Shipbuilding And Aerospace
asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he can now give a timetable for the implementation of the Government's plans for the nationalisation of the shipbuilding and aerospace industries; and if he is yet in a position to give an estimate of the cost to public funds.
We intend to do our utmost to see that the Shipbuilding and Aircraft Industries Bill is made law in the present Session. As I explained to the House on 17th March, it would not be appropriate to estimate the costs at this stage because of the large number of unquoted securities to be acquired.
Does the Secretary of State not agree that, although he has, as usual, neglected to answer the question about the cost, it is quite obvious that the British aircraft industry has not failed the nation and that, therefore, he should drop the disruptive proposals for nationalisation? Better still, in view of the decisive rejection by the British people last week of one of his other crackpot proposals, should he not resign?
I need not explain to the House the Government's commitment to the implementation of their excellent election programme, which they put before the people twice last year and upon which they were elected. If the hon. Gentleman really believes that what happened last week represented an election victory for the Conservative Party he may have misunderstood the results.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answer today will be greeted with much happiness by people who work in industry and who are extremely anxious to see these plans carried through as soon as possible? Is he further aware that at present delay is causing great concern to all aspects of the industry, and that the sooner this measure gets on the statute book the better?
I agree with my hon. Friend that, whatever political view there may be about the measures that we are pledged to introduce, there is general agreement among management, unions and workers that the uncertainty is damaging. Therefore, when I answered the Question I made it clear that we intend to proceed in accordance with our pledges to the British people.
Will the right hon. Gentleman not reconsider his proposal, particularly in regard to ship repairers? I have in mind particularly Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Ltd., which operates from small yards in South Wales and which depends on a specialist connection? Does he not agree that there is no case whatever for nationalising this firm?
The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that the ship repairing industry was included in our proposals, but I am not surprised that he had Bristol Channel Shiprepairers in mind, as that company has spent, perhaps, £500,000 drawing the position to the attention of the people.
Is the Minister aware that Hawker Siddeley shop stewards in my constituency have no doubt whatever about his sincerity and determination to carry out the measures? They are worried about future orders when we are in this position. Therefore, will the Minister please bear in mind that the HS146 is a good aircraft and that they want to build it?
I am very well aware of the anxiety among Hawker Siddeley workers about the HS146, which my hon. Friend will know was dropped by Hawker Siddeley and not by the Government. One of the reasons we are anxious to proceed is that we want to remove the uncertainty and to look at the future of the industry. Meanwhile, the House knows that we are making arrangements to ensure that in the interim the damage is minimised. I shall shortly be making a statement about the underwriting of one foreign order to ensure that it does not go by the board before the Bill is completed.
Does the Secretary of State for Industry agree that the one lesson of last week is that the country is tired of the doctrinaire and divisive policies that are associated with his name? Does he not understand that the saving of £300 million that could be achieved by dropping this measure is the easiest way of giving confidence to the industry and of restoring the prospects of employment in it?
It is comments like that that make it increasingly difficult for me to take the hon. Gentleman seriously as a Shadow Minister.
asked the Secretary of State for Industry what his present estimate is of the export market for British cars and commercial vehicles to the EEC in 1975 and 1976.
Official forecasts of car and commercial vehicle exports by destination are not prepared. Despite depressed overseas demand, exports of these products to the EEC in the first four months of 1975 were 17 per cent. higher by value than in the same period last year.
Does not the Minister agree that in order for the country to achieve the targets of car exports to the Continent laid down, for instance, in the Ryder Report, the Government must do something about the rate of inflation in Britain? In that connection, will he tell us what the present rate of inflation is, compared with the estimate of 221 per cent. in the Ryder Report for the year ending September?
The hon. Gentleman is well aware of the present position on the question of inflation. Our concern in motor vehicle production is to ensure that there is a level of investment, particularly in British Leyland, over which we have more direct influence, to ensure that labour productivity and capital productivity may be greatly increased. It is our firm belief that if this is done the increase that Ryder sees in exports to the EEC, from 3 per cent. to 4 per cent. of the market, in a rising market, can. and indeed will, be achieved.
