House Of Commons
Thursday 26th June 1975
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Greater London Council (Money) Bill
Order for Third reading read.
To be read the Third time upon Thursday next
Eastbourne Harbour Bill Lords (By Order)
Order for consideration, as amended, read.
To be considered upon Monday next at Seven o'clock.
Brookwood Cemetery Bill Lords (By Order)
Order for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time upon Tuesday 8th July.
Scottish Transport Group (Port Ellen Harbour) Order Confirmation
Mr. William Ross presented a Bill to confirm a Provisional Order under Section 7 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936, relating to Scottish Transport Group (Port Ellen Harbour); and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be considered upon Wednesday next and to be printed. [Bill 185.]
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has any evidence to link those people who have been excluded from Great Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act with continuing acts of violence in Northern Ireland.
Will not the Minister concede that the action of Brendan Magill, one of the first men to be excluded from Great Britain, who recently delivered the oration over the grave of the terrorists killed in my constituency and described them as having been killed in action, suggests some complicity with the behaviour of those terrorists? If he agrees that it suggests complicity, does he not agree that it is time to introduce a system of surveillance over all these excluded men?
The important fact concerning the 27 people excluded from Great Britain and sent to Northern Ireland is that none has as yet faced criminal charges, and it is with that aspect that the Government have to be concerned.
Will the Secretary of State say what effect the removal from the statute book of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act would have on the Secretary of State's task in Northern Ireland in trying to contain, control and reduce violence?
As my hon. Friend is aware, the Act was introduced on a temporary basis by the Home Secretary because of incidents that had taken place within Great Britain itself. My right hon. Friend's action in trying to bring about peace in Northern Ireland is proceeding and will continue to proceed.
Will the Minister agree that Mr. Brendan Magill's political activities since his exclusion have been confined to such relatively unlethal activities as panegyrics at paramilitary funerals?
As long as the gentleman concerned just talks, he is free to do that, but if he takes action which is in any way in violation of the law, we shall, of course, take action.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what factors were taken into consideration in deciding the locations of the leisure centres to be built in Belfast.
I understand that the factors taken into consideration were the optimum geographical spread and use of the recreational facilities involved.
I thank the Minister for the interest he has taken in leisure centres in Northern Ireland. Does he not agree, however, that the Ballysillian Leisure Centre in North Belfast should have priority, because there are more interface areas here-13—than anywhere else in Northern Ireland? Will he also agree that, as the centre is completely surrounded by 32 Catholic and Protestant schools and 12,000 children, it provides a perfect opportunity for the Government to come back against terrorism and violence, and that the North Belfast Ballysillian Leisure Centre should get priority, so that a start may be made as soon as possible to try to bring together the people of the two communities in a peaceful way?
As the grant-aid authority, the Department of Education and myself would have a long-stop function in this, and I would hope to be guided primarily by the views of the Belfast City Council.
Will the Minister of State and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland set up a committee to advise on the location of leisure centres in Northern Ireland, taking into account the needs of development areas such as North Down—it is not a matter affecting North Belfast alone—where existing needs are not being met and where present plans envisage the doubling of the population of my constituency within a relatively short time?
As a rule of thumb it seems to me that these leisure centres cost about £1 million apiece, and apart from the ones at present under discussion I can see no possibility at all of the programme being extended. The question is whether those up for consideration now will all be approved.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the extent of Government cuts in expenditure in the current roads programme in Northern Ireland.
Over the next four years, financial provision on the roads programme in Northern Ireland has been cut by approximately £14 million from the figure of £197·8 million shown in the January Public Expenditure White Paper (Cmnd. 5879). As a result of the reduction in public expenditure announced by the Chancellor in his Budget speech, further cutbacks in the roads programme may be necessary. The programme is under review and it is not possible to give precise figures at the present time.
Although I acknowledge the need for the stringent control of public expenditure in the present situation, will not the Minister concede that, in view of the abandonment of the Great Northern Railway line between Portadown and Londonderry, first priority should be given to the Dungannon Bypass and to the Strabane Throughpass out of whatever money is available? This would be to implement the promises of various administrations to provide an adequate road system to make up for the loss of the railway.
I am tempted to suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he has a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson). All the Northern Ireland programmes are at present under review, and only when my right hon. Friend has studied the full effects of the Budget cuts will it be possible to determine individual programmes or parts of them. I may say that the Dungannon Bypass is pretty high in the list of priorities of the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment.
Can the Minister tell us how the M2 motorway will be affected by this cut?
I do not want to get involved in individual projects. They are all being studied. The programme is under review, and we shall give details of the various schemes as soon as possible.
Are these cuts in the work programme directly related to Government subsidies being made available to Harland and Wolff?
In the case of the pre-Budget cuts, yes, partly. In relation to the Budget cuts, no.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the referendum result as it affects the work of his Department.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what are the present arrangements for representing the views and interests of the people of Northern Ireland in the institutions of the EEC.
I would refer the hon. Members to the statement made by the Prime Minister on 9th June—[Vol. 893, c. 29–31.] Northern Ireland interests are represented in the EEC institutions within the arrangements for the United Kingdom as a whole.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite all the turmoil and trouble which has been and still is Ireland, there has been a common denominator over the years between the Governments of Northern Ireland and of the Republic in the people? Many people think that the referendum has provided further opportunities for economic and financial agreements to be made and extended, which might ultimately lead to peace in Northern Ireland. Many people in Ireland feel that, other methods having failed, economic measures between all the people might succeed.
EEC cross-border studies have suggested that this might be so. On a limited basis, the Government are prepared to study with the Government of the Republic a limited programme which might be attempted, and my right hon. Friend has been in communication with the Government of the Republic to that end. It would be in a rather small way to begin with.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there is a gap in the representation of Northern Ireland in the EEC on a political level in both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament? Will he confirm that his right hon. Friend is not a frequent visitor to Ministers' meetings in the EEC, in the nature of the institutions concerned. and that ultimately direct elections to the European Parliament would offer better possibilities for Northern Ireland than the present situation?
I remind the hon. Gentle. man that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. We are told that continuously. Therefore, my right hon Friend the Foreign Secretary obviously represents Northern Ireland since he represents the United Kingdom as such. Representations in a parliamentary sense are a matter for this Parliament.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, as the people of Northern Ireland are part of the people of the United Kingdom, whatever represents the people of the United Kingdom represents the people of Northern Ireland? Is he aware also that, as long as the people of Northern Ireland are scandalously underrepresented in this House of Commons, their representation elsewhere is a very subordinate matter?
There are different views about this in Northern Ireland. If an acceptable form of devolved government emerges in Northern Ireland, there will then be representation both in Westminster and in the parliament which will be created in Northern Ireland.
Firearms (Draft Order)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, in view of the representations which have been made to him, he will arrange to extend the period of consultation on the Draft Firearms (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1975, due to have terminated on 11th June, by a further month.
The draft order has been available since 16th May and comments were called for by 11th June, subsequently extended to 14th June. There have been extensive consultations with bodies representing the full range of gun-sport activity, and any further extension of the period for comment would not serve any useful purpose.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for extending the period slightly, which has enabled the views of committees like the Long Room Committee and the Joint Shooting Committee to be made known to the Government. When he has these views before him and has an opportunity to consider them, will he give his attention to the widespread objection to Article 8, which raises the minimum age, which many people feel is both an objectionable course to take and one which will be counter-productive?
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's expression of thanks. I shall bear his points in mind and I shall give full consideration to the article to which he refers, on which we have received some representations.
Cease-Fire And Incident Centres
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the operation of the Provisional IRA cease-lire and of Her Majesty's Government's incident centres.
It is 136 days since the Provisional IRA declared its cease-fire. The cease-fire has led to a very marked reduction in Provisional IRA activity. As such it has made a valuable contribution. The Government incident centres have helped to achieve this by preventing misunderstandings. The continuance of the cease-fire is to be desired.As everyone knows, during this period violence within and between both communities has continued. Steps are being taken to stamp it out. But a real contribution would be made if those who are responsible for violence would adopt the cease-fire principle and contribute to keeping the peace between the communities. Meanwhile it would be helpful if more people were prepared to speak out against violence, whatever its source. As I said in the House on 16th June, the hon. Gentleman has so spoken.—[Vol. 893, c. 959–60.]
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Provisional IRA has been guilty of serious violations of the cease-fire in the killing of members of the security forces? Can he tell us whether the telephone numbers of incident centres are available only to the leaders of the Provisional Sinn Fein? Is he aware of the feeling in Northern Ireland among all sections of the community that these incident centres are not really helpful but are giving Provisional IRA members a standing in the community to which they are not entitled as they cannot be elected to office?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's last point, that election is the way to discover the degree to which anyone represents a community. But I am sure that these incident centres have played a part in preventing misunderstandings. There are occasions when people jump to conclusions and decide which group has carried out a bombing or a murder. The centres are extremely valuable.There has not been a genuine cease-fire, of course. I hope that it will develop. The hon. Gentleman knows that in Northern Ireland at the moment there is violence of a different nature—it is internecine, interfactional and sectarian—and that, although every sort of violence matters to me, it is most important to stop the growth of the other sort of violence which is balanced more on the Loyalist side than on the Provisional side.
Despite the fact that the cease-fire may not be absolute and is regarded in many ways as being far from it, is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a change in climate, and will he accept from me that it will be very important that the opportunities during this period should be grasped with both hands? Many of us are concerned especially about the time scale in connection with the commission. Will my right hon. Friend see to it that the greatest amount of progress is made in these directions to take full advantage of the improved climate which exists?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the tenor of his remarks. Of course the cease-fire is not absolute, but it is a beginning which I hope will grow and flower. I must make the point again that not all the violence in Northern Ireland comes from the Provisional IRA. The security forces have to take both sides into account.As for the Convention, which is what I think my hon. Friend was referring to, I ask him to adopt the attitude that I have adopted. Representatives in Northern Ireland are talking together. They know the views of this House. Let us not chivvy, hurry or harangue them. It is important that they should have the chance to talk together. There are no quick results in this. I believe that much is happening there which at the end of the day may be of advantage.
Does the Secretary of State agree that since the Provisional IRA cease-fire came into operation the IRA and many other organisations in Northern Ireland, especially in Belfast, have openly engaged in a vicious and brutal campaign of sectarian murder, and that in these circumstances many people are saying that internment and detention in Northern Ireland leads to the holding of hostages from the minority Republic side as a result of the actions which are now being committed by Loyalist extremist organisations? Will he give an indication whether, in view of the cease-fire and the way in which it has held, he will take steps to end detention as soon as possible?
