the town. They are integral to our closely-related housing assets. There is argument also about the shops along the High Street. If the houses had not been built there would have been no High Street and no one to go shopping. I urge the Minister to look again at the fiddling distinctions which are being made. After taking the advice on the back of the consultative document I invite him to say that the best thing to do is to wring the neck of the Commission for the New Towns and thus solve the problem of these distinctions. I am extremely disappointed that the Minister has not given a firm indication of when the transfer of assets can at least begin. Great concern is felt by the staff of the Commission for the New Towns and in the town halls. They want to know the timetable. Careers, livelihoods, jobs and job prospects are at stake. The local authorities, which were created just over a year ago, need time in which to rearrange the management of the assets which will be transferred. I welcome the recommendation of the working party that there should be a "no redundancy" undertaking, with an adequate early retirement scheme for those who wish it and with local authorities being obliged to give CNT workers the first option for jobs in expanded or existing departments in the town hall. There is no reason why there should be difficulty about that, provided that a firm and early date is fixed so that the local offices of the commission and the receiving local authorities know what is going on. I endorse absolutely the working party's recommendation that the financial basis for the hand-over of assets should be at outstanding loan debt. Any other basis of transfer would be ruinously inflationary. I come back to what the Minister said. When this arithmetic is being done I ask the Department to remember that in Hemel Hempstead about £15 million has been taken out of the town by the sale of 2,000 homes. That sum should go into the accounting procedures. The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Stewart) spoke of the accelerated rate of expansion in and around areas of new town development. This accelerated development means, with the schools, libraries, roads and so on, that local ratepayers—who are, incidentally, taxpayers who help to pay for the development of their new town—and others have to pay for it. This puts too great a strain upon counties such as Hertfordshire. I hope that this, too, will be taken into account.
The Bill gives us an admirable but rare opportunity for which we are grateful to discuss the development of the new towns.The increase in the expenditure limits is £250 million, which I think the Minister said would be consumed during this year. Perhaps he will tell us whether the further increase of £500 million which is allowed for by order is included within the total borrowing requirement of the Government. I do not think it is, but perhaps the Minister will let me know, as during the last week there has been an increase in the borrowing powers of the British Steel Corporation of £750 million and of £50 million for the National Bus Corporation. Will the Minister tell us how long, with the present rate of inflation, it will take us to get through these extra borrowing powers? I agree with the consultative document that it is right to take a fresh look at the principles upon which new towns were based. In my constituency, Crawley was originally designed to take a population of 50,000 people. It now has a population of 72,000, and this population is growing rapidly from natural growth. Despite a substantial housing programme, there is still a long waiting list and a shortage of labour in industry in Crawley. I was surprised when the right hon. Gentleman said that the waiting lists for new towns were shortening. That is not my experience. I should like to check the figures later. One considerable difficulty which was not originally foreseen because of the rapid growth of some of the new towns has been the slow growth in the resources which are required to service those new towns. I refer in particular to Crawley Hospital, although I shall not speak on it at length because I have done so already in the House. The capacity of the hospital in Crawley is clearly insufficient for the existing population in Crawley, let along the other population which the hospital is designed to serve in Horsham and the Horsham rural area. This does not take into account any growth in the next few years. It is particularly disappointing, therefore, that the Secretary of State for Social Services thought it right to defer the extension to Horsham Hospital. It is very important that, with the growth of housing, the growth of proper facilities and infrastructure should go alongside, and that does not appear to be happening at the moment. I turn to the question of housing and the proposal to transfer the Commission's housing assets to the local council. I accept that new towns start at a disadvantage compared with old towns because they have only a small stock of old housing and no cheap housing debt to go with it. However, the Government's proposal to hand over the Commission's housing assets effectively means handing over national community assets to local communities. It would be unthinkable to sell off commercial national assets belonging to the Government—for nationalised industries, for example—at less than the market price to private business interests. This is the first time that assets which have been created by the nation have been handed over to particular local sections of the community at historic cost. That is what the proposals in the Stevenage document mean, when it is suggested that the existing debt structure should be passed on. I do not know whether this has yet got past the Treasury, but it will surprise me if it gets through altogether unscathed. We shall see in due course. However, that is not the point which concerns me in particular. What we need to be satisfied about is that the transfer of housing assets and of responsibility to the local housing authority will get more houses built. I wish to pay my tribute to the work of the Commission in Crawley for its excellent record in house building and management. Indeed, so good has been its record that I should have thought that the Government, with their declared interest in participation, would have taken the opportunity to ask the tenants of Commission houses whether they want to be taken over by the local authority or not. I am confident that they would prefer to stay with the Commission for the New Towns. I am sorry that the Crawley council's housing record has not been particularly good in recent years. Indeed, it has proceeded with such speed and efficiency as to make a tortoise look like a hare. It is falling far behind its original programme of 500 houses a year. The question is whether it is able to carry out a programme of rapid expansion. I thought that it was sensible to use all existing resources to carry through a large housing programme, and that is why I regret that housing will not remain one of the Commission's responsibilities. It seems to me that the greater the impetus we can get behind the housing drive, the better. That is why some time ago I approached the Crawley industrial group and the Guiness Trust and invited them to form a housing association. That is now a success, I am glad to say, and houses will shortly be appearing. However, it is not enough to release land or to encourage more voluntary associations to build. I am very sorry that the Community Land Bill will dry up the supply of land coming on to the market. What is becoming increasingly clear is the need to review the whole question of housing finance. The article by Christopher Booker and Bennie Gray in yesterday's Observer shows what an impossible position housing finance has got into. It costs at least £15,000 now to build a house in Crawley for which the average rent is £4·50 a week. The subsidy to tenants is very large, although nothing like as large as in London where, according to Booker and Gray, it amounts to £60 a week. The total council housing deficit paid for out of rates and taxes will amount to £1,450 million this year. This is more than twice what it was two years ago. Capital spending on council house building will be more than £2,000 million this year, which compares with £720 million in 1972–73. These figures are alarming. Clearly we cannot go on like this. Either the council house building programme will have to be cut sharply or rents will have to go up, unless the Government change their policy. The Government are responsible for inflation and that is what has created the crisis in housing finance. There is one step by which the Government could ease the position, and that is to sell council houses to existing tenants. There is no question about the popularity of this step. Of nearly 9,000 houses owned by the commission in Crawley in March 1974, there were applications to buy from 4,192 tenants. Funds would be released for building far more council houses than can now be provided at the present level of rents.
No, I cannot give way now. The country can no longer afford doctrinaire attitudes, and it is time that the Government allowed tenants to buy their homes if they wish, so that more money can be released for more houses for the many people on the waiting list. The Government must review their housing finance policy and change it.Some new towns like Crawley have reached the stage where their natural growth will carry them into the future. The only threat would be if the Government were to allow the expansion of other Government initiatives—for example, their airports policy—to overwhelm local growth. This is already happening in Gatwick, where a man can get more for sweeping out an aircraft than he can as a skilled fitter in Crawley. Neither the county council nor the local council can be expected to finance the Government's airport programme. There is the danger that firms which have been in Crawley for many years may have to go elsewhere for labour because of the growth of Gatwick. My constituency will grow because of natural growth, and in my judgment it will not be able to accommodate further growth imposed upon it from outside. That is why the whole policy of new towns needs to be looked at from the original point of view of the need to relieve London of its employment and industrial problems. That policy now needs a very serious look, and that is why the Greater London Council's policy should be reviewed very carefully. Two years ago the GLC bought 25 acres of building land north of Horsham, thus depriving local people of the opportunity of having their houses as quickly as they otherwise would. Now it is proposed to build 255 dwellings on this site at a cost of over £18,000 a house. The GLC has exceeded its yardstick by 33 per cent., and it is looking to the Government for help. The GLC already has enough land to build 58,000 houses, and it cannot build more than 5,000 a year. One simply cannot understand why the GLC should be allowed to get away with this sort of profligate expenditure and prevent my constituents from having their homes as quickly as they otherwise would. We need a new housing policy for the building of more houses. We must allow for natural expansion and not allow it to be swamped by outside force. We need to control the growth of Gatwick and the GLC. We need to give the people what they want—the right to buy their own homes. To do that we need a new Government, and I hope that that Government will not be long in coming.
I was disappointed at one small part of my right hon. Friend's speech, for I had supposed that the purpose of the pensions schemes for chairmen was to persuade them to retire earlier, but apparently they are to have these pensions as of right. None the less, I urge my right hon. Friend to make the pensions schemes attractive enough not merely to chairmen but to all the chief officers of the Central Lancashire New Town Corporation so that we may have a total replacement.The trouble is that these officials were appointed about three and a half years ago, before my right hon. Friend's appointment to his present office, so that he had nothing to do with them. But they show a class bias and prejudice which I thought were entirely outdated until I heard the opening speech of the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones), speaking for the Opposition Front Bench. I shall give one or two examples to show the attitude towards housing which we have already heard expressed from the Conservative benches. At a time when waiting lists for rented accommodation in the area were at a record high level, and when there were many private houses empty, the decision was that 75 per cent. of the new town houses should be for owner-occupation, and even the 25 per cent. left to tenants were to be available for sale after a period. One can see how prejudiced that was, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend on curbing that prejudice and utter ignorance of the needs of the area. We see that doctrinaire attitude throughout the housing and transport policies of the new town corporation. For example, there is a greater sparsity of development for owner-occupied houses than there is for rented houses, and even a greater sparsity for rented houses than for local authority housing. It seems that the rules which apply to local authorities did not apply to the new towns. This is an important matter to be watched, because the new town corporation, with its enormous resources, may have certain advantages over local authorities, and we are particularly anxious that relatively low cost housing should be available to the many would-be tenants in the area. The same prejudice can be found in other parts of the plan. For example, I believe this to be the only report I have ever seen in which there is a special symbol for golf courses. More important facts are omitted from the maps, but there is a special symbol for golf courses. I have heard it said publicly in my area that the reason for this is to attract a nice kind of executive—a great insult to the British executive if there were any truth in it. I am worried about the prospect for industrial regeneration in this country if that is any indication of a general attitude. The prejudice is to be seen most of all in transport. The original concept was that a new town should be built to accommodate the motor car, but that idea became outdated in 1973 with the issue of the White Paper on urban transport planning, which was accepted by all parties in the House. It confirmed the views of my right hon. Friend's father, who always regarded as paramount the need for public transport in new towns. The same view was taken by other town planners, including Professor Fawcett, who believed in the creation of a community based on walking distance to school. It was the consensus among town planners that that was the right course. We now know that it was right, and I believe that both sides of the House would agree with that. The road plans for the Central Lancashire New Town, however, create a paradise for the private motorist, encouraging road developments in the area and in the process not only destroying low-cost rented accommodation which cannot be replaced in the central area but making it all the more difficult for the local authorities to run an efficient public transport system when faced with sparse development and great encouragment to the private motor car. I hope that, when he plans and grants resources to the Central Lancashire new town, my right hon. Friend will keep in mind not only his father's views but the views expressed on both sides of the House about the White Paper on urban transport planning so that he does not allow the desecration of a good deal of old Preston. I am keeping my speech as short as I can, and I come now to my last point. Above all, will my right hon. Friend take into full consideration the views of the elected local authorities? It is difficult enough to curb bureaucracy among elected authorities, but where one is dealing with officers who are not elected and have large resources behind them the problem is even greater. My right hon. Friend is our only safeguard. I hope that he will keep in the forefront of his mind the views of his father and of all good planners in order to curb the prejudiced and narrow viewpoint which I find in evidence in the Central Lancashire New Town.
As time is limited, I shall make only three points, one relating to my constituency, and two of more general application. I represent Milton Keynes, the largest—or the largest planned—new town in the country. In fact, in North Buckinghamshire we talk not about the new town but about the new city. Last year Milton Keynes accounted for 1 per cent. of all public sector housing in this country, and this year the proportion will be 2 per cent. It is very big business indeed.When the brief for this new city was laid down in 1967, the essential purpose was that there should be a balance between population and services. The particular service which we find missing more than anything else is hospital provision. We have already grown from 40,000 to 64,000, and the population is rising by about 10,000 a year. The plan for the city—I have a copy here—said that the provision of the first stage of the district general hospital should come between 1976 and 1979. In fact, no plans whatever have been made. By 1982 we shall have a catchment area for this hospital of 200,000 people, and it is 20 miles to both the Northampton General Hospital and the Royal Bucks Hospital in Aylesbury, the facilities of both of which are utterly overstretched, as my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones) knows only too well. This is, in fact, a false prospectus both for firms and for people coming to the new city, and I hope that it can be put right as quickly as possible. When the Minister came to my constituency and saw many people there, including representatives of the hospital action group, he was advised not to have a heart attack while he was there before he would certainly die if he did. We feel very strongly on this matter, and I hope that something will be done about it. I come now to my more general observations. The first relates to the control of building in new towns, a subject figuring largely in the reports to which reference has already been made. No action on the Minister's part would have a greater effect on building in new towns than an alteration in the present yardstick provisions. Here is one example to illustrate what I mean, and I hasten to say that it occurred under the previous Conservative Government, so that no one is able to stand in a white sheet in this context. There was a project in the new city of Milton Keynes for 400 rented homes, and it was originally designed so that those homes could be sold to the tenants if necessary, if they wished to buy at a later date. The first scheme turned out to be about 20 per cent. above the yardstick and it had to be scrapped. Six months and £25,000 in abortive fees were lost. The scheme was redesigned with cheaper materials and a higher density which seemed to satisfy the yardstick. Tenders were sought and the price came out at 12½ per cent. above yardstick. We then had the whole business of cost reductions. Heating systems were dropped, garden fences were omitted, measures were adopted reducing privacy, and so forth. Eventually the cost was reduced to within 1½ per cent. of the yardstick, but the scheme had taken 18 months to bring to fruition. The cuts meant higher maintenance in future years, and the staff of the corporation have spent their time since then trying to rectify complaints raised by the tenants who live in these dwellings. Worst of all, the cost of the scheme, originally estimated at £2·75 million, came out finally at £4 million. We need a broad financial control at the centre, leaving the detailed planning to the very high-powered and dedicated people who service the new towns. At the moment, they are concerning themselves with things they ought not to have to do. They have to go back and forth to the Ministry sorting out the details. The other general point I wish to raise follows up a matter which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry. It concerns the burden on the ratepayer as a result of new town developments. A local authority has a statutory responsibility to provide such things as schools and roads, and yet the new towns are the creation of the Government and it follows, or so those of us who have recently suffered from this difficuty believe, that the Government have a responsibility to provide these services, not as a part of the rate support grant—that is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul, and we have had experiences of that this year—but as a direct subvention to the corporations themselves in order to ease the rate burden on the local population. These three points are of vital importance to the people who live in new towns.
The winding-up speeches will begin, we hope, at 6.35 p.m. We could probably get in another three short speeches from the back benches before then.
I shall make mine one of the shortest, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have one constituency point to put on the record as representative of Glenrothes new town. I very much object to the Minister of State, Scottish Office telling us, as he is about to, that within a very short while he will give the Glenrothes Development Corporation a special development order. He will do so even though the elected authorities—Kirkcaldy District Council and the Fife Regional Council—are opposed to the granting of that order.My hon. Friend has indicated to me by letter that, in spite of representations from myself last week, and by the district council last Friday at St. Andrew's House, he will nevertheless go forward with this order on the basis of practical experience and the act that Glenrothes new town is the only one in Britain which does not have this kind of facility. The argument in the debate today has revolved around the undemocratic nature of the development corporations compared with the democratically-elected councils in their areas. It has been the policy of my party for a long time to introduce a larger element of democracy in the running of the new towns. I have the most amicable personal relations with the officials of the Glenrothes Development Corporation, but the same cannot be said of the people of Glenrothes. They want a democratically-elected body to run their new town, and for the life of me I cannot see why the elected bodies of Kirkcaldy and Fife should not prevail over the opinion of the development corporation. I hope that my hon. Friend will reconsider this matter, and if he does not but instead lays an order I shall be bound to take every step in the House to oppose it.
In view of the disgracefully short amount of time we have been given to discuss the Bill, and in view of the importance of the subject, I support those hon. Members who ask for another opportunity to continue the debate on the new towns in the form of discussion on the Stevenage consultative document. I shall cut my remarks short, therefore, but I welcome the interest that the Minister has shown in new towns, particularly in his visit to Redditch, where we expect to see him again this year in the company, we hope, of the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security.A number of hon. Members have made the point that hospital provision in new towns has lagged, and, while there has been capital provision for infrastructure in the form of roads and schools, this did not extend to medical services. I hope that the Minister of State, Scottish Office, will be able to deal with this point. There is no reason why new towns should become deprived areas before they become eligible for special measures of medical assistance. I was fortunate enough to be allocated an Adjournment debate on the subject of the financial burden involved in the designation of new towns. In the course of that debate the Minister was sympathetic to my remarks and, while not going so far as to give a commitment, said that it was necessary that this burden should be considered by the Government since it was imposed at the request of the Government. My hope is that the greater financial ceiling in the Bill will eventually mean that we can have a greater allocation from the Government to cover the points that I mentioned in that debate, particularly the provision of medical facilities. I am pleased to see the Minister for Housing and Construction present because so much of this afternoon's debate has centred on housing, particularly on the consultation document and the working party's report on the transfer of housing at Stevenage. The Minister led with his chin on the subject of the waiting lists for rented houses. He said that he had information that the lists had shortened dramatically as a result of the concentration on rented housing. Perhaps one reason why the rented list became so inflated was the great disparity which arose from about the middle of 1972 onwards for occupiers between buying homes and renting them. Before then there was a differential in my constituency of only about £1 a week between renting and buying. The absurd situation has now been reached where the subsidy on a rented house in the new town in my constituency is running at about £1,400 a year, whereas tax relief on a mortgage for an owner-occupied house in the same town is about £300 a year. There is no hope of local authorities having the money to continue building these houses and renting them at these absurd rents, as my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham and Crawley (Mr. Hordern) pointed out. Another advantage of owner-occupied housing is that the building industry has been able in new towns to continue its activities because the towns have held the land back and a lot of construction companies have, therefore, been able to afford to continue building. We have been fortunate that new building for private occupation has continued. One of the difficulties concerns the vexed question of the Parker Morris standard for public building, and the much higher cost which results from it. I have details which show that the building costs of rented houses is now getting on for £13,000-£14,000, whereas the cost of building an owner-occupied house is about £8,000. This is quite apart from the the question of "starter homes" for young families with which a building organisation in the Midlands has been connected but which has been unsuccessful in obtaining consents from local authorities in the area. I hope that this question will be looked at again from the point of view of those who wish to buy homes, of the construction industry and of young families. I should like to make a point about the Stevenage recommendations for transfer. I accept that there should be a transfer of housing assets, but there is a question of timing, especially concerning second or third generation towns. I am not happy that that matter was adequately ventilated in the report which the Minister was kind enough to send me. On staff transfers, there is a real difficulty that some workers in development corporations are not necessarily temperamentally adjusted to working in the rather more highly politically-charged atmosphere of local authorities and dealing with administration and control rather than development aspects. This work appeals to a different type of temperament. I hope that the Minister will be giving consideration soon to the future size of Redditch, a matter which has been outstanding for a long time. I am particularly concerned about it, because there was a general decline in industrial activity in the West Midland area even before the local troubles of the car industry began. This will have a pronounced effect on the future population target. As other Members wish to speak, I shall finish my speech now.
