House Of Commons
Wednesday 21st May 1975
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
British Railways (No 2) Bill
Read the Third time and passed.
Standing Orders (Private Business)
That the Amendments to Standing Orders relating to Private Business hereinafter stated in the Schedule be made:—
Standing Order 1, leave out lines 25 to 37 and insert 'the term "local authority" means any of the following:—
In England and Wales,
Standing Order 4A, line 13, leave out 'or burgh' and insert 'or (in Scotland) the islands area or district'.
Standing Order 4A, line 19, after 'counties', insert 'or (in Scotland) the islands areas or districts'.
Standing Order 4A, line 31, after 'county', insert 'or (in Scotland) the islands area or district'.
Standing Order 4A, line 34, after 'county', insert 'or (in Scotland) the islands area or district'.
Standing Order 5, line 6, after 'districts', insert 'in England and Wales'.
Standing Order 6, line 8, after 'district', insert 'in England and Wales'.
Standing Order 10, line 13, leave out 'or burgh' and insert 'or (in Scotland) the islands area or district'.
Standing Order 10, line 20, after 'counties', insert 'or (in Scotland) the islands areas or districts'.
Standing Order 16, line 19, after 'district', insert 'in England and Wales'.
Standing Order 25, line 21, at end insert 'in England and Wales'.
Standing Order 27, line 11, leave out 'county council of each county' and insert 'council of each county, or (in Scotland) of each islands area, or district'.
Standing Order 27, line 20, leave out 'county council of each county' and insert 'council of each county, and (in Scotland) of each islands area or district'.
Standing Order 27, line 24, at end insert or (in Scotland) the islands area or district'.
Standing Order 27, line 44, leave out 'county council' and insert 'council of the county, or (in Scotland) of the islands area or district'.
Standing Order 27, line 47, leave out 'each county council' and insert 'the council of each county, or (in Scotland) each islands area or district'.
Standing Order 36, leave out lines 13 and 14 and insert—
'(b) any district or islands area, with the proper officer of the district or islands council;'.
Standing Order 46, line 14, after 'district', insert 'in England and Wales'.
Standing Order 47, line 28, after 'districts', insert 'in England and Wales'.
Standing Order 61, line 14, leave out 'county council of every county' and insert 'council of every county, or (in Scotland) of every islands area or district'.
Standing Order 61, line 29, after 'county', insert 'or (in Scotland) the islands area or district'.
Standing Order 62, line 13, leave out 'or burgh' and insert or (in Scotland) the islands area or district'.
Standing Order 65, line 24, leave out 'or burgh' and insert or (in Scotland) the islands area or district'.
Standing Order 97, line 2, after 'district', insert 'in England and Wales'.
Standing Order 136A, leave out lines 28 and 29.—[ The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Oral Answers To Questions
Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs
Non-Proliferation Treaty (Review Conference)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the Review Conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The conference has completed its general debate and the two main committees are now conducting a detailed review of the operation of the treaty. Their recommendations are unlikely to be known before next week. A copy of the speech I made to the conference on 6th May has been placed in the Library.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that many hon. Members will welcome and support the statement he made in his speech at the Review Conference that nuclear proliferation is one of the main dangers facing the international community? Will he indicate to the House why it is that Britain is reported as resisting the proposal by Mexico and Sweden that the nuclear weapon States should agree to a fixed timetable for a reduction in nuclear arms that will fulfil the commitment under Article 6?
I thank my hon. Friend for his comment about my speech. I said that this was the most important single problem.The reason why a number of Governments, particularly the nuclear weapon States, have felt it difficult to be tied to a timetable is that nuclear disarmament can be achieved only by agreement. That agreement cannot be set by a timetable because each side has to get concessions from the others. The purpose of the Review Conference will be partly achieved because a new sense of urgency will be pressed upon the nuclear weapons States, and particularly the super-Powers.
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the determination of Powers which are already in possession of nuclear weapons, including the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and now Britain, to maintain and develop their nuclear weapons, represents a real threat to the Non-Proliferation Treaty? Is it not desirable that Britain should make it clear that it does not intend to go ahead? Is it not regrettable that we said last week that we are prepared to have further nuclear tests?
I cannot add much to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 6th May about Britain's position. We have made it clear—I repeated it in my speech to the conference—that Britain has no intention of moving towards a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons. I believe that both the United. States and the Soviet Union are genuine in their attempts to achieve an agreement through SALT.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Libya about the illegal entry of arms, explosives and ammunition into Northern Ireland.
As I told the House on 18th December, we have made it very clear to the Libyan Government that we regard any support for the IRA as interference in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom.
What evidence do the Government have that arms and ammunition are coming into Ulster from Libya?
There are indications that the IRA has received some aid and training from Libya, but it represents only a small proportion of all the aid that it receives from external sources. Most of the arms supplied come from countries other than Libya—probably mostly illegally smuggled from the United States. In the past two years we have ensured that no arms which could be of use to the IRA are sold to Libya.
Have Her Majesty's Government made the same representation to the Governments of the other countries from which these arms are coming?
Certainly we have made it absolutely clear that any support for the IRA, from whatever source and in whatever way, is interference in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom. I was encouraged recently to read a report of a speech made by the Libyan Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in which he said that Libya does not wish to interfere in Irish affairs. I hope that this means the end of Libyan support for the IRA.
Were not the views expressed in Libya by representatives of the Irish Parliament helpful in this respect?
That is absolutely right. It was a useful visit and did a great deal to bring to the attention of the Libyan leaders the true situation in Ireland. It did a lot to dispel a number of misapprehensions which some of the Libyan leaders clearly had.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the present situation in Cyprus and the security of the sovereign base areas.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on recent negotiations over the future of Cyprus.
The first round of the resumed talks between the communities in Vienna was held in a constructive atmosphere, and made some progress. I am urging both Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash to participate fully in the second round, which starts on 5th June. There have been no significant security problems affecting our bases recently.
I am sure that the whole House will hope that these talks will go well. Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that there is some danger of Her Majesty's Government becoming too closely identified with the interests of Archbishop Makarios? Is it not fair to suggest that his support in Greek Cyprus is now coming overwhelmingly from Akel, the Communist Party, and from no other particular quarter? Now that we—at least, in my opinion—are so unwise as to be withdrawing, is there not a real danger that the Archbishop may decide to invite the Russians in, with incalculable consequences in NATO?
On the first part of that question, we recognise the Government of Cyprus. The President of the Government of Cyprus is Archbishop Makarios, and therefore we continue to recognise him as the President of Cyprus. It would not be proper to depart from that position. As regards the policy of the Government of Cyprus, I have no indication of any intention to invite the Soviet Union into the Greek-occupied part or the Turkish-occupied part.
Has my right hon. Friend seen the reply to a Written Question yesterday by his right hon. Friend the Minister of State, saying that it was not the policy of the British Government to support the United States Congressional embargo on arms supplies to Turkey? That being so, does he not recognise that the impression created by that answer is that Britain does not now support the policy of the withdrawal of troops from Cyprus and also is not against the partitioning of the island, which the Turkish Government have made a precondition of any continuing talks?
I hope that my hon. Friend will not give any countenance to the deductions which he draws from a refusal by the British Government to follow the actions of the United States Congress. It would be extremely mischievous if he gave any countenance to any such thing. We have made it clear that what we expect, in accordance with the United Nations decision, is respect for the sovereignty and integrity of Cyprus and the withdrawal of those troops which are there in defiance of that resolution. That has been our position, and I know of no reason at all to suggest anything to the contrary.
As a guarantor of the treaty establishing a free and independent Cyprus, what action are the Government taking to persuade our NATO ally, Turkey, specifically to do something conciliatory with its force in this matter?
We are engaged in intensive diplomatic activity and in encouraging the talks to which I have referred between Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash. We believe that in a difficult situation this is the most helpful way forward. We shall pursue that end.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has in mind, in consultation with the Turkish Government, to ensure that British residents in Cyprus have unrestricted freedom of movement throughout the island; what arrangements he has now made to ensure that British residents' property is fully protected not only as to their personal effects but as to their rights of land tenure; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the latest situation in Cyprus, so far as British interests are concerned.
I regret to say that the position of British residents in the Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus is not satisfactory. Despite frequent representations both to the local authorities in Cyprus and to the Turkish Government, satisfaction has not been received for damage or loss of the homes and possessions of British residents.Arrangements to ensure protection of land tenure are the responsibility of the local authorities, with whom the high commission is co-operating over registration of title. I have asked my right hon. Friend the Minister of State to inform the Turkish Government of my dissatisfaction over these matters during his visit to Ankara, where he arrives today, and to discuss remedies with them.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that fairly detailed answer, which he will be the first to recognise is very unsatisfactory. Does he agree that an embargo on the supply of arms to the Turks is probably the only weapon we have as a bargaining factor in securing the fair compensation and freedom of movement of British residents? Will he consider sending out, with the acceptance of the Turkish Government, a delegation from this House to Cyprus to observe the situation and perhaps to make recommendations which may help to secure a solution?
I hope that cutting off the supply of arms is not our only weapon. If so, it will not be very effective. It has not been effective in the case of the US Congress and, frankly, the amount of arms that we supply to the Turks is so infinitesimal that it will make very little difference. What is in prospect is the obtaining of some substantial orders for delivery, which would take some time and would create considerable employment here. I think that the Government would have to consider that question very seriously, in view of employment prospects. On the second part of the question, it has been said before that I would welcome a delegation going from this House, but, alas, I have no funds to send one. If someone could provide some funds, I would welcome an all-party delegation to look at conditions in the island. That would do a lot of good.
Is it not a paramount British interest to repair as soon as possible the damage to the strength of NATO in the Mediterranean—damage which has been caused by this situation and was referred to in answer to an earlier Question? Although we all welcome the talks which are going on at various levels between Greece and Turkey, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that at the NATO summit at the end of this month the Government will be ready to take fresh initiatives to cover many of the areas of concern which have come up in questions today?
I hone that, in addition to Mr. Karamanlis and Mr. Demirel, the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Turkey will also be present at the NATO summit. It is my hope that we shall have bilateral discussions on these matters—or trilateral or even quadrilateral discussions. I am not sure that full discussion in the full council would be helpful, but certainly private conversations will go on.
I appreciate my right hon. Friend's difficulties, but I cannot help wondering whether he has given full consideration to the views of the trade union movement and the Labour movement in considering whether jobs are more important than the immorality of supplying arms to Turkey so that Turkey can invade, bomb and loot a Commonwealth country. Will he consider whether he is representing the views of the trade union and Labour movements in this connection?
I always like to think so, but I am at the moment representing the views of Her Majesty's Government. As for the supply of arms, if there were any prospect of Turkey's repeating the invasion that she undertook a year ago, clearly we should need to consider the situation afresh, but my hon. Friend should not get this out of proportion. I believe that details of arms supplies are regarded as confidential, and Ministers do not give details of them, but the amount of arms which are going is insignificant. That is why I say that it would not be a particular weapon to cut it off. I trust that, within the period in which there may be considerable supply of armaments, this problem will at least have been settled between Mr. Clerides and Mr. Denktash.
The right hon. Gentleman thinks that it would be a good idea if a delegation from this House went to Cyprus, but he has no money. Will he not consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer? This is one increase in public expenditure that we should not oppose.
I am sure that that is true of every item of public expenditure, but I think that it is for the House itself, if it wishes to take this matter up, to do so.
European Security And Co-Operation
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest progress of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he is satisfied with progress at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe; and when he expects the conference to conclude its business.
There has been encouraging progress on some of the difficult points outstanding. With a real effort it will be possible to get balanced and satisfactory results, and hold the third and final stage of the conference in the summer.
Yes, but will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Soviet Union is still being obstinately obstructive about, first, military confidence-building measures and, secondly, the freer flow of people and ideas? Will he accept that while we all wish to see a successful conclusion to the conference, and genuine debate, the Soviet Union will have to be much more forthcoming? Will he make it crystal clear to the Soviet Union that we are simply not prepared to agree to a summer summit on the totally inadequate basis so far achieved?
The answer to all those questions is, "No, Sir."
Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to assure the public that our membership of the Common Market has nothing to do with European security and co-operation, and to condemn his more extreme pro-Market colleagues, who seem to be so devoid of rational arguments in favour of this case that they are trying to terrify the British electorate into voting "Yes" by raising scare stories about a possible European or world conflict if we leave the Common Market?
What is true, although it is rather a long way from the Question, is that membership of the Community has enabled France and Germany to bury the hatchet of conflict of many centuries. I do not see how that can be gainsaid, and I regard it as an important issue. As for terrifying the British electorate into voting on 5th June, I have the feeling that it will go willingly to the polls and will return a large majority in favour of remaining in the Community.
I agree on that point. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take note that while we on the Conservative side share his desire to improve relations with the Soviet Union, and to reach agreement, we are not yet at all satisfied that an adequate basis for this exists? Does he not agree that there must be proper reciprocity on these matters and that the evidence so far available does not show that this exists? What evidence can the right hon. Gentleman give us about the Soviet Union which is calculated to make his optimism justified?