There is a later Question which deals with that last point. The numbers I have released since the turn of the year will show the Government's intention. What I have discovered in Northern Ireland, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman with his much greater experience will know, is that it is not right to believe the claims of many people who telephone and claim that a certain organisation has carried out a crime or a murder. It seems to me that there are organisations which take names for an evening. There are people who ring up and make claims in the name of organisations which are in existence.What matters is that the individual who carries out the crime shall be dealt with through the police. The Chief Constable in Northern Ireland announced today the setting up of a special squad of detectives to work with the 250-strong special patrol group, which in my view is a clear indication that the police are concentrating on what is necessary in Northern Ireland—policing. Not intern- ment, not detention but good policing, to the individual who commits the crime. is the way in which this Government want to proceed in Northern Ireland.
Does the Secretary of State agree that his incident centres can operate only as long as the Provisional IRA maintains its centres and that in Newry, when the Provisional IRA closed down its incident centre, the Government incident centre ceased to operate? Does not that situation give a credibility in the community to the Provisional IRA to which it is not entitled?
There are a number of incident centres. The one in Newry closed down. I do not believe that that gives a credibility to the organisation. There may be many reasons for that, given the nature of that part of the Province.I understand the way people who are politically motivated feel about this. I believe that it is vital to have these incident centres. Everything that happened at the turn of the year reinforces that in my mind. I want the cease-fire, which is the Provisional IRA cease-fire, to continue. I am sure that is the right approach. I want to play any small part I can in this respect in keeping it going.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on detention in relation to violence.
The Government's policy on detention is related to the level and nature of violence prevailing. Since 22nd December 1974, the date of the original cease-fire by the Provisional IRA, I have released 276 detainees and a further 25 detainees have been released by the commissioners. Further releases will depend on the situation as it develops.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the House is united with him in detestation of the revolting gangsterism, which he characterised as internecine, interfactional and sectarian in reply to an earlier question, and that we all applaud the successful efforts of the RUC and all the security forces against this abomination? Is he also aware, however, that after the admitted IRA bombing at Bessbrook there were eight releases from detention and that some anxious surprise has been occasioned by that?
Yes. I am extremely grateful for that remark about gangsterism. However, the nature of detention and the law under which I operate must be understood. In the course of last year, while the IRA campaign was still on, the commissioners released 97 people, because they were carrying out the law. I am not in business to keep people in detention as hostages for something which might happen outside. They were arrested. An interim custody order was signed by me in most cases—in large numbers. I dealt with each case on the basis of what it was alleged had been carried out, on information which was put before me but which could not be put before the courts. I must deal with detention on the merits of the case. However, what is for sure is that I have to take into account the fact that people who are released might easily return to violence. Overall I have to take into account the existing situation in deciding on the speed at which to release them.
In contrast to the alleged anxious surprise, is my right hon. Friend aware that some hon. Members back him through thick and thin in the policies he is now pursuing?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I say to all hon. Members, whatever their views on this matter, that these are not easy decisions to take. The longer I go on, the more difficult the decisions become. I have to take into account the role of the security forces in Northern Ireland. I am not in business to put the life of one member of the security forces at risk for a political quirk. It is a fundamental belief that the best way in which to deal with the trouble in Northern Ireland is by policing and by people going through the courts. That is what I hope the cease-fire will give me a chance to do.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the progress of discussions in the Convention.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the progress so far made by the newly-elected Convention; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by what date he expects to receive the deliberations of the Convention about new political institutions for the Province.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whe he expects to receive the final report of the Constitutional Convention.
It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the progress or the proceedings of the Convention. I do not know when it will complete its report. The Northern Ireland Act 1974 gives the Convention a basic life of six months, but this can be extended if necessary.
I am grateful for that reply. Is the Secretary of State aware that we welcome the conciliatory spirit in which the discussions have so far taken place? Is it intended that at some stage during these discussions the Government should make known their views, the devolution guidelines and the powers which go with devolution? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether those powers will be no less than those being considered for Scotland and Wales?
I am sure that all those involved will be grateful for the remarks of the hon. Gentleman about the way in which the Convention is working. I think that it would be better if I rested at that point, because the less we are involved in comment the better. All who are there are aware of what the Convention is for. It is not a parliament. It is not an assembly. It will not govern Northern Ireland. It is a body which meets together, to talk together and to put proposals to the British Government.I know from practical experience in one sense that Wales is different from Scotland. Over the past 15 months I have learnt that Ireland is very different from Scotland and Wales.
I understand the Secretary of State not wishing to harbour too much optimism at this stage. Ought he not to acknowledge, however, that a good start has been made and that during the recently-concluded stage 3, thanks to the conciliatory speeches which were made on all sides and the remarkable speeches of Mr. Harry West and Mr. John Hume, an atmosphere of hope has been created? We can now all look forward to the ultimate conclusion with a good deal less trepidation than formerly.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that his laudatory remarks will be well received by those Members of Parliament who are also members of the Convention.There is much in the Convention which supports the feeling I had when a year ago, on behalf of the Government, we put forward the idea of the Convention on the basis that people from Ireland understood the nature of Northern Ireland far better than we did, and that they would talk together and put their ideas to this House. I can only say, on behalf of everyone in the House, that we wish them well.
Has the Secretary of State a timetable in mind once he receives the report from the Convention? Will he accept that report as being the authentic voice of Northern Ireland which should be taken extremely seriously before the Government introduce proposals that may be out of line with it?
At this stage it is better for us to wait and see what comes from the Convention. Of course, the report will be considered by the Government and put to the House of Commons. It is a report to Parliament. It is much better to leave it at that. The Convention is meeting, it is a Northern Ireland meeting, and the less that is said by the rest of us at the moment the better. The time will come when it will be our job to comment on the report which comes from the Convention.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the Convention is deliberating upon the overall political issues, we are becoming increasingly aware of the severe economic problems that are beginning to emerge in Northern Ireland? Would he be prepared to receive an interim report, which would probably have the support of all political interests in the Convention, on the social and economic problems affecting Northern Ireland?
The Convention is not a parliament which is met together to consider current economic problems. If, however, the Convention were to consider whether the best way to govern Northern Ireland is through a Department of Commerce, a Department of Manpower Services and the various organisations dealing with economic affairs which are handled by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, that is a matter for the Convention. But the Convention is not a parliament.
Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that if a locally-developed administration is devised, as I hope it will be, as a result of the Convention, it will have the right to decide locally how money will be spent without constant reference to the Treasury in London?
The hon. Gentleman is moving to a different form of government which seems to be concerned with how to have what money one likes and how to spend it as one likes without reference to the United Kingdom Parliament. That is not what I mean by devolved government. If the hon. Gentleman means that the devolved government must have regard to priorities and take decisions whether money should be spent on roads, leisure centres, housing or agriculture, there is a great deal of sense in that; but money does not grow on trees.
Bill Of Rights Proposals
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has considered the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association's suggested Bill of Rights of April 1975; and whether he will make a statement on his policy towards its proposals.
The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights has recently decided to embark on a major study of the extent to which existing legislation provides sufficient protection for human rights in Northern Ireland, including whether a Bill of Rights is needed, what form it might take and how it would relate to existing legislation. It will no doubt consider the views of all relevant interests, and my right hon. Friend proposes to await its recommendations.
Is the Minister aware that the Feather Commission is seen in Northern Ireland as a device for delaying legislation? For many years most political organisations in Northern Ireland have been talking about a Bill of Rights, and the Gardiner Report recommends consideration thereof. Is the Minister further aware that the House can legislate on this matter? It has power to do so. When will it have the will to do so?
My right hon. Friend is awaiting the report of the commission before deciding what to do. The commission is not a device for delay. A number of interesting proposals have been put forward for a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, but they differ one from the other and it is a question of reconciling the interests as well as considering the points of view. We have accepted the Gardiner recommendation in referring this point to the commission for consideration.
Has the hon. Gentleman seen certain resolutions on the Order Paper of the Convention which show virtual agreement among all parties on the necessity for a Bill of Rights? Is he making arrangements for liaison between the Feather Commission and the Convention? There would seem to be duplication in this matter. Would it not be advisable for talks to be held on this subject between the Convention and the Feather Commission?
There will have to be liaison between the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights and the Convention if both bodies are to consider this matter. The Convention might like to consider putting its recommendations to the Feather Commission. United Kingdom legislation is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
Does the Minister realise that his reply on the question of a Bill of Rights will be seen as totally unsatisfactory by many people who have been deeply involved in the Northern Ireland problem for many years? Did not the Chairman of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights say that the commission would spend at least one year studying the need for a Bill of Rights? That statement has caused a great deal of anger and consternation among many organisations, political parties and hon. Members. Does not the Minister accept that it is the Government's responsibility to introduce legislation as a matter of urgency to enact such a Bill of Rights, and that the Government should not be seen to be sweeping that responsibility under the commission's carpet?
The Government's responsibility is to ensure that, when it comes to be considered by the House, the Bill of Rights is effective. There is no question of delay. My hon. Friend has Lord Feather's statement slightly wrong. Lord Feather said that he thought it would take a few months and possibly a year, not a minimum of a year. I am sure that the exchange which we have had this afternoon will be noted by the chairman of the commission and no doubt he will take it into consideration, but my right hon. Friend cannot direct the commission on what it does. He can provide it with all the resources necessary within reason to allow it to do an expeditious job.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he is satisfied with the present structure of the Northern Ireland Departments and the degree of co-operation between such Departments.
Yes, Sir, but I and my ministerial colleagues naturally keep the situation under the closest review at all times.
Will the Secretary of State examine the possibility of reducing the number of Departments? For example, does he feel that the Manpower Services Department should revert to control by the Department of Health and Social Services? Will he give urgent attention to the delays in decision-making, particularly in areas of government connected with local authorities?
Under direct rule we have made some changes. The former Office of the Executive is now the Central Secretariat. Community Relations is part of the Department of Education, and Law Reform is part of the Department of Finance. My right hon. and hon. Friends who have responsibility for various Departments take them in pairs and we try to put together Departments with the closest affinity. I have been extremely impressed with the working of the Manpower Services Department, and when the time comes to examine the structure of government in Northern Ireland my belief is that this Department should be left on its own. It does not have a social services function; it is an excellent department of employment. The co-operation between the Departments I inherited is extremely good and I have nothing but praise for the civil servants who work extremely well for them.
Although I recognise that the members of the Convention have been given the specific task of trying to evolve a new political structure, does not my right hon. Friend agree that many of them are deeply involved in the social and economic structure as it affects their constituencies? Will he confirm that the people who are in charge of Departments in Northern Ireland will continue to receive deputations of duly elected members of the Convention to discuss social and economic problems?