In the three minutes that are left I wish to make one or two points on the Bill. To the people whom I represent in Scotland it is a mouse of a Bill, because it is completely irrelevant to the future of new towns in Scotland and irrelevant within the context of Labour Party policy at both national and local level.For Scotland, the Bill only allows the Government to give permission to increase their advances to development corporations at a time when they are limiting advances to the democratically-elected local authorities in Scotland. The Bill also gives the right to the Secretary of State to direct the development corporations to make provisions for the payment of a pension, an allowance, or a gratuity to the chairman of the corporation. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) that in Scotland we want to be rid of the chairmen and members of development corporations. We want to remove the undemocratic nature of the development corporations and substitute the democratically-elected representatives of the local authorities—in Scotland, through the district and regional authorities. Whenever they do not want to do anything, my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench publish consultative documents. They set up working parties on which there are no Scotsmen—all the members represent areas in the south of England—or they set up a Royal Commission. At present we hear rumours that several Government Ministers will be removed from office, because they seek to carry out Labour Party policy and introduce Bills which are a direct expression of the policy passed at a Labour Party conference. Today we are dealing with new towns, and the Bill has nothing to do with Labour Party policy. If it is true, as is reported, that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister plans to get rid of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) after 5th June, I hope that he will be transferred to the Scottish Office or to the planning and local government section of the Department of the Environment, because then we shall be dealing not with consultative documents but with Bills which are a direct expression of Labour Party policy. We shall get rid of the development corporations and of this undemocratic provision. We shall have democratically-elected authorities which will give the development corporations' powers to the district and regional councils in Scotland.
I first declare an interest, as a director of a retail company which was one of the first retail stores to seek representation in new towns—it is now represented in 11—and as author of a pamphlet published some 10 years ago entitled "The Need for New Cities". I shall refrain from quoting from it.Any debate on new towns must be concerned with the built environment, the living environment and people. A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to this aspect of new towns. Any discussion at this time must inevitably concern expenditure. It is most regrettable that the consultation document completely lacks any financial data and is almost totally devoid of comment on any of the economic aspects of new towns. The most it says is in paragraph 4.4, where we read:
That cannot be held to contribute much to the important aspect of the debate to which I should like to return. New towns contribute to the environment both directly in the towns themselves and indirectly through what the chairman of the executive of the Town and Country Planning Association nicely called "Ebenezer's other half". I should like to take this opportunity of joining my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones) in paying tribute to the association for the work which it has done in connection with new towns for over 75 years. "Ebenezer's other half" is the urban environment, to which the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman) also referred. That is of concern to all of us in the large cities. In particular, he mentioned Liverpool and London. "High rise" is not exactly a popular phrase these days. It can be condemned on grounds of both cost effectiveness and social effectiveness. If we are to achieve what we should be able to achieve through the new towns in respect of "Ebenezer's other half", we should consider more of planting a tree rather than building a tower block of flats. In that way we would help to revitalise and improve the environment in the towns whose populations are moving out to the new towns. In those new towns, we want to build communities that can satisfy the aspirations of those who live there at present, those who will in the future, or those who would like to be able to find the homes that they want in those new towns. Home ownership is sought by many families. If they cannot find home ownership in new towns they will not go to them. I recognise that there is a difference between the established new towns and those that are still at the early stages of development. Where we have established new towns with stabilised, or nearly stabilised, populations—Crawley is an example—there is surely a great need to ensure that there is adequate housing available for sale. In Crawley we still have only 28 per cent. of the total housing owner-occupied. This is not providing the balanced community which the right hon. Gentleman has said is required. If the new towns were to sell 10 per cent. of their housing stock—I am not suggesting that they should do this overnight, but perhaps over a year or two—they would achieve the balance of home ownership which is reflected in the rest of the country, and which we understand has the support of the Government. They would raise more than £200 million, and relieve the Government at a time when I should have thought that even the Government were prepared to admit the need for relief of a great deal of public sector borrowing. There is another aspect. They would release resources. That is very important, because by so doing they would be able to help create the community facilities to which a number of hon. Members have referred, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), who spoke of the need for hospitals. Such community facilities are a vital part of the environment of the new towns. Unless we have these resources shortly, we shall not create as good an environment in the new towns as we could, or, if we do, we shall not create it as fast. We shall not be able to do as much in the urban areas, in "Ebenezer's other half", as we should like, or, if we can, we shall not do it as fast as we could. We were asked our views about the transfer of assets. The working party's report, which was pretty lengthy and was published only last week, will require some study. There is a different situation in the mature new towns from that in the developing new towns. The financial arrangements were not fully spelt out, and will require particularly careful scrutiny. We shall also have to give careful consideration to the future of the staff involved. Against that background, I think that I can say without fear of contradiction that as a party we do not believe in concentrating decision taking in the organs of the State. We prefer individuals to be able to make their own choices. In that context, I believe that in principle the transfer of resources should be considered and progressed at an early stage. I return to the central point, that if we are to get the best advantage from the new towns in terms of human satisfaction, the living environment, we must consider the availability of resources. In the Bill we are asked for what can nowadays be regarded, against the background of the Government's borrowing requirement, as a modest £250 million, with a further £500 million to come. I do not know what the Minister's expectations are in that direction. I do not know how easily he thinks the Treasury will produce those resources. In our present economic circumstances we should consider taking every opportunity to provide resources to improve the environment in the way in which we know it needs improving, looking not only at home sales but at the sale of commercial assets. Paragraph 3.19 displays a total lack of interest in—I would almost say a lack of knowledge about—what industrial and commercial users require. Many of them require the certainty of ownership, or at the very least a ground lease of their property, so that they can project their cash flows over a reasonable period for investment. There is no reason why the arbitrary approach of the paragraph should be adopted to the commercial and industrial sector in new towns. It is somewhat economically naive to imagine that it is beneficial to the community, when it has to borrow at over 14 per cent., to retain ownership of those assets against the wishes of the industrial and commercial users. There are two ways in which resources can be provided. When we have those resources, we can make progress with community facilities. We should not allow the doctrinaire politics represented in some places on the Government Front Bench to prevent those resources becoming available and to obstruct the creation of balanced and successful communities. Let us have a review of the cost effectiveness of new town programmes. Let us have those programmes compared with the costs and achievements of the urban renewal programmes. But, above all, let us release resources and satisfy the aspirations of so many new town families and resume the sale of homes."Constant monitoring on the part of the Government will ensure that the new town programme does not outstrip demand or available resources".
We have had a wide-ranging debate. As it embraces two consultative documents—one for Scotland as well as the one for England and Wales—in addition to the Bill, I can only deal with a number of general points, but I promise that my right hon. Friend and I will write to hon. Members about detailed points they have raised concerning their constituencies.I have one detailed announcement to make for Scotland, about Glenrothes, which was anticipated by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton). I confirm that it is our intention that there should be a special development order for Glenrothes which will place the new town there on exactly the same footing as regards planning as the other new towns in Scotland and in England and Wales. I met the local authority concerned last Friday and explained the position. As the matter will be debated later, on the order, I simply say now that the new local authority will not be cut out completely from the planning of the new town, as has been suggested, nor is there any implication of dissatisfaction with the authority. That could not possibly be so. I hope that I was at least able to reassure the local authority on that point.
Can my hon. Friend tell us when the order will be laid? Will it be debatable, and shall we be able to vote on it?
As far as I am aware, it will be debatable under the negative procedure, and I look forward to the debate. The order will be laid as soon as possible.Turning to the Bill, I deal first with the question of overall financing. The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones) asked how long the first tranche of £250 million was likely to last. On present expectations, a further order will be required some time in 1976–77. I cannot be more specific, but perhaps we can deal with such matters in Committee. As this is a financial Bill, it is proper that hon. Members should deal with the finances of new towns. But it was a pity, to say the least, that the hon. Member for Daventry was so obsessed with the financial provisions that he said very little about new towns policy. By the time he finished, there would be no assets of new towns to transfer to local authorities. He wanted to sell the houses to the tenants for owner-occupation and the commercial and industrial assets to private enterprise for commercial exploitation. It would be completely contrary to the Government's views that we should sell off these extensive and important national assets.
I shall not give way, because I have limited time.The relationship with local authorities was a theme running through a number of speeches. This was a matter of some difficulty, because the new town corporations are not democratically elected. There is bound to be a potential source of friction between the new town corporation and the local authority in the area concerned. It is remarkable that, with all the potentialities for friction, from the Scottish point of view at least—I cannot speak with the same authority for England and Wales—relationships are in most circumstances and for most of the time close and harmonious. But it is part of the Government's policy for Scotland to see that there is proper local authority representation on the development corporations. It is better obtained by local authority representation than by another process of direct election as the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mrs. Bain) suggested. There are obviously matters of co-ordination and co-operation here, many of which depend in the last analysis on good will on both sides.
In Cumbernauld the directly elected members of the local authority felt that they could not possibly join the development corporation. That has led to a great deal of friction. To solve that problem, as an ideal situation, there should be direct elections among the local population to enable people to become members of development corporations.
I do not agree with that. I know that members of local authorities have refused to serve on new towns. However, that is not the situation in Cumbernauld. At the moment there are members of the hon. Lady's party on the development corporation.One of the matters which are most at issue between the development corporations and the local authorities, and indeed with the Government, is the transfer of assets. I do not think that it would be right for me to add to what my right hon. Friend said about the situation in England and Wales. He said that we had received the Stevenage working party's report and that it raised a number of important matters—not least, the financial considerations—and that he would be bringing forward his own proposals in due course for the transfer of certain housing in new towns in England and Wales—in England in the first instance—to the local authorities concerned. My right hon. Friend made it clear that there could be no question of a straight transfer of industrial and commercial assets to the local authorities. Those assets are provided by the national Exchequer, and the local community has an interest in them. The new towns as a whole have an interest in them, as have the taxpayer and the national Exchequer. We take the same basic attitude as regards Scotland. We have adopted a slightly different approach in that our intention was that the transfer of assets should come near the end of the development of a new town. The only new town now coming into that category is East Kilbride. I therefore confirm to my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) that we shall wish to consider soon the question of the transfer of housing from the new town corporation to the local authority at East Kilbride. That matter will be considered well in advance of what is likely to be the transfer date. We shall especially have in mind the difficult question of financial implications, because the housing account in East Kilbride is still substantially in deficit. That deficit is now largely met by the Exchequer. We shall wish to have regard to the possible rôle of the Scottish Development Agency as regards commercial and industrial assets in Scotland. There is no New Towns Commission in Scotland. That absurdity was not perpetrated in Scotland by the previous Conservative Government as it was in England, for reasons which are obscure to me. In Scotland there is not the complication of a New Towns Commission. We look on industrial and commercial assets as being potentially transferable to the Scottish Development Agency. On the question of "rent or buy", my right hon. Friend has made the English position clear. In England there was a tendency, with regard to the purchase of houses, to go well beyond what was reasonable, given that there was an overriding demand for houses to rent. My right hon. Friend is taking steps to put the balance right. I fully support everything that was said on that.
If that is so, will the Minister explain the views of the chairmen of the development corporations, many of whom are Socialists? Certainly the two chairmen in my constituency are Socialists. They say that they strongly hope that they will be allowed in the near future once again to offer to tenants the opportunity to buy the houses which they occupy.
The new towns agreed with what my right hon. Friend did. They said that his policy was successful in reducing the waiting list and that they now wanted him to look again at it. That formed part of what my right hon. Friend said in his opening speech this afternoon. He made the justifiable claim that his change of policy had resulted in a reduction of the waiting lists—which we wanted to achieve.The position in Scotland is different. In Scotland we are anxious to reach a target figure of 25 per cent. for owner-occupation, which, except in the special circumstances in Irvine, we have not yet achieved. Subject to the overriding need to provide houses to rent, there is provision for the sale of houses in the new towns in Scotland. The number of sales recently has been small. A number of hon. Gentlemen made the point strongly that for a new town to succeed the question was not only one of housing but of balanced development—industrial development, commercial development, community facilities, schools and hospitals. That point was made eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman). I agree with everything that he said on that point in what I thought was an interesting speech. However, that is easier said than done. In Scotland we have achieved this balance, certainly from the industrial angle. In fact, probably the new towns in Scotland have been more successful than other agencies in attracting new and expanding industry. I understand that that is true of a number of new towns in England. In Scotland we have had the special advantage that all our new towns now have special development area status. I can reassure my hon. Friends representing Scottish constituencies that industrial attraction to the new towns is part of our policy for the new towns in Scotland. There is need for industrial attraction in the older industrial areas. The industrial balance can easily tilt the wrong way. Many hon. Members, especially those from the West of Scotland, would argue that some of the success of the new towns has been achieved at the expense of the older industrial areas. Again, without developing that point, that is a matter which the Scottish Development Agency will have in mind. As regards the provision of community facilities—schools, hospitals, and so on—the position varies between one new town and another depending on whether it is a new new town or whether it has reached a more mature stage. The position varies between one kind of facility and another. For example, the provision of schools has kept pace with housing development if only because the first priority, in the allocation of school building expenditure in England as in Scotland, is roofs over heads. Schools must be provided in an expanding area of a new town. Otherwise there is no provision. As the new towns mature a wide range of other community provision is also made available in a way which I think is the envy of the older industrial areas. There are special problems about the provision of hospitals if only because the hospital programme in England and Wales, as in Scotland, has been under severe pressure for many years and also because the overall policy of concentrating on district general hospitals, which are related to certain catchment areas of population, has not always made it easy to provide new hospitals quickly for new towns. However, those are matters of balance. The Government, the agencies and the local authorities have in mind the general need in new towns, as elsewhere, for a balanced community, with industrial and commercial development and with a full range of community facilities. Over the past 30 years the new towns have been successful in providing the best living conditions in new areas of development which we have anywhere in the United Kingdom. That is a tribute to the vision of those who started the new towns policy 30 years ago. It is a tribute to the work which has been done on new towns in the past 30 years. It is to allow that work to continue successfully that we ask the House to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[ Mr. Stoddart.]
New Towns Money
Queen's Recommendation having been signified—
That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to raise the limits imposed by the New Towns Act 1965 ('the 1965 Act') on the amount which may be borrowed by the development corporations for the new towns and the Commission for the New Towns and make provision for the payment of pensions to chairmen of development corporations and of remuneration and allowances to members of committees conducing business for the Commission, it is expedient to authorise any increase in the sums falling to be paid out of the National Loans Fund under section 44 of the 1965 Act or under section 38 of the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1968 or in the sums falling to be paid out of money provided by Parliament, being an increase attributable to provisions of the said Act of the present Session—
(a) enabling money to be advanced to the Commission under section 42(5) of the 1965 Act so long as the sum of the amounts advanced under that subsection and remaining outstanding at any one time does not exceed £1 million; (b) increasing to £2,250 million the limit imposed by section 43 of the 1965 Act on the amounts outstanding in respect of borrowings by the development corporations and the Commission;and to authorise any increase attributable to any of the said provisions in the sums falling to be paid into the National Loans Fund.—[Mr. Millan.]
Industry Bill (Allocation Of Time)
I beg to move,
That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining Proceedings on the Bill:—
1. The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before the 12th day of June.
Report and Third Reading
Procedure in Standing Committee
3.—(1) At a Sitting of the Standing Committee at which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sitting of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.
(2) No Motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a Member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who makes, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.
4. No Motion shall be made to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule, but the resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in the order in which the Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in Standing Committee.
Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee
5. On the conclusion of the Proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.
6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, Proceedings on the Bill shall be made in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.
Extra time on allotted days
8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.
Conclusion of Proceedings
9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not been previously brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith proceed to put the following Questions (but no others) that is to say—
and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
(3) If, at Seven o'clock on an allotted day, any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time have not been concluded, any Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance) which, apart from this Order, would stand over to that time shall stand over until those Proceedings have been concluded.
(4) If a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over to Seven o'clock on an allotted day, or to any later time under sub-paragraph (3) above, the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day at any hour falling after the beginning of the Proceedings on that Motion shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.
11. Nothing in this Order or in a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or the Business Committee shall—
13. In this Order—
"allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the Proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day eiher has been agreed to on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;
"the Bill" means the Industry Bill;
"Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;
"Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.
I intend to be brief in moving this motion.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I raise this matter with you before the Minister gets into his brief. I understand that the Prime Minister has said that he himself is now taking control of the Industry Bill. Is he coming to take part in the debate?
Order. The hon. Member knows quite will that that is not a point of order.
This allocation of time motion provides that the report of the Standing Committee now considering the Bill should be made to the House by 12th June, and it also provides for two days for Report and Third Reading. The motion follows a clear pattern. If the House is ready to pass it, in accordance with practice a Business Sub-Committee will meet, I believe convened by yourself, Mr. Speaker, to determine how the time allocated by the motion would be divided among the remaining clauses. We believe that the motion provides ample time for the completion of the discussions on the remaining clauses.The Standing Committee is now on Clause 21. There are only four clauses of substance upon which there is great controversy still to be discussed, with other citation clauses and schedules. As compared with allocation of time orders that have been made in the past, this is in our view a very generous provision of time, and we hope and intend that there will be ample opportunity for discussing all these matters.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of what is still outstanding, would he care to make some observations about the number of new clauses that have been tabled?