I would not want to give details, because confidential discussions are still going on. However, I can give illustrations of the progress so far. Provisional agreement has been reached on nine out of the 10 principles in the Declaration of Principles. We are still looking for clear and non-discriminatory agreement on military confidence-building measures but it is my judgment, in the light of current discussions, that progress may at last be possible. As for the area of human contacts and relations, such as facilitating family reunification, there is still work to be done. It would be untrue to suggest that the Soviet Union has been obstinately obstructive. That is not the way in which we will get agreement. I believe it will be possible to come to some agreement provided we are firm, but not if we keep throwing challenges at the Soviet Union.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he now intends to allow Chile to receive two submarines at present docked at Greenock; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he still intends to allow the two submarines lying at Greenock to depart for Chile.
The answer to the first part of the Question is "Yes, Sir." No new export licences for arms to Chile are being granted with the exception of spares and equipment relating to existing contracts.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is some regret that these submarines are now to be released to Chile? Does he also accept that we should now try to establish throughout the world an understanding about the basis on which arms should be supplied by the great Powers to lesser countries? Does he further agree that there is a degree of international morality in this matter and that where a nation has offended against the moral code throughout the world it should not be supplied with arms? Is it not now time for the United Kingdom to try to raise the moral standing and to give a lead in such affairs by saying that we are not prepared to supply arms in such circumstances?
My hon. Friend is right. I do feel some regret about this. We had this discussion a year ago. I am quite clear that as the ownership of the warships had already then passed to the Chilean Government we would be wrong to interfere. I took that view then and have maintained it steadily since. I am concerned, as I think everyone must be, about the question of the supply of arms. We have at the moment about £200 million-worth of arms orders for ships in Latin-American countries. This is a considerable benefit to us in many ways. I have heard it argued—although I think this is more for the Secretary of State for Defence than for me—that we could not maintain an independent arms industry unless we were prepared to engage in this trade. It does present difficult problems for those who have to take these decisions. I ask for understanding from my hon. Friend.
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that what he has said will receive widespread support in all parts of the House? Does he not also agree that when we talk of morality it is important that this country should not give the impression that it maintains double standards? Does he not further agree that this is something which affects not just the Government and Secretaries of State but other organisations within the country?
I have pleaded guilty before to double standards. I do try to avoid them. There are times when someone standing at this Dispatch BOY, alas, cannot evade the trap. But I give careful consideration, as does the Cabinet, to this kind of question and—if it is possible—to trying to work out principles that will reconcile with the considerations put by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson).
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what response he has received from other Commonwealth Governments at the Commonwealth Conference in Jamaica to his initiatives on Southern Africa; and if he will make a statement.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 13th May.There was a general welcome from the Heads of Commonwealth countries to Her Majesty's Government's new policy in respect of the position of Namibia, the ending of the Simonstown Agreement, our embargo on supply of arms, Britain's financial assistance to Namibians, and our willingness to contribute to an international fund to assist Mozambique after independence. I hope to make a further statement on Rhodesia in the near future.
Will my right hon. Friend say what consideration was given to bringing Namibia into the Commonwealth and to requesting South Africa to end its illegal administration in that country? On the Rhodesian issue, may I ask what action was considered to assist Mozambique during efforts to bring the illegal régime to an end? Did my right hon. Friend find among the representatives of a quarter of the world's population, spanning five continents, any support for the illegal régimes in Rhodesia and Namibia?
There was in the communiqué a general invitation from the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth to the people of Namibia to the effect that if, at independence, they wished to become members of the Commonwealth, their application would receive a favourable response. There was no support for the present position in Rhodesia, indeed there was condemnation of it. As for the future of Rhodesia, I wonder whether my hon. Friend would wait for a short while, because there are other Questions about Rhodesia and Mozambique to which I would prefer to give substantive answers.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned advancing a subsidy to Mozambique to help in respect of the imposition of sanctions. Since we have a substantial deficit on our foreign exchange, will the Foreign Secretary say where we shall get the money? From which country shall we borrow to lend to Mozambique?
It will come out of the overseas aid Vote.
Singapore (Prime Minister)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about his discussions with Lee Kuan Yew at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.
Both the Prime Minister and I had wide-ranging discussions with the Singapore Prime Minister covering the political and economic situation in the world generally and in South-East Asia in particular. Such discussions between Heads of Government are confidential.
Was my right hon. Friend present in the House last Tuesday when the Prime Minister agreed with me that Lee Kuan Yew would enormously raise his prestige if he were to let out of gaol those people whom Her Majesty's Government put in there 13 years ago and who have been in gaol without trial ever since? Does he agree with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and, if so, will he, in the politest possible way, make representations about this matter to Lee Kuan Yew?
I read my right hon. Friend's reply. As is well known, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I are always in complete agreement—as are all members of this Government, on all occasions. [Interruption.] There is a problem here, as my hon. Friend knows. He has followed this question for some time and knows that Singapore is a sovereign independent State. It became so in 1965. The subject of our representations has to be handled with delicacy. I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.
Leaving aside the internal affairs of Singapore, may I ask the Foreign Secretary, in the light of the changed strategic situation in South-East Asia following the end of the Vietnam war and the British defence review, what residual obligations lie upon this country in respect of helping to sustain the security of Singapore? Will the right hon. Gentleman say in what way we are now able to carry those out?
The hon. Gentleman would help me if he tabled a Question to the Secretary of State for Defence. To the best of my knowledge, our forces intend to continue to visit the area and to exercise there. We shall honour the consultative commitment of the five-power defence arrangements under which we leave a small residual commitment of men to an integrated defence system.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make a statement on the Minister of State's forthcoming visit to Brazil.
I leave tonight for visits to Brazil and Venezuela. Her Majesty's Government wish to strengthen our relations with both these leading countries of Latin America which are remarkable for their vitality and growth. I shall be having discussions with the Brazilian and Venezuelan Foreign Ministers and other Ministers, in Brasilia and Caracas, respectively.
As a member of the recent IPU delegation, may I publicly express the delegation's thanks to its Brazilian hosts and to the ambassador, consuls-general and their staff? Is there not enormous scope, politically, technically and trade-wise, for expanding contacts with that country?
I have heard very good reports of the result of the visit of the Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation which was led by my hon. Friend. It was of great value that the members of the delegation were able to see so much of the country and so many leading figures in politics and government. I agree with my hon. Friend that there is an enormous opportunity for expansion of our trading interests and exchange of technology, and we want also to improve and expand our political relations. Brazil is our principal trading partner in Latin America.
Whilst he is in Brazil, will the Minister take the opportunity to see how successful the introduction of indexation has been in that country?
While I am in Brazil I shall, of course, look as carefully as I can at a whole range of economic and political questions.
When my right hon. Friend visits Brazil, will he take the opportunity to see what prospects there are for trade expansion outside the EEC? Will he express the concern that many people feel about statements that have been made concerning internal repression in Brazil, the treatment of critics of the present régime, the stories of torture we read and hear so much about, and the repression of religious and other bodies? Perhaps he will say that if we are to trade with that country we should like to know that the country observes a certain decency in its internal affairs.
In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, I have no doubt that one question that the Brazilian Government will wish to take up with me is that of their own economic relationship with the EEC. I have had their assurance that they look to the significant opportunities and value of their own economic relationship both with the Community and with Britain. As to the second part of the supplementary question, I shall not go around making comments on the country's internal affairs. Neither do I expect Ministers from other countries who come here to discuss political and trade relations to do so.
While the Minister is in Venezuela, will he make inquiries about the nature of the Venezuelan Government's recent discussions with the Shah of Iran, making clear to Venezuela, as an important member of OPEC, how seriously the United Kingdom regards the Shah's recent suggestion that the price of oil should be increased in September? Will he also make clear that the United Kingdom and our allies in the Community and the TEA wish to see a continuation of the present price freeze on crude oil?
I shall not communicate precisely what I shall say when I go to Venezuela, but there is no doubt that economic questions and Venezuela's rôle in OPEC are very important. We shall discuss a range of economic issues that affect our country and Venezuela, but I shall certainly not breach the confidentiality of the discussions.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is yet able to make a statement regarding recognition of the new Government of South Vietnam.
Her Majesty's Government recognised the new Government of South Vietnam on 12th May.
Is my right Hon. Friend aware that he will have the support of the Government benches for that action? Will he confirm that the takeover by the new Government was effected peaceably, in contrast to the stories circulated by the media and Opposition Members? Will he also confirm that the best action for many refugees—in contrast to the squalid actions of certain commercial interests, such as the Daily Mail—is to return to Vietnam? Will he assure the House that he will give assistance to those people, if so requested?
As to the takeover, I understand that Saigon was not—as had been expected—subjected to shelling by the North Vietnamese regular troops who were on the outskirts of the city. There was no killing of the civilian population. The return of refugees is a matter that must be left to them. They will know whether they are likely to be able to satisfy the requirements of the new régime and to live there peacefully. We have a large number of refugees in Hong Kong, some of whom would wish to return but most of whom would not. This will present us with a problem.
Is it not plain that all the important decisions about the future of South Vietnam are taken in Hanoi? Why should we recognise two Governments in what is, in effect, one country? What decision has been made about the Vietnamese refugees who want to come to this country?
It is not at all plain that all decisions are being taken in Hanoi. We shall have to wait to see how the situation develops. At present, we are one of the 68 nations which have recognised the Government in Saigon and at this moment I think that that is the right thing to do. I believe that the Home Secretary has made a statement on the admission of refugees to this country. I do not think that any quota has been fixed and I understand that all cases are considered on their merits.
Will my hon. Friend give the names of the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of the Provisional Revolutionary Government?
Why does my hon. Friend ask me such awkward questions?
Will the right hon. Gentleman at last express his concern at the way in which South Vietnam was taken by the Communists? Will he at last condemn the actions of the North and the Russians, and will he beyond peradventure make plain that the refugees from the South who wish to have asylum here and the children who are already here will be either safely received or allowed to remain?
I understand from all the hon. Gentleman's previous questions that he is much more concerned to dig back into the past and to follow up those matters than he is to try to create stable conditions in South Vietnam in the future. Throughout the whole of my experience, I have been in no doubt that there was a large body of people—perhaps the largest body of people—who did not support the Thieu Government, the Communist Government or the PRG, but the PRG is the administrative authority and it is upon that that we base our recognition. As to the future of refugees, the hon. Gentleman should put down Questions about that to the Home Secretary.
The Foreign Secretary said that the guns threatening Saigon were North Vietnamese army guns. Does he wish to comment on that?
There is no need to; it is well known.
Peace And Security (Un Charter)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps Her Majesty's Govern-are taking to uphold the principles outlined in Article 1.1 of the Charter of the United Nations.
We continue to work with other like-minded countries for the maintenance of international peace and security in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
Bearing in mind that Article 1.1 of the Charter of the United Nations declares that the central purpose of the United Nations is
and recognising what the Foreign Secretary has just said about the invasion of South Vietnam by regular forces of the North Vietnamese Army, why have the British Government not so far condemned this agression or sought to raise the matter in the United Nations? Are the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State not concerned that the machinery for keeping the peace seems to be breaking down in the same way as it did before the last war?"to take effective collective measures for the suppression of acts of aggression",
The hon. Gentleman is seeking to fall into the same trap as is his hon. Friend. I agree with my right hon. Friend—as I always do—that the important thing now is to foster a spirit of reconciliation in Vietnam. The interests of the Vietnamese people are not helped by attempts to allocate a percentage of blame to one side or the other. Throughout the whole history of Vietnam the United Nations has never been involved in the problem except from a humanitarian point of view. Neither the Government of the North nor the Government of the South are members of the United Nations, so it would not have been easy for the United Nations to have been involved.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the massacres which were forecast by Opposition Members never took place, that for the first time there is a genuine peace in Vietnam, and that the people have the opportunity to rebuild their country in a spirit of genuine reconciliation? Will my right hon. Friend make clear that the British Government will take a cordial view of that situation and give full support to the new authorities in South Vietnam and North Vietnam which are seeking to achieve it?
I think that we have to recognise that over the years terrible acts of violence have been committed by both sides. That is why I think it was with a sense of great relief that when the end came it was found that not many lives were lost. It is the wish of the British Government to assist in restoration, rebuilding and humanitarian assistance.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about his latest discussions with the Foreign Ministers of the EEC countries.
I met three of my EEC colleagues yesterday at the Ministerial Meeting of the Western European Union but the last Council of Ministers Meeting I attended was on 14th-15th April. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State attended a meeting of the Council of Ministers on 5th May.
As Foreign Office Ministers have no doubt been following with interest the debate about British membership that is now going on in this country, will the Foreign Secretary say what his view is on the debate that is taking place on the trade deficiency which we have with the EEC? Does the right hon. Gentleman recall telling the House, in answer to a Question from me in December, that he believes that membership of the EEC has not made much difference to our trading balance with the Community one way or the other? Is that still his opinion?