I must make absolutely clear to my hon. Friend that those elected to the Convention are not Members of Parliament or Assembly men. They are elected to put a form of government to this House. Although I have directed Departments in Northern Ireland through my right hon. and hon. Friends to give all status to those who are elected and to have correspondence and so on, I am considering an approach that has been made to me. However, there is one great principle of which I have instructed everyone to take heed—namely, that the Convention is not a parliament. There are 12 hon. Members from Northern Ire- land represented in this House.
There are 11.
Jokes about Members of Parliament in Northern Ireland are not for me. However, with regard to the 12 I find it odd that those who say on the one hand that 12 is not enough, tell me on the other hand that they much prefer to work through local representatives.
Gardiner Report (Implementation)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he can yet say when he expects to implement the findings of the Gardiner Report.
The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) (Amendment) Bill has been laid before Parliament, received its First Reading on 18th June and is down for Second Reading tomorrow.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the recommendations of the Gardiner Report which refer to the prison conditions in Northern Ireland as being of an appalling nature? Have the Government considered any possibility of extending the resettlement of detainees as recommended by that report?
We shall be reporting on this matter tomorrow in the House.
In view of the vital necessity to strengthen the position of the RUC, does the Minister recognise the need to move more quickly on the Gardiner Report's recommendation of introducing an independent element into the complaints procedure? Can he avoid the constant waiting for the very slow recommendations of his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on this matter?
We have decided that we should wait for the recommendations of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on this matter.
Can the Minister say a little more about the recommendations of the Gardiner Report concerning secure prison accommodation, and in particular paragraph 113, which deals with temporary cellular accommodation, because the report attaches great urgency to that aspect of the problem?
We shall report on that matter in the debate tomorrow.
Ira (Fund Raising)
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any estimate of the amount of money raised from United States sources in recent years to buy arms for the IRA in Northern Ireland.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if his Department has made any estimate of the funds raised from United States sources to provide arms to the IRA or Provisional IRA over the last three years.
This is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and. Commonwealth Affairs. I understand, however, that the Irish Northern Aid Committee, which claims to be the only authorised fundraising agency in the United States for the Republican movement, registered remittances to Ireland of nearly $900,000 in the three years to January 1975. It is impossible to say how much of this has been used for the purchase of arms.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many well-intentioned but rather naive people in the United States are giving large sums of money to the organisation called Northern Irish Aid in the belief that it is being used for peaceful and compassionate purposes, whereas it is going directly or indirectly to the gunmen? Will he suggest to his right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary that he makes representations to the United States Government to try to correct this misapprehension in the minds of American citizens of Irish descent who are giving this money?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary keeps the American Government fully informed about the use of this money. I should also like to draw attention to the responsible leaders, in both North and South, such as Mr. John Hume, Dr. Fitzgerald and many others, who have gone to the United States and urged Americans not to make such contributions.
It is not the case that as the opinion of the present Government and other Governments, as well as the opinion of the House, in connection with the Irish troubles has become more and more known in America, the sums given to the dubious causes have lessened?
Yes, I believe that my hon. Friend is correct when he says that there has been a falling-off of such money, and obviously we welcome that. However, everyone can play a part in exposing this type of action.
Has any estimate been made of the amount of money raised in this country, through collections in public houses in some of the major cities, and remitted to Northern Ireland? Is this still continuing?
The people who may have found it rather easy a short while ago to raise such money are now finding it increasingly difficult.
asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his most recent meeting with the TUC.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his most recent meeting with the TUC.
I met members of the TUC at the informal meeting of the TUC-Labour Party Liaison Committee on 23rd June. We reviewed the present economic situation and devoted some time to the TUC's continuing work on the development of the social contract.
Will my right hon. Friend consider the six-point plan that was produced by the TUC yesterday? Will he tell us, in that simple Yorkshire bluntness and directness for which he is famous, whether he agrees with it? Will he give a straight answer "Yes" or "No"?
Yes, Sir, I greatly welcome the statement that was made yesterday. Indeed, on Tuesday I said that I thought it was a big step forward that they were talking about relating wage settlements over the next year to the target for price increases and not to the events of the previous year. I greatly welcome it. We shall want to discuss it with them and we shall want to build on it. I believe that is extremely helpful. I am sure the whole House, including the Conservative Opposition—will welcome the very big move forward to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), in his blunt Derbyshire manner, has drawn attention.
When the Prime Minister next meets the TUC will he discuss with it the removal of Mr. Boyd, the moderate and democratically elected General Secretary of the AEUW, from his seat on the General Council? If the Prime Minister believes that trade unions are an important part of the nation's economy, surely he cannot turn a blind eye to the move of a few extremists to ensure that the will of the majority shall not prevail.
I knew Johnny Boyd before the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Lamont) was born. I share the description of Mr. Boyd given by the hon. Gentleman. I never found any Tory, when the Conservative Party was sitting on the Government side of the House, standing up for anything that Johnny Boyd said, but I am glad to see them doing so now. This is a matter for the TUC and the union, but I shall certainly regret the disappearance of Johnny Boyd from the higher councils of the TUC in which he has played such a tremendous part over the years. I have met him on a number of occasions in that and in other capacities.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the increasing rate of unemployment is one of the subjects which are causing great concern and which are discussed at the joint meetings? Can he assure the House that the Government will implement that part of the scheme which my right hon. Friend outlined to the House in his statement on 23rd May, namely, to give Government assistance for stockpiling purposes in the textile industry and so prevent the closure of the Empress Mill, Ince, and thus help to save 350 jobs?
I am glad that my hon. Friend welcomed the statement I made on 23rd May concerning the very special problems of the textile, clothing, footwear and other industries. The problem of unemployment has been discussed at almost every meeting that I, and indeed my colleagues, have had with the TUC since the Government were formed 15 months ago. This is a matter which is raised in the six points which have already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover. I am not clear about the position of the Conservative Party, but we reject the deliberate use of unemployment and monetarism as a means of solving this problem.
On wage inflation, would it not be in the national interest, certainly in the public sector to start with, if wage settlements could be made on the same day in the year?
That would be a difficult thing to organise unless there were a statutory determination that all wage settlements be done on the one day. I do not think that has ever been our practice under any Government. But there is a problem, to which the TUC draws attention in its document, regarding the rather protracted wage round. I think that paragraph 64 of the document put to the economic committee of the TUC states that it is very necessary that those who settle early in the annual round at a moderate rate should have some protection, some ability to be confident, that later settlements do not go a great deal higher and leave them in the lurch. This is one of the matters we have to discuss with the TUC following yesterday's discussions.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that words about the creation of "inflation" and "unemployment" come ill from a Government and Prime Minister who are now allowing the rate of unemployment to rise by 50,000 a month? Is he aware that in his consultations with the TUC it would help the country if it knew what the target of price increases was likely to be for the coming year?
On the first point, I recall that unemployment was over 2 million when we came into office and that all the prognoses both of inflation and of unemployment suggested a very big increase in unemployment because the previous Government's boom had collapsed in the middle of 1973 before the confrontation and the three-day week. I said what I did because the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) cast doubt on the unemployment figures and thought that they were very minimal indeed in real terms. I do not think that is the official view of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) with his experience of these matters. Both he and the Leader of the Conservative Party, in her famous article in the Sunday Express, rather suggested that there was something "phoney" about the figures. Therefore, we reject the deliberate use of unemployment. But those on the Opposition Front Bench, in contradiction to some below the Gangway—though I cannot quite sort it out between one and another—who are advocating a monetary solution, which has not been repudiated by the Leader of the Opposition, are advocating the deliberate use of unemployment.
asked the Prime Minister if he will pay another official visit to Moscow.
I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.
In that case will the Prime Minister, with his well-known talent for renegotiation, seek to renegotiate the Anglo-Russian trade agreement? Is he aware that the massive extension of credits at cheap rates and the pledges to take imports from Russia in competition with home production are thought by many to be damaging to our interests? Will he submit the results of the last Anglo-Russian trade agreement to an impartial investigation to see whether it was in our favour or not?
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, though I know that he made the point in a Question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade earlier this week. I explained at the time of the signature, when I reported to the House, that what was being done on credits was exactly what was being done by other European countries in competition with us—for example, France, Italy and Germany. We now have prospects of a very significant increase in trade and, therefore, in jobs as a result of this agreement. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that since it was signed I have had a recent visit from Mr. Gvishianihe is very important in these matters in the Soviet Union—who expressed his satisfaction with the reaction of British firms, which welcomed it, and also said that the Russian trade corporations are placing bigger orders. He believed that the trade arising from that agreement will be much bigger than was contemplated in February. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the creation of the jobs involved.
Will the Prime Minister back the holding of a summit conference next month as it is now supported by West Germany and France in view of the concession made by Russia over the advance notice of military manoeuvres? Secondly, will he support the American plan for a reduction in the tactical nuclear weapons stored in Europe in exchange for a reduction in Warsaw Pact conventional forces and the Soviet plan for a 17 per cent. reduction on both sides by 1977, as both proposals seem very sensible to some of us?
In general I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. We made clear, indeed before the events described by my hon. Friend, that we were anxious to have a meeting next month. I said—it was in the communiqué in Moscow in February—that there were still a lot of difficult problems to be overcome. They have substantially, but not all, been overcome, not least by the very close arrangements in Geneva between the British and Soviet delegations where we have been speaking for some of our allies and they for theirs. Therefore, I am hopeful that the meeting will take place next month. But there are one or two problems, and one is about the advance notification of military movements.We certainly support the American proposal, and I am glad that my hon. Friend is lending his support to it. But we are a little disappointed, though I do not think that it will affect the timing of the conference, that more progress is not being made in Vienna on mutual balanced force reductions. I think that the House would like to see more progress on that issue, but it is not one of the issues for Helsinki.
In view of what the Prime Minister said about his disappointment over Vienna, and while in no way wishing to move away from his policy of détente, may I ask him to assure the House that, with our European partners, he will take great care over the safeguarding our essential interests and the maintenance of sufficient forces so to do, including free access to the raw materials on which our whole economy is based?
Yes, I agree. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, as I told the House, I stressed both points, the raw materials point and the other, at the recent NATO conference.I take issue with the right hon. Gentleman about consultation with our European partners. This is a NATO matter. It is in consultation with our American partners as well. In the NATO discussions I highlighted the problems of MBFR, where I do not believe we are making sufficiently satisfactory progress. A lot of progress has been made on most of the other matters affecting the conference on security and co-operation, but we want to see still more progress made on one or two outstanding questions so that we can attend the conference next month.
Secretary Of State For Trade
asked the Prime Minister if he will dismiss the Secretary of State for Trade.
On the question of trade and related matters, has the Prime Minister had a chance to study the proposals of the Tribune Group? Has he noted that on the very day when these proposals were issued the pound plummeted to an all-time low? Will he assure the House that the forthcoming package of measures that the Government are likely to introduce will bear no relationship to the recommendations of the Tribune Group?