Will my hon. Friend turn his attention to a far more important export question, namely, the grotesque imbalance in trade in motor cars between this country and Japan? Will he make an immediate investigation—and inform his right hon. Friend of the results of it—to determine precisely what harmful effects this is having on the British motor car industry?
As my hon. Friend will know, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Ltd. has made an anti-dumping application in respect of Japanese car imports into this country. We are indeed reviewing that with all urgency. I ask my hon. Friend also to take into account that, although there has been a large increase—as he would say—of 88 per cent. or so in the level of Japanese imports compared with a year ago, there has been a similar marked rise in British exports to Japan of all manufactured goods.
British Steel Corporation (Chairman)
asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will now dismiss the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation.
No, Sir; I do not intend to dismiss Sir Monty Finniston.
Does my right hon. and much-maligned Friend—much-maligned by the media, that is—agree that Monty Finniston may well be hoping that my right hon. Friend the Minister will be sacked? In that event Monty Finniston may be hoping that he can resurrect the idea to sack 22,000 steel workers and also refer back to the proposal to denationalise the steel industry once the taxpayer has put it on its feet?
My hon. Friend knows that my sole concern in this matter was that the board of the British Steel Corporation should discuss fully with the trade unions concerned the problems caused by a downturn in the steel industry. I am very happy to say that out of the talks that took place in London between the TUC Steel Committee and the board of the British Steel Corporation the proposal for the 20,000 redundancies this year was dropped. That was my sole concern. The other matters that my hon. Friend raised are not for me.
How does the Secretary of State reconcile the Government's stated intention that nationalised industry should behave commercially and without undue subsidy with his own decision to interfere directly in the operations of the BSC? Is he so far removed from the chairman of the corporation that he must carry out his negotiations with him by public correspondence?
If the House considers the latter point carefully it will appreciate that there is some merit in trying to get away from the private arm-twisting that has occurred under all Governments and to bring some of these issues into the open. The hon. Gentleman is wrong in supposing that I did more than suggest to the chairman that he should discuss these matters with the trade unions concerned, and not with me. I did not discuss the matters with him. I remind the House that when the steel corporation last cut back in production in 197172 and made closures it led to the massive imports last year that came in because the steel capacity was not there to meet the demand.
asked the Secretary of State for Industry what further discussions he has had with the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Industry what plans he has to meet the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation.
I last met Sir Monty Finniston, the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation, on 28th April. No date for a further meeting has yet been arranged.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the central issue in the steel industry is one not of personality but of policy and that the steel corporation, in its understandable search for commercial viability, must not be allowed to imperil the jobs of steel workers in efficient steel firms like those at Stoke-on-Trent, nor must it be allowed to place Britain in an unduly dependent position with foreign steel works?
I make no apology whatever for having deliberately sought to ensure that the interests of British steel workers were taken into account fully by the board of the British Steel Corporation, for considering fully the implications on steel communities that depend on steel plants, and for trying to take a longer view ahead than some might think or appear to think necessary to safeguard our steel capacity, so that when world upturn comes that capacity will be there to meet it.
Recalling the recent confrontation between the Secretary of State and the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation, may I ask whether the Minister is now satisfied that the chairman continues to have that freedom and day-to-day responsibility which is necessary to run a competitive and profitable steel industry?
The hon. Gentleman speaks of confrontation, but he should not be guided entirely by what was reported. The chairman, who has total freedom of speech—I fully support that, and always have done—made a statement which caused great anxiety among steel workers and in steel communities. I asked him to see me, and at my meeting with him I asked him to have consultations with the TUC Steel Committee about the matter. That was what happened. The accounts given in the Press were ill-founded, for at no stage did I do more than seek to ensure that a nationalised industry chairman had good working relationships with his own employees, and I believe that that commanded wide support in the industry and outside.
Will my right hon. Friend say that before making important decisions affecting the steel industry he will always consider the views of the TUC Steel Committee, and particularly those of its chairman, Mr. Sirs, whose views are greatly respected by the members of our Parliamentary Steel Group?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he said. I maintain the closest contact with the TUC Steel Committee. I saw the confederation, and it was with its good will that I urged the chairman of the steel corporation to discuss these matters with the steel workers and not seek to push through a proposal that did not have their understanding and agreement.