I have not quite finished the very brief statistical passage of my speech. I was about to give the House the opportunity to consider some of the figures.The Committee has had 28 sittings and has been in session for 75½ hours. If 12 more sittings are provided, as would be provided if the Committee met normally from now until 12th June, there would be 108 hours for 30 clauses. I know that comparisons are invidious because some Bills are more controversial than others, but the 1972 Industry Act, which was certainly a major innovation by the Conservative Party, had 19 clauses—that is to say, two-thirds as many—and it went through Committee, after very close examination, in 44½ hours. I come to the number of amendments. There have been 800 amendments tabled and in Committee the Government have already accepted 33 either directly or in principle and have undertaken to consider 16 further amendments. There has, therefore, been a genuine attempt to meet points of substance made by members of the Committee. I want to say quite clearly, because in 25 years in the House I have heard many allocation of time motions moved by Ministers of both parties, that it is not part of the argument that there has been a deliberate filibuster on the Bill. It is a very important Bill and, with one or two lapses that I will not go back over, the contributions have been constructive. The case for the timetable is the urgency of the Bill itself and the need for it as a central part of the Government's industrial policy at the present time. I do not know how far it is proper to make allusion to discussions that have taken place through the usual channels, but naturally, before moving a motion of this kind, I sought as best I could some understanding that might have assisted in avoiding the need for the motion. But, quite properly—I make no complaint about it—the matter revolved around an impossible issue for the Government, namely, that there would be some balance of time against content—that is to say, amendments would be agreed ex-Committee in advance of discussion as part of an agreement for the timetable. No Government with a Bill so central to their legislative programme could have agreed to that. These matters must be resolved in the ordinary way by Divisions in Committee or, if need be, in the House. In saying that the Bill is urgent I must inevitably refer not to the Bill's provisions but to the fact that, as the House knows very well, the Government—any Government occupying office as we now do—are confronted with a wide range of industrial problems of one kind or another, some of which are already public knowledge, or, rather, the outcome is, while others remain within the privacy of confidential relations between the Government and industry. In our judgment it is necessary to have the Bill on the statute book as soon as possible so that we can respond to a situation that was not anticipated in 1972 when the previous Government passed their own far-reaching Industry Act. Clearly the relationship between the Government's capacity to respond and our capacity to safeguard jobs at a time when there is real and rising anxiety about employment makes this motion more than just a matter of political convenience for the Government. It is a matter of legitimate concern to the community as a whole. Broadly, we have two problems with which as a Government we have to deal. One is the problem of a continuing decline of investment prospects, not confined to this country and not new in the sense that a progressive relative decline in investment in manufacturing industry has been a problem confronting successive Governments for years. We also have, or believe we have, in the Bill an opportunity to change relationships between those at work—that is to say, workers and managers—and companies by the stimulation of a greater degree of industrial democracy through the planning agreements and in other ways. I ask the House to accept that in our judgment this is a very necessary Bill. I have promised and intend to be brief, but before I conclude let me make it clear that one of the reasons why the Opposition have found it hard to give the Bill the necessary speed of movement through Committee—[Interruption.] I am not seeking to be unfair and I am trying to deal with the real issues—is the suggestion that in some way this is a Bill peculiar or special to the Department of Industry and not to the Government as a whole. I want to make it absolutely clear, so that there is no doubt about it whatever, that every single key provision in the Bill was not only very widely and publicly discussed by the Labour Party when in opposition but was put before our conference and the electorate in two elections in 1974 and was widely discussed and widely understood by anyone who wished to study it. The White Paper, which was published last year, and the Industry Bill itself, as the House would expect but perhaps I should emphasise it, have been through the full procedures of Government committees, to which some public reference has been made, as have the Shipbuilding and Aircraft Bill, the Meriden Co-operative, the Kirkby Co-operative and the Scottish Daily News. Any amusement that there might be about the implication that in some way this is a Bill that divides the Government is wholly misplaced. It is the policy of the Government and I advise anyone—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Prime Minister?"] I do not know whether hon. Members wish me to impose on the House the Prime Minister's speeches on the subject of the Industry Bill, but if they would like me to choose some words from his presentation of the Bill to the Labour Party Conference in October 1973, I will happily do so. My right hon. Friend, then Leader of the Opposition, said:
Those are the words not of the Secretary of State for Industry but of the leader of the party. Since I am tempted—I shall not go into it at great length—let me read one reference to what was said about the rôle of the Stock Exchange in these matters. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when Leader of the Opposition, was speaking about the Stock Exchange when he said:"It is my belief, and I speak for all of us, that the section on social ownership I submit to Conference today constitutes the most realistic, radical and relevant approach—relevant because it is socialist—to the nation's problems since 1945. This document derives its idealism from the Socialism which created and today inspires our movement—and it is brought up to date to apply to the 1970s and beyond."
My right hon. Friend quite recently had occasion to come back to that theme about speculation. It is right that the House should know that the Bill we bring forward is the policy of the Labour movement, endorsed by the electorate, by the Government and by the Cabinet, and we think it is necessary to have it upon the statute book. In presenting a Bill of this degree of importance it is right that there should be full consultations with both sides of industry. There have been discussions with the CBI and with the TUC at an earlier stage, and we have made it clear that after the Committee stage, in which many of these points will arise on an amendment, there will be further consultation with both the CBI and the TUC. In the course of these consultations it obviously flows and follows that a Government engaged in them will listen to what is said and will seek, in pursuit of what we say in Committee, if we think it right, to table amendments on Report. These consultations will take place after the Committee stage, when we have had an opportunity to consider the matter in the light of the Committee's deliberations. I come to a point which must necessarily be a matter of public comment, at least by the Conservative Party, namely, the question of whether the disclosure provisions in the Bill and the clauses which are the subject of current examination really constitute such a major innovation in the Government's relations with industry and a major change. I wish to put before the House some information on precedents in these matters. I have with me—I shall not take long—two sections of Acts passed by the Conservative Government. One was the Insurance Companies Amendment Act 1973. The House will remember that the argument is that these disclosure provisions strike at the heart of relations between Government and industry. Section 20 of the Insurance Companies Amendment Act 1973 states:"Its purpose should be—indeed we are always told it is—to channel savings into investment. Too great a part of its work, as well as that of the financial tipsters so avidly read by investors, is, of course, to shift savings about into speculative short-term gain situations. It is not, in fact, channelling the tides of investment, so much as exaggerating the sloshing to and fro of the bilgewater of capitalism."
Before the hon. Gentleman rises to his feet, let me make it clear that the charge I make is of rank hypocrisy by the Conservative Party throughout the whole progress of this Bill. There was no one more hypocritical than those who occupied high office in a Government that presented legislation, that took power that goes far beyond anything the present Government have sought to put before the House. The real objection of the Conservative Party is not to disclosure under force of law to the Government. The Conservatives' resentment arises because that information is to go to workers in industry. That is the source of their resentment.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me to break into his great oratory and interrupt him. I know that he has been unable to attend the Standing Committee as often as he would have liked. However, can he say to the House that in the two instances he has mentioned there was any requirement for such information as was given and required to be given to the Government to be passed on not to workers but to trade unions? Can he say that?
The hon. Gentleman has absolutely fallen into the trap of his own argument: that if it is the development of a corporate arrangement between a Conservative Government and big business, the information can flow, nobody bothers and nobody cares. When, however, we say that workers whose lives depend upon the conditions in which they work should be told what decisions may affect their future or their jobs, and when they are invited to be given information—
The hon. Gentleman had better listen to the argument because he has a great deal to answer for. When workers ask for information about the decisions that affect their jobs, their status, their security, their employment and everything else, the Conservative Party is united in its hostility.
Yes—So much so that it would not be an exaggeration to say that the silent majority before which they worship must in their view also be a blinded majority and a deaf majority, denied the opportunity of knowing the basic information in the firms in which they work. That is the real division between us. There is no division about Government intervention, for the Conservatives sloshed the cash into private industry and intervened up to the hilt. If, however, that information is to be shared with workers, the Conservative Party says that it is one step in the shift of power towards working people. That is where the dividing line comes.
The right hon. Gentleman has accused me, among others, of rank hypocrisy. He would be fairer to the House if he made it plain that the disclosure provisions to which I for one was objecting concern industrial know-how, which we are about to discuss, and its likely effect on inward and outward flows of investment. I objected more particularly—and in his own amendment the right hon. Gentleman indicated some agreement—to a disclosure of personal details of private individuals. The disclosure of information required for greater industrial participation and the disclosure required by this Bill are two entirely different things.
If the hon. Gentleman had been listening he would have heard me say that the charge of hypocrisy lies on the Opposition Front Bench, on those who introduced the legislation of which I read out full extracts. When it comes to the point about protecting the rights of individuals and protecting industrial know-how, the hon. Gentleman, who has played a very constructive part in the debate on the Bill, knows that we have provided safeguards both that the national interest should be safeguarded by a ministerial filter and that there should be independent arbitration which would protect these things. However, because he is on the Opposition side of the Committee and of the Conservative Party, he also knows that what really frightens the Conservative Party is the idea that deeper knowledge should be shared, with reserve power, by those who work in industry. That is what the whole argument is about.
I would give way to the hon. Gentleman, but he would not accept my reply because he believes that someone else should be speaking in the debate now. Therefore, perhaps he will allow me to continue.There is a final point before I commend the motion to the House. One of the arguments used, and by none more vigorously than the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who leads on these matters for the Conservative Party—if that is the correct word—is the question of the effect of the Bill on industrial confidence. I want to comment on that, because it has been argued up and down, and no doubt will be argued tonight, that there must be more time in order to provide opportunities not only for amendment but to dispel anxieties about confidence. But if there are anxieties about confidence—and of course, in any sensitive industrial structure there will be—the man responsibility for undermining confidence lies in hon. Members of the Opposition, who have systematically lied or made statements in their public utterances about the policy in such a way as to encourage the fears which they now attribute to us. I recall the hon. Member for Henley saying last summer that he knew that there was a secret list of companies for nationalisation. I remember him on television and on radio. He made tremendous mileage of the sudden discovery of this provision, and in fact there was no such list. It was a list under his own party's legislation of the Category I companies which were provided for under the Counter-Inflation Act for Category I treatment. When I was asked about which were the biggest 100 companies, I published them. The hon. Gentleman was ready to go on all those programmes—those which will have him still—and say that he had discovered a secret list of companies which were to be nationalised. The hon. Gentleman's latest effort was in Bristol last Friday, when he came along and flourished a "secret" Labour Party paper. We published it some days earlier, as a matter of fact, but he had finally got a copy, and this was some new neo-Marxist plot which he had unearthed. This Sherlock Holmes of industrial deception, this figure who has gone around shaking confidence, then said that the confidence had been shaken by the legislation, deliberately distorted by the hon. Gentleman in his public speeches. I believe that this is an important Bill. It is a Bill that has great potential. It is a Bill which will work when enacted only by consent—because unlike the Industrial Relations Act we shall not use Sir John Donaldson to enforce the Bill. But it is a Bill that, given the nation's crisis, invites early enactment. I invite the House to say that it should be back with us by 12th June and have two days for Report and Third Reading.
I should like to inform the House that I have not selected either of the amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) and his hon. Friends.
I think that the whole House will welcome back the Secretary of State for Employment, who was in the Chamber a few seconds ago, for the first time since his operation. I want to say how glad we are that he is fully recovered.The anxiety that the House will feel on listening to what the Secretary of State for Industry has said this evening is that it seems to be so remarkably at cross-purposes with what the Prime Minister has said both in Jamaica and on his return to this country. Some of us will be forgiven for wondering whether the Secretary of State for Industry and the Prime Minister are operating within the context of the same industrial environment as the Prime Minister is constantly talking about. However, the fact of the matter is that the Secretary of State for Industry, as is his wont, has seen fit to launch a massive series of attacks upon the opponents of his proposals although in reality he must know that some of the most bitter opponents of his ideas are to be found within the Cabinet of which he is a member.
That is not true.
We shall come to the precise question whether the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Industry are at one on this legislation during the course of my speech. The reality is that this entire country's industry is now constantly exposed to one statement from the Secretary of State for Industry about his interpretation of the meaning of this legislation and then, within hours, either one of his colleagues in the Government pops up to say that the Secretary of State for Industry has got it wrong or the Prime Minister comes back to describe the right hon. Gentleman in some biblical context in order to restore confidence in the Government's strategy.We have listened to the Secretary of State describing the purposes for which he wants this legislation. Really, one has failed to make any impact upon his thinking, despite the fact that all the arguments he parades are the very arguments which were put before the House in order to introduce the legislation in the first place. The right hon. Gentleman says that it is necessary to safeguard jobs. But this is the Secretary of State for Industry who was arguing that under the present Government there would be an upsurge in investment and confidence. If that were so, there would be no investment problems. Now we are told that the legislation is necessary to safeguard jobs. We are then told that it is necessary in order to change the atmosphere between management and employees in their companies. We are told that it is so critical that this should come about that a matter of one week or another in the timing of this legislation will bring about a fundamental transformation in the attitudes in British industry, which, by the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, have bedevilled British industry for a decade or more. How guillotining a Bill will transform the atmosphere in British industry I totally fail to understand. However, what I do understand—as the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State have referred to it—is the offer of a voluntary timetable which my hon. Friends and I made to the Secretary of State in order to bring the Bill back to the Floor of the House even earlier than it will come back under the motion. All we asked was that the assurances given by the Prime Minister to the House and the CBI should be honoured by way of an amendment in the legislation. That is all that we asked. It does not seem very remarkable that an Opposition should say "Yes, we shall accept a voluntary programme and we shall help to get this legislation through. All that we ask of the Government is that they should honour the words of the Prime Minister". What were we told about this by the Under-Secretary taking the Bill through the Standing Committee? If the hon. Gentleman thinks that he can overturn the very serious and profound discussion now taking place on the basis of words uttered, albeit by the Prime Minister, he is very seriously understating the importance of the discussion.
It is out of context.
It is the end of a particular speech before there was an intervention in Committee. But if the Under-Secretary can tell me how these particular words can be interpreted in any other way except as one of the most remarkable underminings of Prime Ministerial authority by a junior Minister, I shall be fascinated to hear what he has to say.All that the Opposition did was to offer the Secretary of State a voluntary timetable on the basis of a firm pledge given to the House by the Prime Minister. Indeed, it was not only given to this House. It was also given to the CBI, and the President of the CBI has complained bitterly that his organisation is very disturbed about that pledge having been broken because it is bound to undermine the confidence of industry. No one in this House can believe that the Opposition have been obstructing this legislation—far from it. We helped to make progress in a way that few Oppositions could be expected to when dealing with such a controversial Bill. If we had obstructed the legislation, the Under-Secretary would have to explain how, time after time, when he was moving the adjournment of the Committee, he paid tribute to the speed and progress that we had made in that sitting. The House will be familiar with the quotations on this issue. On the last four occasions on which the Committee sat before the guillotine rumours began to spread, there were similar comments from the Under-Secretary. On 22nd April he spoke of the "very good progress which had been made. On 24th April he spoke of our "excellent progress". On 29th April he again spoke of "the progress" that we had made. On 1st May once again his word was "progress". Within days of that being the Government's considered view about the progress that we had made, the Government introduce this guillotine motion. The whole House knows that there is a major conflict about the legislation within the Government. It is a conflict which has run through all our proceedings in the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee has had to digest three ministerial views about the Bill. We have had a Prime Ministerial view, we have had the view of the sponsoring Ministers, and we have had an ex-Minister's view. None of them coincided. The Prime Minister believed that the Bill was about the White Paper. The sponsoring Ministers argued that the Bill was the Bill. The ex-Minister argued that neither was satisfactory. How it can be argued that that presents a coherent strategy for the Government's industrial policly, I fail to understand.
The tragedy is that at no stage have we had any alternative Opposition view.
The quickest and most effective opposition would be for the Secretary of State to leave his job, which, it is rumoured, the Prime Minister intends.If the Secretary of State is seeking an explanation why industrial confidence, and, therefore, investment, and, therefore, jobs are at stake, he has to go no further than the campaign which he began about a year ago when he introduced his working document for the Department of Industry and said that there needed to be a public crusade to inform and educate people about the workings of his Department. In that campaign the reality is that the anxiety which has spread throughout industry and which has done so much to harm its confidence was unearthed. Shortly afterwards, as proof of it, the Prime Minister made his first and most celebrated intervention when he said that he intended to take over the drafting of the Government's industrial policy so as to remove any doubt about who was in charge of that policy. If the Under-Secretary of State can explain later on what precedent the Prime Minister has found it necessary to take over responsibility for drafting the strategy of one of his Ministers in order to allay anxiety, I shall be extremely interested to hear about it. Within a short period of the General Election, it became evident that the Secretary of State had won the battle, because the Bill contained the provisions which caused the anxiety, despite the drafting of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet team. As a consequence, the battle has continued within the Government, and the Prime Minister has found it necessary to come back here with categorical assurances. In his Merseyside speech he promised that all the pressure of the Treasury and the hard nose of Sir Don Ryder would be prayed in aid to curtail the activities of the Secretary of State for Industry. We are told that there is no division in the Cabinet, yet we find in the Standing Committee, intended to investigate the critical distinction between the White Paper and the Bill which separates the compulsory disclosure powers from the connection with planning agreements and makes them free-standing in the name of the Secretary of State, that once again it is the Secretary of State's view and not the pledge of the Prime Minister which stands supreme. As a consequence, the anxiety emerges once again and the same precedents are set, with the Prime Minister saying in Jamaica that he intends to come back to clip the wings of the Secretary of State. In addition, the Paymaster-General is put up to say that the National Enterprise Board appointments will be made by the Prime Minister and that the administration of this legislation will be in the hands of the Prime Minister. By no stretch of the imagination could this be seen as a coherent strategy. There is no agreement about this legislation. The Secretary of State knows it. The national Press knows it. The British industrial scene knows it. In addition, everyone in this House knows it.
The pound knows it as well.
The only moral in the falling value of the pound is to demonstrate that the efforts of the Prime Minister to clip the wings of the Secretary of State have proved to be in vain. The pound has fallen to its lowest level ever today. The people know it, and perhaps when members of the Tribune Group try to explain the rising levels of unemployment in the Midlands and the North-West their constituents will follow the precedents in the local government elections and realise that the responsibility lies on the Treasury Bench.
Will the hon. Gentleman keep his voice down a little? He is waking his own back benchers.
I learned to talk loudly in the Standing Committee, when I had to wake the Secretary of State, who slept through our proceedings on one occasion. The Under-Secretary is aware that I attended every sitting of the Committee, whereas the Secretary of State was present for nine out of 28 sittings.
Is not this a case of the pot calling the pan rather sooty? The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) has been most notable for his absence, and it has been left to Dr. Watson to lead the Opposition in Committee—not Sherlock Holmes.
Conan Doyle metaphors are being carried to extreme lengths by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Hoyle). Perhaps he has been carried away by the analogies with the Old Testament prophet about which the country heard so much yesterday. It must have come as a surprise to find the Prime Minister claiming to have placed the regeneration of British industry in the white heat of the technological revolution in the hands of an Old Testament prophet without a beard. That is a reflection on the Prime Minister's judgment in appointing the Secretary of State in the first place.
Will the hon. Gentleman recall the Prime Minister's words to the effect that Labour's campaigns are either a crusade for Socialism or nothing?
I am glad that we have the ex-ministerial view of this legislation. I recall an article about in the financial pages of the Guardian, headed
After 13 sittings of the Committee, when the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) left the Front Bench, he devoted the other 11 sittings to arguing passionately against the policies which he had been advocating in the first 13 sittings. I hope that we shall hear from him what we may expect to be contained in the 1976 working papers of the Department of Industry which we have been promised in the Tribune newspaper. I want now to say a few words about the guillotine motion. There is no doubt that all Governments find it necessary from time to time to resort to the use of timetable motions. I do not complain about that. The Government of which I was a member did so. But there ought to be a degree of reason related to the legislation before the Government make use of guillotine motions. The suspicion, which cannot be avoided in view of the way that the Opposition have co-operated on this legislation, is that nothing to do with the legislation has led to the stampeding of the motion through the House, but that pressure on the Government's parliamentary timetable has forced them to a position where they are now attempting to redress the difficulties into which their timetable has slipped. The fact of the matter is that the Government need to make way for the legislation to nationalise the aircraft and shipbuilding industries which is waiting to come into Committee. We have a Department of Industry which had a Minister of State who has been replaced. I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary for the way that he has carried the work load on the Industry Bill Standing Committee. But no man can carry the physical pressure of taking a Bill of this complexity and length through Committee on his own. However, that is the personal pressure to which the Prime Minister has subjected him, because he is unable to fill the noticeable gap left by the ex-Minister of State a month ago. That is another reason confronting the Government—the need to save the pressure on their Ministers by relieving the burden of attention to the Standing Committee. The referendum campaign, together with other legislation being introduced, has put before the Government an almost impossible timetable problem. Therefore, they have decided to take it out of the proper consideration of this Bill which ought to be the concern of all hon. Members. I should like to finish on the same subject as that with which the Secretary of State for Industry ended his speech. The whole smokescreen that he attempted to put before the House was that the guillotine was necessary on the disclosure powers because the Conservative Party could take almost anything as long as it did not disrupt the conspiracy that it has with industry to prevent workers getting information. Out came the worn, weary phrases to show that the Conservative Government introduced legislation in the Insurance Amendment Act and the Counter-Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Act which had precisely the same effect. The right hon. Gentleman knows, as well as every hon. Member here, that in reality there was no provision in either of those measures for the information to be disclosed to the Government or to the public as part of the process. The right hon. Gentleman said that workers in the firms were to get the information. Let us be clear that workers or employees are nowhere mentioned in the legislation that we are considering. It is trade unions, members of which may not even be employed in the company that is disclosing the information. We are worried about the damaging effect and the dangers of the information going to competitors, including overseas companies. These are the extreme levels to which the Bill goes. Our industry is being put in a more unfavourable position than industry in any industrial society in the free world. That is why the Conservative Party is so worried about the disclosure powers. The reality is that not only did we not do it, as the Secretary of State for Industry has tried to suggest, but that, when the chips are down and the right hon. Gentleman is confronted with a real-life situation where he could make available information of the kind that he is going to compel British industry to make available, he runs like a scalded cat from the prospects of doing so. Anyone who has considered what he has done to the figures produced by the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation understands what I am saying. Anybody who has read the Ryder Report, with all the exclusions on the grounds of commercial confidentiality, must wonder what the word "lie", which the right hon. Gentleman used with such pride, has to do with the matter. The fact is that on all the occasions when Sir Monty Finniston or Sir Don Ryder provided the Government with the facts—other people would say the truth—and the Secretary of State for Industry was given access to that information which, in his language, should have been passed on to the workers in the firms concerned so that they would know what was going on, it was the Government's decision that none should be passed on. How the right hon. Gentleman can honestly use the word "hypocrite" to describe myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends I totally fail to understand. No man has so debased the coinage of Parliamentary langauge as the Secretary of State for Industry in this respect. It is because of this that industrialists are at their wits end to know how to conduct meaningful relationships with this Government. It is because of this that investment is being slashed from one end of British industry to another. Unemployment is rising because industrialists cannot get a straight answer which they can believe for five minutes on end out of the Department of Industry. The fact that unemployment in Britain is now on the verge of rising to 1 million in peace time for the first consistent period is as much the personal responsibility of the Secretary of State for Industry as any other man in this country. The use of the guillotine on this legislation is totally unwarranted by the evidence."What is wrong and what is right with the Industry Bill"
The prospects for British industry as long as the Secretary of State for Industry remains in his current post are gloomy and depressing.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He was referring to the fact that unemployment had increased and we had this trade deficit.
Order. I understand that the hon. Gentleman has done more than give way. He has resumed his seat.
Not for the first time has the Secretary of State for Industry shied away from the sickening and difficult task before him and sought the easiest and cheapest form of relief by abusing the stage army of the southern shires which goes by the name of "the party opposite" when it is referred to by Government spokesmen. I shall resist that temptation. Fascinating though I always find it in this Chamber, I prefer to spend my weekends taunting the stage army of the southern shires from a stance in Yorkshire.It is necessary to address ourselves to the serious motion before the House. In principle, as has been said from this bench before, the Liberal Party is not necessarily or at all times opposed to timetable motions, subject to two essential conditions which are certainly not met tonight. The first is that there shall be genuine consultation with all parties engaged on the Bill in question. That condition has certainly not been honoured in any respect. The second is that the timetable should apply, broadly speaking, from the start of proceedings on a major Bill and not be introduced at a very late stage when a great deal of the Committee work has been done. To my mind, these two points are of great and roughly equal importance. Regarding consultation with all those parties which are applying their minds to constructing amendments, to debating the amendments and to preparing for Report, I must remind the House that on a conservative estimate there are five organised political parties engaged on the Committee stage of the Bill and represented during all the 27 sittings which have so far taken place. I list them in order of their numbers on the Committee. The largest group is the Conservative Party opposition. The second largest group is the Tribune Group of the Labour Party which has made a welcome break in the usual mournful lot of Government supporters on a Standing Committee by taking a lively and, in my view, exploratory part in trying to improve the Bill. The third group in terms of numbers is the residue of the Labour spokesmen, and the fourth and fifth groups are, of course, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Party. I suspect that the only scrap of an excuse in the Government's mind which they may try to inflict on the House is that—I must be careful to speak only for myself as one of the two solitary party representatives—I have not been in 100 per cent. attendance on the Committee, although my record is by no means the worst. To anticipate a point which the Under-Secretary of State has tried to use before, I should like to point out that there is a wholly unjustified respect of persons in this matter of attendance in Committee. Apparently, to be absent for meetings of the Cabinet is so respectable a reason that it can scarcely be mentioned or, if it is, to be mentioned only in terms of the greatest awe and high regard; but for a solitary representative of a party which, at any rate last year, represented between 5 million and 6 million votes in the country to be absent on the business of his political movement is regarded somehow as a stigma of idleness or lack of stamina. I must make it quite plain, having checked on this, that at all times when the House has been sitting the Liberal Whips Office and representatives of my party have been available for consultation by Government representatives but they have received not so much as a whisper from Government quarters about this motion. There is another reason why this timetable motion is peculiarly inappropriate. We have been under an immense and peculiar disadvantage in Committee. To our great regret, at the thirteenth sitting, the Government Front Bench was deprived by an act of martyrdom of the assistance of the former Minister of State, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and owing also to the prolonged absences from the Committee of the Secretary of State for Industry the burden has fallen upon, and been carried most gracefully by, the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Oldham. West (Mr. Meacher). The hon. Gentleman has not only been preoccupied and worried by the remarkable change in the political tide in Oldham itself, which has moved in two much happier directions recently, but has had the very much greater burden of being a ventriloquist's doll in Committee, not knowing which prompter to accept. Half hour by half hour, by my reckoning, he has first been the obedient voice of his Prime Minister, and when that has proved a little tedious, or the heckling from the Tribune Group has grown too loud, he has become the voice of the Secretary of State for Industry. This has been no way in which to carry on profitable deliberations in Committee. As a result, the Bill will arrive back in the House on Report in an extremely ragged condition, with an amazing assortment of promises, half-promises and qualified promises from the solitary Government spokesman on the Standing Committee, who has not known from where to accept orders. Furthermore, in recent days there have been reports of further difficulties which the House will have when it considers the Bill on Report. We understand that there is to be an intervention from the highest quarter in regard to the contents of the key clauses of the Bill after the measure has come out of Committee. It has been said that there are to be consultations between the Prime Minister and the CBI which, in a manner which understandably has not been specified, will produce further changes in the Bill which this House will have only two days in which to consider, if the motion is passed in its present form. It is a travesty of the procedures of the House and of the faith which some people in the country still repose in us that we shall have only two sitting days in which to consider, on the Government's own admission, at least 33 amendments which they have promised the Standing Committee and an unknown number of amendments which the Prime Minister is understood to have half-promised the CBI. This is an intolerable burden for the House, and we shall not be able to do justice to all these amendments during the limited time which the motion proposes. We all know the real reasons for this timetable motion at such an extraordinary stage in our proceedings. The grim spectre of by-elections wanders to and fro among the ashen faces on the Government benches. The halt and the maimed among them are beginning to wonder how long they can last before they can apply for the Chiltern Hundreds, and it is the Government's deep desire, or at any rate the view of some of their supporters, that before they finally lose their majority in this place they must get their Industry Bill through. That is an argument which the Liberals in this House firmly reject, and we intend to vote against the motion tonight.
I had no intention of making a speech on this motion but I understand that some of the statements that have been made have referred to myself and I believe that on that basis alone I ought to make some comments in this debate.I have never spoken in a debate on a timetable motion because in the main I regard these motions as a bit of hypocrisy on both sides of the House. People get het up, and there is a lot of synthetic indignation, but the fact is that most hon. Members are delighted that there is to be a timetable and that they will be able to get the Bill through at a reasonable hour and in reasonable time. I believe that sooner or later the House must come to a rational view on the whole question of a timetable for each Bill before it goes into Committee. It is absurd that hon. Members should be expected to argue around perhaps one word for half an hour or three-quarters of an hour when they should be working to a timetable agreed by the House as a whole before or at the end of the Second Reading debate so that when hon. Members go into Committee they know that there is a limited time for the Bill and a set time for each clause, based upon the importance of the clauses. Opposition and Government Members, as well as Members who are not in the official Opposition, would then put down amendments that were of fundamental importance and we should discuss them properly rather than waste a lot of time as we do now and have a lot of unnecessary talking merely to delay the Bill. That is one way of dealing with the problem. There is another way of dealing with the matter. We have the absurd situation that all Bills must fall at the end of October or the end of the parliamentary year. I find it incredible that grown men and women, parliamentarians elected by the British people to deal with legislation, should decide that at the end of October, or whenever we decide that the parliamentary year has come to an end, anything that has not got through must automatically fall and we have to begin all over again, yet Parliament continues. If Parliament were not to continue, that would be a different matter. I hope that in this debate we shall not hear too much synthetic indignation from either side of the House. We have seen one sample of it from the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) who used it as an excuse again to bash my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry. It is absurd that my right hon. Friend has only to make the most moderate statement and it is built up as though he is a Stalin, a Hitler or some despicable person who wants to bring about some sort of dictatorship in this country. Anyone who has known my right hon. Friend personally and politically over the years knows that there is no better democrat in the House. In fact, if he can be criticised at all his fault lies in the other direction. I once criticised him at a Labour Party Conference when he was in the chair and fell over backwards to be democratic. I said "When I was Chairman of the Liverpool Trades Council and Labour Party, I would never have been so democratic. When you are in the chair you have to be in charge and should not give way so much to the floor." But that is where his fault lies, not in being dictatorial and wanting to stamp his views on people. We should start discussing sensibly how to deal with amendments on an agreed timetable. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) raised an important point for the House. He said that the Prime Minister had hinted, not once but many times—I do not know how these things happen, but all sorts of leaks about the Prime Minister's intentions seem to get into the papers—that amendments would be brought in to accommodate the CBI or someone else. I tell the Prime Minister now, quite bluntly, that I personally will take strong objection to amendments which are brought in on Report or through the House of Lords which have not been raised or considered by Members of this House. Secret deals outside this House are not on. We are not here to accommodate the CBI, the TUC or anyone else. We are elected to scrutinise legislation, and any amendments should come from us. I want it on record that I shall take strong exception to any secret deals outside the House with leaders of the CBI to introduce amendments through the back door, whether on Report or in the House of Lords. So it might as well be noted now that there will be quite a revolt of Labour Members if such deals are reached. Of course, despite all the talk of secret deals, this will not happen. Such things have been said in the past, but in the last analysis this House will decide on the legislation.
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that, for the convenience of the House, it would be better for the Secretary of State to clarify right now what I understood to be the import of part of his speech—that there would be discussions with the CBI with a view to introducing amendments before Report? It was not a leak or a rumour but was specifically announced tonight by the Secretary of State. Should we not all have that confirmation now so that we know what we are debating?
There is nothing wrong with discussions with the CBI or anyone else. Discussions should go on with all interested parties. I am talking about Press reports of accommodations reached with certain people about the introduction of amendments which have not been considered by hon. Members who spent many long hours in Committee—
The hon. Gentleman is attacking the Secretary of State.
I am not attacking my right hon. Friend.
I thought he was.
I am saying that if that happened, great objection would be taken and there would be a great deal of difficulty.The Bill must be got through as early as possible, although I do not expect the Opposition to agree. It needs amending and strengthening. As I said in my Guardian article which has kindly been quoted, I think that it is a watered-down version of the Labour Party's programme. It needs to be strengthened, just here and there, to bring it back into line with what the Labour Party envisaged. Strengthened or not, however, it is an absolute necessity. How else are we to deal with our problems of investment in industry? How else are we to regenerate industry in the regions and build the factories, many of them based on public ownership, which are required to create jobs on Merseyside, in Glasgow, in the North East and in Wales? We can do those things only with the kind of instruments created by the Bill. I would say to those who get so het up at the idea of extending public ownership, as I said in my Guardian article, that if there is any criticism of the Bill it is that we have not sufficiently defined where public ownership should be extended. I am in favour of a clear definition stage by stage. Because an argument in my party left the areas blurred, some business men were frightened. I think that they were wrong, but I can understand their feelings, which need to be overcome. I do not blame my right hon. Friend—this was a decision of the Labour Party at that time—but clarity is needed. If we do not get the Bill quickly, the problems of industry will get worse, not better. We have tried all the old solutions. The Prime Minister said on television yesterday that the Bill was an extension of Keynesian ideas. It is not full-blooded Socialism. It certainly does not entirely satisfy me. I should like to go much further. It is an extension of Keynes. Keynes was useful up to a point, but we are in a whole new ball game now. The old theories are no longer sufficient. The Bill goes beyond Keynes. It is a necessity. I would ask hon. Members not to get upset or express synthetic indignation but to accept the necessity for a timetable. After all, there are only seven or eight clauses and two schedules left. The time granted is sufficient—
Yes, Liberal. I ask hon. Members not to get upset but to accept the timetable as reasonable. I hope that the House will vote accordingly.
It is interesting to hear the former Minister of State speak about the Bill in such a reasonable manner. He speaks of the Bill as being of major importance but he does not say he wants the Bill; he says that he wants it quickly. I do not care whether the hon. Gentleman has taken part before in an allocation of time debate. I understand that he has probably never had an occasion to do so. Today he is taking part in such a debate, and his contention is that we have to get a move on, that Parliament must stop worrying about the details in the Bill, and possibly finding some mistakes, and speed up the process to put the Bill on the statute book because he and the Government want it quickly.We understand that the Government want to get their Bill, They have a right to get the Bill which the Opposition do not deny. We may dislike the Bill, and we may dislike some parts of it very much, but we have no power to stop the Government getting the Bill. We are given power in Parliament to oppose constructively and to put forward solutions to problems arising from the Bill; in other words, to be a constructive Opposition. In 28 sittings the Secretary of State has not complained once that the Committee has not been constructive, and he has been generous enough to say so. We have heard how the Under-Secretary of State on several occasions has drawn the attention of the Committee to the fact that we have been making good progress. There have been no dilatory motions and there have been no motions which could have been ruled out of order because they were wrecking motions. It is the most remarkable Standing Committee on which I have ever served—remarkable because of the progress it has made. The Committee has taken a long time—28 sittings—but we have not had one late night sitting. Last Thursday when the Lord President of the Council announced in the afternoon that there would be an allocation of time I expected that we might sit late that night to make up any lost time, but, no, the Secretary of State had an engagement outside the House and something more important than the Bill had to be considered. I was prepared to stay late that night, but we did not sit late. We have never sat late. We rose at 7.30 p.m. or sometimes at 8 p.m., never later, yet now we are told that the progress must be speeded up. The Government have not said that the Opposition have tried to trip them up. No trip wires have been put down in front of the Government. The debates have been constructive on both sides of the Committee. Long and argued amendments have been put forward by members of the Tribune Group. Although I have not agreed with them, I certainly think that they should be considered in Committee.
Just to get the record straight, many amendments have been put forward by hon. Members who have nothing whatever to do with the Tribune Group. They may be members of the Manifesto Group—I think that some are—and there has been agreement by most back benchers on the Government side to support those amendments. I wish that Opposition Members would not keep talking about amendments put down by the Tribune Group.
There have been amendments asking for the Bill to be strengthened, and to correct what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walter (Mr. Heffer) referred to as the watering down that had crept into the drafting from what he thought—presumably from a Labour Party conference or document—would emerge. Hon. Members have a right to seek to persuade their Government to accept a move to strengthen the Bill, but, equally, we have an obligation not to wreck the Bill.In Committee we do not make Second Reading speeches, and all Opposition parties have a right to suggest how the Bill should be amended to make better law. We have a right to put forward suggestions. Many amendments are suggestions for making the Bill correct in certain aspects. The Secretary of State knows that he has been present in Committee. I hope that what he said this afternoon is for real and that some parts of the debates upstairs will be taken on board by the Government. There are parts of the Bill concerning disclosure measures which are tricky. With respect, we think that the Government could be making a serious mistake, not from the Conservative Party point of view but from the national point of view. As my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) said, for the Government to require information from companies is one thing, but to insist that that information is automatically passed to trade unions not necessarily connected with the enterprise is quite another. For the Secretary of State to accuse me and the Conservative Party of muddying the water and not appreciating what is commonly called industrial democracy is a ridiculous attack to make on us. At no time have we been against disclosure to members of the enterprise, to employees. Yet that matter was raised this afternoon by the Secretary of State as a complete distortion and as a deliberate political intervention to try to confuse the issue. Of course we do not like the Bill, and we are seeking to amend it. The amendments that have been debated in Committee have been designed to make the Bill a better one. We have to make the best of a bad job. The debate has been controlled and the opposition has been controlled. I do not mind disclosing that it has been deliberately controlled to try to ensure that we do not waste time and that we are an example of parliamentary democracy working at its best in Committee, studying the clauses word by word and phrase by phrase. The Bill has been properly debated and our proceedings have been widely reported. The Bill is being watched closely throughout the country by both sides of industry and by the public at large. Each sitting has been reported and there is no lack of interest. Never once have I seen any Press commentary to the effect that anyone on either side of the Committee is dragging his feet. Why, therefore, do we want this allocation of time motion? It is a great mistake for the Government to suggest it. It strains the Government's character, and it is something of which they cannot be proud. The Secretary of State is sitting here tonight, and that is a mark of the respect he has for Parliament, but he made a great blunder in going to the Lord President and saying that he must get the Bill through quickly. I know why he wants it. He has the British Leyland problem and he wants to have the mechanism for handling it. All we ask is for enough time to consider the Bill seriously and to continue our constructive work. We must give time for parliamentary democracy to work and be seen to work. If that means just two or three more days in Committee, let us not give any indication outside that Parliament is ceasing to do its work at this serious and dangerous time in our history.