My right hon. Friend is not a member of the Tribune Group. Nor would I have regarded it as a matter for dismissal had he been so. [An HON. MEMBER: "Perhaps for promotion?"] The promotion that he deserves in all the circumstances is the result of the most successful stewardship of the export trade of this country for many years past under successive Governments. One day I should like to hear the Conservative Front Bench pay tribute to what has been achieved on exports. [Interruption.] I know about exports. They are more relevant to the balance of payments and the pound than any other single issue in this country.I am well aware of the Tribune Group's proposals. They have been actively dis- cussed in this House. The main propositions concerning import controls and other things have been rejected by the Government. They have also been put in almost the same form to a party meeting upstairs and been rejected there.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that members of the Tribune Group will be gratified that at least some hon. Members opposite can actually read what the group says? To be serious, however, does he agree that one of the most important problems facing us at the moment is how to deal with our serious economic situation? Therefore, is it not clear that there must be selective import controls and a tightening up of control on the outflow of capital, that we must consider taking over our own overseas portfolios—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that we must make further cuts in defence expenditure—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and that we must not rely on holding back wages as the only answer to Britain's economic problems?
I agree with my hon. Friend that it is gratifying that the hon. Gentleman is keeping abreast of important and controversial documents. I thought that this week he distinguished himself by offering to arbitrate, as it were, between the two Front Benches of the Conservative Party. I wish him luck. If the hon. Gentleman needs help from us we shall, of course, be glad to help him, although there is no ministerial responsibility of any kind.My hon. Friend listed a number of points. In fact they have all been urged in recent economic debates in the House and at Question Time. I have said that selective import controls, apart from those which may be necessary and which we are ready to introduce where there is clear evidence of dumping or unfair practices, would be harmful to the country as a big trading nation when, despite the world depression, it is the only major country maintaining its export volumes. I think that those volumes would be imperilled if we were to adopt what my hon. Friend suggests.
Is the Prime Minister aware that my right hon. and hon Friends are delighted to pay tribute to the excellent export record achieved almost entirely by private enterprise? Is he further aware that the longer he takes to deal with inflation, the higher unemployment will be in the end, and that the unemployment he gets next year will be directly attributable to his indecision?
I am glad to hear the right hon. Lady at last pay tribute to what has been achieved in exports, and mainly, of course, by private enterprise firms. It just happens that, as always, they are much more successful at exporting under a Labour Government. That is why we have had to hand over to Conservative Governments vast export surpluses which they have frittered away We then have to build them up all over again. We are getting used to that. should like the right hon. Lady to do what I have done when I have paid tribute to the firms concerned—and I have done so several times in public. I would like the right hon. Lady to pay tribute to the workers in those industries who have made export achievements possible. Conservative Members are always ready to condemn workers but not to praise them. Even this afternoon they are not prepared to praise them for what they have done as regards the export effort.The right hon. Lady is aware, as we have made clear, that we are giving urgent attention to the problems to which she has referred. I hope that she will tell us how much she welcomes the move by the TUC yesterday. If we are to proceed by consent—I hope that the Conservative Party will agree with this, because the right hon. Lady is opposed to statutory policies—I hope that the right hon. Lady will agree that it was right to give time for the TUC yesterday to take this important decision, which I hope she welcomes. We wanted to see that take place and we are now in a position to discuss the matter with the TUC. We shall do so urgently. I believe that such a solution would carry widespread support from the right hon. Lady. I know from all she has said that she would welcome an agreement with both sides of industry as regards the solving of our inflation problem rather than the use of statutory methods.
Is the Prime Minister aware that in fairness to the Secretary of State for Trade, whose dismissal is being sought in the Question, the right hon. Gentleman is unlikely to be able to do anything to improve our trading position or to arrest the slide in the value of our currency until such time as the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer bring forward their economic proposals to the House? The Prime Minister told us on Tuesday that that would be before the Summer Recess, but that is still over four weeks away. Will not the Prime Minister bring forward his proposals a great deal sooner than that?
Yes, certainly, that is what we would like to do. We want to get the matter in a workable form, and certainly before the recess. The hon. Gentleman brought forward his proposals to the House two days ago, I think, and they were rejected by the House. His proposals involve statutory policies.I think that the vast majority of the House, apart from a few Conservatives below the Gangway, recognises that criminal sanctions in these matters have not worked in the past. They did not work under the Industrial Relations Act. No one has answered the question of what happens when people are brought before the courts in respect of wage settlements. I think that the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely right about that in what she said on television recently. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this matter must be pushed on with urgency. We now have something very important on which to build, and something which has not happened before, in relation to the TUC's decision. The former Conservative Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), spent very many months talking with the TUC but he was not prepared to offer what was necessary to get the kind of offer that the TUC made yesterday. We want to build on that. I am sure that the whole House will be prepared to give long enough to the Government to ensure that what we produce is workable and acceptable to the country.
Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week, please?
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:MONDAY 30TH JUNE.—Supply [22nd Allotted Day]: There will be a debate on the problems of the fishing industry, which will arise on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. At seven o'clock, the Chairman of the Ways and Means has named Opposed Private Business for consideration. TUESDAY 1ST JULY, WEDNESDAY 2ND JULY and THURSDAY 3RD JULY.—Remaining stages of the Industry Bill. FRIDAY 4TH JULY.—Supply [23rd Allotted Day—First half]: There will be a debate on EEC Documents on Community Budget 1975 and associated matters and on aids to shipbuilding (No. R /1362/ 75). MONDAY 7TH JULY.—Private Members' motions until seven o'clock. Afterwards, remaining stages of the Statutory Corporations (Financial Provisions) Bill.
May I ask the Leader of the House about an economic statement? The Prime Minister indicated in a reply last Tuesday that there would be an economic statement before the recess. I express the hope that it will not occur just two or three days before the House rises but will take place in sufficient time to enable us to have a proper two-day debate upon it.
Yes, I shall certainly bear in mind what the right hon. Lady has said. I am sure that the House will wish to debate these matters at length.
When will the Government make a statement on the Boyle Report on MP's salaries and conditions? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us feel that, given the present economic circumstances, the Government might well be justified in not granting the full award recommended by Lord Boyle and his Committee? However, an increase in the secretarial allowance is long overdue in the interests of our secretaries in the House, who work very hard. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there has been no increase in that allowance since January 1972?
Yes, I understand the concern of hon. Members. The Prime Minister received the Royal Report 10 days ago and the Government are considering it. When the Government have completed their consideration they will publish the report together with their recommendations to the House.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that employers in Britain are under an obligation to employ a quota of disabled people amounting to 3 per cent. of their work forces, but that half of them fail to do so? As the nation looks upon us to give a lead, is my right hon. Friend aware that it has now been revealed that in the House Commons, which has a large labour force, only 0·7 per cent. of those employed are disabled, and that in the House of Lords not one disabled person is employed?
They are all disabled there.
Does my right hon. Friend not think that that is a scandalous situation? Will he do something about it?
Certainly I shall look at the figures that my hon. Friend has given and perhaps talk to him about the matter.
As the Leader of the House will be aware, several weeks ago the Government published a very important White Paper concerning agriculture called "Food from our own Resources". Will he give an undertaking that we shall debate that White Paper, if not next week, at least very soon?
No, Sir. I cannot promise any time in the near future, but all the days for general debates are now in the hands of the Opposition. I suggest that the subject mentioned is an appropriate one for such a debate.
My right hon. Friend is probably aware of the concern which has been expressed about the HS146. We are distressed that the Bill dealing with the shipbuilding and aircraft industries will not be proceeded with this Session. Could my right hon. Friend give an assurance that it will have top priority at the beginning of next Session?
This is one of the Government's top priorities and I shall ensure that the Bill is given a Second Reading as soon as possible.
May I refer again to the Boyle Report? My right hon. Friend will be aware of the private and public correspondence which has taken place between him and many hon. Members. I appreciate all the answers which he has given over a period of six months, but it is no use saying that he understands our concern and then leaving the situation in a state that is no more helpful to us than the old coal owners were to the coal miners in days gone by. Surely it is time we proved that a Labour Government can be as good an employer as can a Tory Government.
My right hon. Friend has written to me about this matter. I think he might bear in mind that I referred the matter to the Boyle Committee and arranged for an interim adjustment last August. The Government will consider the matter as soon as possible and publish a report, together with our recommendations—as soon as we possibly can.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Stationery Office has sold out of copies of the Bullock Report, which proves that there is great interest in the teaching profession. but that there is some concern that the Government do not appear to want to know about the matter. Will he give the House time to debate that report and to give it the recognition which it warrants?
I know about that report and I have paid a great deal of attention to it. I regret that we have not had time to debate that matter, but there has been a lack of time for general debates. However, the Session still has a long time to go and I shall bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's remarks.
Public lending right, Sir: when?
I do not know.
Since the Boyle Report is a matter of concern to the House of Commons and not just to the Government, would it not be better if that report were published now, even though the Government cannot make up their minds about it, so that hon. Members at least are able to make up our minds? Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman make a further statement on the Government's legislative programme? It appears that some of his back benchers know that one Bill has been dropped. Could I remind him that there are 128 Members serving on nine Standing Committees, that there are 337 Members serving on Select Committees, that there is more Government legislation queueing up for Committee room space, and that his programme is in a shambles? Does he appreciate that the Chamber of this House is almost empty most of the day because hon. Members are upstairs in Committee discussing damned silly Bills that ought never to have had a Second Reading? When will he straighten out the situation?
The first part of the hon. Gentleman's rather long supplementary dealt with Boyle. The Government felt that it would be for the convenience of the House if we published our recommendations at the same time as the report was issued. [Horn. MEMBERS: "When?"] As for the legislative programme, I pay tribute to all the work which is being done in Committee. It is the heaviest programme for many years. By the time prorogation comes along, that programme will all be on the statute book.
My right hon. Friend said before the Spring Recess that the Finer Report would be debated in the near future. Early next week there is to be a national lobby by one-parent families. They are coming to the House of Commons to demonstrate about their problems. Will he give a date for that report to be discussed so that we may advise our constituents about their future?
No, Sir. I am only announcing business for next week. I hope that before the end of the Session we shall have a debate on the Finer Report. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is an extremely important matter and I would remind him, as I did last week, that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already implemented one part of the report. But I agree that the House should have an opportunity to debate it.
I recognise the modest advance made by the Government in agreeing to take legislation on European matters on Fridays rather than at midnight, but will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to debating the report of the Select Committee on Procedure so that we may have these instruments in some orderly form?
I agree. I shall arrange this debate at the earliest possible moment, but I am afraid that it will not be next week.