I appreciate that the Secretary of State may not have further oportunities to meet Sir Monty Finniston, but will he nevertheless assure the House that he or his successor will try to meet the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation less frequently—perhaps once a year—and allow the BSC to get on with its day-to-day management unhindered?
It is a good thing that the community interest, like the interest of the trade unions concerned, should be reflected in tripartite meetings taking place between the Minister, the board of management, and the workers concerned. Although I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman put his question in fun, I do not think it is sensible that there should be a division between a nationalised industry and the sponsoring Minister, and it is even more undesirable that there should be a gap between the board of a nationalised industry and the workers, who, after all, create the wealth in the industry.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that there has been a longstanding tradition for the corporation to take carefully into account proposals from the people employed in the industry and that throughout the steel areas his own intervention and his insistence that the corporation and its board should again, on this occasion, carefully consider the alternative proposals put forward by the steel committee have been welcomed? Will he now further consider advising the steel corporation, in co-operation with the trade unions, that there should be a policy of stocking certain quantities of steel so that when the upturn comes British steel could be drawn upon and that some of those stockholders of steel who ordered great quantities of foreign steel last year should curtail some of those orders and not continue with their orders abroad, but switch some of those orders to our own steel corporation and private steel companies?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said about the attitude of the trade unions, which, throughout—there is a long history in this matter—have been entirely constructive in their approach to the British Steel Corporation. I think that a measure of their constructiveness can be found in the fact that the BSC board accepted their recommendations.As to the matter of stockpiling, we are considering it. If a stockpiling scheme were to be introduced I would want to be sure that its employment implications were favourable. There are various types of stockpiling, some of which could be more favourable in that respect.
asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he will be in a position to announce further funding for the RB211–524 engine to be jointly developed by Boeing and Rolls Royce (1971) Limited; and if he will make a statement.
The Rolls-Royce RB211–524 aero-engine is fully committed for use in the Lockheed TriStar. Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd. has recently put forward fresh proposals for the use of the engine in the Boeing 747. These are being urgently considered and I hope to make a statement very soon.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the formal Boeing deadline for co-operation in this programme runs out tomorrow? Can he assure us that the programme will not lapse through a too ready insistence by the Government on the two-order guarantee, and certainly that Rolls-Royce will not be asked to go along with this project for a few more weeks purely with its own money?When will my right hon. Friend persuade his colleagues in the Cabinet that this is a most important project, not just for jobs but for the future of British technology in breaking into this great new market?
I appreciate the concern of my hon. Friend, of others in Derby, and of other Rolls-Royce workers who know how important it is that other applications for the engine should be developed. I am in very close touch with Boeing. I hope that we shall find time to complete these discussions. I am sure that the Cabinet and my colleagues are all well aware of the importance of this engine. I must tell the House that at any time the placing of any further order for the Boeing with that engine would, of itself, trigger off full development.
Is it true that the Minister has approved this loan but that it is awaiting Cabinet sanction because the Prime Minister has taken away from the Minister his executive powers to grant loans without Cabinet approval?
The hon. Gentleman must know very little about government if he thinks that any single Cabinet Minister would be in a position, without explicit Cabinet approval, to authorise the expenditure of sums of money running into tens of millions of pounds.
May I impress upon my right hon. Friend the importance of this development? Not only will it have a tremendous effect on the Rolls-Royce areas which are producing the engine; it will have a spin-off effect in my constituency, where there are Rolls-Royce factories in East Kilbride and in Blantyre?
Yes, I accept that. When it was originally decided to go forward with the RB211 the previous Government endorsed that decision in their arrangements, and we decided to authorise the engine with the TriStar—so successive Governments have shown that they are aware of the wide range of applications for this engine. It so happens that it is difficult that it should be happening at this time and that we should have to reach this decision when airline orders are a bit sluggish.
I understood the Secretary of State to say that Rolls-Royce recently put forward proposals. Is he aware that these proposals have been before his Department for over 18 months and that Rolls-Royce needs a decision? The lack of decision is costing Rolls-Royce and Boeing money. Will the right hon. Gentleman attend to the matter and look after the jobs of the workers who are waiting for the engines and the customers who want it?