I was very relieved to see my opinion confirmed almost in terms this morning by the report of the National Institute of Economic Research, which is an independent-minded body. It is always a little comforting to know that one has not gone too far out on a limb. It is still my considered opinion. Taking into account the fact that we have been able to buy food much more cheaply from the EEC during the last year and have therefore moved a number of our food purchases from outside to inside, it was inevitable that the deficit should go up. It has gone up by a large extent but, as I understand it, no more, in terms of proportion, than our deficit has gone up in other parts of the world.
Has my right hon. Friend noted the growing threats of interference by the EEC in political matters, foreign policy and military matters, with distinct cold war undertones? Secondly, might this not lead to the joint nuclear bombing force advocated by Lord Carrington and the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), which would end our hopes of détente and peace in Europe?
For the life of me I do not see any signs of that. Certainly in the EEC they never discuss these matters. The issues that my hon. Friend refers to are spoken about in the process of what is called political co-operation. As my hon. Friend knows, that is entirely different from the EEC. It comprises a meeting of nine Ministers of the countries that make up the EEC. That is part of the treaty. My hon. Friend may be a little scornful, but I remember the occasion when Sir Alec Douglas-Home had to fly from Paris to Copenhagen because the French refused to allow a discussion on political co-operation to take place physically at the same place as the discussion of the EEC. I must say to my hon. Friend that I see no atmosphere among my Foreign Minister colleagues to suggest that they are trying to create a return to the cold war. Indeed, I would say that the situation is rather the reverse.
While recognising that the Belgian Prime Minister is undertaking a survey, may I ask whether it would not be true to say that the Government must now have some ideas of what they mean by political union? Will the Foreign Secretary give us just a peep behind that curtain and tell us what the Government are thinking, and also tell us whether his Conservative allies, who agree with him about the Common Market, share the same view of political union?
I am glad to say that I am responsible only for the Government and not for anyone else. If the hon. Gentleman re-reads my speech of 19th December 1974, he will find not only that the curtain was raised a little but that the whole scenario was completely exposed. I think that after 5th June we shall have some very interesting discussions on that. I do not expect my view to change on 5th June from what it is now.
During his visits to the EEC countries has my right hon. Friend observed that countless millions of trade unionists and Socialists have found the EEC an instrument of peace and prosperity? Has he also observed that not one meaningful, responsible Socialist, trade unionist or Communist in the original Six countries is advocating withdrawal of his country from the EEC?
I have noticed that. I have also noticed that Sir Christopher Soames says that it will be the last refuge and bastion of capitalism, while "Communists For Europe" in this country says that it is the only way to build Socialism. The synthesis of these two views brings me back to the view that I have always held, namely, that we should be able to make of the EEC anything that the Governments in the EEC want to make of it.
While accepting that primary responsibility for achieving an acceptable settlement in the Middle East lies inevitably with the United States and the Soviet Union, may I ask whether the Foreign Secretary agrees that Europe has a very important contribution to make, and that such a contribution is expected by countries in that area? Therefore, did he discuss this matter with his colleagues when he met them recently?
Yes, Sir. The question of the Middle East is one that constantly comes up in terms of political co-operation, but not in the Community discussions. We have had a number of talks about the ways in which the countries of Europe could be of assistance as regards a settlement in the Middle East, but I have no details that I can give the hon. Gentleman this afternoon.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next proposes to meet the other Foreign Ministers of EEC countries.
My right hon. Friend will meet the Foreign Ministers of EEC countries at meetings of the International Energy Agency Governing Board and of the OECD Council of Ministers in Paris on 27th and 28th May, respectively. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State will also be meeting them at a ministerial meeting on political co-operation in Dublin on 26th May.
I thank the Minister for that comprehensive answer. Will he seek to have placed on the agenda the matter of a common EEC policy towards the Middle Eastern oil-producing States, in view of the recent statements by the Government of Iran covering price increases, especially in view of certain muttered threats by the United States in regard to military intervention?
I do not want to comment on the words used by the hon. Gentleman, but the subject which he raised will be taken up in the International Energy Governing Board meeting.
Will my hon. Friend say whether it remains the Government's view that the proceedings of these ministerial meetings should be kept secret? This will have a considerable impact on the views of people about our future conduct within the Common Market.
As my hon. Friend knows, there are many ministerial meetings not only in the EEC but at other levels and in other forums. It is not the usual practice to give a detailed and full verbatim record of these discussions. But in regard to discussions within the EEC and elsewhere, my right hon. Friend is always willing to answer questions in this House, in correspondence, and in discussions. I believe that a great deal of information is made available to the House on discussions which take place.
When next he meets his colleagues will the Foreign Secretary give an assurance that they will have consultations on the recent discussions which Sir Christopher Soames has had with China, Mexico, Canada and other countries? Will her further assure the House that he will give Government support to strengthening those ties?
I am certain that my right hon. Friend and the Minister of State, who have taken part in the discussions, will note the point raised by the hon. Gentleman. The agenda for the meeting on 26th May has not yet been decided but it gives an opportunity for Ministers from each of the Nine to raise any subjects they wish which are of importance to the whole of the Community.
Will the Minister make a point of discussing with other Ministers the problem of migrant workers within the Common Market, particularly those from non-Market countries, who often have to work for very low wages and suffer deplorable housing and other social conditions? Do not these despicable practices prove that the Common Market is based on international exploitation rather than on international co-operation?
On the general conditions of the workers in the Community, most hon. Members will recognise that in some countries there are considerably higher standards of wages, conditions and benefits than exist in this country. That is a factor to be recognised. However, we must be careful about seeking to interfere in the internal affairs and sovereignty of other Community countries.
When the Foreign Sectary next meets his EEC colleagues, does he plan to raise with them the alleged loss of 500,000 British jobs as a result of two years of British membership of the EEC—or do the Government not accept the figure put forward by the Secretary of State for Industry?
The hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made a statement on this matter in answer to questions raised.
In regard to the Minister's reply to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), did the Minister say that Her Majesty's Government are considering how they can best disclose the proceedings in the Council of Ministers?
No, Sir. I did not say that.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will now make an announcement of policy about direct elections to the European Assembly.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement of Her Majesty's Government's policy towards direct elections to the European Assembly.
I refer the hon. Members to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) on 18th March.—[Vol. 888, c. 1477–8.]
Do the Labour Party and the Labour Government agree with the resolution passed at the Common Market Assembly on 10th January, which referred to the integration of the countries in the Common Market and to direct elections to what will be called the European Parliament? Do the Labour Party and the Labour Government agree with direct elections? If so, may we know about this before the referendum, as it is a very important point?
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the Prime Minister reserved the British Government's position on the occasion of the communiqué. The issue which we have to decide, and which the country will decide on 5th June, is whether we shall be in or out. If the decision is, as I believe it will be overwhelmingly, that Britain should stay in, I think that we shall all have to consider what sort of future we want to see for the European Assembly. However, all these decisions will depend on the decisions of hon. Members. The first decision will be taken by the people in the referendum.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that many of his hon. Friends very much favour the concept of a directly-elected European Parliament as a means of putting into the EEC the kind of democratic element that we, as pro-Europeans, realise is not there at the moment? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that if, as he thinks and I think, the result is an overwhelming "Yes" on 5th June, the Government will work to expedite the provisions of a directly-elected European Parliament?
No, I do not want to give that assurance. I believe that when the decision of the referendum is known, and if it should be, as I believe it will be, that Britain should stay within the EEC, we shall find within all parties a good deal of disagreement about what change, if any, should be made in the pattern of the European Parliament. There are hon. Members on both sides of the House who believe in democratic election. There are others who think that it would be better to leave the system as it is now. I think that the time for resolving those differences is after the referendum.
Is it not the case that direct elections depend wholly on the assumption that there will be a substantial increase in the supranational legislative powers of a European Parliament? If it is to retain its present powers, does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that there is no case for changing the basis of the election of members? Is it not grossly unsatisfactory for the Government simply to reserve their position on this vitally important matter? Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the British people, too, can reserve their position on this matter on 5th June?
It would be absurd for the British Government to take decisions or to indicate a conclusion about issues such as these before the British people have decided whether we stay in the EEC. After the decision has been taken by the British people, that will be the time for hon. Members to make any determination on the question whether there should be any changes in the European Parliament.
Will the Minister say why the Government are being so secretive? The other Minister of State at the Department said that the questionnaire on political union would be answered but that the Government would not publish the answer. What is the reason for the secrecy? Is the Minister frightened of letting people know whether the Labour Government favour direct elections, or a two-Chamber legislature? Why the secrecy?
My hon. Friend wants to have it both ways. He wants us to take a position which we have not taken, so that he can attack that position. The Government have not taken that view. They have not reached a conclusion—[Interruption.] I do not think my hon. Friends want us to reach a conclusion until the British people have spoken. My hon. Friend and many others who take his view about the Common Market will wish to be consulted if the decision is taken to remain within the Community.
Is it not the plain and simple fact that under the treaty it is obligatory, at some time, to have direct elections to the European Parliament? Is not the only question, assuming continuity of membership, when?
I think there is nothing plain and simple about the issue at all.
United Kingdom Membership
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether any representative of any Commonwealth Government at the recent Commonwealth Conference expressed a wish for the United Kingdom to leave the EEC.
No, Sir. The Commonwealth Heads of Government unanimously placed on record their firm opinion that Commonwealth interests were in no way prejudiced by Britain's continued membership of the Community.
I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on a spell-binding performance this morning on "Referendum Call". Will he take the opportunity to dissociate himself totally from the reprehensible attempts being made by certain hon. Members to incite Commonwealth leaders into expressions of qualified disapproval of British membership of the Community?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said. As regards inciting Commonwealth leaders to express their disapproval, my experience is that any such course is totally counter-productive. Because of this factor, a clear statement was made and their interests were not prejudiced.
Is not my right hon. Friend astonished by the amount of attention now paid to the views of Commonwealth leaders, compared with the little regard that we paid to their views before we went into the Market?
It is true that because the then Conservative Government negotiated in haste they did not take into sufficient account the position of New Zealand or of other Commonwealth countries. Because we have now got a satisfactory solution to the situation of New Zealand, the developing countries and the Commonwealth sugar-producing countries, I think that we can claim that this is the result of our renegotiation which, in turn, has led many Commonwealth countries to display an active wish for us to remain full members. They see the advantage to them of our staying in.
Why does the Foreign Secretary spoil it all by talking such nonsense about "our renegotiations"?
I was not trying to please the right hon. Gentleman; I was merely telling the truth. It is a great pity that the Conservative Government did not spend longer in settling some of these questions, for we would not then have needed to embark on some difficult renegotiations.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Parliamentary Questions on EEC matters have been transferred from the Department to which they were originally addressed in order to comply with the Government's guidelines on official Government policy.
Following the Prime Minister's directive, why has the House continued to receive misleading and evasive answers on EEC matters from the Secretary of State for Industry?
There is nothing misleading in the answers given; it is only in the reception they receive.
Heads Of Government Meeting
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are the principal matters which will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of Heads of Government of the EEC at Brussels in July.
It is too early so say. A number of possible subjects are under consideration, but the agenda has not yet been agreed.
Despite that answer, in view of some of the odd things which are being said by some of the Foreign Secretary's colleagues, will he confirm that there is no question of the Government's being obliged to accept any scheme of Community action or integration which has not previously been fully discussed and accepted by this country?
I am willing to repeat that assurance, although sometimes it falls on deaf ears. There is no doubt that the degree of integration is dependent on the votes of the Nine member countries acting unanimously. One vote can block any advance in that direction.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that the only way in which that will work properly is for the British people and the House to be aware of the draft proposals? Is he aware that even the head office of Her Majesty's Stationery Office does not have copies of the draft EEC instruments, and that even the EEC office in London does not have them available for the general public? In that case, how does he think that either the House or the public will be able to understand the draft documents which must be discussed by the Council?
I do not accept anything that my hon. Friend said. This House now has more opportunity of debating proposals made by the Commission than it has ever had. The process of consultation is complete. Indeed, many more statutory instruments issued by the Commission are discussed in this House than those issued by the Government. I do not object to that. It is right that Parliament should take a continuing interest in the matter. I hope that that will continue, and that the procedures will be improved. However, it should not be allowed to be believed that it is impossible to discover what the Commission or the Council of Ministers is doing, or that it is impossible to debate those matters before decisions are taken. I have taken the most stringent precautions to ensure that that is not so.
I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said on this and the preceding Question, but does he recognise that the House is in some difficulty when Ministers in the same Government give different advice on the EEC matter? Can he now say, in terms, for the benefit of hon. Members on both sides, whether Questions about the effect of the Common Market—for example, on unemployment—are now to be addressed to himself as the responsible Minister who negotiated this matter, to the Secretary of State for Industry, who said one thing, to the Prime Minister, who said something different, or to the Chief Whip, who said that the Secretary of State for Industry was not telling the complete truth? To whom should these Questions be directed? The House is in some difficulty when different Front Bench Members say different things about this important matter.
I did not think that the Opposition were in any difficulty. I thought that they were rather enjoying it.The hon. Gentleman will probably recognise that Questions put down today will be answered after 5th June, when, as a result of the resounding "Yes" that I believe is likely to be given, we shall have a united, harmonious, active and determined Government, which will sweep all before them.