My right hon. Friend will recall that it is nearly six months since the House was cut off in the middle of debating the Road Traffic (Seat Belts) Bill. In view of the importance of people using seat beits—I have in mind the suspended state of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis)—will my right hon. Friend bring forward that legislation this Session?
I am sorry that we were suspended mid-air on the Bill dealing with seat belts. I will bear in mind my hon. Friend's comments and the Second Reading will. I hope, be completed in due course.
May I press the Leader of the House on the Road Traffic (Seat Belt) Bill? According to the Ministry of Transport's own figures, 600 people have died unnecessarily because we have taken no action on that legislation.
There is some argument about the significance of the figures, but it is an important subject and I shall arrange for the Second Reading to be completed as soon as I can find the time.
The House rightly spends considerable time in examining the requirements of manufacturing industry, but would my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of allocating some time to a debate on banking, insurance and other financial institutions and the economic power which they exercise, and will he link that to the role of the Bank of England and its relationship to sterling, and similar matters?
I am afraid that I cannot provide any time before the Summer Recess for general debates on such matters but, as I said to the right hon. Lady, the Leader of the Opposition, I should have thought that there will be an opportunity before the recess to debate economic and financial matters at some length.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the most damaging things the Government can inflict on industry is uncertainty? Will he clear up the position of the aircraft and shipbuilding industry as soon as possible and make a statement today or next week on the Government's intentions? The situation has not yet been made clear. Secondly, may I pick up the point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) and draw attention to the ridiculous situation in the Standing Committee work load? Members of this House are forced to spend such an inordinate amount of time in Standing Committees that their chances of taking part in the main forum of debate in the Chamber are severely limited. There are, as my hon. Friend said, 128 Members taking part in Standing Committee proceedings and there is a further queue of other legislation at this time of the year, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. Is he aware that in his capacity as Leader of the House, he is doing a singular disservice to Parliament in presenting a congested, wretched legislative programme?
The legislative programme could not be more relevant to the problems of this country, particularly the Industry Bill which is aimed at one of the country's major problems, namely low investment in industry. The legislative programme is absolutely essential and relevant to Britain's present problems. I am sorry about all the Members serving on Committees. The number is very large at present, and I have already paid tribute to the work being done by hon. Members in Committees. I am sorry that the burden is so great.The right hon. Gentleman is correct to say that there should be certainty in these matters. But let me make it clear that the one thing that is certain is that the Government will proceed with the Bill dealing with the aircraft and shipbuilding industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] I do not know when. I am announcing next week's, business. But that legislation will be proceeded with and is one of the Government's top priorities. However, I shall see whether it is possible by this time next week to give a clear indication when the Second Reading will be. I shall repeat what I said, because clearly the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to create doubts about the matter. The Government will proceed with the Bill as soon as possible.
Does my right hon. Friend recall that a few weeks ago he told me at another Business Questions session that he would shortly be bringing forward his proposals to reorganise the way in which this House is run, including its sitting times? When will he bring those proposals forward? Shall we have an opportunity to debate the matter before the Summer Recess, bearing in mind that the present system places a heavy burden not only on Members of Parliament but on the hundreds of people who work in the House when it is sitting?
It will not be before the Summer Recess——
Because there is no time. I am planning to do this as soon as possible, and I would hope that the review of procedure will go very much wider than the hours of sitting.
In giving consideration to the Boyle Report, will the Leader of the House urgently and seriously consider as well the problems facing all hon. Members who have been appointed to the Council of Europe and the Western European Union, who are having to pay out of their own pockets for travelling, secretarial and accommodation expenses while representing this House abroad?
I have met representatives of the people serving on these bodies and I hope to make an announcement on the matter in the next day or so.
is my right hon. Friend aware that there is growling concern at the ever-increasing cost of ordinary household goods and that this is causing grave consternation, particularly when people see firms imposing these increases and making very high profits? Will my right hon. Friend consider a debate solely on prices as soon as possible?
No, I cannot promise that. However, as I have said twice already, there will certainly be an opportunity before the Summer Recess to debate economic affairs generally.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall saying when he wound up the devolution debate that he would be seeking ways and means of making known Government decisions on devolution on an interim basis? Since then there have been leaks in the Press, but little has been said in the House. The latest example of that was a long piece in The Times on Monday indicating that the Government, contrary to Kilbrandon, have decided against a separate Civil Service for Scotland? Are there to be any interim announcements, and when can we expect a statement on the Civil Service?
The last point is not decided by the Government. I read the piece by Mr. Hennessy in the paper the other day. As I promised, there will be a White Paper in the autumn—at the end of September or the beginning of October—which will set out our decision on this matter and cover most of the essential points in the devolution exercise.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that his statement about the Bill to nationalise the shipbuilding and aircraft industries will be met with great disappointment by workers in those industries? Since there is bound to be some degree of uncertainty, particularly in the shipbuilding industry, will my right hon. Friend provide an early debate on the Government's intentions for that industry in the interim period?
The one thing that there is no uncertainty about is the Government's determination to proceed with the Bill at the earliest possible moment. The industry is entitled to know when the Second Reading will be, and I shall try to ensure by this time next week, or even before then, that we make that known.
Is the Leader of the House aware that his answers about the congestion of the business of the House are totally unsatisfactory? Will he take into account not only that Standing Committees are meeting in the mornings but that four Standing Committees will be meeting this afternoon, and that that effectively rules those Members out of participation in the Chamber? Expressing sympathy with them is not enough. He ought to put his own House in order.
For the greater part of the time of the last Conservative Government, Committees were meeting in the afternoon. There is nothing new about the congestions.
At a time when the House is concerned about the Boyle Report, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the 140 members of the Assembly in Edinburgh who will be content with nothing less than post-Boyle salaries? May we have a proper costing of these proposals in the devolution White Paper?
I will bear my hon. Friend's request in mind.
Will the Leader of the House give prompt consideration to Early-Day Motion No. 551 on Cyprus?
[ That a Select Committee be appointed to visit Cyprus on a fact-finding mission and for the purpose of examining what steps the United Kingdom may reasonably take to comply with their responsibilities imposed under the Treaty of Guarantee ( Command Paper 1253):
That the Select Committee shall consist of Ten Members.
That the Select Committee shall report upon their findings to this House and pay particular regard to the plight of British residents in Cyprus and any steps recommended to assist in this regard.] He will have seen that there is support from all quarters of the House for the proposal that it is time for a Select Committee to visit Cyprus on a fact-finding mission? Will he and the Foreign Secretary give this matter very early attention, and, I hope, set up that Select Committee?
The hon. and learned Member will recollect that my right hon. Friend answered questions on this subject on 21st May, saying that he was sympathetic to the idea of a group of hon. Members going to Cyprus and that he would look into the matter. I will look at the question with him to see what we can suggest.
May I join with the Liberal and Conservative Members in referring to the Boyle Report? If the Government are embarrassed in their negotiations with the TUC because Boyle has reported, surely in a free country the Government can publish the report and allow not only us but all our constituents to consider the recommendations and whether they should be implemented. [HON. MEMBERS: "Another referendum?"] Why does my right hon. Friend not trust the public on this matter?
It is a case not of being embarrassed but of the report being complicated and of the Government wanting time to consider it. I think it would be for the convenience of the House if we published the report and made our decisions at the same time.
In the present economic and legislative crisis of congestion among the Standing Committees, to which the Leader of the House has himself alluded, how can he maintain that the Government's programme is relevant so long as he is determined to proceed with the ridiculous Hare Coursing Bill? Will he think again and do away with it?
There is no legislative crisis. A great deal of hard work is being done by a lot of hon. Members to get through a programme which is absolutely relevant to the problems of the country. It is important to deal with cruelty, whether of animals, children, or anyone else.
And Members of Parliament?
Does my right hon. Friend accept that his statement on the aircraft and shipbuilding nationalisation Bill is very welcome, and will he accept the assurance from the Government back benchers that there are many hon. Members willing to man the Committees to see this Bill through? If necessary, we will even get the lawyers in to spend some time on it. Are we to have an early opportunity of rejecting the four amendments that were made undemocratically in that undemocratic place along the corridor to the Housing Finance (Special Provisions) Bill?
I am sure that hon. Members on all sides will co-operate to get the shipbuilding Bill through when it comes before the House because it is relevant to the problems the country is facing. On my hon. Friend's second point, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will make known his views on the amendments when the Bill returns to this House from another place.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that as soon as the sub judice ban is lifted the House will be given an opportunity to debate the Government's handling of their attempts to suppress publication of the Crossman Diaries? Is he aware that there is very deep concern about this possible threat to publication freedom, and the sooner we debate the matter the better?
The Government have made no attempt to suppress any diaries. Action has been taken by the Attorney-General in his official capacity as a Law Officer. The Government have not even considered these diaries. [Interruption.] If hon. Members will not accept what I say, I cannot help them. I reiterate that the decision was taken by the Attorney-General in his official capacity as a Law Officer.
Returning to the right hon. Gentleman's statement on proposed legislation for the aircraft and shipbuilding industry, may I ask whether he has taken note of the published remarks of the Chairman of the Swan Hunter Group today on the detrimental effect of this proposed legislation on the shipbuilding industry?
The hon. Gentleman and I know the chairman of that company. We have known his views on this subject for many years. There is no change in the views he has expressed today.
Question Of Privilege
I rise on a point of privilege to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to take notice of what appears to be a prima facie breach of the privilege of this House committed yesterday by Mr. Arthur Scargill, President of the Yorkshire Area of the National Union of Mineworkers and a resolution of the area council of the NUM on which his remarks were based. I shall, of course, supply you with copies of the many reports which have appeared in the newspapers today.The resolution appears to contain these elements: first, that no Member of this House sponsored by the Yorkshire Area of the NUM shall vote or speak against union policy on any issue which affects the coalmining industry; second, that no such Member shall actively campaign or work against the union policy on any other major issue; and third, that if any such Member refuses to agree to these guidelines or violates them, the area council shall withdraw sponsorship from that Member of Parliament. The resolution is said to continue:
Among the statements attributed to Mr. Scargill in the Press today, is most importantly, this one which appeared on the news tapes yesterday and is printed in the Sun today:"We wish to make it clear that the Yorkshire Area will no longer tolerate a situation where a miners' MP accepts the privilege of sponsorship and then demands the luxury of independence from union policy."