The hon. Gentleman is unfortunately misinformed. Rolls-Royce made its proposals on 21st April. It made substantial amendments. It provided figures on which my Department could start independent calculations on 8th May, and the revised brochure putting forward its proposals was received on 16th May. The hon. Gentleman has, no doubt, been quite accidentally but wholly misinformed about this business.
asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many major firms in the private sector have indicated support for the concept of planning agreements.
A number of views have been expresed both to my Department and in the media. They reflect a range of attitudes and concerns. The Government have said that they intend to extend their consultations with both sides of industry about the best means of implementing planning agreements. Firms will be better able to form a view as those consultations progress.
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is no area of our industrial policy on which the Opposition are less well informed than the degree of support for the concept of planning agreements? Does he recognise that amongst moderate opinion in this country there is a great deal of support for the development of planning agreements, which alone can set us on the path of economic recovery?
My hon. Friend is quite right. There can be no doubt that planning agreements are the best means of promoting the extra investment that this country desperately needs and for securing better industrial relations by widening consent through joint decision-making in industry. There is much wider support than the Opposition have indicated. After the White Paper was published in August last year, my Department discussed it with 13 of the largest manufacturing companies, of which nine generally favoured planning agreements.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there would probably be much more industrial enthusiasm for planning agreements if companies could look forward to the Government's being under a statutory obligation to reveal their plans for the economy and for particular industries?
The hon. Gentleman should well understand—since he has spent many hours in the Standing Committee considering the Industry Bill—that the Government have made it quite clear that they will provide short- and medium-term sectoral information to companies for the first time. This is of considerable advantage, and industry has told us how valuable it feels this will be.
Will my hon. Friend give us an assurance today that in the discussions which are likely to take place with the various interested bodies, particularly the CBI, there will be no retreat on the part of the Government in the face of the CBI's opposition? Will he also indicate that the views of his own hon. Friends on the Industry Bill Committee, calling for compulsory planning agreements for the larger companies, will be taken into consideration in relation to the whole question of the future of the Industry Bill?
I can certainly give my hon. Friend an assurance that following the consultations both with the TUC and with the CBI, which we have always been pledged to undertake, there will certainly be no secret changes. There will be full discussion in the light of any further representations that may be made to us by either side of industry, following the clarification of many points that have arisen in Committee.As to the further matter, of compulsory implementation of planning agreements, that is a point which has been made to us, but the Government believe that as a result of the guarantees that we shall give under Clause 14 of the Bill the great majority of large companies will see that it is very much to their advantage to undertake planning agreements with the Government voluntarily.
Since the hon. Gentleman has made clear that the bulk of public companies have no objection to voluntary planning arrangements with the Government, does he not realise the damage caused by the Government's insistence on compulsory disclosure powers and the damage that this could do to many companies' overseas competitive positions?Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the suggestion in The Times today, that the Government may be prepared to drop these compulsory disclosure powers in return for voluntary planning agreements, is one which the Government will support?
The hon. Gentleman would be unwise to believe all he reads in the Press. I can certainly tell him that the Government have always been committed to the compulsory disclosure of information. It was in the White Paper, and we have not in any way departed from that position. The only change which was made—and that was in response to representations from bodies which included the CBI—was that we have deliberately separated the compulsory disclosure powers from those associated with the planning agreements, in order to meet the suggestion that planning agreements should be wholly and completely voluntary.
British Steel Corporation
asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will publish his current estimate of the British Steel Corporation's investment programme for the succeeding five years, together with totals of the work force required over the same period.
The latest forecast of expenditure on the British Steel Corporation's capital investment programme was published in January of this year in the White Paper on Public Expenditure to 1978–79, Cmnd 5879. The forecast carried the qualification that the phasing of the programme is under continuing examination by the corporation.The corporation's development plans provide for a reduction in the number employed by the corporation from 225,000 at the present time to some 195,000 by the turn of the decade. These figures do not take account of further improvements in productivity which may be negotiated within the industry.
Does not that typically woolly answer hide the fact that the Government have spent 15 months trying to make up their minds about investment strategy as it affects Scotland and Wales? Does the Minister agree that we urgently need to hear the Government pronounce, given the confusion engendered by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, with all the queries and doubts he is raising about jobs lost within the EEC?