The hon. Gentleman must recognise that there is a question mark over his arguments. I take it that he is concerned about EEC regulations going through the House like a dose of salts in one-and-a-half hours. He is pleading for time for a Bill that has already had many hours' discussion Will he adopt the same argument about the EEC and argue for a "No" vote on 5th June?
I must not be drawn into that one. The Secretary of State is not even taking up the hon. Gentleman on that. That is a separate matter. The Bill is a contentious one which from our point of view could be dangerous. We suggest that we want more time in Committee. We are asking to co-operate.I have drafted an amendment to the motion which Mr. Speaker has not called. All I seek is further consultations to secure a further amount of time in Committee—not many days. Why is the Bill being rushed through? The Government want the Committee to report by 12th June. Will the right hon. Gentleman still be the Secretary of State after 6th June?
Oh, come off it!
The dispute between the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State is common knowledge. There are enough shots across the right hon. Gentleman's bows already.
The hon. Gentleman's shot is wide of the mark.
My sort of shots are like peas from a pea shooter compared with the shots from the Prime Minister's 15-inch gun. We may well have a new Secretary of State before the Committee finishes sitting. How do we know that the Bill will not be given a new direction and a new emphasis? It has changed its direction somewhat since the hon. Member for Walton left office. How do we know, if the present Secretary of State were to move, that the Bill would not have a different emphasis and direction, perhaps even following the Prime Minister's guidelines? What then? How foolish we would look if we had only one day in which to consider the new direction given by the new Secretary of State who was following the Prime Minister.We need more time. The Bill has a question mark put over it by the Prime Minister himself. Up till now the Bill has been devised and ordered by the wild men of the Left, both outside as well as inside the House. They have been cheered on by a not very virtuous crowd of foolish Fabians. It would appear that they have exhausted their arguments. They have grown tired of the opposition to the Bill. Have they grown tired? Are they trying to persuade us to accept their revolutionary ideas and their special solutions to the great industrial problems which we face? Is that why they want to close the discussion? Do they no longer want to hear another point of view? Why are they trying to stop the debate on the Industry Bill? Is their time running out? Is their Minister running out? Surely the Prime Minister would not agree that this is a time to stifle Parliament and gag Members of Parliament. Surely on a contentious Bill like this, which the Prime Minister regards as so important that he says that he will have to control it himself and nominate the members of the National Enterprise Board, he cannot intend that debates should be stifled in this way. The Leader of the House said last Thursday that he was going to be generous about the further time that he would give, to the Committee. I say that he is not being generous. Unless the Bill continues to be considered reasonably and as thoroughly as it has been so far, real harm can be done to industry and to the country, and it certainly will not help the Government—not even the present Labour Government. We have now reached a difficult and delicate stage in Committee when we are discussing the clause providing for compulsory disclosure to the Government and to the unions. We should be going slower at this stage, not faster. Instead of the Government wanting to put their foot down and accelerate the process as we go into this dangerous bend, they should be putting a brake on and giving us more time, because this is the very moment when we need the time. Can we, therefore, not come to some arrangement? Is it too late for the Secretary of State and the other right hon. Members on the Government Front Bench to consider whether this is not the time when there should be closer examination of the Bill in Committee and when Parliament should be given a chance to do its job properly? The Government are attempting to do too much and too fast. They are straining the patience of Parliament and of the people. I hope they will think again, and very soon, and then agree to give us this extra time.
As a comparatively new Member of this House, having listened to the hon. Members for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) I think that we are seeing the worst of democracy in this country. Members of a sterile Opposition are working themselves into a lather in which they could not even punch holes in a paper bag. They are not dealing at all with the urgent problems which face the country.It is admitted on both sides of the House that there is a need for modernisation of British industry in order to get the country back on its feet, to begin the restructuring and to produce the new look that is required. It is admitted in all quarters that successive Governments have failed in their efforts, well meaning though those efforts may have been, to bring about this new look in industry. Yet here we are going through the motions, as has been done so often before when a timetable motion has been introduced. It does not matter which party is in office; the same old arguments are used. It is a wonder that the public who are listening to this debate do not walk out in disgust. When people read the account of the debate in the Press tomorrow, they will say "There they are, wasting their time, saying the same old things all over again. What we want is some action." That is what the public are demanding. They want us to get on with the job. The Conservative Party is not concerned with the merits of what is done here tonight. It is concerned with cheap debating points and jibes about what the Prime Minister may or may not have said to the Press, whether it was an official leak or not. The Opposition seem to spend all their time on these matters. When we have been in Committee, however, what have we heard from them? What we have heard in Committee appears to me to have been a defence of the multinational companies. We have been asked to be soft with them. We must not be hard with them or they might pack up and leave and put people out of work. We must not take measures to provide for the disclosure of information. We must not look at transfer pricing and find out what is really involved in a multinational company. Opposition hon. Members are not concerned with the growing powers of the multinational corporations whose only belief is in higher profits, wherever they can obtain them. If they can find lower wage rates somewhere else, they will pack up and go. They are not concerned about this country any more than they are concerned about any other. The name of the game is the maximising of profits, though one would not think so from hearing hon. Members opposite defend them in Committee. That is what the argument has been about. It has not been about our country's real needs, not about giving a new face to British industry, not about making sure that more information is available, not about making sure that investment goes to the right place for the modernising of industry. In a most constructive speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made clear his concern about what happens in industry and about the need for more industry in the regions. That is what the Bill is about. Like my hon. Friend, I am not entirely satisfied with the Bill and I should like to see stronger measures in it. I have said so already in Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "That needs more time.") I do not need more time for it. I have been concerned about compulsory planning agreements and about ensuring that information is made available to the Government and to employees. That is my concern—not being soft to the multinationals. I want to see a national plan so that we may make a real beginning in the regeneration of British industry. Coming from the North West I want to see more companies go to that region, but at the same time I want protection for some of the most efficient companies which are there already. My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire), who is in his place on the bench below me, is aware of one of the problems which multi-national companies create for us in the textile industry. A mill in his constituency which may be closed belongs to a multinational. For the moment I leave aside the question whether it is or is not to close, because what concerns me now is that the employees who work for that company have proper information so that they know whether their future is secure. That is what we are working for. Only by beginning anew and putting into practice the measures in the Bill can we make a good start. There are admitted defects in the present practice. I have a vested interest here, because my own union, the ASTMS, out of its concern for the future of the motor industry, our chief exporter, put a series of searching questions to the multinational companies which dominate that industry. It asked about future markets, investment plans, transfer pricing and other matters. As was said in Committee, two of the companies have not even deigned to reply to that request for information on behalf of our members, whose future is at stake and who want to know. The workers in that industry are concerned not about high profits but about their future, their families' future and the future of the communities in which they live. Those who have an interest in these matters go beyond the workers in the factories themselves to the shopkeepers and others in the communities round about, because their future quality of life is affected. Moreover there are the suppliers to the motor industry, those who service cars, and even those who run filling stations. All these people too want to know what the future of the multinational companies will be. The Industry Bill is the first honest radical attempt to restructure industry and to take both sides into partnership so that the information which goes to the director or even to the absentee shareholder is available also to the employee. That in itself would be a great step forward. It would make for a sharing of ideas because the workers would then know where they stood. Because the Bill is both urgent and vital, we are proposing this timetable motion. Hon. Members opposite do not seem to realise that. They just want to carry on spending time. The hon. Member for Canterbury seems to think that a few night sittings would be the answer to everything.
That was what the hon. Gentleman said. He does not want the Bill to be rushed through, he wants to go into great detail, and he seems to think that the late hours of the night would be a good time to consider important legislation of this nature.
If the hon. Gentleman had read the Order Paper he would know that an amendment which I have put down, supported by several of my hon. Friends, suggests a further six days in Committee, sitting in the daytime.
That is what the hon. Gentleman says—
It is there in the amendment.
That may well be so, but there might still be a lot of time wasting. We might still not have made much progress by the end of that time. That is why we must get down to a timetable.I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Walton made a very fair observation, referring not only to the Committee on this Bill but to others, when he said that a timetable should be agreed before the commencement so that everyone would know where he stood. That would be a sensible arrangement. The archaic procedures which have been followed in the House for far too long need modernising. We must bring ourselves into line with the country's needs. We have to realise that we are well into the second half of the twentieth century. We have to get down to the job, which we are urging on people outside Parliament, of modernising. Our procedures must be brought up to date. We need the Bill urgently if we are to begin carrying out what we promised when we published our election manifestos last year. We must begin the modernisation of British industry and take into account the needs of all in industry, ensuring that everybody has the information and the facts that are required.
I found the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Hoyle) singularly disappointing. Not only is it quite clear that he has not read the Order Paper—if he had he would have known precisely the terms of the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch)—but it seems doubtful whether he has even attended the Standing Committee, even though he is a member of it. The gist of his speech was that in the Committee the Opposition had made their main point the defence of the multinational companies. If he reads the Official Report he will see that our constant argument concerned whether, in applying certain provisions of the Bill to these companies, there was likely to be a substantial decline in inward investment to this country, just the sort of investment we need to encourage if there is to be any regeneration of British industry.While the speech by the hon. Member was depressing, other hon. Members, notably the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), were kind enough to describe the Opposition in Standing Committee as "constructive". That has, indeed, been our approach. There have been many moments when we would have preferred to talk longer about individual clauses, but we were hurried on by my hon. Friends the Members for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and Bridgwater (Mr. King) because they wanted to ensure that we got to the vital clauses on the compulsory disclosure of information with ample time to discuss them. I personally would have liked much more time to probe the powers and functions of the NEB and the extension of its activities into the service industries, into banking and insurance. That aspect has not been taken on board nearly enough yet by the British public. However, we were asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley not to spend too long on it in order that we could make progress. It was notable that the Secretary of State referred to the number of amendments which have been brought forward. The latest copy of the notices of amendments up to Friday 9th May shows eight new amendments, all of them in the name of the Secretary of State for Industry himself. Why has the Committee stage taken so long? All of us regard the Bill as revolutionary. That was the Under-Secretary's description of it when he was referring last Thursday morning to the changes which would result from the Bill. I agree that it is revolutionary. I think it will see a fundamental shift in the power base in industry. Power will move irreversibly towards the Government and the trade unions. I hope that managers will continue to manage, but effectively they will no longer be responsible to those to whom they are responsible now. In future they will be responsible to the Government and the trade unions. The Bill encapsulates this new theory, that through planning agreements with workers who man the plants, and with the trade unions and with the Government who will provide the funds, management will find itself with wholly new standards, constraints and guidelines. That is a fundamental and revolutionary change in the way in which we handle industry. It is essential that it be debated most fully. I do not believe that this change will work, for two substantial reasons. First, I do not believe that any Government have shown themselves to be competent providers of public funds. On past records, every Government have shown themselves extraordinarily bad investors of public funds. Nor is there any reason why it should be otherwise. Why should Ministers who are professional politicians, or civil servants who are there to interpret their wishes, be any good at all at investing in vast commercial enterprises? The second, and arguably the more fundamental, reason is that the sort of control which the Secretary of State envisages passing to the work force and the trade unions is not wanted by Mr. Average on the work bench. The rejection of the participation offered by the Chrysler management to its work force over the weekend is an indication of that. Certainly it is admirable to have participation in decisions where a worker's own experience is relevant, increased efficiency in his own unit, and a rotation of jobs in his own part of the production line, so that the stifling monotony of doing the same thing all the time is avoided. Those things should be the concern of every management and every works council. However, I do not believe that control of a group's forward plans, its investment decisions and its product-mix is the worry of the average man working in the factory. For those reasons I do not believe that the revolutionary process planned in the Bill will be successful. Throughout the long Committee stage we have had a theological argument like that between Luther and the Pope, with the Government stating doctrinaire and dogmatic reasons why they believe the extension of State control will work, and the Opposition saying that we are quite certain that it will not work. Just as we have reached the most difficult and most important clauses in the argument—those which bring in the element of compulsion—the guillotine has fallen. I do not believe that discussion of the Bill should be curtailed in any way, least of all at this time, when the element of compulsion has been introduced in Clauses 20 to 24. Under these clauses companies are forced to give up their secrets and to reveal their forward plans to a Ministry. At this point there is real interference with the democratic right not to ask for public funds but, as a quid pro quo, to go one's own way in planning one's corporate future without Government interference. This threat of compulsory disclosure of information will have a serious effect on international companies. When the companies which are thinking of investing in Britain realise that they will have to reveal the details of their forward plans, and that they cannot be certain whose hands those details will fall into, they will think twice before expanding in Britain when so many other markets are available to them. I am glad that the Under-Secretary is listening, because he used the word "revolutionary" to describe the Bill last week. It is because it is revolutionary that it is totally wrong for the guillotine procedure to be introduced.
I had not intended to speak in the debate, but I wish to say that I very much agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said. It is not the first time that rational solutions for Bills in Committee have been put forward along the lines he suggested. It has been my painful duty to serve on some Committees which received hardly the treatment I should have liked them to receive. I hope that the House will give further consideration to this aspect.I do not want to join in bandying accusations across the Floor of the House. The interpretation of what is vital and what is not tends to shift as power changes hands. No doubt the Opposition still recall the vigour with which they put forward the idea that there was a vital need for reform of trade union structure and control over trade union activities. I hope they have not forgotten what vast areas of the Industrial Relations Act were not considered, the number of new clauses that remained unexamined and the vast number of amendments that were pushed on one side so that the Bill should reach the statute book. I hope they will not forget that when the Bill for our entry to the EEC was introduced not only did its drafting scandalise the then Opposition but, even though it was so short and cast in such general terms, it was allowed nothing like adequate discussion in the House. There is little profit to be gained from hurling accusations to and fro across the Floor of the House. But if we are to hear tones of moral indignation from the Opposition perhaps they will examine the history of the imposition of the guillotine. They will find who has made more use of this parliamentary weapon, quite legitimately. The Government regard the restructuring of British industry as vital. I do not believe that anyone would oppose that view. We have heard purely hypothetical arguments tonight, as in the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton), about what Mr. Average Man might or might not want. For the country's survival something must be done about industrial restructuring. I do not pin the blame for the present situation on any one party. I think it dates back to the tremendous sacrifices made during the last war, the bleeding of assets to fight and win that war, and, in the years after it, the inability of British industry to invest in order to modernise and place itself in a competitive position vis-à-vis the rest of the world. To this day we have not properly caught up on the backlog which resulted from the sacrifices by the whole nation. We have arrived at the stage that unless we do something about our industrial patterns we shall not survive. Central to this matter is the argument concerning the rôle to be played by the State in bringing about a regeneration and a resurgence of industry. The Bill will provide the Government with the means of forging one of the instruments to bring that about. That is the importance which the Government accord to the Bill. I regret that some aspects of the Bill will not be examined. The Government in their wisdom—or, as the Opposition think, lack of wisdom—have seen fit to employ the guillotine to ensure that a start will be made. I appeal that there should be no unctuous attitude about the matter. We must view it from a liberal point of view and realise that industry is in such a state that something must be done about it. In spite of all the criticisms, it will be seen how necessary it is to make a start on that process. I hope that the Bill will be fully supported.
We are at a moment of economic and industrial crisis in Great Britain. Nothing that the Prime Minister says to reassure us, whether on television or radio or in the House, will alter the fact that we are in a state of extreme industrial and financial crisis. One of the contributions to that crisis is the profligacy of the Government. Another is the stifling extension of the Government machine.The Bill has two intentions—first, to extend Government profligacy, which they call investment, and secondly to extend the Government machine, which they call the revelation of information to the work force. There are two views on the matter. There is the view that the Bill will contribute to the restoration of confidence and will provide for investment and for the regeneration of British industry. I do not hold that view. It is not a view which is reinforced by the fact that the first child which fell into its anticipated lap, British Leyland, will be given enormous funds with which to remain as degenerate, fossilised and overstaffed as it has always been. That does not seem to me to be an important consideration in the regeneration of British industry. No Bill has contributed more to the collapse of industrial confidence. No Minister has contributed more to present public confusion and the lack of public confidence in the Government. That may be right or wrong. History will judge whether the Minister stands rightly accused and whether the Bill has contributed to industrial confusion. I am certain that the Bill is the author of that confusion. Whether it will put an end to that confusion I do not know. I believe that the Bill is bad politics. It is badly drafted and it involves a number of measures of bad law. The Under-Secretary has done his best. I make no criticism of him. He faced and held the line alone and frequently he relied on others to hand him the weapons to use. The Bill involves much bad law. It involves many constitutional changes, which hon. Members on both sides should understand. One of the principal constitutional changes involved is that the Bill hands a large part of the sovereignty of this House over to the Government machine. While the House may receive reports from time to time, which in theory it could negative, the Bill hands a great deal of power over the running of industry to the Government machine. That is a bad constitutional practice. We have had very few concessions. There are large misunderstandings in the Bill, not only on our part but on the Government's part, and those misunderstand ings will continue. We are now discussing what may be disclosed. It is fantasy to imagine that if the major concepts of the multinationals are disclosed we can suddenly say to the work force "At last we are liberated from secrecy and so we shall work hard for less and better and more efficiently". It is fantasy and it is false. It is pursuit of that fantasy to imagine that major defects and contradictions may achieve salvation. It is most important that the disclosure of information, wrong information and unnecessary information, which is a false concept of the regeneration of industry, to Government Departments to hand on to trade unions should be properly controlled. The coming clauses create dangerous criminal offences for the citizen. When we are making what are called revolutionary changes, it is important that we should have proper consideration of what I say without demur is shockingly loosely and badly drafted legislation. Clause after clause is incomprehensible and meaningless. Why do we have the guillotine? It is in order that we can get on with longer, worse-drafted Bills that will hand more of the sovereignty of the House to bigger bits of the Government machine yet to be built. The Committee has been constructive, realistic and restrained. We have had very few concessions. The House has too much legislation and too much bad legislation, and this is as bad an example of bad legislation as we have had. When we are extending legislation and the Government machine and bureaucracy and Government expenditure, it is important that in protection of its own sovereignty the House should not be put through the humiliating experience of having that legislation extended by those who advise the Minister without consideration for the representatives of the people, who are to be fettered by these clauses for all time to come.
I shall not comment on the views of the hon. and learned Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) on the subject of the sovereignty of the House, for I might be tempted into one or two avenues that would be irrelevant.Perhaps the most pertinent comment in this debate, which is not about the merits or otherwise of the Bill but about the guillotine, came from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I entirely agree with him about the need to review the mechanism by which the motion has come about. Certainly it is somewhat ironic that this Bill, much of which is to do with consultation in industry, a point made by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), should have attracted a guillotine about which there has been no consultation whatever. It is shocking, and this Department especially would find it hard to justify. I have attended all 28 sitting of the Committee. There have been times that I have missed, but I have not missed one sitting. But the first I knew was when the general public knew that there was to be a guillotine. We have spent a considerable time on the Bill, 70 or 80 hours already, and many of the observations on amendments have sometimes been reiterated. Had we had a schedule from the start to which we knew we had to work, there might have been a better chance of spreading the work load so that the vital clauses now being discussed could have had better coverage. I have tried to speak briefly, and I think that others have. Members on all sides have withdrawn amendments rather than pressed them when they have felt that there was little point in pursuiing them and that they would not earn any great changes in the Bill. In the guillotine proposals the amount of time that is allowed for the Report stage is too little. Many points have been raised which have been vague and open-ended and require changes on Report but they will not be accommodated within the time allowed by the motion. I would much have preferred us to sit later in the time we have up to the limit and to have had more time on Report to make sure that the bits that need tying together are tied together adequately. A point which arose in Committee and which is pertinent is the way the Industry Bills fits together with the Welsh Development Agency Bill and the Scottish Development Agency Bill. That is one argument against bringing the debate on the Bill to too premature a close. Through the courtesy of Conservative Members, the Welsh and Scottish Development Agency legislation has not seen the light of day for debate. As a result there has been very little overlap between the two Bills, although there is a great overlap between the functions of these respective bodies. The argument about the Welsh Development Agency Bill during the past two weeks and this guillotine motion tonight reflects the fact that there is too much legislation going through the Chamber, or underlines the fact that the Chamber cannot deal with the amount of legislation that is necessary. This is a strong argument in favour of devolution for Wales. This matter of the Industry Bill must be cleared up as early as possible. As so many hon. Members have said, it is causing a considerable amount of industrial uncertainty. Therefore, there is a good argument in favour of having an early conclusion of the Bill. I only wish that the Government had tried to discuss this with the various parties to see whether a timetable, such as they now have in mind, could not have been accommodated by general agreement rather than by forcing it on the parties. I urge the Government to think again about whether they need to bring in the guillotine. Would it not be possible to consider this matter with the parties, outside the Chamber, and to draw up a practical timetable that causes no acrimony?
I shall not take up much of the time of the House because I merely wish to make two brief points. I shall direct my remarks to the guillotine as such rather than contemplate any deep considerations about the content of the Bill.As I was not a member of the Committee I am not aware what has transpired in terms of times and sittings. It would appear that time wasting or filibustering is one of the accepted ingredients whichever party is trying to get a Bill through. In this situation, it behoves those who have control of time, in this sense, to decide the balance between making constructive amendments and proceeding with the Bill, and how much filibustering is to take place.
That responsibility rests with the Committee, and if the Committee chooses to spend its time filibustering and not being constructive, and if the Opposition in Committee makes that decision and it does not work out, it is their responsibility.Time is allocated in this House for debates. We have a programme from Monday to Friday. Question Time is allocated certain periods of time and so are Private Member's Bills, and the rest. We tend not to want to do anything about Committees. I cannot see why any Bill going to Committee cannot be given time in terms of weeks or months, and then why both sides cannot agree on the number of meetings and hours they will spend on the Bill. I agree with the remarks made by my hon. Friends, that if we are in Opposition we stonewall and if we are in Government we want to press on. A great number of people are rather concerned that we get on with legislation irrespective of the contents in the Bill. It would save a great deal of time if some agreement were made on the basis of weeks and months. I am reminded of a report I read today about the Prime Minister "fiddling and waffling" in a speech he made yesterday. That was said of him by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior). However, I remember being in a Committee last Thursday morning listening to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues waffling on asking "When is a civil servant a civil servant?" for two and a half hours. We were told that if anyone working for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service was called a civil servant he could not be neutral in carrying out his duties. We had to listen to the Opposition for a good part of the morning. That sort of thing takes place irrespective of which party is in Government and irrespective of the Bill in question. It would be sensible to get agreement about a period of weeks or months for how long the discussion of a Bill should last. However, I believe that the motion should be approved tonight.
I shall not follow up the remarks of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Tierney). However, I want to refer to the remarks of the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), who has been a member of the Committee concerned and a very faithful attender, as he said—indeed, perhaps he has attended almost too frequently, from our point of view, as a supporter of the Bill. He was very fair in his criticism of the guillotine motion. He rather let the cat out of the bag regarding consultation. I am in agreement with him about that. He was aware of the prospect of the timetable only in the same way as a member of the public. That is a scandalous disregard for the consideration and courtesy which ought to be shown to hon. Members of any Opposition party.In considering the motion, perhaps it is relevant to look for a moment at the record of the Secretary of State. It is relevant to see whether there is justification for steamrollering the Bill through in the way that the Government apparently intend. Despite the Secretary of State's considerable talents in a party political sense, apparently being labelled as those of an Old Testament prophet, or an evangelist, or whatever one cares to call him—although he may make some of the prophets turn in their graves by some of the things he has said and done—it is worth considering whether industry is stronger now under his benign rule over the last year. Is industry more confident today than it was a year ago? Following the White Paper last summer "The Regeneration of British Industry", which led up to the Bill, are the prospects of regenerating British industry coming closer to fruition? We are entitled to ask these questions, because that is what the Bill is all about. Are managements and unions optimistically awaiting the passing of the Bill into law? When I hear what is said in industry, I rather doubt that. Indeed, is the Secretary of State tirelessly visiting industry to hear its point of view and what its real troubles are in 1975? On almost every count on which one tries to assess the right hon. Gentleman's rôle during the last year as fairly as possible, one must find him guilty of damaging industry to the most serious extent, and more than any Minister in living memory. At no time has industry had lower confidence, as my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) said earlier, than during this year. One wonders why that is so. One does not need to wonder for long. Looking at the Bill which we have been discussing for so many hours in Committee and hearing the odd replies made by the Secretary of State when he has actually attended the Committee, one can see why no one any longer believes that the Secretary of State believes in the private enterprise system. I do not think that anyone now believes that he wants that system to succeed. If what the Prime Minister said yesterday is true, apparently not even he believes that the Secretary of State wants that system to succeed, and that is why the Prime Minister is clipping the right hon. Gentleman's wings. If that is the wrong impression, the Ministers at the Department of Industry have only themselves to blame. In this Bill they have almost deliberately blurred the frontier between private enterprise and the nationalised sector of industry. When the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said that he would prefer to see a clear programme of nationalisation and to know exactly what was to be nationalised, I thought that he had a very good point. Perhaps, then, industrial confidence would have been higher. But it is the vagueness of this legislation and the intent that we know to be behind it which is the most damaging. Today no one can vouch that other segments of trade and industry will not suffer the same or similar fates as those about to be intervened in or nationalised. The very interventionist nature of the Secretary of State is the most damaging of all, whereas for some people it is the right hon. Gentleman's charm that he rushes round wanting to intervene. Although the Secretary of State lectures us frequently about the Conservative 1972 Industry Act, apart from the fact that there are very clear differences between that Act and this proposed legislation, almost the most important one, leaving aside the details of the Bill, is that the 1972 Act was introduced by Ministers who believed in the private enterprise system and wanted to see it succeed, whereas this Bill is sponsored by Ministers who deliberately want to see the free side of our industry suffer the fate which apparently they plan and gradually to be taken over by the State. So we have the combination of the Draconian powers in the Bill and the interventionist judgment of the Secretary of State leading to total disaster for industry as a whole. How can a Bill provide confidence when it describes the reason for State intervention in the vaguest possible terms? How can such a Bill be anything but very damaging? One of my hon. Friends commented on the bad drafting of the Bill. That is one of the reasons why we have needed more time in Committee. We have had to try to look behind words to see what they meant. We needed more time to do that. The effect on the aircraft and shipbuilding industries demonstrates other areas where confidence has lapsed. Here we have these two great industries left in limbo. They are not concerned directly with this Bill. But if the Secretary of State is concerned with industry as a whole he should be concerned about the lack of investment in those industries. However, we read in the Press today that perhaps the Government will not proceed with the other Bill with which we have been threatened. The Secretary of State has other ways in which to restore confidence in industry. As we debate this motion, as the country is being dragged down steadily by the Government, as the pound slides daily in the market, and as the Secretary of State appears to be fighting the Prime Minister about the EEC rather than helping the Committee considering the Bill, all that we have is a three-hour debate in an attempt to curtail discussion of the Bill. In present national circumstances, this debate is a disgraceful one. It is disgraceful because we have a Secretary of State consistently damaging industry and running it down. Now he is having to curtail discussion because he wants this Bill bulldozed through Parliament. I make a final plea to the Under-Secretary, and I hope that he will pass it on to his right hon. Friend. I ask him to use his very considerable talents to talk to managements and unions in industry and to ask what it is in this Bill which is worrying them. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not ignore the CBI and members of middle management and talk only to miners' rallies or anti-Common Market rallies. I want him to get down to shop floor level and to talk to managements, supervisors, trade unionists and boards of directors and ask them what it is in his Bill which is undermining confidence. I believe that he would get some very interesting information from them. Perhaps he would then come back to the Committee, tell us that he has done that, and introduce the changes that he believes, from his experience of talking to industry, will restore confidence. I believe that we could then go ahead and discuss the Bill in detail, as should be done. If the Secretary of State did that, he would be well on the path to helping industry to prosper once again.
Because of the short time available I shall be brief and curtail some of my intended remarks.It would be wrong to allow this occasion to pass without recording the total failure of the Secretary of State for Industry to justify the timetable motion. First, he said that this was a matter of urgency. In the same breath, however, he said that we had only four clauses of substance to consider. He it was who paid tribute to the constructive opposition which had taken place in Committee. In that situation, how he can turn round and say that this is now a matter of great urgency does not add up. The Secretary of State said that the argument had been well ventilated, and he referred to discussions at the Labour Party Conference and so on. To pursue that argument is to ignore totally that we regard the disclosure clauses as bringing out the one pre-eminent difference between the White Paper "The Regeneration of British Industry" and the Bill. Therefore, I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman has in any sense justified this motion. I shall move on quickly to why I think that, by definition, the Bill is so important and why time should be made available to discuss it fully. After all, we are concerned with long-term change. I do not believe that any hon. Member would regard the Bill as likely to bring speedy results. I do not think that its most fervent advocates are saying that. The Bill seeks to bring about a major structural change of industry. Surely, if there were ever an occasion when this House should be given an opportunity to consider legislation in the most careful way, it is when it effects a structural change. We are not considering a shopping list arising from a Budget; we are not considering the pros and cons of taxation, which I believe can often be discussed in more partisan political battles. We are discussing matters upon which there is general agreement about the nature of fundamental change. On all sides there has been agreement that no clear picture has emerged to show why the urgency should suddenly arise now. The argument in favour of urgency could have been applied at any time. Therefore, why should the Government come forward with this proposal now? In answering that question, we have to consider the sequence of recent events. First we had the resignation by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) as Minister of State. I believe that that was a loss to the Committee. I welcome the hon. Member for Walton on his return to the Chamber, because I think he made a most constructive speech with which many of us had considerable sympathy. Following the then Minister of State's departure, we undoubtedly had confusion and uncertainty in Committee on the Government's general line. I join those who have paid tribute to the Under-Secretary of State. It has been a major undertaking for a junior Minister to hold the fort, and he has certainly done that. The Under-Secretary of State and those of us who make up the Committee have been responsible for the progress that has been made and the constructive line that the Secretary of State has praised. Inevitably, problems have been posed by the Secretary of State's other commitments. We understand why he could not be present, but we must consider the difficulties. For example, there has been the difficulty of challenging the right hon. Gentleman. I recall a number of occasions when the right hon. Gentleman, having made particular comments at one sitting, would deny us the opportunity of taking up those points because he was not present at the succeeding sitting. I do not mean it in any personal sense when I say that these problems, arising from sources which we understand, have been problems for the Committee as a whole and touch on the very nub of the argument about lack of opportunity to discuss the matter in detail. The answer to the question "Why the urgency now?" when, as the right hon. Gentleman said, there are only four substantive clauses to consider must come back to the great charade that we have all had to play in recent weeks. It must be clear to all who have been in the Committee that there has been a definite plan to keep the battle rolling from the Government standpoint until we get past 5th June. In a sense, I extend my sympathy to the Secretary of State. I realise why it has been the wish of various people to keep him occupied until 5th June, and I can understand why they wish to put on all speed once they can see their way past 5th June. Having said that, however, this charade, this whole sham, is very hard to take. The Government have achieved their objective, and it is important that we should be able to consider the remainder of the Bill in a proper and balanced way. I summarise by saying that this motion cannot be justified. It is out of keeping with the Committee's work which has been praised by the Government. It is out of keeping with the importance of the subject—so important that the Prime Minister himself is to take personal charge of the implementation of the Bill. The only way in which the motion can be understood is in relation to the Government's own internal difficulties. Those are not our difficulties. They are not of our making. We should be given more time, and this attempt to deny us more time is getting at the very heart of parliamentary democracy in denying many hon. Members opportunities which we should rightly have for further consideration.
I do not wish to dwell at length on the speech made by the Secretary of State for Industry. In my view, it was one of the most lamentable speeches that I have heard in the House, not so much because his view, quite reasonably, is so different from our own, but because of the deliberate attribution to my hon. Friends and myself of views which we do not hold on this question of disclosure. The Secretary of State did himself no good by indulging in that sort of practice.I thought it was lamentable that the right hon. Gentleman chose to set himself up as an object lesson in disclosure when he has been responsible for bringing to this House a report on British Lay-land which is an object of non-disclosure. It is quite clear in that report that the right hon. Gentleman recognises that there are real and practical difficulties in the whole question of disclosure, and it is because we recognise that there are real and practical difficulties that he chooses to pillory us and suggest that we hold partial and selective views, which we do not. I want to refer to the disclosure clauses which we are discussing because it is in the essence of these clauses that one finds the prime justification for not subjecting the Bill to a timetable for the remainder of its length. Three fundamental principles are raised by these clauses. First, there is the basic issue of parliamentary and public accountability. I said in Committee upstairs that in this group of clauses there are the most far-reaching powers that have been taken selectively by Ministers. They are more far-reaching than any other powers taken by Ministers in industrial policy, and I do not think there is any difference of view between us on that. But accompanying the taking of those powers and the use of them is the fact that accountability is virtually nonexistent. The only measure of accountability is that Ministers have to lay before the House an order saying that they wish to get information from an individual named company. No reason has to be given for the use to which the information will be put. No information has to be given about who shall have that information. There will merely be an order with the name of the company, and the House will be free, if it chooses, to try to negative the order. Once the order is passed there will be no further element of accountability in the use of the powers. It will be open to Ministers to issue notices under Clause 21 requiring detailed information under a list of heads in the clause. There will be no limit to the number of notices that can be applied to any one company. There is no limit on the number of Ministers who can apply notices to a single company, and there is not even a limit on the period in future for which estimates may be required. In other words, these are, effectively, open-ended powers to seek detailed information from a company and every one of its subsidiaries without any stitch of justification or accountability. That is a major matter, which we had hoped to have adequate time to debate. Second a fundamental principle is raised as to how far it is reasonable by law to compel companies to disclose commercially confidential information. We have raised this not because we see any merit in secrecy in itself but because we know—I hope the Secretary of State will at least acknowledge this—that those who will lose most from the unfortunate and unnecessary leaking of commercially confidential information are not the shareholders or the directors but the employees. That is why we attach such fundamental importance to this matter. The provisions to protect the confidentiality of information once it has had to be disclosed by law to Government Departments are totally inadequate. It is totally inadequate to provide for a committee to be appointed by Ministers, which will be part and parcel of the executive, and to suggest that it will be wholly independent. It cannot be independent of the executive while it is part of it. We believe also that the grounds for withholding information are far too limited. A company would have to show that the release of certain information would be seriously prejudicial. That is far too high a hurdle to ensure that important information which may have real significance will not be disclosed to the disadvantage of a company and, more important, of its employees. The final point of principle is whether it is right that we should establish new legal rights to information going to only a few selected people. Despite all the talk from the Labour Party and particularly from the Secretary of State about industrial democracy, not a stitch of industrial democracy is provided for in the disclosure clauses. The legal right to the information once it has been passed on is not that of employees generally, it is not that of union members, it is certainly not that of shareholders, although that might be expected. The legal right is confined to trade union representatives who may not even be employed by the firm in question and who themselves are under no obligation to pass on the information. Whatever the Labour Party's intention may have been, we believe that, if new legal rights to information are to be established in the name of industrial democracy, there should be no legal distinction between different groups of employees. They should all have the same rights, regardless of whether they are union members or not. Those three fundamental principles, relating to accountability, custody of commercially confidential information and ensuring that legal rights are the same among all employees in a company, are raised in the remaining clauses. Because the timetable will not necessarily allow sufficient time to discuss these matters, I hope that the House will reject the motion.
I hope that I have an enviable reputation in the Committee for brevity, but I intend tonight to be as brief as I have ever been.We are here bartering a few clauses relating to detailed information which could affect the future of British industry against the wishes of a Government who have lost all control over their timetable. They wish to ensure not that the Industry Bill is properly considered in Committee but that they can bring other measures into Committee to suit the time-able that they have set themselves. When we gave the Bill a Second Reading, we thought that we were entering a planning agreement with the Standing Committee to examine every aspect carefully in the name of British industry. However, as soon as we got to anything which smacked of disclosure of information and we put down amendments, we found that we were up against the Government's intransigence in preventing us from examining the Bill as we would wish. I deplore the introduction of this motion.
The debate has been concerned mainly with justification for the introduction of the timetable motion. As several hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, guillotines have been used before and will no doubt be used again, but we are concerned to see the justification for using it on this occasion.My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) said that the Committee had been a strange one. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright) said that five parties—one could argue that there are six—were represented on the Committee. One feature that immediately strikes hon. Members who visit the Committee is that Government Members—if one may call them that without offence—have not been in any sense dutifully silent. Another feature of the Committee is the way in which my hon. Friends and I had to save the Government on several occasions by voting with them against their own supporters. The Secretary of State was generous enough to say that there have been no complaints of filibustering or any attempt to prolong debates. I am glad he did so, otherwise I would have made the claim—supported by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) when he served on the Committee as Minister of State and by the Under-Secretary of State—that there had been no attempt to filibuster on the Committee. The only complaint about a speech made in Committee was made by the Under-Secretary of State to me, and his complaint was that my speech was too short. That is a remarkable complaint to make to a Member of the Opposition. I suppose that another criticism of the speeches might be that the Under-Secretary of State was occasionally told by one or two older and wiser heads behind him that his speeches were too long. Certainly that charge has not been laid against the Opposition. As my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury said, the Committee has never sat late. While there is no virtue in sitting late, it is usually a yardstick of the fact that time is of the essence and that there is a certain pressure on the Bill. The latest time of sitting is 7.48 p.m. I know of no precedent for a Bill coming to the Floor of the House for a time-table motion when the Committee has never sat late at night after the dinner break. We are already on Clause 21 of a Bill with only 30 clauses. I fail to see that any justification has been advanced even by the Secretary of State, who generously went out of his way to try to prove that certain matters were not the reason for bringing forward the motion. It has been difficult to establish just why we are here. That point was made very well by my hon. Friends the Members for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) and Surrey, North-west (Mr. Grylls). When one looks to see what are the reasons, the first one that would strike any visitor to the Committee is that there is only one Minister to cope with a major Bill of considerable complexity and detail. The hon. Member for Colne Valley said that there is a convention that the Secretary of State may be absent for Cabinet business. Some Opposition Members would be forgiven for thinking that the Cabinet had been in more or less permanent session since the Committee started, judging by the presence of the Secretary of State. One understands the pressure on his time, but in the strange position in which the Committee is placed with the absence, for reasons well understood, of the hon. Member for Walton, one would have expected the Secretary of State to wish to jump into the breach. Instead he dealt with only seven amendments during the whole of the prolonged Committee stage. The Under-Secretary of State has carried a major load with diligence and courtesy—and on occasions with poor answers, as he would expect me to say. When I was appointed to the Committee, my job was to shadow the hon. Member for Walton. Occasionally on the sporting field I have marked opponents who have subsequently had to be carried off the field, but I have never had to mark someone whose captain sent him off the field for trying to trip him up. When we look for reasons for this, whether it is the fact that there is only one Minister to take the Bill through the Committee and the impossibility of the Committee sitting as many hours as might be possible I do not know. The other reason, advanced in The Times—it was not attributed directly to Ministers—is that Ministers are arguing that the parliamentary timetable is congested and there is a need to accommodate other measures. That has nothing to do with the Industry Bill, its merits and the time for consideration of proper amendments to the Bill. It is not the fault of the Committee if the Government have got themselves into such a mess in the rest of their timetable that these things have to be steamrollered aside. Why does the House have to consider such a measure so quickly? Is it that there is such a pile of other legislation that everything else, regardless of its merits, has to be swept on one side so that the steamroller can keep on rolling with yet more and more legislation which is likely to be more damaging to the country? As yet no case has been made for the guillotine. The hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), who took great exception to the lack of disclosure by the Government of their intentions to have the guillotine, made a very powerful point about the lack of time for the Report stage. If there is one thing which we criticise above all, it is this. It is outrageous that only two days have been allotted for the Report stage when the Government have already undertaken to bring forward 33 amendments, when we still have ahead of us the promised discussions between the Prime Minister, I suppose the Secretary of State for Industry, and the CBI, and also the deliberations on further stages of the Bill, not forgetting the rights of the Opposition and parties which were not represented in the Committee to bring forward further amendments of their own. To allocate two days for that seems to me outrageous. The other serious criticism of the timetable motion is that it represents appalling Government judgment. We have considered the psychology of the Government's presentation of the Bill in Committee. Here we are with a crisis which is causing great concern in the country. The hon. Member for Walton admitted this, and his article in The Guardian has been much quoted. There is genuine concern. The Secretary of State might argue that that concern is misplaced; none the less it exists. Industry sees the Bill moving towards its most sensitive point, and then the Government choose to bring down the guillotine. Industry's concern will be in no way alleviated by the sort of speech made by the Secretary of State this afternoon. I have great respect for his powers at the Dispatch Box and for his normal presentation of a case. Whether I agree with his argument is another matter. The second part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech today, however, was quite disgraceful. Ten years ago I not only believed in but was trying to practise some of the things which he claimed were now a revelation delivered to himself personally. I found this grossly offensive. Many of my hon. Friends share that criticism of the distortion in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The way in which he mentioned the workers had all the intellectual sophistication of somebody on a soap box saying "What about the workers?" The suggestion that we were in any way trying to prevent sensible disclosure and involvement in communications was disgraceful. What the outside world sees is the Secretary of State's attempt to gag the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation. They see the way in which he has turned on the BBC and the Press. They see the way in which he is attempting to gag further discussion on the Industry Bill. If the Secretary of State wonders why this gives rise to concern, he should remember two other things on which he has often laid great stress. I can remember the right hon. Gentleman, at the time of the Conservative Government, making great speeches in the House about the need for consent, saying that no Government could govern without consent. I was struck by the leading article in The Times of 2nd May, referring to the Bill to nationalise the aircraft and shipbuilding industries—though it applies equally to this case:
When they keep claiming that they have a mandate, the Government should always remember that they had the votes of only 28 per cent. of the electorate on which to claim a mandate to impose a very Socialist policy. I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State once again looking to see whether that figure is right. He will find that it was 39 per cent. of the votes counted and 28 per cent. of the electorate. If anyone suggests that those who did not vote should not be counted, let him remember—I am sure hon. Members on both sides will be honest enough to acknowledge this—that there were many who did not vote as a positive act of dissent, from the policies of either party perhaps, and they certainly cannot he taken as supporting Labour Party policies. As I say, with the support of 28 per cent. of the country, far below what I should have expected the Secretary of State to call the consent of the country, coupled with the fact that the local elections clearly show that that support is falling smartly from the 28 per cent., the Secretary of State still feels that he has a mandate to go forward. The other great concept to which the right hon. Gentleman has paid much lip service—no doubt we shall hear even more about it during the next two or three weeks—is the concept of parliamentary sovereignty. I hope that those who believe in free access to Parliament and the involvement of Parliament in full debate will pay attention to the right hon. Gentleman's speeches and arguments on the European question, and will at the same time note that in the House tonight he is trampling on the idea of consent by the people and by Parliament, and he is trampling on the very concept of parliamentary debate. Because we recognise the real hypocrisy behind this debate, because we believe that the Bill needed and should have had adequate time for discussion, we shall vote against the timetable motion."A strong Minister in a strong and united Government, backed by a clear electoral mandate, might well be justified in proceeding in this bulldozing fashion …. It is incumbent on a Government in the position of the present one to have some regard to the fact that, on a particular issue like arbitrary nationalisation, it does not have the support of the majority of the electors."
It is significant that the breakdown of the usual channels of consultation in the Standing Committee on this Bill came when we reached the information disclosure powers, for they are at the heart of the industrial strategy to which the Government have set their hand in tackling the fundamental problems of massive under-investment, low productivity and poor industrial relations which have devastated the British industrial landscape since the war.The bitter and unyielding Conservative opposition on this fundamental issue of getting necessary and proper information to workers shows not only how utterly unable the Opposition are to meet the industrial challenge today but how far they fail to recognise that our chronic problems cannot be solved if we stick to the secrecy of the past. They have demonstrated once again in this debate the interests which they come here to serve, the interests of management prerogative, of management supremacy and of management secrecy. For all the synthetic indignation in the opening speech of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), it is plain that those are the interests which he is determined to serve if he can. Just how narrow and sectarian are those interests of the Conservative Party was fully revealed by a recent Opinion Research Centre survey of industrial attitudes, which, interestingly enough, was reported in The Times of 14th January this year. For all the Conservative remarks that have been made about the inappropriateness of the information disclosure powers, it was interesting to read on the centre page of The Times, in regard to a sample of 2,000 respondents:
That makes it very clear why the Government are determined not to be prevented by the Opposition from letting the Bill go through and the solutions to problems of this kind to be provided. It is not the case, contrary to many comments which were made during the course of the debate and much of the propaganda which has been deliberately disseminated against the Bill in the country, that the Bill's disclosure powers are without parallel elsewhere. Perhaps I may quote from that not obvious purveyor of Socialism, The Economist, of 22nd February, which said with regard to Holland:"But, again and again in the survey, what comes out is the communications gap between management and worker … what they do want is information. Information about what is happening and why. A bigger say in the day-to-day running of things and in how their own work is planned and organised."
That is very much the kind of thing provided in Clause 21. The article continues:"'Unless weightly interests of the enterprise are opposed thereto' they must be consulted as soon as possible' about mergers, sales of the company or parts of it, closures, major expansion, contraction or change in the company's activities or its organisation".
That is exactly like the provisions of the Bill."In Belgium, since late 1973, the previously ineffective works councils have been entitled to a wide range of information on future plans. Companies can escape disclosure on specific points if they can prove to the Ministry concerned that it would be harmful."
Did the Minister quote the term "works councils", and, if so, what has he been opposing consistently in Committee recently?
We have our own better reasons for preferring trade unions in this rôle because they are the real representatives of the work force in a way that works councils entirely separate from the trade union movement are not. They are the proper organs for consultation in this country.
Who says so?
The article then deals with Austria. It says
It then goes on"Austrian employers planning major changes must discuss their effects on the labour force with the works council."
What a contrast with the British CBI and the British Conservative Party."In all three Scandinavian countries disclosure occurs both through works councils, and, much more recently, through worker directives. By and large industry has cheerfully accepted, sometimes welcomed, these developments."
Is it not the case that the Secretary of State for Industry when in Opposition admitted he had written to the management of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders suggesting that it slimmed the work force? Was that ever revealed to the work force by the right hon. Gentleman when he wrote that letter?
As the hon. Member should know, my right hon. Friend discussed the matter with them before he wrote the letter, so that is in no way an answer to the comments I have been making.It is to defend these crucial policy requirements which have numerous precedents abroad and which are a pale reflection of the much wider-ranging requirements for information disclosure in previous Conservative measures that we have been forced to move this motion tonight—
Who forced you?
Perhaps I should go into detail about the consultative channels which have operated in the course of the Committee, because I want to make them perfectly clear. The main need for the motion arises because of the unwillingness of the Opposition to give any form of assurance that a reasonable timetable would be maintained unless the Government altered their policy on the Bill. In other words, unless we bartered time for content there would be no agreement. That is something no Government would be prepared to enter into, and we are certainly not prepared to do so. This attitude is a prerogative of the Opposition, but in taking it they must expect that the Government will also take the steps that are open to them in order to ensure that their business is completed. That is precisely what we propose to do. It is relevant, in order to give an indication of the flavour of the attitude towards the time-spinning on the Committee, to quote two Opposition Members. First, I refer to the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who, significantly, did not speak tonight, so I shall speak for the hon. Gentleman in his silence. On 8th May he said in Committee—
Out of order.
The hon. Gentleman said:
"Let us realise that we shall not see the Bill on the statute book this Session. Why do not the Government pack it all in? They would save the time of the House on the guillotine motion."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 8th May 1975; c. 1620.]
Order. The hon. Member can give the substance of what was said but he should not quote.
The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury made it very clear that as far as he was concerned the Government had better take the Bill away and come back next Session. He was determined to ensure that it would not be passed this Session. That was the view of the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury in Committee.It is also relevant to quote the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), who on the 4th March said—
Order. I have just called the hon. Gentleman to order.
Perhaps I should make it clear that I do not intend to quote from the Committee proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman said:
I can well understand the right hon. Gentleman's views on this, because we all know which party has resorted the most to the guillotine. Since the war Labour Governments have used the guillotine eight times and Conservative have used it 17 times. I am a charitable man and I do not propose to recite a list of precedents, I shall confine myself to the reasons why I am asking the House to approve the motion. The other relevant consideration behind the motion is that very slow progress was made on the Bill at the start. The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) suggested in the debate today that we did not spend enough time on Clause 2. That is an indication of the attitude of the Conservatives to the time spent in Committee. We had no fewer than six and a half sittings on Clause 2, and we spent no fewer than 15 and a half hours on that clause."I have never believed that guillotine debates have been made any more interesting by the number of precedents that the introductory speeches have contained."—[Official Report, 4th March 1975; Vol. 887, c. 1293.]
The hon. Gentleman has made the point, and I have given a completely effective reply to the kind of attitude which he illustrated.The Committee took no fewer than 11 sittings to examine the first three clauses of the Bill, a rate of progress which, if it had continued, would have required nearly 300 hours to complete the Bill. However, this extremely slow progress—[Interruption.] I accept that we have moved a little faster, but in view of the enormously slow progress at the start we never achieved a proper timetable. Analysis of the first 26 sittings shows that, of amendments taken to a Division, Conservative amendments accounted for five times the debating time of Government back bench amendments. The Opposition are concerned that they have not had enough time. The House can judge the humbug behind those comments. Nor can it be said that the very slow progress made on amendments that were overwhelmingly Conservative was due to the negative Government reaction in handling them. The Government accepted either in principle or absolutely, for incorporation on Report, no fewer than 33 amendments, and also offered to consider a further 16. That was a very resonable reaction by the Government. The slow progress of the Bill before the guillotine can be demonstrated by comparing it with similar situations under the last Conservative Government. In the case of the Housing Finance Bill in 1971 and 1972, the guillotine was introduced when 45 sittings had considered 70 clauses. In other words, each sitting covered almost two clauses. Here we are introducing a guillotine when 28 sittings have been needed to cover only 20 clauses—in other words, when each sitting has covered only about three-quarters of a clause. I turn to a point raised by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), the Liberal spokesman, and a number of Conservative Members, about the time the motion allows for debate. The Committee is considering Clause 21. Only four of the subsequent clauses and two of the Schedules could reasonably be described as giving rise to any substantial points. If the Business Sub-Committee continues the present frequency, the motion provides for the Committee to have a further 12 sittings, and even if they are no longer than previous sittings—it is entirely a matter for discussion—the total time to debate the 30 clauses will be no less than 108 hours. That makes clear how generous the Government propose to be.
The hon. Gentleman has said that there are 49 possible Government amendments for Report. He has been talking about the Committee stage, and has now endorsed our point. Clearly, two days will be inadequate for Report.
I am coming to the point about Report and Third Reading. Two days are allotted. The Bill has 30 clauses and four schedules. Contrary to the view the hon. Gentleman has expressed, our allocation of time compares favourably with the time permitted for the Housing Finance Bill and Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Bill when they were guillotined. The former, with 103 clauses and 11 schedules, was allocated only three days, and the latter, with 78 clauses and 11 schedules, was allocated two days. The latter Conservatime measure was two to three times longer, and was more complex, yet it was given no more time on Report than we offer for a Bill one third of the length and complexity. Therefore, we can see the Opposition's humbug over the lack of proper time under the motion.I remind the House that the Government have the clearest possible mandate for the Bill. A detailed White Paper setting out their intentions was published last August, a White Paper prepared under the personal direction of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. With the White Paper as one of the key planks in their platform, the Government were re-elected with a substantially increased majority. There is no question but that the Government have the right to push the Bill through. I regret that the hon. Member for Henley tried to pretend that his unwillingness to agree to a reasonable timetable was due to shades of difference between the Bill and the White Paper. Such a claim is complete humbug. Despite all that has been said, including all that the hon. Gentleman has said and written, about differences between the two documents, 28 sittings of the Committee have revealed only two discrepancies. One concerns a financial limit at which the National Enterprise Board is required to seek the Government's approval. The
Division No. 202.]
|Anderson, Donald||Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)|
|Archer, Peter||Bidwell, Sydney||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bishop, E. S.||Campbell, Ian|
|Ashley, Jack||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Canavan, Dennis|
|Ashton, Joe||Boardman, H.||Cant, R. B.|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Booth, Albert||Carmichael, Neil|
|Atkinson, Norman||Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Carter, Ray|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Bray, Dr Jeremy||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Broughton, Sir Alfred||Cartwright, John|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara|
|Bates, Alf||Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Clemitson, Ivor|
|Bean, R. E.||Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Buchanan, Richard||Coleman, Donald|
other concerns the connection between the information disclosure powers and planning agreements, a change introduced to ensure that, as the hon. Gentleman himself asked when the White Paper was published, no element of compulsion was involved in planning agreements.
Those changes, which were made with the approval of the Prime Minister, whose name is printed on the Bill, in no way qualify the mandate which the people have given to our policy. The need to ensure reasonable progress for this Bill, and hence the need for this motion, arises not from the needs of the Government legislative programme but because the measures contained in the Bill represent the fulcrum of a new industrial policy.
I recognise that the Opposition do not accept these ideas, as indeed is their right. However no one has the right to obstruct a Government from implementing a set of proposals on the basis of which they were elected. That would be wrong at any time. I believe that in the light of our present industrial and economic problems it would be unforgivable.
In view of the overriding need, which is now widely recognised throughout the country, for measures now desperately needed to reverse the decades of industrial neglect in industry, I believe that we have a right to ask Parliament for the authority to prevent the Bill from being withheld from the statute book.
It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to put the Question necessary to dispose of them, pursuant to Standing Order No. 44 ( Allocation of time to Bills).
The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 266.
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Perry, Ernest|
|Concannon, J. D.||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Prescott, John|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Janner, Greville||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Corbett, Robin||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Radice, Giles|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Cryer, Bob||John, Brynmor||Roberta, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Judd, Frank||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llaneill)||Kaufman, Gerald||Rooker, J. W.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Kelley, Richard||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Deakins, Eric||Kerr, Russell||Rowlands, Ted|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Ryman, John|
|de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Kinnock, Neil||Sandelson, Neville|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lambie, David||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Lamborn, Harry||Selby, Harry|
|Dempsey, James||Lamond, James||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Doig, Peter||Leadbitter, Ted||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Lee, John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lester, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Lipton, Marcus||Sillars, James|
|Eadie, Alex||Lomas, Kenneth||Silverman, Julius|
|Edelman, Maurice||Loyden, Eddie||Skinner, Dennis|
|Edge, Geoff||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Small, William|
|Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Snape, Peter|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||McCartney, Hugh||Spearing, Nigel|
|English, Michael||McElhone, Frank||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Ennals, David||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Stallard, A. W.|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Stoddart, David|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Mackintosh, John P.||Stott, Roger|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Maclennan, Robert||Strang, Gavin|
|Faulds, Andrew||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.)||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||McNamara, Kevin||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Madden, Max||Swain, Thomas|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Magee, Bryan||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Flannery, Martin||Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mahon, Simon||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Marks, Kenneth||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Ford, Ben||Marquand, David||Tierney, Sydney|
|Forrester, John||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Tinn, James|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Tomlinson, John|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Tomney, Frank|
|Freeson, Reginald||Maynard, Miss Joan||Torney, Tom|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Meacher, Michael||Urwin, T. W.|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|George, Bruce||Mendelson, John||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Millan, Bruce||Walden, Brian (B'harn, L'dyw'd)|
|Ginsburg, David||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Golding, John||Mitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itches)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Gould, Bryan||Molloy, William||Watkins, David|
|Gourlay, Harry||Moonman, Eric||Watkinson, John|
|Graham, Ted||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Weetch, Ken|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Weitzman, David|
|Grocott, Bruce||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Moyle, Roland||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||White, James (Pollok)|
|Hardy, Peter||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Newens, Stanley||Whitlock, William|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Noble, Mike||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Oakes, Gordon||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Hatton, Frank||Ogden, Eric||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Hayman, Mrs Helene||O'Halloran, Michael||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Orbach, Maurice||Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)|
|Hooley, Frank||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Wilson William (Coventry SE)|
|Horam, John||Ovenden, John||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Howell, Denis (B'harn, Sm H)||Owen, Dr David||Woodall, Alec|
|Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Padley, Walter||Woof, Robert|
|Huckfield, Les||Palmer, Arthur||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Park, George||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Parry, Robert|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Pavitt, Laurie||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Hunter, Adam||Pendry, Tom||Miss Margaret Jackson.|
|Adley, Robert||Goodlad, Alastair||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Gorst, John||Morgan, Geraint|
|Alison, Michael||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Arnold, Tom||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Gray, Hamish||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Griffiths, Eldon||Mudd, David|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Neave, Airey|
|Baker, Kenneth||Grist, Ian||Nelson, Anthony|
|Banks, Robert||Grylls, Michael||Neubert, Michael|
|Bell, Ronald||Hall, Sir John||Newton, Tony|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Michael||Nott, John|
|Benyon, W.||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Hampson, Dr Keith||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Biffen, John||Hannam, John||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Blaker, Peter||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Body, Richard||Havers, Sir Michael||Pardoe, John|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hayhoe, Barney||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Henderson, Douglas||Penhaligon, David|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Heseltine, Michael||Percival, Ian|
|Brittan, Leon||Hicks, Robert||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Brotherton, Michael||Higgins, Terence L.||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Holland, Philip||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hooson, Emlyn||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hordern, Peter||Raison, Timothy|
|Buck, Antony||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Rathbone, Tim|
|Budgen, Nick||Howell, David (Guildford)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hunt, John||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Burden, F. A.||Hurd, Douglas||Reid, George|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Carson, John||James, David||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Channon, Paul||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Churchill, W. S.||Jessel, Toby||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jopling, Michael||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Clegg, Walter||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Cockcroft, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Cope, John||Kershaw, Anthony||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Cordle, John H.||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Cormack, Patrick||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Critchley, Julian||Knight, Mrs Jill||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Crouch, David||Knox, David||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Crowder, F. P.||Lane, David||Scott, Nicholas|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutstord)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Lawrence, Ivan||Shepherd, Colin|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lawson, Nigel||Shersby, Michael|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Le Marchant, Spencer||Silvester, Fred|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Sims, Roger|
|Dunlop, John||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Durant, Tony||Lloyd, Ian||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Dykes, Hugh||Loveridge, John||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||MacCormick, Iain||Speed, Keith|
|Elliott, Sir William||McCrindle, Robert.||Spence, John|
|Emery, Peter||McCusker, H.||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Macfarlane, Neil||Sproat, Iain|
|Fairbairr, Nicholas||MacGregor, John||Stainton, Keith|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Farr, John||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Stanley, John|
|Fell, Anthony||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Madel, David||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Marshall Michael (Arundel)||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Marten, Neil||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Mates, Michael||Stokes, John|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Mather, Carol||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Fox, Marcus||Maude, Angus||Tapsell, Peter|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Freud, Clement||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Fry, Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Tebbit, Norman|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Mayhew, Patrick||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Miscampbell, Norman||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Mitchell David (Basingstoke)||Thompson, George|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Moate Roger||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Godber, Rt Hon Joseph||Molyneaux, James||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Monro, Hector||Trotter, Neville|
|Goodhew, Victor||Montgomery, Fergus||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|van Straubenzee, W. R.||Warren, Kenneth||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Watt, Hamish||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Viggers, Peter||Weatherill, Bernard||Younger, Hon George|
|Wainwright, Richard (Colne y)||Wells, John|
|Wakeham, John||Welsh, Andrew||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Wall, Patrick||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William||Mr. Richard Luce and|
|Walters, Dennis||Wiggin, Jerry||Mr. Cecil Parkinson.|
Question accordingly agreed to.
That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining Proceedings on the Bill:—
1. The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before the 12th day of June.
Report and Third Reading
Procedure in Standing Committee
3.—(1) At a Sitting of the Standing Committee at which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.
(2) No Motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a Member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who makes, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.
(4) No Motion shall be made to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule, but the resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in the order in which the Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee.
Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee
5. On the conclusion of the Proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.
6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, Proceedings on the Bill shall be made in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.
Extra time on allotted days
8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by the Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (I) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the completion of those Proceedings.
Conclusion of Proceedings
9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be
brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not been previously brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith proceed to put the following Questions (but no others) that is to say—
and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
(3) If, at Seven o'clock on an allotted day, any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time have not been concluded, any Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on definite matter of urgent public importance) which, apart from this Order, would stand over to that time shall stand over until those Proceedings have been concluded.
(4) If a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over to Seven o'clock on an allotted day, or to any later time under sub-paragraph (3) above, the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day at any hour falling after the beginning of the Proceedings on that Motion shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.
11. Nothing in this Order or in a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee or the Business Committee shall—
13. In this Order—
"allotted day "means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the Proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed to on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;
"the Bill" means the Industry Bill;
"Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;
"Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.
Northern Ireland (Loans)
Order. Will hon. Members withdrawing from the Chamber do so as quickly as possible, and continue their conversations outside if they wish.
I beg to move,
This order increases by a further £100 million the amount available for lending from the National Loans Fund to the Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland. The Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland, as hon. Members will know, has two main sources of income: first, its attributed share of United Kingdom taxes, and, secondly, a grant in aid carried on the Vote of the Northern Ireland Office. It also receives direct the bulk of the proceeds of the rates in Northern Ireland. In addition, money is raised by borrowing—for instance, by the issue of Ulster Savings Certificates and of development bonds—and by the sale of Treasury Bills. But its main source of borrowed money is the National Loans Fund. The present order is concerned solely with Northern Ireland's borrowing from the National Loans Fund. The Finance Act 1970 provided that a total of £200 million could be lent from the National Loans Fund to Northern Ireland. When this limit was reached in 1972 the Northern Ireland (Financial Provisions) Act 1972 increased it to £350 million, which is where it stands at present. The 1972 Act also provided power for the Treasury to increase this £350 million, on one occasion only, by a further £100 million, to £450 million. It is this last £100 million which is the subject of the present order. Under the terms of the Finance Act 1970 the purposes for which Northern Ireland may borrow from the National Loans Fund are defined asThat the Northern Ireland Loans (Increase of Limit) Order 1975, a draft of which was laid before this House on 22nd April, be approved.
In practice, the moneys are lent mainly by the Northern Ireland Department of Finance to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the Northern Ireland electricity service, the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation, and the district councils. The loans are made available for capital purposes where there is statutory authority to borrow. About half the sum borrowed has been for housing. This pattern seems likely to continue, with the proportion for public sector housing tending to rise. Northern Ireland has not yet reached the existing limit of £350 million but is likely to do so soon. It is expected that the further £100 million now being asked for will last until about this time next year. There will, of course, be an opportunity to consider Northern Ireland's Supply expenditure in detail in July when the appropriation order relating to Northern Ireland's Estimates for 1975–76 comes forward for consideration. The present order has no implications for additional expenditure. It will merely assist Northern Ireland to finance capital expenditure within the Public Expenditure Survey limits. I commend the order to the House."any expenditure which in the opinion of the Treasury is of a capital nature".
In view of what the hon. Gentleman said about our being able to debate Supply in July, it is the desire of the Opposition that the order should go through expeditiously so that there might be more time to discuss the second order.
As I represent a Scottish constituency which is facing ever-increasing unemployment, I am a little disturbed to see more and more of the United Kingdom Government's money going to subsidise firms and capital expenditure in Northern Ireland.I intervene in the debate because I have a case in my own constituency of a Scottish firm concerned with the provision of concrete pipes for infrastructure developments in Scotland being undercut substantially by a firm in Northern Ireland. Macrete Limited in Northern Ireland submitted a tender for a sewer development in my constituency which undercut by 30 per cent. a local firm, Trocol Industries (Scotland) Limited. In normal circumstances, when dealing with small items, transport costs mean very little. However, when it comes to concrete pipes, the cost of transport becomes an important factor in any tendering. As a result, people in Scotland are beginning to ask whether we are subsidising Northern Ireland industry to such an extent that it is putting Scottish workers and Scottish industry out of business. In the contract of which I speak, Macrete Ltd. submitted a tender sum of £16,145. Trocol Industries (Scotland) Ltd., in my constituency, put forward a tender sum of £22,953. The firm in my constituency submitted the lowest tender received from a mainland company, and the figures tendered ranged up to £26,826. In fact, the further away from the urban area, the higher the tender price becomes because transport costs are important. It seems strange to me and to my constituents who will be out of work that a Northern Ireland firm can supply concrete pipes into Scotland at 30 per cent. below the price at which a local firm can produce them.
The firm referred to by the hon. Gentleman operates in my constituency. Indeed, members of my family are employed by the firm. To the best of my knowledge—I hope that the Minister can confirm it—that firm is not in receipt of a Government subsidy of any kind. In fact, it is a highly competitive, well-organised company. I am proud that, as the hon. Gentleman has made clear, it can compete at this level with mainland companies.
I think that the hon. Gentleman should have declared an interest before intervening. Although he and his family are doing well, unfortunately my constituents and my family are doing badly. It is all right to say that the firm does not receive direct financial help, but indirectly it does, because infrastructure contracts in Northern Ireland are financed from this money. My point is that Northern Ireland firms are using this money to help them to compete for mainland contracts in the United Kingdom. Indeed, conditions are even worse than I have been stating.
I wonder whether I might ask my hon. Friend to look at another aspect of the situation. He is claiming that, whether we like it or not, an element of dumping is going on because of the price at which the Northern Ireland firm has obtained the job. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) said that this firm is receiving no subsidy from any Government Department which would enable it to tender so cheaply. Has my hon. Friend examined the possibility of sweated labour being employed to ensure that these tenders are so cheap compared with tenders by Scottish firms which observe trade union rates and conditions of labour?
I do not mind answering questions by hon. Members from Northern Ireland who have a vested interest in this matter, but I object to answering a question from one of my Scottish colleagues. It is not a matter of sweated labour.The point is that we are subsidising industry in Northern Ireland. We are giving money to finance big infrastructure housing schemes, but that money is being used to compete unfairly with Scottish firms in Scottish contracts. I do not mind Northern Ireland firms staying in Northern Ireland and using United Kingdom Government money to keep people in work in Northern Ireland, but I object to them coming to Scotland for the first time. If this had been a traditional export from Northern Ireland I should have accepted it, but this is the first time that a Northern Ireland firm has submitted such a tender. Right hon. and hon. Members know that when dealing with concrete pipes firms cannot put in a competitive tender outwith 50 miles of where the pipes are manufactured. This Northern Ireland firm—I submit, using United Kingdom taxpayers' money—is putting my constituents out of work. Indeed, this is not the only case. This Northern Ireland firm, just across the Irish Sea, can not only take the pipes from Northern Ireland into Ardrossan and transport them directly a very short distance by rail or road, but, even worse, transport them 200 miles from the port of Ardrossan, the nearest major port to Northern Ireland, to the area of Aberdeen where it has gained contracts and Scottish and United Kingdom mainland firms have lost contracts. I represent a Scottish constituency and have many contacts, as my hon. Friends will know, with colleagues in Northern Ireland, representing an area like Kilwinning with No. 0 Masonic Lodge, and all the rest which goes with it, with a tremendous tradition of association across the Irish Sea. We are beginning to get worried. We do not mind their adopting our traditions. We do not mind their supporting our football teams in Glasgow, be it Rangers or Celtic, but we object to their taking the jobs of Scottish people. Before I support the order I want the Government to give me a guarantee that if we continue to give money to Northern Ireland it will not be used by industrialists in that country to take jobs from my constituents. Together with my colleagues from Northern Ireland I have fought against the dumping of textiles. The all-party textile group has joined groups from North-West England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to take action in this regard. I do not intend to join my Northern Ireland colleagues in deputations to prevent the dumping of textiles only to find that people from their areas are dumping pipes in my constituency and putting my constituents out of work. I shall need a convincing answer before I support the order.
If I may have the leave of the House to intervene at this point, I am seized of the concern expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) over the unemployment that is affecting his constituents, but I have to say to him that he has got the wrong end of the stick on this occasion.The moneys at issue in this order have nothing to do with industrial development. They are purely and simply matters relating to infrastructure of the sort that I discussed—the Housing Executive, the electricity service and possibly a modest amount of the sums going to the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation. That last category might be the sort to which my hon. Friend refers, but the benefit that any individual firm will get from the fall-out from infrastructure expenditure of this sort will be minimal, and I assure my hon. Friend that that would not be a factor that would be working to the detriment of his constituents. I am sure my hon. Friend would be the first to agree that unemployment in Northern Ireland is very serious and that anything that can be done by the central taxpayer to improve conditions in that part of the United Kingdom would have the support of the House, within the limits set by the constraints on public expenditure generally. What he is concerned about is that there should be more assistance to his part of the country, rather than less to Northern Ireland. I have to say to my hon. Friend that on this occasion he is barking up the wrong tree. The order has nothing to do with industrial development. I give him that assurance, and if he wishes to raise that subject he should do it on another occasion when that sort of finance subject is before the House.
Throughout the years that I have been in the House I have listened to passionate speeches from hon. Members from Scotland urging help for this part of the United Kingdom and I have welcomed what they have said. They have demanded their fair share of the national cake to deal with unemployment, the housing situation, and so on. However, when the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) talks about United Kingdom taxpayers' money he must remember that part of that money is paid by taxpayers in Northern Ireland and they are, therefore, entitled, as the Financial Secretary said, to help to deal with unemployment and the lame duck industries which exist in Northern Ireland as happens elsewhere throughout the United Kingdom.I wish to make two brief points. First, I propose to refer to the Welrex hosiery manufacturing company in Bangor, with another branch at Newry in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). That factory has been given three months' reprieve from 1st May. Those people will be thrown out of work and have no other work to do. They have families to support. I hope that we shall be told tonight that something will be done to save this firm. We have lost enough firms already in the North Down area, and I shall resolutely oppose any further closures. Second, I hope that those building workers who are unemployed can be given work building homes. There is a drastic shortage of homes for people in North Down. We should not accept a situation in which married couples and elderly people are living in squalid and overcrowded conditions. Hon. Members opposite would not accept that, and I will not accept it while I remain a Member of Parliament. That is why I hope that the Government will help us tonight.
I seem to be placed in the position of an honest broker between my colleagues and my opponents. I detected a note of chagrin in what my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) said. We have heard of Harland and Wolff receiving £16 million, of Northern Ireland being given £380 million to help in its economic difficulties, and of the cost of the British Army and the security forces there. I can understand my hon. Friend's objections to this money being given to one part of the United Kingdom to the detriment of another.The Minister said that Northern Ireland had underdrawn on these funds by £100 million. We have heard that this money will be given to the Housing Executive and local authorities. Northern Ireland having undergone the tragedy that it has, I should have thought that the Northern Ireland Office could have worked out a scheme to allow the Province to draw to the limit of what Parliament was prepared to allow, particularly for the provision of housing, not only in North Down, but in West and North Belfast and other areas. There is work to be done by the Belfast City Council in clearing up what the Secretary of State has called the "ravages of war". So, although I agree with my hon. Friend's voicing his objections to what he sees as a never-ending pouring out of money with very little compensation, I as a Northern Ireland Member fully support the Government's proposals in the hope that they will be used in the right direction.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) launched a strong criticism of, if not an attack on, a very reputable firm in the North of Ireland. We should like a clear answer from the Government on this matter. The Minister simply said that the order had nothing to do with the matter which concerned the hon. Member, but he did not say that the firm is not being subsidised by the Northern Ireland Office. That is the heart of the matter.The hon. Member seems to be saying that it is all right to give money to Northern Ireland to help with problems of unemployment but that if the firms concerned start making something and exporting it in a competitive market, if those goods are cheaper than goods in his part of the world, we should have nothing to do with them. That seems to rule out any effort made by Northern Ireland to make itself a prosperous industrial part of the United Kingdom. Good Scottish firms in Northern Ireland are doing the same, and if they are able to under-cut firms from Ballymena—which is the Scottish part of Northern Ireland—well and good. We make no objection to that. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, as is Scotland, and this is the Parliament of the whole United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland firms have every right to have a market in Scotland. We resent the suggestion that the work is done by sweated labour. The trade unions in Northern Ireland are just as ably led as are Scottish trade unions. They are out to see that decent wages are paid and decent hours are worked.
In view of the success of the Northern Ireland firm in capturing Scottish markets, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) wondered whether the firm was subsidised. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary said that it was not being subsidised. Can the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) positively say that the firm in question is observing the fair wages clause?
Order. We are getting a bit too far out of order. The Minister has explained that the order does not apply to development. I suggest that the Minister, if he wishes, with the leave of the House, should reply, and that that should end our discussion on the order.
No Ulsterman likes not to answer a question that is asked of him. I cannot positively say, but I believe, that the firm lives up to its reputation in the country. Trade unionists in Northern Ireland would see to it that it did live up to its reputation.I understood that the order would go through on the nod, and I took part in the debate only because this is a matter that needs to be answered, so that what could be a slander on the good name of the firm can be repudiated.