I do not intend to elaborate on those statements. They hardly require it. May I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that the question of the sponsorship of Members was exhaustively investigated in 1947 and although sponsorship as such was by no means condemned, and nor was the termination of sponsorship by the sponsoring authorities, it was clearly stated in the 1947 report that it would be wrong to use the termination of sponsorship as a threat to affect a Member in the proper discharge of his duties? I am not, therefore, asking that the question of sponsorship should be referred to the Committee of Privileges. Nor am I asking that the question of the sponsorship of the NUM should be so referred, because Mr. Joe Gormley, President at the national level of the NUM, has not only not associated himself with the statements of Mr. Scargill but has dissociated himself and the national union from them. [Horn. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear".] He has stated that position on many occasions. I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider this matter between now and tomorrow, and, if you are minded that there is a prima facie case involved in these statements, to permit precedence to be given to a motion so that the Committee on Privileges can go into the matter carefully and exhaustively and bring a recommendation to the House."Miners are entitled by virtue of their sponsorship to tell their Members of Parliament which way to vote."
Is the hon. Member relying upon some documents?
Documents handed in.
In accordance with modern practice I will consider the matter and rule upon it tomorrow.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Order [ 9th June].
That the matter of North West of England Affairs be referred to the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs.—[Mr. Edward Short.]
Question agreed to.
Standing Committees (Membership)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your guidance on a matter affecting the rights of back benchers of this House?I have twice spoken in Second Reading debates on subjects in which I have an interest and have indicated through the usual channels a desire to he on the Standing Committees considering those Bills. I do not wish in any way to criticise the Committee of Selection but I would like to ask your advice as to how I can criticise the usual channels which filter through to the Committee of Selection the names of people least likely to cause trouble in their eyes but also least likely to contribute the views of backbench Members of this House? I beg your guidance.
This is clearly a matter in which I ought to walk delicately. I will consider this and see whether I can in any way help the hon. Lady.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This motion refers to the North-West of England Standing Committee on Regional Affairs. Would it not be correct for you to state from your office that every Member representing constituencies in the North-West should be represented on that Standing Committee?
I do not think that that is a matter which is for me today. Again I will consider the point raised by the hon. Member.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I point out that every English Member is a member of the Committee?
Question put and agreed to.
Orders Of The Day
Welsh Development Agency (No 2) Bill Lords
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.This is an historic day for Wales. For the first time ever we are to discuss a wholly Welsh Bill on major economic and environmental questions. This follows from the Government's aim of ensuring there are in Wales effective instruments to tackle our real problems. In this Session we hope to secure the seal of parliamentary approval for this agency and also in the same period for the Land Authority for Wales. They are two major and badly needed organisations designed and tailored to meet the needs of Wales. In a matter of days, moreover, there will be transferred to the Welsh Office major industrial powers. These proposals add up to an unprecedented shift of power and effective machinery for decision-making to Wales. It is against this background of transfer of power and the creation of new institutions that I ask the House to consider the Bill. We are breaking new ground in setting up an organisation in Wales devoted wholly to the development and reinvigoration of the economy and the environment. We are doing more. We are giving it the powers and resources necessary for success. This historic day has been delayed by the actions of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who man the main Opposition Bench. It is recognised that the leadership of the Conservative Party in Wales today is as much out of touch with the needs and aspirations of Wales as were the dozens of English Conservative Members who trooped in to stand up in their support when the motion to send the No. 1 Bill to the Welsh Grand Committee was lost.
And the Scottish Tories.
And the Scottish Tories, as my right hon. Friend reminds me.The Conservative opposition are, of course, standing on their heads. In the last General Election their alternative to devolution was the development of existing institutions. Select Committees, the Welsh Grand Committee—all had a great future. But the moment we sought to use the Welsh Grand Committee they lost their nerve. They knew it would reveal how unrepresentative they are of the people of Wales and how unresponsive their philosophy is to its needs. The Bill, despite the Conservative Party, has shown in the welcome it has received how Wales can be united. When I took office I said that one of my aims was to seek to unite the nation of Wales. This does not mean that we, who are traditionally contentious, should agree on everything—far from it—but there is more to unite us than to fragment us. The agency proposals are a practical demonstration of the way we can unite, and the overwhelming majority of Welshmen can be proud of this. The Bill comes to us with the title "No. 2 Bill" after much discussion in another place. As a result, it differs in several respects from the Bill we originally put forward. There have been several improvements as a result of amendments which the Government were ready to accept—for example, on the size of the board of the agency and powers of entry. But I have to say—with real regret—that in the Bill's passage through the various stages in another place some substantial damage was done. I want to make it clear straight away that we intend to repair this damage fully during the Committee stage. On two occasions the Opposition peers attempted to savage the Bill. They tried to get their teeth into two major questions: first, the proposal that the agency itself should carry on industrial undertakings and should be empowered to establish and carry on new undertakings; secondly, that the agency should have a responsibility to promote industrial democracy in undertakings which it controls. Opposition peers sought to hack away at these proposals, mainly, I believe, because they have a parallel in the Industry Bill and were seen in the context of the Government's aim to establish a National Enterprise Board. Amendments were carried which, if allowed to remain, would have the effect of preventing the agency from establishing undertakings or promoting industrial democracy. I shall have more to say of this later, but let me say this now. The amendments introduced showed how far away Opposition peers and those who share their views are from the needs and thoughts of those who day by day by their work contribute to the Welsh economy. The discussion in another place certainly did not reflect the wishes of the great majority of working Welshmen—whether in the steel complexes of South Wales and North Wales, the coal industries of the valleys, or the smaller but none the less important and growing manufacturing industries in rural Wales. Despite the delays, I am determined to get the agency into operation by the end of the year. I am determined—and I am sure this view will be shared by all who have the best interests of Wales at heart—to see speedy progress on the remaining stages of the Bill. It may be helpful briefly to remind the House of the background to the Bill. Earlier this year I published a consultative document setting out the Government's ideas for a development agency. We had long, purposeful and helpful talks with all interested organisations. As a result I was able in the light of the ideas expressed in these discussions, to go ahead and prepare the No. 1 Bill. In doing this, I knew that there was almost universal support for the establishment of a Welsh Development Agency. I know that the objectives I proposed for the agency were approved of within Wales. All consulted saw the need to accelerate the economic and industrial development of Wales and to seek to develop the environment in a way consistent with that objective. Our environment is not to be further squandered and unnecessarily despoiled. So often history has taught us that the price of industrial advance was the rape of our fair country. Industrial advance there must be, but advance in harmony with the environment and this together with the urgent repair of the scars of the past. This is the bill that our generation has to pick up. Against this background, there was approval of the further objective of bring- ing together in one organisation a group of functions concerned with industrial and environmental development. There was, I regret to say, a little less unanimity on the proposals to give the agency new regional development functions analogous to those which the National Enterprise Board will have in England. I hope, however, that in time and after experience those who are still genuinely concerned about this aspect of the agency Bill will come to realise that it is an essential part of the scheme. We are discussing these proposals at a time when the economic situation is very serious indeed. The economy of Wales as part of the economy of the United Kingdom is under strain, and much needs to be done by all concerned to reduce this strain. In the short term the proposals for an agency cannot be of direct help, but I have no doubt at all that once the agency is in operation it will bring powerful additional support to our battle for the health and the growth of the Welsh economy The fact that the Government are prepared to go ahead with this, and the comparable Scottish agency proposal introduced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland yesterday, at the present time show the faith we have in the longer-term prospects of the economies of Wales and of Scotland. It may be helpful in introducing the proposals if I mention by way of emphasis some of the more important points. Clause 1 of the Bill gives the agency a clear responsibility to further economic development in Wales, to promote its industrial efficiency and international competitiveness, to provide, maintain and safeguard employment in Wales, and to further the improvement of the environment. These are broad, wide-ranging responsibilities. There has been some fear that the agency is being given overriding—indeed, even dictatorial—powers. This fear is unjustified. It is in no way my intention that the agency will be in a position to carry out its responsibilities in any dictatorial way. On the one hand, the Bill provides me with powers of general and specific direction—controlling powers. On the other hand, the agency will carry out its responsibilities in ful partnership with existing organisations and local authorities. There is nothing in the Bill which would allow the agency to take over from or supplant any existing organisation—with, of course, the main exception of the Welsh Industrial Estates Corporation. I see the agency—and I underline the word "agency"—as a strong executive arm, with the power to act for the benefit of Wales and with sufficient finance available to it. It is an additional piece of executive machinery, and I will ensure, and indeed I am certain the board of the agency will also ensure, that the agency carries out its activities in the fullest co-operation and partnership with others in Wales who have a responsibility for developing industry and for the environment. As I indicated earlier, Clause 1 does not wholly reflect the Government's intentions. It is lacking in two specific and important powers. First, the Government believe that the agency must have powers to establish and carry on new industrial undertakings. It needs to have an interventionist rôle, and I make no apology for using the word "interventionist". The people of Wales have been crying out for more interventionist policies for decades. The existing division between industry and Government has not worked satisfactorily and there is the strongest case for bringing industry and agencies of the Government more closely together to their mutual advantage and particularly to the advantage of those whose employment prospects are at stake. It is the jobs of Welsh people that we are concerned with. It is providing the means so that the right to work can be exercised in Wales. I give a pledge to seek to restore this particular provision.
If the people of Wales are crying out for these interventionist policies and bodies which the right hon. and learned Gentleman was mentioning, why was there such opposition to the proposed Welsh rural development board?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there were some facets of that board which were not popular. I regret deeply the opportunity lost because of a combination of people of Mid-Wales who should have known better. Mid-Wales has suffered because of that. I speak as a Mid-Walian. I deeply regret that it will be my responsibility now, many years later, through the agency and other means upon which the Government decide, to make up for the years lost and the real money that has been lost in Mid-Wales.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has a grave responsibility for the millions of pounds lost to Mid-Wales and the lack of development throughout Mid-Wales.
I was glad to be able to announce the other day a major programme of factory building to arrest the loss of population in Mid-Wales.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for suddenly remembering his parliamentary courtesy, having named me. Does he not know that the people of Mid-Wales had no objection as such to a board, but they had grave objection to the violent powers of interference with the rights of the individual? People found this highly objectionable. Many of these objectionable features will not now, we hope, be found in this agency. There is a world of difference between the two things.
As the hon. and learned Gentleman is well aware—I made it quite clear, although I shall repeat it—opportunity and years have been lost in Mid-Wales. I understand fully the nature of the objection. But the truth of the matter is that years have been lost in Mid-Wales and millions of pounds have been lost. I understand the objection. I am not entirely obtuse. I want to make it quite clear that there is a grave responsibility, and the hon. and learned Gentleman shares this, for the years that have been lost. I shall seek to ensure that we get over these objections and satisfy the people of Mid-Wales that their objections are unfounded. But the problem that faces us is to try to repair and make up for the lost years, lost because of opposition from hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, and from the Liberal bench primarily.We shall also propose the restoration to the Bill of the agency's responsibility to promote industrial democracy in undertakings which it controls. I have no doubt that, following the precedent in another place, hon. Members will seek to argue in favour of the amendment—new Clause 1(3)(d)—with its weasel form of words about industrial relations. But they miss the point. The Government are concerned to improve decision-taking at all levels of industry—to involve the whole work force. There is an obvious need for changes in the class structure of industry and in the balance of power and responsibility within industry. That is what the Government seek to ensure in undertakings which the agency controls.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will let me proceed. He will be speaking shortly, and others will wish to speak in the debate.