The Government have been carrying out the pledge which we made in successive election manifestos to undertake a full-scale review of the British Steel Corporation's closure and investment strategy. I do not believe that there is any delay or procrastination in the investment programme as a result of this review. All the major projects that were put to us last year—those that concern Teesside, Scunthorpe and Sheffield—have been authorised. The only major project put to us this year was that concerning Port Talbot. We received it at the end of January, but did not get the additional information required to take a view on it until the beginning of May. It is a major project, with implications for Shotton, but I believe that even on that we shall be able to reach a decision shortly.
Is my hon. Friend aware that many of the present difficulties of the corporation were caused by delays in approving investment proposals during the Conservative Government's period in office, up to 1974, and that had there been adequate investment then, not only would there have been more adequate steel supplies last year but employees in the steel industry would be in a much happier position today?
My hon. Friend is right. There certainly has been a marked lack of investment in the steel industry, particularly in the period before nationalisation. One of the great effects of public ownership will be to put the steel industry on a par with competitive industries abroad.
askd the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will publish a further White Paper on the working of the proposed Industry Act.
The Government will consider the publication of a further White Paper on the working of the proposed Industry Act in the course of the review of the Bill which we have undertaken to carry out.
I am sure that the whole House will be interested to hear that remarkable revelation from the right hon. Gentleman. May I remind him that neither the Bill nor the White Paper makes any mention of the Government's intention to nationalise one or more of the main clearing banks? In view of the committee which the right hon. Gentleman is chairing outside the House tonight, will he say whether it is his view that the National Enterprise Board has powers to nationalise one of the banks?
As we say, that is another question. I invite the hon. Gentleman to consider very seriously whether a paper written in a party office and coming up to a party committee—a paper which it so happens I had not read until I saw a reference to it in The Times, a document of options—is legitimately to be taken as the subject of a supplementary question. The House will know full well that in our programme for Britain, which we published two years ago, the Labour Party indicated our preliminary thinking about the matter and said that further work would be done on it. The matter does not arise on the question the hon. Gentleman put, but all political parties properly undertake forward policy work and it would be a great pity if that work were not undertaken and the results put before political leaders for consideration.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that while the Industry Bill, the related White Papers and the paper he may publish, are all very important matters for proper discussion, all these things will come to naught if we ever repeat the disastrous experiment which ended up in Britain's being put on a three-day working week, for which we are still paying a very heavy bill? Conservative Members should concentrate on that and the damage they have caused this country when they try to anticipate any evils that this Government may do.
The House knows that this country's manufacturing industry suffers from a period of decline that has gone on for some time. That decline is due partly to a lack of adequate investment and partly to a failure to make necessary reforms in industrial policy. Undoubtedly, the final few weeks of the siege economy we inherited from our predecessors made it worse.
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch)? Do the Government intend to use the powers taken in the Industry Bill to nationalise a major bank? Do they intend to nationalise a major insurance company? If the powers exist—as it has been admitted in Committee they do—are we now to assume from the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have no intention of using them?
European Community (Industry Ministers)
asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next expects to meet other Ministers for Industry within the EEC.
asked the Secretary of State for Industry what plans he has to meet his opposite numbers in the other EEC countries' Governments in the near future.
I hope to meet the Ministers with industrial responsibilities in all the Common Market countries as soon as possible.
What do the industry Ministers of the Eight think of the view of the Secretary of State that Britain's membership of the Community has cost us 500,000 jobs, and will cost us another 500,000? If the right hon. Gentleman still holds that view, how can he with any honour remain a member of this administration?
The hon. Gentleman may somewhat misunderstand the process of the referendum. The degradation and humiliation of members of the present Government who took the view that I took ends with the people's vote. It does not begin with it. The thing that was hardest to take was to be a member of the Community on the diktat of a Prime Minister of a previous Government without the assent of the British people.
Diktat of Parliament.