The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he will make a statement about Rhodesia.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In reply to earlier supplementary questions the Foreign Secretary referred to a Question on Rhodesia, which was not reached. Is it possible for permission to be given for the Question on Rhodesia to be answered now?
The hon. Member who was to ask the Question was not present. I am in the hands of Mr. Speaker.
I raised this question with my right hon. Friend. I understand that the situation was that the hon. Member was not present and that the Foreign Secretary would answer the Question later when dealing with other Questions.
The right hon. Gentleman says that he is in my hands. It is for him to say whether he wishes to answer the Question.
I shall be happy to answer the Question if the House would like me to do so. The answer is as follows:Hon. Members will be aware of the answers given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on this matter on his recent return from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. I am now considering the next steps to be taken in the matter of Rhodesia, and I hope to make a further statement in the near future.
Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there are still 300 people in detention in Rhodesia? The Government made a great fuss when one of our citizens was kept in detention for a short time. What steps have been taken to obtain the release of 300 people who have been in detention for many years?
We have made continuing representations to Mr. Smith on this matter and to Mr. Vorster in the course of our discussions. This issue is a matter of constant discussion in diplomatic discussions with Mr. Vorster. It is our view that the constitutional talks will not proceed satisfactorily unless the Lusaka agreement is carried out in its entirety. That agreement provided for the release of people who are detained.Once again, in response to the right hon. Gentleman's question, I wish to make it clear that in our judgment and the judgment of the Government these talks on the constitution will not proceed until progress of a substantial nature has been made in releasing those who are now detained.
It is understood that Mozambique has cut off sea links for, and rail links with, Rhodesia. That could have a tremendous effect on Rhodesia in the near future. Did my right hon. Friend hold discussions with the Rhodesian African leaders, and make representations to other African countries, to bring pressure to bear on South Africa to prevent entry to Rhodesia from that source?
Yes, Sir; there were discussions with the other African leaders, including those from Rhodesia. I am loth to forecast the impact of the closure of the links by Mozambique. I am certain that that will be a considerable handicap to Rhodesia. However, I do not think that we should expect that that will necessarily by itself bring the régime to a full stop. I think that the pressure on South Africa will come mainly from its own railways and ports systems, which will not be able to handle the goods which have hitherto been transmitted through Lourenco Marques and Beira.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Communiqué dealt with Rhodesia and Mozambique in the same passage? May I therefore ask him to expand on the answer he gave earlier about the Government's intention to give aid to Mozambique? Is it the intention of the Government to give such aid unilaterally or is it to be given only if a joint scheme can be worked out with the Commonwealth or in the United Nations? Is the commitment open-ended, or is there to be a terminal date?
It is our hope—as it was the hope of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers—that there will be an international fund of this sort. I have raised with other countries the question of contributions to such a fund, although I shall not specify which countries. I indicated that we should be willing to make a substantial contribution to that fund, but that if the response was poor it would still be the British Government's intention, in view of our special responsibilities, to make such aid available. However, in view of the nature of the Frelimo Government—it is a sovereign Government—it would not be right for me to indicate conditions at this stage or until we have had full discussions with the new Frelimo Government.
That the draft Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1975 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments.
That the draft Defective Premises (Northern Ireland) Order 1975 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments.
That the draft Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1975 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments.—[Mr. Pavitt.]
Sexual Offences (Amendment)
I beg to move,
The purpose of the Bill is to change the law relating to rape, because as it stands it is more likely to protect criminals than to prevent crime. It is a deterrent to reporting crime rather than a deterrent to crime itself. It provides a loophole for the villain rather than a shield for the victim. Rape is often seen by men with Tarzan minds and Tom Thumb imaginations as a bit of a game—an inevitable result of skylarking between two promiscuous people. In fact, in many cases rape is a vicious and degrading crime—far more important and far more evil than crime against property. Yet, as everyone knows—despite the Home Secretary's astounding statement that he has no evidence—the majority of raped victims do not report these crimes. In all other crimes, the first reaction is to telephone the police. Why, therefore, are so many crimes of rape not reported? I believe that the reason is that the balance of law—between protecting an innocent victim and an innocent defendant—is tipped much too heavily against an innocent victim of rape. In the absence of statute law for rape we have to depend on common law. This law has now been clarified by the Law Lords, who have specified that a man cannot be convicted of rape if he believed that the woman consented, however unreasonable that belief may have been. The central theme of my Bill is that a man's belief that a woman consented should be considered only if it is put forward on reasonable grounds. To consider a belief based on unreasonable grounds, as the present law does, is to belittle the victim and to befriend the rapist. I am aware that many lawyers are content with this judgment and claim that it will have little, if any, effect. Unfortunately for them, that claim has been undermined by one of the Law Lords who gave the judgment. He said that if the three men in that case had claimed their belief that the woman was play acting when she struggled, rather than claiming that she did not struggle, they might have been acquitted. In other words, if rapists tell the right kind of lies, they will be acquitted and get away with it. The alibi, that a rapist thought his victim was play acting when she struggled, has now acquired a new respectability and requires no reasonable basis. Juries are not clairvoyants and they will be doubtful about convicting a rapist now that it is abundantly clear, after this judgment, that he needs no reasonable ground for holding any belief, however bizarre it may be. Doubt is a formidable weapon in the hands of a defence counsel, already well armed, well trained and well able to demolish most respectable women in the witness box. This ruling will make a difference to the attitude not only of juries but of women. Many of them are already reluctant to report rape, and they will now be even more unwilling to come forward. A victim of rape must not only endure the original assault, police interrogation, medical examination and counsel's cross-examination but now listen to the rapist claim his "belief", on unreasonable grounds, that she was willing to accept what she received. Clearly, very few women will feel able to suffer that kind of injustice on top of rape, and women will be unwilling to report to the police. If women do not report rape to the police, how shall we catch the rapist? I am convinced that the effect of this judgment will be to accelerate an already escalating rate of increase in the number of rapes. Therefore, we need urgent action by the Government. Failing that action, I shall continue again and again to press this Bill until the law is changed. I intend to bypass the legal thickets surrounding the interpretation of the existing law and seek to change the law itself. Therefore, I suggest that the offence of rape should now be changed so that it shall be defined as follows:That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to rape.
I understand that this Bill is to be opposed, but effective opposition will require more than a defence of the existing legal situation on rape. It will now also require a rejection of my new proposition. In addition, I propose that the Criminal Law Revision Committee should be asked by the Home Secretary to consider, first, a guarantee of anonymity of rape victims in court and, secondly, the prohibiting of the disclosure of a woman's past sex life in court, because that is irrelevant to the question of sexual assault anyhow. However, I urge the Home Secretary not to refer my proposal for a change in the law requiring reasonable grounds for a belief to the Criminal Law Revision Committee because the need for this change is urgent. I suggest that he should consider and bring forward this change of his own accord. The present Home Secretary will go down in history as, among other things, one of the most compassionate and enlightened men ever to grace that high office. I hope that today he will not vote against my Bill but will take it to the Home Office for detailed scrutiny during the Whitsun Recess and that when the House reassembles in a few weeks, he will announce his intention to introduce urgent legislation and to act on these lines. If he does that, he will reduce violent crime, remove the fears aroused by this judgment, and earn the gratitude of millions of women throughout this land."A man who has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, and without reasonable belief in her consent, is guilty of rape."
Does the hon. Gentleman wish to oppose the Bill?
Yes, Mr. Speaker.I think that the whole House will have sympathy with the motives of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) because the problems that have precipitated his interest are of undoubted concern. However, it is important to realise what the Bill is not about and what the law certainly has no ambiguities about. The situation that has arisen in Cambridge recently is not one about which the present state of the law should give us any reason for concern. My greatest objection to the Bill is that my hon. Friend's proposal would relax both the burden of proof relating to serious crime and to some measure, if I understand him correctly, the degree of scrutiny to which a witness who makes an allegation of rape is subjected. It is never pleasant for a witness to give evidence in a serious matter, but my hon. Friend is in error if he thinks that it is necessarily more unpleasant for a woman to give evidence in this kind of case than for witnesses in many other cases. I have in mind, for example, persons involved in blackmail cases. The important point is that this is an area of human relationships where the tendency or the incentive to tell lies is to be found in almost equal balance. In a snatch and grab rape situation, such as the Cambridge syndrome, as I will call it for ease of reference, which is clearly not within the compass of matters that we have under consideration and would be regarded as rape in any circumstances, either party might easily be lying. My hon. Friend referred to a defendant in a particular case telling a story and the jury believing him and wrongfully acquitting him. It is equally true that a promiscuous woman, repenting of her promiscuity, might decide to tell lies, as it were, to give a gloss of respectability to her situation. I certainly would not mention the name of the case—it would be professionally improper—but 18 months ago I prosecuted in an alleged rape case where a somewhat similar situation arose. Although the evidence, on the face of it, was very strong, the amibiguities of the woman witness and the contradictions that she made in the box led me, at any rate, in the privacy of my own thoughts, to have considerable anxiety. I was as relieved as were, I think, others in the court that after a long deliberation the jury acquitted. My hon. Friend is, I know, concerned about the recent case of Morgan and others which appeared in the House of Lords. In that case the House of Lords held by a majority that it was necessary only for a person honestly to believe that the woman concerned had consented and that it was not necessary for that belief to be reasonably held. Let me remind the House that in that case the jury did not believe, and the House of Lords said no jury could believe, and the appeal was dismissed with no damage done. The real point here is this: honesty of belief is fundamental to criminal law. If one honestly believes an act, sometimes in quite improbable circumstances, that is, in all but absolute offences, such as offences under the food and drugs legislation, the essential defence. It seems to me profoundly disturbing that there should be any attempt to relax the stringent requirements of the law in relation to a serious offence. In fact, the reverse should be the case. The more serious an offence, the more onerous should be the burden on the prosecution, the more it should be demanded of a witness that he or she should be subjected ruthlessly to cross-examination, and the more one should be required to look into the frame of mind of the person concerned. It is said repeatedly in addresses to juries that one cannot unscrew the top of a man's head and see what is in his mind. However, one can see in what he does, in the demeanour he adopts and the stories he tells, whether he is behaving honestly. The law is perfectly adequate as it stands. The House of Lords decision is not a licence for a sophisticated rapist. There is still the requirement of a defendant that he shall have an honest belief. In addition, anyone who engages in sexual activities outside marriage is, I submit, presented with many hazards. This is, above all, an intimate field of emotional human relationships where
Division No. 214.]
|Adley, Robert||Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P.)||Doig, Peter|
|Allaun, Frank||Campbell, Ian||Dunlop, John|
|Ashley, Jack||Canavan, Dennis||Dunn, James A.|
|Ashton, Joe||Carmichael, Neil||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth|
|Bain, Mrs. Margaret||Carter, Ray||Durant, Tony|
|Baker, Kenneth||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Dykes, Hugh|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Edge, Geoff|
|Beith, A. J.||Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Anthony Wedgwood||Clemitson, Ivor||Elliott, Sir William|
|Berry, Hon. Anthony||Cocks, Michael (Bristol S.)||Ellis, John (Brigs & Scun)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Cohen, Stanley||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Coleman, Donald||English, Michael|
|Booth, Albert||Cope, John||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Corbett, Robin||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Costain, A. P.||Evans, John (Newton)|
|Boyson, Dr. Rhodes (Brent)||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Fairgrieve, Russell|
|Bradley, Tom||Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Fell, Anthony|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Cryer, Bob||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Cunningham, Dr. J. (Whiteh)||Flannery, Martin|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Dalyell, Tam||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S.)||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Forrester, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Delargy, Hugh||Freeson, Reginald|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Dempsey, James||Freud, Clement|
rationality is not always to be expected of human beings. I use the phrase "She did not say 'Yes', she did not say 'No'", and that represents a hazardous situation.
The letter to The Times by Professor J. C. Smith on 7th May, in condemning an editorial in that newspaper of two days previously, said:
"A man who intends to have sexual intercourse with a consenting woman may have an immoral intention but it is scarcely the kind of criminal mind which should make him liable for an offence carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The fact that he ought to have known that the woman was not consenting is not a valid ground for imputing to him an intention which he did not possess. To do so is to impose the same kind of objective test of criminal liability as was applied by the House of Lords in DPP v. Smith".
That was a case of murder.
One must always look at the frame of mind of the person concerned. Once one moves away from that one moves in the direction of absolute offences, and once one moves in that direction the dangers of the conviction of the innocent become greater. It always has been a fundamental principle of our law that it is far better for a guilty person to go free than for an innocent person to be condemned. For these reasons I oppose the Bill.
Question put pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 ( Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—
The House divided: Ayes 228, Noes 17.
|Fry, Peter||Litterick, Tom||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S.)||Loveridge, John||Rooker, J. W.|
|George, Bruce||Loyden, Eddie||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Golding, John||Luce, Richard||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Graham, Ted||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C.)||McCartney, Hugh||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||McCrindle, Robert||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Gray, Hamish||Macfarlane, Neil||Selby, Harry|
|Griffiths, Eldon||MacGregor, John||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C.)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Grist, Ian||McNamara, Kevin||Shepherd, Colin|
|Grocott, Bruce||Madel, David||Sillars, James|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mahon, Simon||Sims, Roger|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Marks, Kenneth||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Hampson, Dr. Keith||Marten, Neil||Small, William|
|Hannam, John||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Hardy, Peter||Maynard, Miss Joan||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||Meacher, Michael||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hatton, Frank||Mellish, Rt. Hon. Robert||Stanley, John|
|Hayman, Mrs. Helene||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Henderson, Douglas||Mikardo, Ian||Stewart, Rt. Hon. M. (Fulham)|
|Hicks, Robert||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Stoddart, David|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Miller, Dr. M. S. (E Kilbride)||Taylor, Mrs. Ann (Bolton W.)|
|Holland, Philip||Moonman, Eric||Tebbit, Norman|
|Hooley, Frank||Moore, John (Croydon C.)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Thompson, George|
|Horam, John||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Hordern, Peter||Morris, Michael (Northampton S.)||Thorpe, Rt. Hon. Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Mudd, David||Tierney, Sydney|
|Huckfield, Les||Nelson, Anthony||Tomlinson, John|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Neubert, Michael||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Newens, Stanley||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Hunter, Adam||Normanton, Tom||Urwin, T. W.|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Onslow, Cranley||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V.)|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Orbach, Maurice||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V.)|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Page, Rt. Hon. R. Graham (Crosby)||Wakeham, John|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pardoe, John||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Park, George||Watkins, David|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Parkinson, Cecil||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pavitt, Laurie||Wellbeloved, James|
|Jopling, Michael||Peart, Rt. Hon. Fred||Welsh, Andrew|
|Kelley, Richard||Penhaligon, David||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Kilfedder, James||Peyton, Rt. Hon. John||Whitelaw, Rt. Hon. William|
|Kimball, Marcus||Prescott, John||Whitlock, William|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Price, William (Rugby)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Kitson, Sir Timothy||Prior, Rt. Hon. James||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Lamborn, Harry||Radice, Giles||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Lamond, James||Reid, George||Wise, Mrs. Audrey|
|Lane, David||Richardson, Miss Jo||Woodall, Alec|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Woof, Robert|
|Le Merchant, Spencer||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lewis, Arthur (Newham N.)||Roderick, Caerwyn||Mr. Peter Snape and|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Mr. A. W. Stallard.|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N.)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jessel, Toby||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Critchley, Julian||Lawrence, Ivan||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N.)||Lee, John|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C.)||Mates, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Mayhew, Patrick||Mr. Russell Kerr and|
|Edelman, Maurice||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Mr. Marcus Lipton.|
Question accordingly agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Jack Ashley, Mrs. Lynda Chalker, Miss Janet Fookes, Mr. John Hannam, Mrs. Helene Hayman, Mr. Emlyn Hooson, Mr. David Lane, Mrs. Millie Miller, Mr. A. W. Stallard and Mr. Brian Walden.
Sexual Offences (Amendment)
Mr. Jack Ashley accordingly presented a Bill to amend the law relating to rape: and the same was read the First time and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 11th July and to be printed. [Bill 168.]
Orders Of The Day
British Leyland Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I have not selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Liberal Party and his hon. Friends.
I do not believe that there will be any dissent on either side of the House if I say that this Bill is one of the greatest importance, involving a major investment by Government in an important industry. I would be less than fair to the House if I did not admit at the outset that in matters of Government involvement with industry, under all Governments, we are feeling our way towards arrangements with which we do not have a great deal of familiarity.Although the Liberal Party's Amendment has not been called, perhaps I may be allowed to allude informally to the point contained within it and to say that the Government themselves do not dictate the time scale or the timing of industrial problems that come before them. Were it possible for the Government to anticipate every problem in its entirety, and to have time to review every alternative with academic leisure, we might make better progress. I recognise that the Liberal Party's admendment contains a point to which I have to turn my mind, even though you, Mr. Speaker, have chosen not to call it. The Bill would empower the Government to implement the Ryder Report which, as the House knows, has been accepted by the Government as the basis for their policy towards British Leyland. Perhaps I may refer to something else which I know will arise—because it has arisen in Questions—about the parts of the Ryder Report that have not been published, but have been omitted. When I made my initial statement in the House I said that it would not be possible, for reasons of commercial confidentiality, to publish the whole report but that I hoped to publish as much as could be published. I can give the House the assurance that the parts that were omitted, were omitted at the suggestion of the Ryder team and not of the Government—that is to say, we are publishing the edited version that was given to us by the Ryder team and the Government have not of themselves determined which parts should not be published. I know that this bears on another matter which is being discussed, in the context of the Industry Bill, about the confidentiality of commercial information, and I think I could reasonably argue, and would argue, that in recognising that some information is commercially confidential, the Government have perhaps indicated through their action in this case their recognition that these issues of confidentiality have to be taken seriously. May I repeat what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in paying tribute to Sir Don Ryder and his team and, to set the statutory position straight, say that the Industrial Development Advisory Board had the Ryder Committee's recommendation before it, but that, as its own chairman was one of the members of the team and another, Mr. Urwin, was also a member of the team, the Industrial Development Advisory Board was happy that the Government should proceed on the recommendation of the team without a parallel and separate examination by the IDAB. Since the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons, I have had the opportunity of meeting not only Lord Stokes and others informally but also the board of British Leyland, and I had a very good meeting two or three days ago with Sir Don Ryder and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, representing workers in British Leyland. We are now proceeding as fast as we can to make provision for the progressive implementation of the Ryder approach. Sir Don himself, with the help of two members of the team, Mr. Clark and Mr. McWhirter, plus departmental officials from the Treasury, the Department of Industry and the Department of Employment, are now engaged in the current work arising from the report. Let me add one word also about Lord Stokes, who came to see me last week about the valuation of the shares at 10p. He has a statutory duty to his shareholders, many of whom are small shareholders—many of them workers in British Leyland. He came to me with others from the board—Mr. Lucas and Mr. Park himself—to query the valuation at 10p—I have no doubt that this point will arise in the debate—and to ask the Government to reconsider the matter. In the course of discussion with him I explained, as I would have done any way to the House, the reasons why we had determined as a Government that the Ryder recommendation here was the right one, that the asset valuation was in fact unrealistic, given the state of the company, that the share value which had itself been very much reduced, at any rate before the suspension of dealings in the shares, indicated that 10p was a reasonable offer to make, and that the provision for shareholders to be able either to sell at 10p or to buy in, under the arrangements that we have provided for the special rights issue, was reasonable. I report this to the House because it is right that the House should know that Lord Stokes made separate, distinct and firm representations to me on behalf of his shareholders. Apart from that one issue, on which the board has its own duty to perform, it has been helping very much to try to carry through the main recommendations of the Ryder Report. Mr. Alex Park has been appointed acting chief executive, together with four managing directors for the four divisions—Car, Bus and Truck, International, and Special Products—and although the chairman has not yet been appointed, Lord Stokes in his capacity is working on the problems of implementation. I say a word now about the background to British Leyland, going back some time, because this, too, might be of interest to the House. My own involvement came first in 1966 when Chrysler decided to buy Rootes and there was anxiety then that this might lead to difficulty in British-owned motor industry. It was at that time that the discussions between Sir George Harriman of British Motors and Sir Donald Stokes of British Leyland began. We had at that time hoped—and I reported this to the House in January 1967—to establish a British motor corporation which would have absorbed Rootes rather than see it absorbed into Chrysler. However, the merger, when it came later, was between the two major companies, and we know now from the Ryder Report that the merger did not succeed in achieving its objectives, Certainly the investment was not available on the scale required, and there were other problems which remained unresolved. It is no part of my purpose in moving the Second Reading of this Bill to criticise anyone in British Leyland, because the company has formidable difficulties. But we have now an opportunity to consider what needs to be done, and that may throw some light on the inherited difficulties of the company. I want to put on the record the fact that I had discussions last summer with Lord Stokes about the investment programme of the company to see whether there were possibilities of expanding that programme. It was out of joint studies of that kind that the company's difficulties came to light and I made my statement to the House before Christmas, this corresponding with a period of worldwide difficulty for the motor industry not confined to British Leyland in this country and not confined to motor companies in this country, as the House will know from studying events in the United States and on the Continent. The guarantee was granted and given, the Ryder Committee was set up, and the Government have now accepted its report as a basis. The Bill provides an opportunity, if the House so chooses, for the Government to proceed themselves and to finance their part of the recommendations. I turn to the basic proposals, recommendations or conclusions of the Ryder Report. The first matter to which Sir Don Ryder and his team turned their attention related to the basic question whether Britain should remain in, and seek to remain in, vehicle production and what should be the rôle of British Leyland in that picture. There are long passages in the report bearing on this matter, and the conclusion to which it comes is that, despite the problems of the motor industry due to the present world recession, and despite the problems which have struck the motor industry due to the rise in oil prices, the motor manufacturing industry will, worldwide, remain a major industry, that Britain should remain in it and that British Leyland should be, and could properly be recommended to be, a major producer of motor vehicles, buses, trucks and other vehicles. This issue comes to be discussed in the House today, and I put it to the House that, after examining the Ryder recommendations and considering the matter in the light of independent studies which have been undertaken by the Government, we have concluded that that was a correct recommendation to make. If we consider the rôle of the motor industry in Britain's foreign trade performance, our exports of motor vehicles are running—to quote the year 1973—at £1,800 million gross with a net export surplus of £1,000 million. Those who argue, as sometimes it is argued in academic and newspaper comment about the motor industry, that we would do better to reallocate the skilled resources into other industries have to be sure before putting forward that view that we could easily shift these highly skilled people from one type of export production to another. We accept what Sir Don recommends, namely, that these figures should influence our mind in these matters. On the third question, about whether it was right to sustain British Leyland at this moment or to go for a course involving bankruptcy, there is, again, ground for disagreement, and I dare say that that disagreement will emerge in the debate today. In the case of Rolls-Royce in 1971, the last Government opted for bankruptcy, and that had effects which I need not go over in detail now. But it is one thing to bankrupt an aero-engine company dealing with a relatively small number of aircraft manufacturers where the Government would clearly be involved in the ongoing business, and it is another to bankrupt a company linked to a series of suppliers and distributors world wide. In our view, it would have been wholly irresponsible for us to have adopted the course of bankruptcy with British Leyland. When I say that we considered it, I suppose that every option has to come up on a piece of paper at some stage or other. But I must not give the impression that in our view there was any merit in that method of proceeding. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, in an intervention the other day, that bankruptcy was an inevitable part of our capitalist economics. That may be so, but it is certainly not a practicable or a correct way of handling matters of this kind. When making his statement my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister drew attention to the fact that there were about 1 million jobs in all at stake here, and that the Midlands had handing over it the spectre of becoming a development area, like other parts of the United Kingdom, or an industrial desert. If British Leyland had been allowed to go into liquidation, in our view that danger would have become a great deal more real. Therefore, I believe that our decision was correct.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain a little further the figure of 1 million unemployed which was referred to by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister? It is difficult to understand precisely how that figure was arrived at.
I must not do more than quote my right hon. Friend's figures. I understand that what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said—I think I am quoting him correctly—was that a million jobs hinged upon British Leyland and that 165,000 people were directly employed. The motor car industry is an assembly industry. About 80 per cent. is bought in. It is centred around the Midlands. The hon. Gentleman will know, at least as well as I do, that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of firms whose whole livelihood depends upon components, in part to British Leyland. Therefore, we felt it right to reach the decision not to allow a bankruptcy with all the chaos, uncertainty and risks of further bankruptcies, secondary and teritiary, that would follow from that.
We in Scotland have learnt something about what happens when a firm is bankrupt and we try to bring it back into the public sector. We know how inefficient that is. Heaven help us if that happened to any factory in the Midlands. This is the most inefficient way of doing it.
I am trying not to be too controversial in presenting this matter, otherwise I should have gone into past issues as well.I should like to make one other point about profitability. It is always open to a firm, by a ruthless chopping of its uneconomic activities, to restore itself to profitability, as might have been done if British Leyland had closed Austin-Morris, for example, and we might have had a small profitable British-owned motor industry, but the vacuum created by so doing would have led to a huge flood of imports of motor cars from abroad—those imports are already running at a hair-raising level—and it would have affected our exports as well. I come to the next question which arises from the Ryder recommendations and from the Bill; namely, the need for investment on a very large scale. A lot is written about the motor industry, and I want to come back later to some of the things that have been said.
The right hon. Gentleman has now left the Ryder recommendation that we should have an indigenous motor car industry of our own. He has given the reasons why Ryder favoured this course. What he has not done is to say whether Ryder considered other alternatives. There is no mention in the document of other alternatives which could have been pursued. Have the Government given consideration to this?
I shall try to answer the right hon. Gentleman's question as best I can. I cannot speak for Sir Don Ryder, but my understanding of his approach and the approach of his team was that in a matter of this magnitude it would be right for them to make a firm recommendation to the Government and not simply to work for four months and present a range of options. They thought it right to make a firm recommendation.
Let me finish as best I can the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question.The Government considered the Ryder report, and, as is inevitable in ministerial examinations of such matters, they noticed at any rate that there were alternatives of a different character, including bankruptcy, to which I have referred. We concluded that the recommendation made was the right one.
No one disputes that it was reasonable for the Ryder team to make a recommendation. That was not the question put by my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend asked whether the Ryder team considered a range of options of support.
The Ryder team was a self-contained team that gave me, on the time and date promised, its report. The Government were not involved in discussions with the Ryder team during the progress of its work. The Ryder team presented its report to the Government, which it was commissioned to do. The Government then set up their own internal procedures for examining it. I am now presenting to the House our view, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is based on the belief that the Ryder recommendation was correct.
It seems a little curious that the Government have accepted a commitment to an expenditure of £2·8 billion without knowing whether there were alternative ways of saving the British Leyland company.
I anticipate, as I am sure the House does, with interest the hon. Gentleman's speech. In my opening remarks I made a comment about the Liberal amendment, and I said that the Government did not, in the circumstances, find it easy to sit back with time and leisure to consider a wide range of options and did not always have all the information that they would like to have when reaching decisions of this kind. I can do no more than put forward the Ryder recommendation upon which we reached our own view.
It must be within the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge, as he was holding discussions with the company last summer, that British Leyland itself had a £5 million investment plan. What consideration was given to that at the time, and was this taken into account on receipt of the Ryder report?
I answered that point too eliptically a moment ago when I said that last summer. I went to see the company to inquire about its investment plan and to see whether it felt that there was a level of investment it would like to see that was beyond its current capacity because of difficulties over finance. Out of the joint examination of these problems which took place between British Leyland and my own officials was revealed a much graver problem which led to my coming to the House for permission to give the guarantee and to the Ryder recommendation. In the Ryder team's examination of the British Leyland problems, Sir Don himself—I speak subject to correction—has readily recognised that he was able to draw upon its own plans and the possibilities that it has considered and to incorporate those which he thought sensible in his recommendation. To that extent the Ryder team reflects clearly the thinking done within the company.What I was dealing with a moment ago was the fact that one could have made the company profitable by the most ruthless amputation of unprofitable volume car work, which would have left us with a profitable company but a flood of imports, substantial unemployment, and a loss of exports and would not have been the right course to adopt. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that consideration has been given to this matter. I turn to investment, because this is a very substantial investment programme. I have said elsewhere that there is probably a Ryder report to be written about a lot of other companies, some of which are not in difficulties. There has been over a 10-year span a substantially lower level of investment in British plant, equipment, tools and tackle compared to that of our major competitors. When this big reinvestment programme is brought forward it indicates, in the context of one company, the measure of the gap that there may well be in other companies. I was handed today an item on the tape—it may be in the evening papers—which indicated that the President of the Machine Tool Trades Association said that the investment that would flow from the Ryder recommendation would be such that the machine tool industry would not, in his judgment, be able to meet the demand. It is a fact that while British Leyland was running down for lack, in part, of modern machine tools Alfred Herbert was running down for lack of orders for machine tools. This collaborative decline, this parallel decline, has been going on throughout a great deal of the British engineering industry. It explains a lot of our weakness. It is certainly our hope—we have already set up working parties to look at it—that the expenditure flowing from the Ryder Committee's report, if the Bill is passed by the House, will find its way to sustain by orders and secondary re-equipment other parts of our engineering industry.
I accept what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the enormous amount of leeway in investment which a vast range of British manufacturing industry has to catch up. Can he give a reassurance that his Department is now engaged in assembling as best it can estimates of the size of the gap and the resources which it would take to fill it?
Any Minister would like to be able to assure the hon. Gentleman, as I would, that his Department had answers to every question put to him. But the magnitude of the problem is very great. We are opposed in general to the idea of doing our paper planning at Whitehall level without regard to the experience of industry. The whole concept of the planning agreement is to seek to identify and to meet the gaps, in so far as they can be identified from tripartite discussions between the major firms and the management and the unions—and not confined to firms in difficulty. We need to be able to identify the gaps and to seek to meet them if we are to match our major international competitors.As regards investment in industry, we should have to be thinking in terms of about doubling our present level, progressively. That again would be a figure one could arrive at if one were thinking of creating jobs in manufacturing industry at about the rate at which they are disappearing. That is a much wider question. From close studies in the NEDC planning agreements and in other ways, we hope to get an assessment of what is necessary to make British industry competitive again. The Bill provides, if the House assents, for £265 million to allow the Government to acquire shares and liabilities in the new British Leyland Company. Of this, £65 million is the upper limit for equities and £200 million to underwrite a new issue, assuming that both are fully needed. The new company, British Leyland Limited, would be empowered to offer one new share at 50p for each 10 existing 25p shares. The Government would offer to acquire each share at £1 a share, in all costing £60 million if every one of these shares was sold, and amounting to 10p a share, to which I made reference. That would be the £60 million. If the convertible loan stock were converted to British Leyland shares that might involve a further £5 million. The £65 million is, therefore, an upper limit for that purpose. The second part of the Scheme of Arrangement would be that £200 million of new capital would be available to underwrite a special rights issue of 50p shares at £1 a share, and these would be underwritten by the Government. The details will be circulated to the shareholders, meetings will be held under the auspices of the court, and we hope to have final sanction from the court in July and to complete the arrangements in September. However, I stress to the House that it is urgent that we should get this new investment going, and meanwhile, in another order which will come forward from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who will be moving it after this debate, we are seeking the necessary extra guarantees for the interim time involved. Looking beyond that matter, beyond the immediate issues raised by the Bill, we are, as the House knows from the Prime Minister's statement, ready to make a further £500 million of capital available from 1976 to 1978, which would come from the Industry Act—Section 8 and conceivably Section 7—and from tranches available under the new Industry Bill through the National Enterprise Board. That would be the statutory cover for this action. The Government will be making this available in such a way and in such a form as seems right, but it will be adjusted if necessary to see that with this substantial investment of public money there is a majority control of the company. The shares would be held, subject to the Industry Bill being enacted by the House, by the National Enterprise Board, which would have responsibility as the shareholder for seeing that a level of management efficiency was achieved. The new British Leyland would have a planning agreement of a kind that, again, arises under our industrial policy, and the normal provisions for discussions between the Treasury and the Department of Industry, as for a nationalised industry, would be operating to monitor the new investment. That is the broad framework of financial support and investment which we propose.
Knowing the right hon. Gentleman's very great propensity for discussing his arrangements with the workpeople concerned, may I ask whether he has mentioned to them that it is possible to give a golden handshake of £10,000 to every employee of Austin-Morris out of less than half the total of public money to be paid into the corporation?
The hon. Gentleman puts in a very vivid form a recipe for the expiry of Britain as a major manufacturing nation—that is, giving golden handshakes to persuade people to leave manufacturing industry and to emigrate elsewhere, where work is no doubt readily available. The hon. Gentleman highlights a point I made earlier. It is always possible to reduce by amputation manufacturing firms which are in difficulties to a smaller profitable part. The question for the House is how seriously we now take the spiral of contraction in the manufacturing industries, because this lies at the core of Britain's weakness and difficulty in so many areas. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is right and is cleverer at his economics than I am. But even if it were practicable so to do, such a policy would not or should not recommend itself to the House of Commons.I come to the particular point which the hon. Gentleman raised in opening his intervention—the point about the relationship of this policy to the people who work in British Leyland. The Ryder Committee, in making its report, attached absolutely correct priority to this question. The consultative arrangements which have been hammered out by the Ryder Committee in consultation with the management and the unions lie at the heart of the prospects of success of this enterprise. The discussions which I have had over many months—of course not only in this context but particularly the recent meeting with the confederation and the principal shop stewards concerned—have certainly persuaded me—although I did not need persuading—that the trade unions recognise that a very substantial change needs to be made in British Leyland to make it successful and that their anxiety and prime concern is that they should have opportunities, through new machinery, to play a much fuller part in the successful development of their company under those new arrangements. I have read many public comments about the need for copper-bottomed guarantees from trade union leaders and workers before a penny goes into the firm. I am sometimes puzzled by these comments because I should like to know exactly in what form, with whom and with what validity treaties of this kind can be arrived at between Secretaries of State and large bodies of workpeople who, in our free society, work voluntarily. There are many histories littered with examples of people who came back with pieces of paper that did not turn out to have any real basis. I would only say to the House that what we are being asked to do here—for everyone has a part to play in the recovery of British Leyland—is to look again perhaps in part at the attitude that as a nation we take to motorcar workers, as we invite them to look again at the rôle they may play in British Leyland. No doubt many hon. Members—all those with motorcar constituencies—will have had the opportunity on many occasions, as I have had on few occasions, of seeing the great assembly plants. They are the most dehumanising forms of manufacturing known to man. It was not for nothing that Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times" struck a responsive chord when it was first shown to the world, because he demonstrated with comedy and insight the tragedy of those locked in as people to the great production lines. I must say, without making any reference which could be held controversial in the House, that I am amazed that this body of workers in our industry, who contribute £1·8 billion of exports a year, should be so reviled, so attacked and so identified for special disapproval generally in the society in which we live. Perhaps they are better paid, perhaps they are better organised, perhaps we as a nation are guilty in that we worship the golden car instead of the golden calf. Perhaps our holy spirit is found in five stars at the petrol pumps and that somehow as a nation we feel guilty about it. Whatever the reason, it is perhaps astonishing—and only the dockers, I think come into the same category—that in the Press, on television and on radio, and notably, I suspect, in the BBC, I have yet to find programmes or articles which recognise the contribution made by the people in the motor car industry. I am not saying this provocatively, but if one-thousandth as much time were given by the BBC—I take that example to show that I am not appearing even to attack the opposition Press—to industrial diseases, or industrial accidents, or the need for re-equipment, as is devoted to industrial disputes in the motor industry alone, this country might not have needed to wait for a Ryder Report before it recognised one of the main reasons why we have fallen behind our competitors.
In the light of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the motor car workers and the consideration they deserve from Government and public at large, does he not feel that the taxpayers are also worthy of some consideration? Does he not agree that, when he is dealing with very large sums of taxpayers' money in this way, to say that one cannot make an agreement is an unsatisfactory way of handling other people's money?
I do not dispute what the hon. Gentleman has said. But motor workers are taxpayers and taxpayers are motor drivers, and this tendency to divide us between the long suffering motorist and the poor group here or there is wrong. We are all people. We as a society depend on our motor workers, and yet, through our public Press and media, we find very little recognition of the dehumanising work they do, without which our society would not manage. I wanted to put that on record without offence, and I will give one example.The example is that of the Cowley engine tuners. They had a dispute. That dispute was flashed over every bulletin and newspaper. It sold newspapers for weeks. But I had to search very hard to find a quarter-of-an-inch-long story on the back page of the Financial Times some weeks later to find it reported that the engine tuners had won their case at an independent arbitration. Whenever there is trouble—and everyone who knows industrial trouble as I do will agree—there is public clamour for sackings and redundancies and copper-bottomed guarantees. Why should that always be the way the community discusses these problems, without recognising the contribution that is made by the workers concerned? I say seriously to the House that it is very curious that, with all the marvels of mass communication at our disposal—high speed presses, television and radio—we should have had to wait for the Ryder Report to tell us that at the heart of the problems of the industry were bad facilities for people to contribute well and a lack of investment. If it is true—that sometimes out of an accident we discover what is happening—there may now be a wind of change, to recall Harold Macmillan's famous phrase, in British industry, we have to recognise it as being as relevant as it was when Mr. Macmillan used that phrase in South Africa many years ago. I say this because I do not think that it would be right for the House, representing the community, to complete its examination of the problems of this industry without recognising that, within it, are highly skilled people, including shop stewards, who are anxious in the case of British Leyland, and also in the case, I believe, of Ford and other companies, to make a contribution which we have not yet been able to institutionalise as we must now try to do. Of course, in the examination of these matters and the further progression of the proposals I am putting before the House, there will be monitoring, both internal and external. The Department of Industry has its role. Reports will be made to the House from time to time and the situation will be subject to such special inquiry as the House may wish to conduct. I want to set this problem against the background of the spiral of decline of British manufacturing industry which has been in progress, under all Governments, over the last 30 years and has accelerated in recent years—namely, that we have been losing workers capable of manufacturing cars, ships, motor cycles and many other products, and as a result we have lost export markets and seen greater import penetration. Quite apart from the slump which now affects the world, if this spiral is not reversed by investment and a new spirit and a new opportunity for industry, it will de-industrialise the United Kingdom. What I fear, and what I think the House and the country must fear, is that when the upturn comes in world trade we shall have so demobilised our manufacturing industry that we shall not be able to take advantage of the upturn. There must be a substantial increase of investment. Meanwhile, there must be support for great manufacturing traditions so that the opportunity to regenerate them will occur. There must be a big rôle for the Government in this because, without Government and public funds, properly matched by investment, accountability and a sharing in the profits, it does not seem at present that under any Government we can get the investment we need. We must do it by democratic discussion with those concerned, with the people who work in industry—people who are not able, under present arrangements, to contribute what they are capable of contributing by their skill and ability. I do not wish to over-dramatise the Bill or the motor industry, but I genuinely believe that the future of Britain as a manufacturing nation will begin when we can turn the tide of decline, but, above all, when we can begin to express more positively our confidence in the people who ultimately produce our wealth.
Unlike the Secretary of State, I actually represent some of the people who work in the Cowley plant of British Leyland. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman describing the conditions on the assembly lines—and I have a certain sympathy for what he said there—I could not help picturing the scene with which certainly all of my constituents are familiar, as are many constituents of hon. Members opposite, who will recognise it very readily themselves. It is that there are jobs available all over my constituency, in the magnificent countryside of the Chilterns, in small businesses where a more personal sort of atmosphere exists. They offer all sorts of jobs which might give a more human approach and environment in working conditions, but which are not filled because my constituents opt to work at the higher levels of earnings that Cowley offers.When the right hon. Gentleman depicts this heart-rending story in the graphic language he uses, the fact is that it has nothing to do with the determining motive of the men and women who have to decide the purpose for which they go to work. If the right hon. Gentleman would understand for one brief moment that the language he uses to describe Britain's deteriorating industrial position is totally divorced from the realities of the impact his speeches make upon the people who make the decisions which will effect the prosperity and livelihoods of those working people he claims so often to represent, he would know that never has there been a time at which investment prospects were so gloomy and when the prospects were declining so fast as in the period since he took responsibility for British industry. As I listened to the right hon. Gentleman depict this curious contrast between the settlement of the Cowley tuners' strike and the headlines that attended upon the strike itself, I saw a parallel which all of us who have watched him at work would not fail to notice. The Secretary of State for Industry's particular message and his personal impact are headlined across every newspaper in the land every day and are on every television screen every night, because he has decided to create a degree of trouble for the Government which has not been equalled in modern times. The Secretary of State for Industry is dominating the media because he has learnt to harness the forces of protest in this country. Other members of the Government, who go about their task, loyally serving their Prime Minister and their party, are excluded from equivalent coverage by the media. Everyone knows that that is what the Secretary of State for Industry has proved beyond doubt.
I understand that Labour Members do not wish to have the difficulties of the extreme Left of the Labour movement ventilated in public. However, if they were able to persuade the Prime Minister about the truth of the protest they make this afternoon, it would not be necessary for him, on an escalating scale, to do the job of the Secretary of State for Industry.The Secretary of State for Industry has created his own vested interest in difficulties. He has learnt, as no politician in the top ranks of the Labour movement, the vested interest of causing dissension, which has its own premium in media time.
Last night during a television programme with workers from Sheffield, one of the fortuities, which the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) made just now about £10,000, cropped up. One of the shop steward conveners in Sheffield stood up and said that they were asking for full employment and not hand-outs of money which would be gone in a few months.It amazes me that the hon. Gentleman can refer to the newspapers attacking my right hon. Friend without mentioning the fact that those newspapers, to a man, are owned by the deadly enemies of working people and endlessly pour out lies and innuendoes about the Secretary of State when any—
Order. It is the custom in this House for whoever has the Floor to decide how long an interruption should last. However, I would draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that he may have a chance to speak later.
The editors of the national Press will draw their own conclusions—
I am sure they will.
—about the pressures to which they are subjected.The Secretary of State for Industry quoted a statement, which the Prime Minister made to the House—I have it here—about the possibility that if British Leyland was not rescued in the way envisaged, a million jobs would be endangered. I know of no conceivable way—and I am sure the House will have noticed this afternoon that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to indicate any way—in which more than a fraction of those jobs could have been endangered, no matter how harsh the sanctions are that have been brought to bear on that company. The attractive word from the political point of view is to refer to the "bankruptcy" of the company. I have never heard anyone urge that that company should be declared bankrupt. I have heard many people suggest that it should go into receivership. That would mean that the profitable parts of the company would continue in a free-standing rôle and, therefore, the jobs involved would be protected and the suppliers to those sections of the company would be protected. There would then be an isolated question surrounding the Austin Morris problems, which would have to be dealt with one way or another. Whichever way we look at the possible solutions to the British Leyland problem, 1 million jobs could in no conceivable situation disappear or be in any way endangered. To use the language used by the right hon. Gentleman is completely to misunderstand the nature of the problem with which British Leyland is confronted—unless we are trying to appeal, over the heads of people who understand the realities, to people who want to be given political platitudes in order to feed their own convictions. The whole IRC strategy was designed to solve the problems of Austin-Morris, to cure those problems and to bring about a free-standing and credible story which would enable the jobs of those concerned to be made more secure. Today Austin-Morris is losing £1 million a day. The whole IRC strategy of the Secretary of State lies in tatters. That is what this legislation is all about. The right hon. Gentleman is coming round the track for the second time and the arguments are exactly those we heard when he passed the starting point the first time round. The reality is that he failed to tell us that there is a very different series of arguments, depending upon which part of British Leyland a person works for. There was no serious analysis of whether, if British Leyland had not been formed, the additional opportunities for the workers at Jaguar, Rover and Triumph would have provided real and lasting jobs in the towns and cities where the companies are based, and whether Britain would not have earned higher levels of exports by backing the successful former Leyland and Jaguar operations, rather than holding them back, without solving the problems of the Austin-Morris complex. That is the argument. To trivialise that with references to 1 million jobs is simply to debase the whole language of industrial political decision making to the level of the street corner. The Secretary of State for Industry, better than anyone in Britain, knows it. I turn to, perhaps, the most staggering revelation in terms of the sums of money involved. The Secretary of State was not able to answer the questions by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) and myself about the way in which the Ryder Report team had reached its strategy. I find it incredible that a sum of £2·8 billion can have been recommended to this House, with all the implications of that recommendation, and that the Secretary of State not only did not know what alternatives there were, but had never asked. In other words, he has not even done the basic homework that any responsible Minister in a Government Department would do for £50 million. Yet he has committed us to an expenditure of £2·8 billion. I should like to trace through the answers to the questions that the Secretary of State was unable to give the House, because I have taken the trouble to read the background. When we heard about the financial assistance to be given to British Leyland on 18th December 1974, the Secretary of State quite clearly gave the House the impression that a thoroughgoing review of all the options and alternatives for British Leyland would be undertaken by the Ryder team. I supported him—from this Box—in just that purpose. When the Prime Minister was telling us on 24th April of the conclusions of the Ryder Report, which we had not then had time to study, exactly the same impression was given about the overall comprehensiveness of the investigation and of the options that had been carried out. It was not until 1st May in a letter to shareholders that Lord Stokes explained the more specific task that was actually undertaken:
That is a rather weaker position perhaps than that put forward by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. It was not until 7th May that John Barber filled in the precise scope of the terms of reference given to the corporation and upon which the decisions and activities of the corporation in carrying out the work of the Ryder team were based. He told the Expenditure Committee of the House:"The capital investment programme in the report consists, with minor amendments, of figures produced by the corporation for a 10-year concept study requested by the team. The assumptions for the study including the availability of finance and the projected rates of inflation were laid down by the team."
He went on to describe the work and the company's attitude towards it:"We were asked to develop a concept study over ten years on certain assumptions. The two main ones were a rate of inflation and a fairly free availability of cash."
In other words, the Ryder team took a general conceptual plan, British Leyland worked on its refinement into a proper plan and, at lower levels of expenditure, into other plans. The Ryder Report is based only on the first conceptual plan of the British Leyland figures. The alternatives have never been studied by Ryder and have never been provided to the House."It did not pretend to be a plan. As soon as we gave it to the team I set in motion the refinement of that concept study into a detailed plan. I also set in motion to look at an alternative. We came up with a certain amount of money required; and I also set in motion working at lower sums of money in order to reach a plan."
The hon. Gentleman has spoken of the alternative plans put forward by the Leyland Company and of the later plan, the strategic concept, put forward by the Ryder team. Is it not the case that every time the company put forward some projection of the amount of money that it would require for its future operations and as soon as that was accepted, it promptly escalated its demands until it approached the figure with which Ryder has now come forward?
I think that that argument has validity. The British Leyland figures are the figures that Ryder has put forward on the basis of certain rates of inflation and a fairly free availability of cash. That does not sound to me exactly like pressing an examination of all the options available to the company to see which way it should go.So, what was claimed to be an overall assessment of the company's prospects turned out to be a single calculation for the team on one set of circumstances—and the most expensive and ambitious set. That is the basis of the plan presented to Parliament. There is no evidence at all—indeed, very much the reverse—that any alternative strategies were properly costed or examined. Only the company did that and we have not seen the results. The Ryder team has not asked for them and Parliament therefore cannot examine exactly the implications of the Ryder Report. On his own admission, it has never occurred to the Secretary of State that he should have done so. It is hardly surprising, against that background, that the Prime Minister should describe the results as one of the greatest single investments in manufacturing industry which any British Government have ever contemplated. On the basis of the preparation that I have outlined, the surprise would have been if it had been anything else. That is the background which obviously comes as a surprise to the Secretary of State for Industry. It is hardly surprising that, having started on so global and unquestioning a basis, once one pursues the detail down the tracks one is carried over the hurdles with hardly a faltering step. First of all, it was necessary to find out the size of the world market likely to be available over the next decade or so in order to project the part that British Leyland might play. For that sort of information, one has to go to the other motor manufacturers. To be fair, the view of the Ryder team is broadly in line with the forecasts of all the major manufacturers, but not of course in line with the independent European Automobile Industry Data Bank's forecasts, which are more pessimistic. But in judging the validity of the motor manufacturers' forecasts, we should remember that they have succeeded in creating a world capacity of 20 million cars to meet a world demand of 12 million. Having dealt with the background of the figures against which we are operating, it might be worth while to pursue the arguments about how British Leyland is supposed to respond to that hypothetical and vastly optimistic assessment of the future of the automobile industry. First of all, about 50 per cent. of British Leyland's output is for Britain. Ryder believes that, by 1985, that market will be little different in magnitude from the level of 1·6 million vehicles that it reached in 1973, and which was served by existing capacity. The United States is seen as part of the same pattern. It accounted for 15 per cent. of Leyland's overseas sales and that too, it was assumed, would be catered for by existing capacity. The biggest upward trend in world markets is seen in Europe, which it is estimated will be about 26 per cent. higher in 1985 than in the peak year of 1973. The target here—apparently a modest one—is to increase the British Leyland share of the car market from 3 per cent. to 4 per cent. Perhaps it would have been more helpful if the Ryder team had spelled out what that meant instead of making it necessary for the Sherlock Holmeses of industrial politics to work it out for themselves with their slide rules. But perhaps I can fill in what it means. It means that the 200,000 units sold in Europe last year by British Leyland—about 3 per cent. of the present European market—is expected to rise to 400,000, or 4 per cent. of a much larger market of 10 million, by 1985. So that nominal 1 per cent. increase is in fact a doubling of British Leyland's sales in Europe over the next decade. This is despite the fact that the models are not in operation today to do it, the fact that British Leyland is being forced, for a number of reasons, to abandon part of its dealer network—for example, in Spain, as a result of the contraction of the manufacturing base—and the fact that it is well known that the best way to establish a dealer network is to have the right product and buoyant sales, which gives one the best available dealers. British Leyland, in the context of improving its position in Europe, will have to create a dealer network without the model range upon which alone success can be built, on a scale which completely ignores Leyland's past record in exporting to Europe. The evidence for this can be found in the issue on motor business produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the first quarter of 1975. That shows the magnitude of British Leyland's task. First, the level of British Leyland's exports is now 12 per cent. lower than at the time of the merger in 1968. Then, exports accounted for 397,501 cars, or 48·6 per cent. of output. By 1973 only 347,998 cars or 39·7 per cent. of output was exported. Yet this is the background against which the Ryder strategy sees grounds for assuming a doubling of sales to Europe in what will be the most ruthless and competitive half-decade the motor industry has ever had to face. A 1 per cent. increase may seem tiny. But in absolute terms of over 200,000 cars it seems wildly optimistic. Nowhere in Ryder does it indicate whether the calculations are based on our continued membership of the EEC or the reverse. The only certainty is that we know it cannot be based on both assumptions. What I should like the Secretary of State to say in committing this £2·8 billion on the strength of the one buoyant market that Ryder sees in Europe is what he thinks the effect will be if we are not in the EEC in a fortnight's time. What calculations—could he wake up? I wonder whether we could get the Secretary of State to take some miniscule interest in what goes on in this House just for one brief moment. Could he think about the implications of what he is doing and find out whether he knows what the implications of Ryder are in or out of the Common Market? Perhaps he will tell the House whether the Ryder assumptions are based upon us being in or out of the Common Market—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman knows. If not, everyone except the Secretary of State knows that the Ryder assumptions are based upon us remaining in Europe. The whole future of British Leyland depends upon us staying in Europe. Yet the Secretary of State, to plead the narrow, non-governmental view that suits his own case, is trying to tell the people of British Leyland that they will be interfered with by the Commission. He knows that the whole of the strategy he has put to the House is dependent upon this country remaining in the Common Market. I do not wonder that he sits fast asleep on the Government Front Bench.
Earlier the hon. Member referred to chopping off the unprofitable sections of British Leyland as being his idea of dealing with the problem. That must mean that he would chop off the Mini range. That being the case, there would be only one comparable car produced in this country to meet whatever demand there was for such a model, the Hillman Imp. If the Mini went out of production the customer who wanted that size of car could get it only from the Common Market or Japan.
Perhaps I can clarify that. I never in any way suggested that we should do what the hon. Gentleman suggests—chop off parts of the company and therefore close down the Austin-Morris production plants. What I said was that we would be right to isolate the problem of British Leyland which now, as it was in 1968, is Austin-Morris and then seek solutions to deal with that. I will come to what I think the solutions might be.I come to my next question for the Secretary of State. The Ryder team worked its calculations on the basis of certain rates of inflation. Are those rates of inflation accepted by the Government and if not, where do they come from? If the Ryder team is working on different rates of inflation could we know what are the Government rates so that we can see whether Ryder is pessimistic or optimistic in his assessments? If we do accept the levels of inflation predicated in this report may I ask whether the Government have considered the implications for the whole of British investment based on an environment in which that is the level of inflation? How is British industry to bridge the gap in those inflationary circumstances between what industry has and what it is in need of for investment purposes? May I also ask whether the Government have considered the implications for the whole pensions industry when numeorus pensions will be unfunded if we have rates of inflation approaching the levels that Ryder has assumed necessary for the purposes of his study? I move to a number of other serious defects in the report. First, it totally fails to deal with the bewildering spread of factories throughout the United Kingdom from which British Leyland operates. It rightly refers to the need to rationalise the model range. But how can a serious report of this sort do anything more than skirt the immense social and human difficulties of carrying this out in practice? Everyone knows the problems that are to come. How is it that, in all responsibility, a Government or a team, because this was an independent team, cannot deal with the details of the implications for the men and women of British Leyland? In 1968 British Leyland had 74 plants. It has now reduced that number to 55. I cannot understand why there is no reference in the report to any further necessary contraction of those plants and the implications of so doing. What we do know is that whereas Chrysler operates from 13 plants and Ford from 21, British Leyland still has 55. I do not believe that there is an independent observer of the motor industry of this country who believes that that situation can continue. If it is not to continue, and this is the fundamental issue of the debate, would it not be more frank to explain to the people of British Leyland the implications of that change, show them the way in which the Government can legitimately help and then to call upon them to respond because they have been trusted with the information, rather than leaving them either with the delusion that they can go on as before or with fear that the certainty which it is the impression of the Government to create is illusory? Equally, I have great reservations about the vague assumptions on manning and productivity. Paragraph 14.11 quantifies £400 million as the contribution from the work force by 1982. The report in no way indicates the number of jobs likely to disappear as a consequence of that quantification. I have written to the Secretary of State setting out six different ways in which those figures can be built up. I do not know whether they are right. I make no claim for them other than that they are arithmetically correct. It is relevant to ask, first, why the Secretary of State has not replied to my letter, and second, why he has not told the House how many jobs are going from British Leyland so that the work force can understand what is expected from them in the clearly stated monitoring, step-by-step process to which the Prime Minister referred in making his first statement to the House. Since the bulk of the eight years, particularly in the earlier period, will be in circumstances of severe world overcapacity, sluggish markets and ruthless competition, the one thing that cannot be argued is that those jobs will be protected as productivity increases by rising sales. The whole basis of Ryder is that it does not in the early years look for rising sales on any scale. Yet it does look for rising productivity. There is a question-mark of £400 million over the jobs in British Leyland. I think we should tell the people what it means. A word now about what perhaps those of us who have sat for many long months on the Industry Bill Committee will have found surprising about the remarks of the Secretary of State. We found them surprising for two reasons. The first was that anyone who has studied the Ryder Report and has taken part in the Committee deliberations on the Industry Bill will have been confronted by the stark difference between the information which is to be extracted from British industry, handed over to the trade unions and conceivably released to the four corners of the globe, and the way in which identical information has been deleted from the Ryder Report and kept from this House and the public. The Government cannot, have it both ways. I have great reservations about the disclosure powers in the Industry Bill. I am perhaps, being optimistic, and taking slight encouragement from what the Secretary of State said this afternoon to the effect that the Government were sensitive to the commercial considerations. Perhaps at last we are beginning to get the message through. While the Ryder Report says that certain details of sales cannot be published, the Industry Bill insists on details of sales over undisclosed periods in the future being published. While Ryder omits the capital investment programmes in the divisions of the BLMC, the Industry Bill insists that capital investment programmes can be revealed in company after company across the land. The Government cannot have it both ways. It is either dangerous and damaging, as the Secretary of State argues, or it is not, as the Industry Bill argues. I know that the House will insist upon this incredible confusion being clarified at an early date.
The hon. Gentleman has created so many myths in the course of his speech that perhaps I may deal with this one before it escapes from his mouth into the high-speed printing presses. If the Industry Bill went through as drafted, the Minister would have the right to exclude information where confidentiality was necessary to preserve the interests of the company.
Yes, in the national interest.
In the national interest, yes.
There would then be an appeal to an independent committee which would have the opportunity to examine, beyond that, whether it would be damaging to the interests of the company concerned. The editing of the Ryder Committee Report was undertaken by the Ryder Committee, and the Government in endorsing the publication of the report in its edited form were also endorsing the judgment of the Ryder Committee that the information excluded would be damaging to the company and to the country, because British Leyand is a very important company. Therefore, the very opposite of what the hon. Gentleman says is true. The editing of the Ryder Report shows that the Government, despite the provisions in the Industry Bill which yet fall to be considered, are extremely sensitive, and always would be, in the exercise of their judgment not to damage British industry. Thus, all the hon. Gentleman's arguments about disclosure fall to the ground.
It is perhaps indicative of the interest which the Secretary of State takes in the details that at the beginning of his intervention he succeeded in getting the interpretation of the Bill totally wrong. The fact of the matter is that the Secretary of State has no power to prevent the handing over of information to trade unions on the ground of its confidential interest to the company. He has powers to do so only on the ground of national interest.At the point at which the information is to be handed over to the trade unions, there is an appeals procedure. The House will be familiar with the appeals procedure, in which the trade union is informed of what it is one is not prepared to tell it and then there is argument in front of a committee about whether the information should be given to the trade union. That is a procedure that is likely to cause so much harm and havoc, and so much uncertainty because of speculation about what one is not prepared to say that the amount of commercial security attendant upon that procedure is ludicrous and laughable, and the Secretary of State knows it. The debate in Commitee on the disclosure clauses has been concluded—once again the Secretary of State for Industry has it wrong. The justification for the clauses put forward by the Under-Scretary of State was not on the ground of the protection of the commercial interests of British companies but on the ground that we have to ensure that the unions are brought fully into the picture and are given all this information because that is what we believe in. For the Government Front Bench to come forward with a distorted representation of what the Prime Minister understands has nothing to do with the original White Paper pledges is simply to fight a last battle in defence of an Industry Bill which is the rape of British industry.
I know that the hon. Gentleman is not often present in Committee and he may therefore have missed the point. If there is a further application to the independent Central Arbitration Committee, as I have explained on two occasions when the hon. Gentleman was absent, that is done in such a way as to ensure complete confidentiality of the information. It will not be revealed publicly, and there will be no revelation of the transactions of the committee which would reveal it publicly. There will be only the declaration of the decision of the committee, so there is no loss of confidentiality.
I realise that I am a relatively insignificant person sitting within three feet of the Under-Secretary of State every time he utters this canard. He is aware, as I am, that anyone in industry who has studied the provisions realises that the appeals procedure is a farce which will lead to a continuing leak of information. It is incredible that virtually every activity of the Department of Industry in dealing with companies is leaked to the national Press before it is announced to the House of Commons. If that happens when Ministers alone are supposed to be in charge of information, what hope is there for British industry when all this information is being dealt with by the appeals procedure to which the trade union is a party? In a whole range of damaging and sensitive areas this procedure will prejudice jobs and investment still further.The last area of the report with which I wish to deal is the level of profitability that is assumed for British Leyland in future to ensure that the £1·4 billion that is to be self-generated will be achieved. The House will realise that this is a two-way deal in which the taxpayer is being asked for £1·4 billion in inflated money and the company is expected to generate the same amount. The Ryder Report is silent on the level of productivity that is expected, but if one pieces one's way through the details and extracts the relevant facts one can make the calculations for oneself. Paragraph 14.9 anticipates sales in inflated money of £5,935 million in 1981–82. Paragraph 14.12 tells us that the profits before depreciation and amortisation, interest and tax as a percentage of sales are expected to increase to 11 per cent. by 1981–82. From those two paragraphs it is possible to say that there will be a gross profit of £650 million in 1981–82. If we take £200 million for depreciation and £184 million for interest, we are left with a net pre-tax profit of £266 million in inflated money. Today's equivalent is £120 million or thereabouts. For the House to begin to understand the significance of that estimate of £120 million by 1981–82 I must first explain that the average of British Leyland's profits since 1968 is £28·5 million. The House is being asked to believe that in the face of a quite different trading climate, when the main markets open to British Leyland will not have returned to the 1973 level, the company will make four times as much profit in 1982 as it has made on average since its creation. That, I believe, is a very optimistic assumption. Any failure to meet it will be compensated for by adding to the already committed £1·4 billion of taxpayers' money by further increasing the load on the taxpayer. There are several other areas that must be dealt with beyond detailed criticism of the Ryder Report. I find it incredible that, having committed themselves to the Ryder strategy, the Government should set the internal CPRS to work on a long-term review of the world motor industry. We should at least wait until we have the conclusions from the study of long-term world markets before accepting so expensive a strategy which must be influenced by those conclusions. There is no attempt made to calculate the effect of allocating so large a part of the available resources for investment in this country to this one company in this one form. For the Government to commit £1·4 billion of taxpayers' money to investment in British Leyland is, in effect, to say that no other manufacturing company in Britain will invest a penny piece for six months. That is the order of magnitude of the commitment, with no calculation of the resource opportunities that are being missed by the Government. Our duty as parliamentarians is to expose the fact that if we maintain this loss-making company by adding to the burdens already placed upon the taxpayers, we are expanding the burden of tax-financed opportunities and activities and reducing the base of tax-generating activities upon which everything else depends.
I have a Leyland factory in my constituency. Why is the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) such a Dismal Jimmy? My workers are interested in truck and bus production. They are exceedingly optimistic about being able to get down to the task. Why does the hon. Gentleman think that he is doing Britain a great service by adopting this kind of attitude?
I am most grateful for the intervention of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell). I hope that he will explain to his constituents the sacrifice that they have made over the past seven years to finance long-run car production at Cowley and Longbridge, which has held back his constituents by depriving them of export opportunities and higher wages. That is the choice in which they were never asked to take a part. That is the choice that the hon. Gentleman is voting for tonight.The commitment to maintain British Leyland in its present form virtually without question is having an effect on the morale of management and men throughout our manufacturing industry. If this record of mismanagement and this abysmal record of industrial relations is to be supported in this way, what possible incentive is there for anyone to try to maintain a company in a viable form anywhere else in Britain ever again? If that is not the lesson of the moment, what was the Prime Minister trying to say when he told the strikers of Chrysler that there was not another penny? Was he trying to say that the lessons which had been applied to British Leyland, and which must have had an effect on the attitudes of the Chrysler people, are to be withheld if Chrysler is brought to the same situation as British Leyland? Why is it that the Prime Minister needs to come in so often to make the sort of statement that I would have thought a Secretary of State for Industry would regard as his responsibility? Was it to the strikers of Chrysler that the Prime Minister was talking when he referred to the politico-industrial ambitions which are bringing that company to its knees, or was it in reality one of his own Ministers that he had in mind? Was that phrase the signal of the end of the road for the Meridens, the Kirkbys, the Bear Brands, the Ferrantis and the steel review intervention? Is that what the Prime Minister was trying to say? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We shall see whether it was or was not.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the course of his speech the hon. Gentleman has not said what his proposals would be for the Austin-Morris Division of British Leyland—
Order. What on earth has that to do with the Chair?
I shall answer the hon. Gentleman's intervention in substance by arguing exactly what I believe the Government should have done and what I believe they should do even at this late hour. First, I reject the concept that we can put a team of outside experts on the task of examining a company, produce a report and then expect management and men to adhere to the standards and objectives of the report. That is the wrong way of going about the matter. The management should have been invited to produce its report and to show the options available to bring British Leyland back to profitability and independence, either in whole or in part and either on its own or in partnership with other private sector companies. That is what should have happened.The failure to do that, and the approach adopted by the Government of producing the Ryder Report and leaving that as the target for management, has produced for management an alibi for everything that goes wrong in future. It was essential to obtain the support of management and men. That is not what has happened, because the responsibility has now been taken firmly by the Government.