This is an important point, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman is dealing with the question of industrial democracy. Surely what happened in the other place was that it sought a definition of what that phrase means. If the Minister is attacking what has been put in its place, will he now tell the House, so that we clearly understand the Government's objective, what the phrase "industrial democracy" does mean?
On the Government side of the House that phrase is easily understood. I can quite appreciate how some parts of the Opposition side of the House have no idea what industrial democracy means. I am not surprised that this has been objected to in this way, but I shall return to this matter in the days ahead in Committee. I am sure that we can spend a little time in educating the hon. Gentleman further, or perhaps beginning to educate him, about the problems of industrial democracy.This first clause has also given rise to heated discussion about parallels with the National Enterprise Board. There has been much misconceived and misdirected criticism, much of it based on political dogma. But, for those who are able to clear their minds of dogma, let it be explicit: the Welsh Development Agency will in no way be an arm of the National Enterprise Board. Where the powers to be given to the agency are similar to those of the National Enterprise Board, this is because these are sensible and appropriate powers. The agency will be a body separate from the National Enterprise Board and will be in a position to harness its industrial powers in a distinctive way to meet the special needs and circumstances of Wales. The Government have sought to emphasise this in every possible way. There have been many statements as the Industry Bill has gone through its various stages. There has been much correspondence with the Ministers concerned and recently a speech by Sir Don Ryder to the Development Corporation for Wales, in Cardiff. But certain hon. Members will persist in their opposition on this score. However, I hope that, as this debate goes forward, and as the Committee stage develops, their minds will eventually be set at rest. I have concentrated on the industrial and the employment aspects of Clause 1, but there is more still to that clause. The clause emphasises the agency's rôle on the environment. The agency will accept, carry on and develop certain existing activities and responsibilities—for example, on derelict land clearance—and it will take on new responsibilities, particularly in urban areas; and it will do all this not in competition but in partnership with local authorities and others equally concerned with the environment. The agency will also have power to promote Wales as a location for industrial development. This is a rôle which the agency will certainly want to develop slowly and carefully so that it takes completely into account the existing work carried out by organisations such as the Development Corporation for Wales and local authorities. Much helpful work is already being done but more needs to be done, and to be done as a matter of co-operation between all concerned.
Does that include overseas representation by the agency?
Yes, certainly. I think that the Bill makes it clear how the agency may act and the consents which are necessary when it acts outside Wales.I turn now to Clause 2 which sets out the constitution and status of the agency. As Clause 1 makes clear, the agency has a big task. It will demand people of stature, strengh and wide experience to carry it out. I intend that the board shall be composed of people of outstanding skills and experience rather than simply representatives of particular groups. The board will, however, be able to call on additional advice and expertise. Clause 5 provides for the setting up of advisory sub-committees. For example, the board might wish to set up an economic sub-committee or one concerned with the environment. I have not yet come to any decision on the location of the agency's headquarter offices or any out-stations. I have received proposals, well-argued proposals, from several areas of Wales,—for example, from Bleanau Gwent—in favour of Ebbw Vale and from both North-East and North-West Wales. I shall be discussing these proposals further. I want to look at all the needs of the whole of Wales and to make sure that the agency's all-Wales remit is reflected in its locations. At the same time we must bear in mind that much of the agency's work will be to carry out the responsibilities of the Welsh Industrial Estates Corporation. To that extent it will make sense for the agency to continue to use existing sites and premises of the estates corporation. I will mention Clause 3 only briefly and refer specifically to the agency's power to carry out inquiries, investigations or researches. For example, the agency might well take over a derelict land survey of Wales and sponsor research into specific economic problems. To that end, the agency will need to have a specific research function and the staff to carry it out. But once again I want to make it clear that the task of the agency is to work in partnership. It would make no sense at all if it were to supplant the rôle of local authorities, for example in structure plants; and the overall responsibility for determining economic strategy for Wales in the context of the United Kingdom as a whole will remain with me. I have spoken at several points about partnership. This is what is emphasised in Clause 4, in particular the interrelationship with local authorities and with the development corporations of new towns. I believe that as a result of the consultations earlier this year there is a full understanding by local authorities of the way they and the agency will be able to work in partnership. The agency will not be in a position to take over local authority powers. I would underline that. For example, the agency will have no special planning powers. These will remain with local authorities. In the same way the agency will not overlap or interfere with the operations of the new town development corporations. Rather, the way is open for them to work together. I hope it is clear that rural Wales falls as much within the agency's remit as does urban industrial Wales. The agency's remit covers the whole of Wales, and I regard it as having a responsibility to contribute to developing rural as well as urban Wales. This naturally raises questions about the special needs of mid Wales and the concept of a Mid-Wales Development Board. I have made it clear throughout this year that we are giving priority in this Session to establishing a Welsh Development Agency with an all-Wales remit. But I have made it equally clear that we are giving the most careful consideration to what else may need to be done in rural Wales in the light of the developing rôle to be given to the Welsh Agency and the responsibilities of existing bodies. I turn now to Clauses 6, 7 and 8, which transfer the work and responsibilities of the Welsh Industrial Estates Corporation to the agency and give the agency the important powers of providing sites and premises for industry and providing services for the development of industry, including, may I say here, any developments connected with the successful exploitation of the Celtic Sea. The Welsh Industrial Estates Corporation has been a good servant of Wales since it was established under the Local Employment Act 1960. It owns 375 factories at an insured value of over £100 million. It has gross rents totalling almost £2·5 million a year. It holds some 2,600 acres of land and its annual expenditure in 1975–76, including a special provision for the support of the construction industry, will amount to almost £11 million. This is a sizeable responsibility and I wish to pay tribute to all those, both now and in the past, who have made the Welsh Industrial Estates Corporation such a successful part of the Welsh industrial scene. The agency will now take over and I hope develop and expand the work of the estates corporation, and it will carry on this work as part of the agency's responsibilities to the Secretary of State for Wales. Hitherto, the main directions to the estates corporation have come from Whitehall as part of the overall central control of the three estates corporations in England, in Scotland and in Wales. There will, of course, be continued cooperation and links with estates corporation work in England and in Scotland, but from the establishment of the agency the main control of the estates corporation work in Wales will come from within Wales for Wales. It has already been announced that as from 1st July the Welsh Industrial Estates Corporation will be responsible to me and to the Welsh Office. This will be a most helpful transitional stage, a period of consolidation, before the formal transfer to the agency. I look forward to a further long period of successful estates corporation work. Clauses 10 and 11 both refer to regional selective assistance under the 1972 Industry Act. As from 1st July these powers within Wales will fall within my responsibility and will be operated through the Welsh Office.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. Before he leaves the point about vesting of the industrial estates, under which the new direction will come to the agency, is there any implication—I am merely asking for information—that there will be a degree of competition between the Welsh Agency and the Scottish Agency and the comparable body for England for new industry? This would appear to be an important change if that is the case.
In any powers regarding industry and the giving of assistance to industry, it is obviously necessary that one should be able to keep the various organisations which have facilities at their disposal in tandem wherever there are particular enticements. Therefore, in any responsibilities that I shall carry, or where an agency acts on my behalf, it is necessary for the left hand to know what the right hand is doing. I hope that that satisfies the hon. Gentleman.I take this opportunity to welcome to the Welsh Office those staff of the Department of Industry in Wales who will transfer with the work. Their contribution in the past has been great and has been welcomed and respected by industry. I know that it will continue and expand and I am making sure that there will be a smooth transition with the minimum of disruption to staff and, equally important, the minimum of disruption to industrialists and others who use the services. Hon. Members opposite, I know, are inclined to argue that the powers of the 1972 Industry Act are enough. Why go beyond these powers, they ask, in their forlorn attempt to oppose proposals in the Industry Bill and the Welsh Development Agency Bill. I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I remind them of the comments I made on the 1972 legislation during our debate on Welsh Affairs on 21st March 1974, in the early days of my office as Secretary of State for Wales. I then criticised the deplorable economic performance of the previous administration and said:
"Like Saul on the road to Damascus, the last Government saw a blinding light, and in the spring of 1972 they reintroduced investment grants—although in an attempt to cover up their past folly they now called them regional development grants. Saul was renamed Paul."—[Official Report, 21st March 1974; Vol. 870, c. 1355.]
How does a blind man see a blinding light?
May I say,
and to the extent that I mentioned the 1972 Act, it was an improvement on their past performance. But the fact remains that the 1972 legislation is demonstrably not enough today. I must again emphasise that there is a need for more direct links between Government and industry of the kind which an agency can promote. This is one reason why the agency is so much welcomed by those whose day-to-day life depends on the health of Welsh industry. Clause 10 provides for the agency in certain circumstances to act as a channel for regional selective assistance. How often this power will be used will be for determination by me in the light of individual cases. I think we may expect, however, that regional selective assistance will generally continue to be handled directly through the Secretary of State. It may be argued that giving the Welsh Office control over regional selective assistance could weaken the agency's rôle. I do not accept this argument. The two rôles are as distinct as they are complementary. The agency will be expected to act on its own initiative to seek out opportunities and directly involve itself in industry. This type of enterpreneurial rôle is best performed by an agency. The agency will be able to give itself wholeheartedly to this rôle, since it will not have to bear the considerable burden of handling requests for assistance. I think that Parliament would feel it right that the major decisions on requests for assistance should remain directly under the control of a Secretary of State responsible to Parliament, especially since there are often in such cases most sensitive employment implications. If, however, the powers in Clause 10 may be used only sparingly, it is certain that those in Clause 11 will be used regularly. As a result, I shall have available to me a statutory board replacing the present non-statutory board—to advise me on all Section 7 cases in Wales. This board will also have to develop a close contact with the agency, and there could well be a need for some overlapping of membership either with the agency's board or with one or other of its sub-committees. Clauses 13 and 14 deal specifically with the environmental rôle of the agency. The agency will have a dual responsibility here—developing, redeveloping and improving the environment and grant-aiding local authorities in carrying out derelict land clearance work and carrying out such work itself. There is no doubt that this work needs to be done within Wales and that more resources, both of people and finance, must be devoted to it. It is no good developing industry unless at the same time the environment is preserved where it should be and developed where it needs to be. The agency will be in a position to help ensure this. The environment is a resource which must be as carefully husbanded as any other resource in Wales. For the removal of any doubt, I should emphasise here that the agency will be expected to bring forward proposals for approval in full consultation and harmony with local authorities. It will take account of expert advice from bodies such as the Countryside Commission and the Nature Conservancy Council. The agency will have to obtain planning permission from the local planning authority on every occasion when this is required. There is no question of the agency being put in a privileged position. Local authorities in Wales have won an outstanding reputation for their work on derelict land clearance, and, as I have said, their powers remain untouched. We are seeing a revolutionary change in that emotive title, "How Green was My Valley", from the past tense to the present. In many places the "was" is becoming "is" The Bill emphasises that local authorities in Wales will continue to have a major role in land clearance schemes, whereas I note that in the Scottish Bill the emphasis is on the Scottish Development Agency itself undertaking derelict land clearance schemes and relieving local authorities of that responsibility. We shall not follow the Scottish pattern in Wales. Rather we shall build on what has so far been achieved. About 19 per cent. of the derelict land in Wales has been reclaimed in the past seven years—about 6,500 acres. If, as we all hope, the Welsh Development Agency will choose to give a priority to derelict land clearance and provide a substantial, accelerated rate of expenditure, we have some expectation that something approaching half of the derelict land in Wales might be cleared by the beginning of the next decade. I feel sure that it is the wish of all parts of the House that the agency shall give priority to this work. As a further indication of the Government's support, the level of grant to local authorities will be raised to 100 per cent. of the net cost, and we hope that the full resources of the kind now provided by the Derelict Land Unit in the Welsh Office will continue to be available within the agency. Lest there should be any concern about delays as a result of the changeover from the Welsh Office to agency responsibility, I am making sure that there will be no halt in the on-going work on land clearance. Clauses 15 to 18 set out the financial rôles for the agency. There cannot be criticism of the need for the agency to conform to specific financial obligations where this makes sense. For example, it is right that on that part of the agency's work which involves an industrial investment rôle it should have a specified financial objective. Equally, it is right that other activities of the agency—for example, on land clearance and environmental uplift—cannot be regulated by specific financial objectives. These would simply be inappropriate. The agency will have an initial financial allocation of £100 million, which can be raised to £150 million. I recognise that there are arguments that this financial allocation is not enough. But what is now to be provided represents a heavy commitment by the Government at a time of strong competing demands on the financial resources available to them. It has to be emphasised that this £100 million to £150 million is additional to expenditure in Wales on selective assistance, regional development grants and the regional employment premium. The amount allocated—and there is no specific time period attached—will allow a start to new activities such as the agency's industrial development rôle and an increase in existing levels of spending on activities which the agency will take over—for example, the derelict land clearance work. At this stage, before the agency itself has had an opportunity to discuss its priorities, I am not in a position to indicate how rapidly the agency will recommend drawing on its financial resources. But I am sure it will recommend wisely and well."By their fruits ye shall know them"—
Are there any guidelines to the time span over which the £100 million or £150 million can be drawn on? The question has arisen, and is sure to arise again, whether it would be reasonable to come back for more if the money were spent within, say, the first 18 months. Should the agency think of it as money to spend over three or four years? I ask in order to obtain guidance for those running the agency.
There is no time span and no time limit. It will be for the agency to make proposals to me and, within the limits laid down by Parliament, to ensure that it has the funds available to it. I am sure that the agency will make wise proposals. We are anxious to ensure that the needs of Wales are met. This is a significant tranche of money. I emphasise that it is in addition to at least £60 million a year at present spent in Wales on such matters as selective assistance, regional development grants and the regional employment premium. That is the scale of the Government's assistance to Wales.Clause 19 sets out the agency's powers to acquire, dispose of and take over land. The agency, in carrying out its land development rôle, must have powers to acquire and dispose of land. But it is not being given powers which in any way conflict with local planning responsibilities. The remaining clauses of the Bill are in a sense "bread and butter". These have been exhaustively discussed in another place and reflect amendments introduced there and accepted by the Government. These amendments—unlike those to which I have referred earlier—serve to improve the Bill and I, therefore, very much welcome this part at least of the hard work which went on in another place under the direction of that most distinguished Welshman, the Lord Chancellor, who led the Bill. If we put all the clauses in the Bill together we have the basis of a complete and coherent agency. The agency, like the Bill itself, is an amalgam. It has the distinct merit of bringing together in one organisation a variety of powers all directly related to the industrial process—acquiring land, reclaiming land for industrial purposes, establishing industrial estates, constructing advance factories on these estates, attracting firms to Wales, helping firms with finance and advice and so on throughout the whole stage of the industrial development process—and doing this while throughout having an eye to the preservation and the development of the environment. The agency will be an institution for Wales within Wales. As I have said, it will be established in Wales in the same period when new powers in the industry field are being transferred to the Welsh Office. Taken as a whole, these changes indicate a major shift of responsibility to the Principality. This gives us all in Wales a chance to show what we are made of as we involve ourselves directly day by day in the economic life of Wales. I know that the people of Wales wish the proposals in this Bill to succeed and that they will wish the agency well. They know, as I know, that the proposals in this Bill represent a coherent and constructive way of helping to organise and sponsor industrial and environmental development in Wales where it is most I recommend the Bill to the House.
The Secretary of State said that it was a historic day. It is also, I think, the first day that Wales has had on the Floor of this House for more than 15 months—in fact, since March 1974.It is not the traditional Welsh day debate in which Members can range widely and examine the performance of the Welsh Office in the previous year. It seems clear that the Government have little intention of giving us that debate this side of the Summer Recess. It seems that they find it appropriate that Wales should have to wait at least a year and a half before it can be given the time to which we believe it is entitled, and yet they grumble because we insisted that this debate, on a Bill that they claim to be of vital significance to Wales, should be held here and not upstairs. Even more extraordinary, they tried to persuade us to hold this debate last week, before the Bill had completed its progress in another place, and they tried to fob us off with half a day. Even in the last couple of days, Labour Members have been queuing at the Opposition Whips' Office to try to arrange pairs after seven o'clock tonight, on the understanding that the debate is to be allowed to fold up at seven. It is disgraceful that Wales should be treated with this kind of disrespect. Of course there is a place for Committee work. We should like to see a Welsh Select Committee set up without delay, but it will be a bad day for Parliament if this Chamber abandons the task of examining the principles of important Bills, and a bad day for the country it we are so casual about the planned expenditure of £100 million that we do not give an opportunity to all Members of this House to hear the Government of the day justify it and defend it against criticism. It is because we have become so casual about this job of voting Supply or refusing to vote Supply that we are in our present mess. It is in the context of that mess, and against the background of the economic disaster that now confronts us, that we have to consider this measure. The Secretary of State at times has seemed to wax euphoric about the Bill, but even he was forced to acknowledge, in the Welsh Grand Committee in May, that the heart of the matter is solving the problems of the United Kingdom as a whole. He conceded that the agency to be set up by the Bill does not offer salvation for the Welsh unemployed, and today he said that in the short term the proposals for an agency cannot be of direct help. It is what he called an additional piece of executive machinery to be judged against the situation in which it is asked to operate—at best a useful tool; at worst a positive impediment to economic activity. It is important that we should be absolutely clear about this, and that we should face up to the fact that whatever we may think about the agency is entirely secondary to the Government's management of the economy as a whole. That, as the Secretary of State says, is the heart of the matter—and a proper mess they are making of it, too! The prime responsibilities of any Government in the field of economic management are: first, to create a climate in which productive industry can maintain national output at something approaching its full potential; second, to ensure the maintenance of a high level of employment; and, third, to preserve the value of the currency, internal and external. The Government have created a situation in which national output is back to the level of the three-day week, in which unemployment is at its highest June level since before the Second World War, and in which 25p has been sliced off the pound in the people's pocket and 27 per cent. has been knocked off the pound sterling in world markets since December 1971, so that today it stands at its lowest ever level. On a three-monthly basis, the rate of Inflation in Britain has now crossed the 50 per cent. threshold into hyperinflation only eight months since the Chancellor of the Exchequer's notorious 8·5 per cent. statement. In Wales this June there are nearly 7,000 more people out of work than in any other June in the last 35 years. The seasonally adjusted figure of 53,000, or 5·2 per cent. of the working population, takes no account of short-time work, factories working a three-day or four-day week, or companies holding on to workers to maintain a nominal state of employment. The figure has deteriorated by ½ a per cent.—in other words, by over 5,500 people—since we last debated the matter in the Welsh Grand Committee in early May. During the same period the Government have done nothing to check the inflation rate, nothing to cut their own expenditure, and nothing to restore confidence in industry. By doing nothing except increase their own expenditure they are ensuring that the sickness will become more critical and the eventual cure more painful. We are considering the Bill at a time when there are more than 20 Government factories in Wales standing vacant, when the number of firms known to be on short-time work is approaching 100, and when the number of inquiries and first visits from outside Wales is sharply declining. The Welsh CBI report "seriously depleted order books" and that companies are holding back or cancelling investment plans wherever that is possible. The Welsh Secretary of the CBI writes in a letter to me this week:
"The underlying trend of unemployment is, of course, upwards and we expect the position to deteriorate as increasing numbers of employers realise that there is not going to be an upturn in the economy in the near future and are therefore compelled to release work people."
Did not the Welsh Secretary of the CBI also say in the same letter that he and his members accepted this agency in principle?
He did nothing of the kind. I shall be coming to the views of the Welsh CBI later in my speech.The architects of this disaster, the men personally responsible for this mounting national misery, are the architects of this Bill. The agency is charged with the job—in the original version it was given the duty—of furthering the economic development of Wales. But that central responsibility cannot be that of a subordinate agency. It is the job of the Government, and it is a job that this Government are failing to do calamitously. The Secretary of State said that the agency was a vital part of the machinery which he needed to tackle the problem. But it is absurd to imagine that the task of assisting individual companies, of stimulating job creation in individual locations or even of achieving such generally desirable social objectives as the clearance of derelict land are possible, however good the machinery, if the Government mishandle the general management of the economy. We also have to consider the Bill in the context of the Government's legislative programme as a whole. It cannot be judged in isolation. Clearly, it is part of a package of measures designed to achieve a Socialist objective. I do not blame them for that, because it is their belief. It goes hand in hand with the Industry Bill, and whole sections of it have been lifted almost straight from that Bill. However the relationship between the National Enterprise Board and the agency is defined—and we shall wish to return to it in Committee—it is clear that the NEB will retain some of its most formidable powers for operation throughout the United Kingdom—for example, the vesting order power of Clause 10 and the power to extend public ownership into profitable areas of manufacturing industry. If it were not blasphemous to say so, I should suggest that we were discussing something rather like the Trinity—a mystery in which separate powers combine to make up a whole. This interlocking relationship is well illustrated by the fact that the agency will have the dut