I have already this morning telephoned Mr. Spinelli, the industrial Commissioner in Brussels. He has suggested that he comes to London on Thursday for talks—a suggestion which I greatly welcome. I have already made informal contacts with the TUC and the CBI, because many people in this country are anxious about unemployment and will expect a British Government, now put into the Community by the British people, to work for the safeguarding of employment prospects and their interests within the Community.
Will my right hon. Friend now give an unqualified and unreserved assurance to the House that he will work unremittingly with our friends in Europe to ensure the success of our continued membership of the Common Market?
As I have just told the House, I have made contact with Mr. Spinelli. I have also written letters to my colleagues in the other Common Market countries. I do not require lessons in political morality from an hon. Member who regularly signs the oath of allegiance and continually snipes at the Royal Family.
Even if the Secretary of State wishes to dodge giving an exact and clear answer to the first supplementary question, will he at least explain to the other EEC industry Ministers, when he next sees them, why he thinks the British public overwhelmingly and decisively rejected his ludicrous assertion that unemployment of half a million was due to our membership of the EEC?
I do not believe that this is the right place to refight the referendum campaign, but I do not apologise to the House for putting forward views that were honestly held in a referendum which I had played some part in bringing about. Having said that, the British people have invited the British Government to work constructively within the Community to safeguard their interests, to safeguard their jobs, to see that the policy of the present Government is implemented, and to work constructively within the Community. I shall do my best to do those things.
Mr. Gordon Wilson.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the right hon. Gentleman's reply I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.
Before that point of order I called Mr. Gordon Wilson.
In view of the many statements that were made during the referendum campaign to the effect that staying in the Market would safeguard industrial jobs inside the United Kingdom, will the right hon. Gentleman, at his first meeting with the EEC industry Ministers, discuss the possibilities of increasing investment to help extend the manufacturing base in Dundee, in view of the loss of 800 manufacturing jobs in NCR plants in Dundee, notice being given on polling day? Will the right hon. Gentleman make an early statement on this matter?
The hon. Gentleman's anxiety about jobs is shared widely throughout the United Kingdom, but it may well be that this anxiety is one that I shall need most carefully to assess and express. I am happy that I shall have an opportunity to do so. I have already made initial contact with the chairman of the Finance Committee of the TUC. I shall take the opportunity of discussing these problems not only with the British trade union movement but with trade unions in all other countries in the Community.
Does my right hon. Friend concur that most of his duties are involved in discussions with trade unionists and not with Ministers in the EEC? As my right hon. Friend has established excellent relations with trade unions, will he note that many of us would strongly resent any removal of him from his present post and any appeasement of City gentlemen who are clamouring for his head on a plate? It is said that if that does not take place the City will not play. I quote Mr. Horace Cutler.
It is my intention—this is why I spoke to Jack Jones in this sense—that my contacts, which have been close, with the trade unions in this country should be extended to link with the trade union movements of other countries. Having said that, if the Opposition want my head on a charger the leader of the Conservative Party will have to be a lot more seductive as a Salome than she has been so far.
asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will publish figures, for actual and anticipated investment in manufacturing industry in 1973–74, 1974–75 and 1975–76.
Investment by manufacturing industry, measured at 1970 prices, amounted to £1,975 million in 1973–74 and £2,110 million in 1974–75.The results of the latest survey by my Department of manufacturers' investment intentions, covering calendar years, are published today and suggest that the volume of investment by manufacturing industry in 1975 could be of the order of 15 per cent. lower than in 1974.
Does the Secretary of State not appreciate that investment in industry depends on confidence in industry? He suggests that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has not been seductive enough. When will he become seductive enough to encourage industrialists to invest in this country without being clobbered in terms of his wish to nationalise industry?
I think that many of us have been disappointed in the investment record of manufacturers in this country for a number of years. That applies all the more when we compare our record with what is happening in other countries. No doubt that is why the Conservatives introduced the Industry Act 1972. That is why we have put forward an Industry Bill this year to establish a National Enterprise Board and to bring about the system of planning agreements. We have done so because we believe—I am sorry that I probably do not carry the Opposition with me—we can increase investment in that way.
With what degree of accuracy can we regard the estimates for 1975–76 in view of the unfortunate fact that private industry is still too dependent upon the whim of the private investor, far too many of whom appear to be too willing to take money out of industry and to invest it elsewhere?
The results for 1976 are necessarily more tentative, but they suggest that the figures will be of the same order as 1975. We hope that before then the plans which we have put before the House will be implemented in the form of an Act of Parliament and that they will inspire a great deal more investment than we have had over the past few years.
Is not the real reason for the Secretary of State's head being on a charger that, in fact, the answer given by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is not the full answer, in that today his Department published its assessment of investment intentions which are 15 per cent. down for 1975 and provide for no recovery in 1976? Is that not a clear indictment of the Secretary of State's stewardship and an indication of the need for a change?
I have already said in my initial answer that we expected the figure to be 15 per cent. lower than the 1974 figure. I have also indicated why, in two General Elections, we felt it necessary to put forward some substantial changes in industrial policy. That is why we are pressing ahead with those measures as fast we we can.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the construction industry is one of the major transgressors of all British industries, in that it exports capital abroad to build, principally in the Common Market countries? Does my hon. Friend agree that we need investment in building in this country and not in building office blocks in Paris and Brussels? Will my hon. Friend ensure that some curbs are put on the building industry so as not to allow it to take money out of this country for that purpose?
The latter part of my hon. Friend's question, regarding exchange control, is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Like everyone else, I am much more concerned that the construction industry should be involved in substantial works in industry in this country rather than in speculating, no matter whether it be in this country or abroad.
asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will give his latest estimates for the numbers of people employed and the capital investment required in British Leyland for the next three years.
asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will give his latest estimate of the investment and employment needs of British Leyland.
Sir Don Ryder's report about British Leyland, which the Government have accepted as a basis for future policy towards that company, sets out estimates of the company's future capital expenditure requirements. The company's future employment needs will be a matter for discussion between the work force and the management.
Does the Minister agree that sums coming from the Government can be raised only by taxation imposed upon private individuals and private firms, and that the burden of that increased taxation is likely to drive many private individuals and private firms out of business? Further, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that as a result more jobs will be lost by this support operation than may be preserved by it in the short term?
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. The firm in question is responsible for £500 million worth of exports, upon which our capacity to continue as a major manufacturing nation depends. A large number of jobs are at stake both in British Leyland and in the various sub-contracting firms. I believe that what we have done in deciding to jobs and re-equip British Leyland for the future was right. I wish that the CBI, in its general approach to our industrial policy—whatever the general criticisms in any individual instance—would recognise that the firm, including the professional management, sees the merit of what we are putting forward. I wish that this approach to British Leyland had found a much wider favour among British industrialists.
Will my right hon. Friend make a statement on the important question of industrial democracy and worker participation—a matter touched upon but not developed in the Ryder Report?
My hon. Friend has heard my comments about industrial democracy. It is an important idea. It is a wind of change blowing through British industry. I do not believe that it can be captured and frozen into a single manifesto statement or clause in an Act of Parliament. In general, what is happening is that the people who invest their lives in industry expect to have as much control as those who invest their money. Therefore, I am in full accord with the general proposition advanced by my hon. Friend.
Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the decision to give long-term investment to British Leyland and also reconsider giving short-term loans to British Leyland, so encouraging the firm to stand on its own feet and conduct its own financing?
I do not think that that general proposition relates very closely to the problems of a major world motor car company—a company which, as the Ryder Report made clear, has suffered a systematic decline in investment and a company which requires substantial sums of public money to get itself on its feet again. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's proposition is either sensible or realistic.
European Court (Interpretation Procedure)
asked the Attorney-General whether he is satisfied with the procedure under which United Kingdom courts of justice may request the European Court to rule on points of interpretation.
Is not the Attorney-General gravely concerned that there are now serious areas of uncertainty in our law in relation to Common Market law, as instanced by that distinguished authority Lord Diplock in his remarks to a Select Committee? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues encourage our courts to increase their reference to the European Court to help remove the area of uncertainty?
It is a matter of discretion for the courts in the majority of cases—though there is an obligation in some cases—whether they refer to the European Court a matter which raises a point of Community law. It is not for me to urge them or to press them to do so. I have no doubt that where necessary they will continue to do so.
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman yet given consideration to the judgment of the European Court of Justice on the second question referred to it by the Chancery Division of the High Court, in the case of van Duyn v. the Home Office, to the effect that directives made under Article 189 can be directly applicable in member States in the case of individual rights? Do Her Majesty's Government propose to make recommendations to the Commission in regard to the formulation of directives following that important judgment?
That is not a matter for me, but I shall see that my colleagues are made aware of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks.
asked the Attorney-General what further inquiries undertaken by his Department have not yet been completed.
asked the Attorney-General what is the number of inquiries undertaken by his Department that have not yet been completed.
It is not clear to me what type of inquiries my hon. Friends have in mind. My Department rarely undertakes inquiries.
Will the Attorney-General say whether the Poulson inquiries are still continuing? Has he seen the letter in The Times today from Mr. Muir Hunter, counsel for the Poulson creditors, about remarks concerning outstanding materials still to be quarried? Does he still hold the view which he expressed last November, when speaking to the Oxford Labour Club, that 300 people have question marks over their names arising from the Poulson inquiry, including, presumably, the Shadow Foreign Secretary?
The answer to the first two questions put by my hon. Friend is "Yes". The answer to the third question is that the number of 300 has in the meantime diminished.
Since the Attorney-General's Department is responsible for inquiries conducted by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and since that Department plays a vital rôle in maintaining public confidence in the administration of the law, will he assure the House that the DPP's office will be adequately staffed and will have a structure to ensure that it can fulfil its rôle efficiently and speedily?
There is great difficulty in filling the legal establishment of Government Departments generally, and particularly the one which my hon. Friend mentioned. I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to say that work of that kind is extremely rewarding.
Will the Attorney-General make clear his function and that of the DPP in this matter? Is it not correct that the DPP conducts no inquiries himself but may direct that inquiries be conducted? There seems to be a great deal of ignorance in the House as to the exact functions of the Attorney-General's Department and of the DPP in relation to inquiries of this nature.
The inquiries are of various kinds in relation to the Poulson case, to which I assume the hon. and learned Gentleman is referring. Such inquiries may be conducted by the Department of Trade or by the police. The Director of Public Prosecutions advises, and in necessary cases conducts the prosecution.
British And European Courts
asked the Attorney-General whether he is satisfied with the co-ordination between British courts and European courts.
Does not the Attorney-General agree that, for example, the absence of legal aid in the European Court is a serious shortcoming in the free availability of justice? Does he propose to make representations about the matter or to take any action?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that proposal. I am aware that there are many instances where the legal aid that is available in our courts is not available in the courts of other European countries. The hon. Gentleman referred to the European Court. These obviously are matters which should now be looked into.
Small Claims Courts
asked the Attorney-General if he will introduce legislation to extend the system of small claims courts which exclude legal representation.
No, Sir. My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is satisfied that the county courts, in which a new procedure to deal with small claims was introduced in October, 1973, meet the need for a forum for the disposal of small claims. The rules discourage legal representation in those cases where it is uneconomic or unnecessary.
Does my hon. and learned Friend not agree that the £75 limit for small claims in the county court is far too low? Does he not agree that it should be possible for claims involving sums larger than £75 to go to court without fear of having to meet the costs of lawyers engaged by well-heeled opponents? Is it not time that a Labour Government made civil claims open to all, without involving the fat fees which are so often payable to members of the legal profession?
My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor has invited the County Courts Rules Committee to consider increasing the £75 limit, and that will go a long way to meet my hon. Friend's point.
Writs And Summonses
asked the Attorney-General how many and what percentage of cases commenced by the issue of a writ or summons failed to reach trial in each of the last three years for which records are available.
About 1¾ million civil proceedings—not including divorce—are started annually in the High Court and county courts. Each year, about 45,000 are tried and nearly 1¾ million disposed of without trial. Records do not show, of the cases tried or otherwise disposed of in a year, what proportion was instituted in that year or in any other given year.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that some years ago I was promised that statistics would be made available concerning those cases which settle at the door of the court, with the result that a vast amount of time and expense is wasted? Will he ensure that those statistics are made available as soon as possible, so that justice may be done far more swiftly and cheaply than is the situation at present?
I shall bring my hon. Friend's comments to the attention of my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor.