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Commons Chamber

Volume 924: debated on Monday 17 January 1977

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House Of Commons

Monday, 17th January 1977

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions


Power Exports (Cross-Channel Link)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he has now received the report of the CEGB's feasibility study on exporting power to the Continent by a 2,000-MW cable link with France; and if he will make a statement on the effect this would have on the need for electrical generating capacity.

The CEGB informs me that it hopes to complete technical studies by this summer. The effect of building the link on the need for new capacity would depend on the growth of demand and on timing of construction. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said on 25th October, we should wish to consider most carefully the effect of any proposal to build such a cable on the power station ordering programme.

Does my hon. Friend accept that even if this project does not prove feasible or desirable there is an urgent need to stimulate investment by the CEGB, as this is critical to the regeneration of British industry?

I think that there is a similar Question on the Order Paper, but I should say that along with questions and answers across the Floor of the House there is appraisal of the fact that the problem exists. We have said that we will give it careful consideration.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the critical point in relation to this matter at the moment is that the CEGB has a surplus of generating plant of between 30 and 40 per cent. over demand?

My hon. Friend is correct that the CEGB has given that figure of surplus capacity, but the question has been asked about forward ordering in order to preserve or contain the present manufacturing capacity.

As regards this important construction, is the Minister aware of the possibility that, although we might be able to export to the Continent at some times of the day, the procedure might be reversed at other times? There could be a balance, therefore, between us and Europe depending on the time of day and need,

The matter is, of course, under study, but the hon. Gentleman is correct: there could be reciprocal benefit for both sides, if that is what the study comes up with. One suggestion, for examples, is to go at full capacity, which could equal 1 million tons of coal in exports per annum from this country. This has been studied. The hon. Gentleman is, however, correct in what he has said.

Nuclear Energy


asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is satisfied with the United Kingdom's planned programme of production of energy from nuclear sources.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects to make a statement on the future of the nuclear energy programme.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is satisfied with the United Kingdom's planned programme of energy production from nuclear sources.

I am currently taking stock of progress with the SGHWR programme and reviewing our policy on the fast reactor. I hope to make a statement when these exercises are complete.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the concern at the fact that our lead in nuclear energy has been allowed to slip away? Is it not the Government's duty to give a lead in these matters so as to ensure that we have a major British manfacturing output?

The manufacturing argument is powerful, but, according to the figures given to me, the proportion of our electricity generated by nuclear power between August and October last was 13 per cent. and when the current AGR programme is completed it will rise to 20 per cent. By world standards that is a fairly high percentage, but it is sensible in reaching decisions of this magnitude, which will affect the industry and export prospects, as well as raising questions of safety and possibilities of international collaboration, to take our time over them. I cannot really apologise for having done that.

Will the right hon. Gentleman now at least give his own personal views as to whether he is in favour of the fast breeder reactor programme, particularly in the light of the replies he has just received to the questions he put to the Nuclear Inspectorate?

I do not think there is much doubt that a decision of this magnitude would be taken collectively by the Government. It is too big a matter for an individual Minister to try to anticipate a Cabinet decision. We have given authority and the necessary finance to develop the work at Dounreay to the full completion of power. The question that we are really considering is a rather bigger one than that—the timing and phasing of a fast breeder programme as a whole. I ask the hon. Gentleman to await the measured and considered view which can be given when all these factors have been taken into account.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to convey my personal thanks to the Nuclear Inspectorate for the way in which it answered the questions which he and I and others put to it. Will he none the less tell the House why, although the Chief Nuclear Inspector apparently signed the preface to the document in the third week of December, it is only now that it is supposedly available to the House? Will he comment on the fact that it is difficult for hon. Members to comment sensibly on these matters when telephoned by the Press and in other circumstances when they have not seen the document in advance?

The latter point is an old problem concerning the extent to which the release of documents should be anticipated for the Press ahead of the House of Commons. I have always had a great deal of sympathy for hon. Members who are put in a less advantageous position than the Press. This is an old grievance going back over a long period, and I doubt whether I could remedy it myself. As for the delay, I do not think that it has been unnecessary. I do not think that the hon. Member, who is the only Member who responded to my request to put questions, would blame me for having given time for us to give some preliminary consideration. There was no deliberate delay. I hope that the report will be studied, because I think this is the first time that a Minister has ever published his own interrogation of his own officials so that the public could be as well informed as he about the issues involved.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that nuclear power, together with coal, will provide the bulk of this country's energy requirements in the future? Does he not further agree that now is the time to praise the nuclear power industry for its past achievements and to give it confidence for the future by settling our reactor type for the future and having a planned programme for new nuclear power stations?

I join in the congratulations to the nuclear power industry on its achievements. I intend to publish for the benefit of those who are interested a table of the number of accidents and casualties involving all the fuel industries in the last 20 years. The House will be surprised to find how outstandingly well the nuclear industry comes out in any comparisons in matters such as deaths in the mining industry and deaths by electrocution. However, I feel that the House and the country need a moment to pause when further information is made available, and the demand for electricity has given an opportunity for that pause. When the conclusions of the findings are made public, the nuclear power industry will find that it has not suffered by bringing out its own achievements and by giving the public a chance to consider what is at stake.

Will the Secretary of State clarify the answer he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman)? Since the right hon. Gentleman has made clear that he intends to publish the information, why has it taken him a month to consider it? Was he considering deleting some of the replies, or were they to be published in full? The Secretary of State has called for a wide-ranging debate, which he now says is a decision for the Cabinet, but this is bound to hinge on a recommendation from him and his Department. When will he make that recommendation?

I hope that I shall be acquitted of trying to suppress something which would not have happened had I not asked the question in the first place. The report came to me before Christmas, but I wanted a chance to look at it myself and arrange for publication as early as possible in the new year. I could not have any wish to make deletions from a document which was written only in response to questions which I put. It is not normal for Ministers to publish papers for Cabinet colleagues before those papers go to Cabinet colleagues. There is a Select Committee report with which I am anxious to proceed, but the House would not wish me to rush ahead without giving an opportunity for a measured reaction from the House and others on this issue.

While welcoming the fact that the Secretary of State will publish later this year a broad statement on these matters, may I ask whether he is aware that there is considerable alarm in the industry? The Think Tank's report has not answered any questions, and, indeed, on some issues has given some stupid answers. Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement as soon as possible and give the whole House an opportunity to debate it, for at least one day?

Naturally, like any Minister, I should like to see my Department's problems aired in the House, but this does not depend on me. When he talks about the Think Tank, I think that the right hon. Member is referring to the CPRS report on the heavy electrical industry. That does not concern nuclear ordering alone but spreads into orders for coal-fired stations including Drax B and others. These matters have to be taken into account.

British Petroleum


asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will make a statement about his policy towards British Petroleum.

When the Government come to implement the Chancellor's announcement that there will be a sale of certain shares in BP, will they intend that these are placed with foreign financial institutions, or will ordinary British investors have a chance to buy as well?

There is another Question on this matter specifically on the Order Paper, and I cannot quite see the hon. Member's point. From the time when Sir Winston Churchill recommended to the House in 1914 that shares in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company should be acquired, these shares have always been held by the Treasury, and it falls to Treasury Ministers to answer these Questions.

Is it not the logic of Government policy to sell off these shares down to a 51 per cent. holding, and is it not now the intention of the Government to go below the 51 per cent. State holding in BP? If that is so, is not the logic of that that it is not the Government's intention to extend their holding in any part of North Sea oil? Is not this contrary to all statements made by the Labour Party and statements issued by this Administration? Will the Secretary of State tell us his position on the future of the industry and of the State holdings as well?

I cannot add to the statement made on BP because this matter falls to the Chancellor. The statement he made before Christmas did not contemplate the reduction of the holding below 51 per cent. As far as BNOC and the Government's holding in the North Sea is concerned, I think my hon. Friend's hopes will be realised. We are nearing the fifth round and an announcement will be made in a few weeks. BNOC will have throughout a 51 per cent. equity holding in all new licences. This situation has never prevailed before.

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that if perchance BNOC finds itself with something in excess of 51 per cent., the same procedure will he followed as was followed in the case of BP?

No, I cannot give such an assurance. We said we would have majority participation in the North Sea in the fifth round and we seek to get, by voluntary agreement, access to 51 per cent. of existing licences. There will be nothing to limit BNOC from developing into a powerful State oil company standing up world-wide for the interests of this country.

Electricity And Gas (Reconnection Charges)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will list the reconnection deposits and charges made by the electricity and gas industries to those disconnected for non-payment of accounts.

I understand that charges for reconnection vary according to the amount of work involved. For electricity a typical charge would be £3 where there is access to the premises and no external work is needed. For gas a typical charge would be in the range £3 to £7. Deposits where required are fixed according to the customer's individual circumstances, such as his level of consumptiton.

Does my hon. Friend agree that his reply indicates that the problem is one of arbitrary decisions taken by the gas and electricity industries, which often place a burden on low-income families? Is he prepared to consider making these charges a matter of review and agreement by the Government and the appropriate Government Department? Also, what advice was given on these matters in the code of conduct relating to disconnections?

No, I do not agree that the charges are matters of arbitrary decision by the industries in so far as they are effected under the code of practice on payment of domestic electricity and gas bills. Deposits are required only for short-stay occupants or persistent bad payers. In the latter case, the industries must have a fall-back position to safeguard their interests and those of other consumers. The whole question of disconnections was the subject of a review by the Government, and the Government are keeping their options open. We will consider the matter again in the light of the working of the code of practice.

Is the Minister aware that many thousands of low-income families are suffering undue hardship by having their supplies cut off or threatened because the Government have not done what they should have done over the past year and permitted more incentives—as on the Continent—for thermal insulation and improved heating systems? This is particularly the case with families who are trapped in all-electrically-heated council-houses.

I do not accept that either. The Government have made £25 million available especially to help low-income families and families in receipt of supplementary benefit and family income supplement. This help applies in many cases to elderly people whose houses are heated solely by electricity.

Money is available to local authorities through the job creation programme for insulation. The Government have negotiated substantial discounts with the manufacturers of insulation materials. We are giving every encouragement to local authorities to go ahead and insulate, especially as we are aware that between 60 per cent. and 70 per cent. of local authority houses have no insulation. I reject what the hon. Gentleman says. We are pressing ahead as far as we can, but in the end it is for local authorities to take action.

Electricity Disconnections


asked the Secretary of State for Energy if the number of households to which the supply of electricity has been cut off owing to financial difficulties is increasing.

A direct comparison cannot be made between the number of consumers disconnected in the present financial year and those for earlier years, since in April the Electricity Council adopted a new basis for collection of this information which excludes figures other than those relating to domestic premises in regular occupation. However, its retrospective estimates suggest that the number of disconnections in the first six months of 1976–77 may be some 7 per cent. below the corresponding number for the same period of 1975–76.

Although I recognise the efforts that have been made by my hon. Friend and his colleagues to persuade the electricity authorities to adopt a more sympathetic approach to low-income families who are dependent upon electricity for heating and cooking, may I ask him to impress upon the authorities the necessity of being more willing to install prepayment slot meters—after all, in the end bills must be paid—to enable families to avoid the tremendous hardship that is imposed upon them when they are cut off? Is there some difficulty about the manufacture of slot meters? Will my hon. Friend take action? Will he look into my suggestion of encouraging the authorities to install prepayment meters?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks and constructive suggestion. As he is aware, the code of practice states specifically that all forms of payment methods suggested in the payments review should become available. That applies to both gas and electricity boards. There is specific reference to prepayment meters. It is specifically outlined in the code of practice that they can be made availble where they are safe and practical to install. If my hon. Friend has in mind a case of difficulty concerning this aspect of prepayment meters, if he cares to write to me about it I shall be pleased to consider it.

Does the Minister accept that one of the problems is that the majority of people are still unaware of the facilities for budget or instalment meters to spread the payment of their heating charges? Is not the problem aggravated by the fact that different boards have been offering different facilities? Does the Minister regard it as a departmental responsibility to hammer home the alternatives? Does he accept that the present severe winter will cause aggravated problems for many families?

There is some truth in what the hon. Gentleman says about people not being fully aware of the alternative methods of payment that are available. We have been at great pains, as have the industries themselves, to draw attention to these methods. This has been done through the industries' own advertising and through the publication of the code of practice, which is now freely available to all consumers. We take very much to heart the point that the hon. Gentleman has made. Much work is going into bringing home to consumers information on the alternative methods of payment.

Gas Prices


asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will make a statement about the gas price increase which the Government are asking the British Gas Corporation to put into effect from April 1977.

The details of the increase will be announced as soon as they have been settled.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his commitment to the overriding need to reduce the public sector borrowing requirement, but why has the gas industry been singled out for non-preferential treatment? Will he confirm that it is no part of the Government's policy that there should be thermal price parity in the supply of energy?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for letting me make this point. This is not a tax on gas. It has not been made at the request of the coal industry or electricity industry. It is a move simply to reduce indebtedness on the part of a highly successful nationalised corporation. The fact that the real price of gas has fallen over recent years has given us the chance to try to make the gas industry one of our best industries.

Is this the start of a consistent and balanced policy of energy pricing, which, as my right hon. Friend knows. I have urged upon his Department for some time?

We have no intention to reduce the competitive position of gas. That statement applies to the question asked by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). As for the general position, this is a very complex area and we are trying hard to meet all the problems.

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed the statement by the National Gas Consumers Council? Where there is a highly profitable industry, is it not more sensible that the industry should pass on its profits to its consumers by reducing prices and should not be overtaxed because it is efficient?

If it were an undeveloping industry, an industry which had reached its capacity, that might be a sensible proposition. However, gas has an immense future in this country and there is much public investment still to be achieved.

Does my right hon. Friend realise, when contemplating this part of his navel, that 14 to 15 years ago the scientific experts at Millbank were telling us how much cheaper gas would be than any other form of energy, but that certain action was taken by the National Coal Board which has put us in the position of so having to put up the price of gas that it is the dearest form of supply of domestic heat?

I have lost 10 lb in weight over Christmas, so I am able to contemplate my navel a bit more easily than before. Gas still remains a highly competitive fuel. I think it is perfectly reasonable that the price should be raised to repay its debt to the nation.

Is it desirable that energy prices should be fixed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Were consultations held with British Gas before this announcement was made?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, if he is ever back in Government, if that ever is the tragic case for our country, there are certain possibilities but one cannot go into full consultations before the event. Past practice shows that the hon. Gentleman is on dangerously thin ice in talking about the behaviour of some Governments towards nationalised industries. Perhaps he will bear in mind how shamefully the nationalised industries were treated by the Conservative Government from 1970 to 1974.

British National Oil Corporation


asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he last had discussions with the Chairman of the British National Oil Corporation.

Is the Secretary of State aware that he should seek a further urgent meeting with the Chairman of the BNOC to convey to him the deep concern and mounting confusion that exists in the oil industry because the Chairman has failed so far to give a date to that industry for the time when BNOC will be operating in downstream petroleum activities?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, but I see the major oil companies almost as frequently as I see Lord Kearton. In fact, this point has never arisen. It has not arisen for the simple reason that we made it clear in our discussions with BP, Shell, Esso and others that it was not the intention of BNOC in the first stage of its development to go downstream. I have made that clear in the House and there is nothing secret about it. BNOC's interest and involvement in downstream strategy was to keep an eye on the development of that strategy so that the Government would be informed about downstream activity. BNOC would then, statutorily, be perfectly able to move downstream by Act of Parliament. I do not think that there is the uncertainty that the hon. Gentleman suggested in his supplementary question.

Bearing in mind the need to provide more jobs for workers in oil-related activities in this country, will my right hon. Friend, in discussing with the BNOC the fifth round of licence talks, make it a condition that at least one of the oil companies shows an interest in the £14 million oil rig that is being built at the Marathon yard at Clydebank?

My hon. Friend will know that the use of jack-up rigs in the North Sea is limited and that prospects for the sale of the Marathon jack-up rig abroad are greater than its likely use in home waters. I am exceptionally glad to have been able to play my modest part, with the Secretary of State for Scotland, in the ordering of a jack-up rig. It is extremely important that we see oil not merely as something to be refined and sold but as a means by which we may build up a strong domestic industry.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the participation agreements, particularly those with Shell and Esso, are a farce? In the one case BNOC will sell at market price and companies will buy back at exactly the same price. Why not eliminate the middle man? On grounds of confidentiality, does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the Corporation is acting in a dual capacity commercially or as agent for the Government, and will not this confuse its stance in both situations? How can the Corporation be completely confidential in the advice which it gives?

The hon. Gentleman is too old a hand to base a supplementary question on oil company Press releases. If he looks back, he will discover that the price agreement, which took six months to negotiate, is not as easy as he suggests. It requires that the oil companies will make clear their objectives in terms of refinery policy and maximising the balance of payments advantage to the United Kingdom. They have to demonstrate that to the Secretary of State as part of the agreement, including sale-back.

How does my right hon. Friend explain why in the head office of BNOC there exist two pieces of paper, one giving BNOC the ability to purchase half the private oil company oil that is on tap and the other superseding and overriding the first piece of paper and saying that the oil company may have the ability to buy back? How does that fit in with the concept of taking over the commanding heights of the economy and selling off £500 million worth of oil, as announced in the mini-Budget? Why does not my right hon. Friend denounce these methods?

If my hon. Friend, who follows these matters carefully, reads the heads of agreement, he will see that they do not comprise what he calls two bits of paper. He will recognise that a planning agreement is involved and that, for the first time, the oil companies have entered into a treaty relationship with the Government in which their own policy is made explicit and the sale-back provision is linked to the implementation of that policy.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that BNOC is acting merely as a regulatory authority, which is what many of us said it should do, and that we therefore congratulate him? In his discussions with the Chairman of the BNOC, will he also point out that the competitive aspects of the petroleum companies in downstream activities leave no freedom for the Corporation to compete in that sector?

The hon. Gentleman is totally wrong, because BNOC will have in hand at its disposal between 35 million and 40 million tons of oil by the mid-1980s which would not be provided by regulatory authority. The hon. Gentleman supported a Government who gave licences to oil companies under which there was no guarantee that a single drop of that oil would be available to the United Kingdom or would be under the supervision of any British agency. That was a total betrayal of the trust which they should have exercised.

Electricity Generation


asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his estimate of the percentages of electricity generation in the year 2000 attributable to: (a) coal, (b) nuclear, (c) oil, (d) gas and (e) solar, wave-power and wind-power.

As the House was told last month, total demand for primary energy at the turn of the century could lie in the range 500 million-600 million tons of coal equivalent. Within that total a very wide range of requirements for electricity generation is possible, and could be met by many combinations of the energy sources mentioned. I cannot usefully predict at this stage the combination we shall want.

Does not the Minister agree that by the turn of the century, or even before, we shall be largely dependent on coal and nuclear power for our electricity generation? In view of the likely costs of coal related to the lower costs of nuclear power and the fact that we shall need to compete with countries such as France and Germany in electricity production, will the Minister put pressure on the Government and the Cabinet to go ahead with the fast breeder reactor as soon as possible?

My ministerial colleague has already answered a question about the time scale of the fast breeder reactor. In reply to the hon. Gentleman's second point, the question of fuel prediction and costs has probably been one of the greatest growth industries, yet such predictions are still a hazardous occupation. The hon. Gentleman suggests that by all indications nuclear power will be cheaper. Even that prediction has been challenged. What is certain is that, with new techniques in mining, coal production and so on, there will be a move to cheaper coal, and it must be remembered that we have 300 years of coal beneath us.

Will there be an early announcement about construction of the coal-fired power station at Drax B?

I know that the matter is being considered. However, I am not in a position to give an undertaking to my hon. Friend today.

Miners (Retirement Age)


asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he next expects to meet the National Union of Mineworkers leaders about early retirement.

Together with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Employment and the Chief Secretary, I saw the leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers on 10th January. In view of the agreement that has been reached on early retirement, I have no plans for a further meeting on this issue.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in my view there is a need for the Government to assist in financing the early retirement scheme, especially bearing in mind the fact that we need to bring in surface workers as well? Is he also aware of the need to provide stocking aid for coke? Following what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Roberts), will my right hon. Friend make an early announcement about the construction of Drax B?

This was one of the issues which I discussed with the National Union of Mineworkers. I was able to point out, and the union accepted, the massive Government contribution to the pension fund, the pneumoconiosis scheme, the Redundant Mineworkers Payment Scheme, coal stocks and even the electricity discount scheme, which is intended to assist in coal burn. Although the NUM would like to have seen a Government contribution, it is not disputed that this cost could be carried by the industry, and, therefore, my discussions with the NUM were on that basis.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we welcome the agreement on early retirement for underground workers, for which we believe there is a strong case, but that we do not agree with what the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said about surface workers, which has a much wider implication for many other industries? Although we support the fact that the agreement will be self-financing, will the Secretary of State say what will be the cost of a ton of coal following the agreement? What efforts are the Government making to bring in a productivity scheme to help to pay for these extra benefits?

Past experience of the Government telling the mining industry what to do has not been entirely happy. It would have been wiser to allow the NCB and NUM to work out how best they can win coal.

To work out the best means by which the cost—or most of it—of an early retirement scheme can be carried by the industry. Nobody doubts that it can be carried by the industry. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome to the scheme. To get the retirement age down to 62 when pay policy permits—which is assumed to be in the early part of next year—and then down to the age of 60 for those with 20 years underground, and to provide a £500 lump sum payment and 90 per cent. take-home pay, are notable gains.

The surface workers fall into two categories—those with under 20 years' service underground who have been brought to the surface and about whom there is to be further discussion and those with no underground experience. Everybody recognises that these matters must be seen as part of a wider approach to early retirement, and the TUC has pressed for the subject to be viewed as a wider matter.

Before my right hon. Friend and the Opposition congratulate themselves on the agreement in relation to early retirement, will he and they await the result of the ballot to be conducted among the miners themselves?

Yes, of course. I would not dream of saying anything that bore upon the ballot, except that the NUM executive has decided to recommend the agreement. As one who has been working to bring about earlier retirement for underground workers, I think it would be wrong for me not to record this initial agreement, all of it being subject to a pithead ballot of the miners themselves.

Central Electricity Generating Board


asked the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the Chairman of the Electricity Generating Board to discuss the Board's future programme.


asked the Secretary of State for Energy when next he expects to meet the Chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board.

I am in frequent contact with the Chairman on a variety of matters affecting the Board's business.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement that he is in constant contact with the Chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board. Next time he sees the Chairman, will he discuss with him a refurbishing programme for the 46 500-MW traditional power stations? This would be a highly labour-intensive exercise and would give the grid a 30 per cent. increase. If carried out on a phased programme, including the building of Drax B, it would saitsfy our electricity needs for the foreseeable future.

Yes, Sir. These points are of great importance. This has a bearing on the load for the industry. The advancement of the Drax B order has been one of the main items on the agenda in my discussions with the Chairman of the CEGB.

If the right hon. Gentleman decides to tell the Board to commission Drax B against its commercial wishes, will the Government pay a subsidy to the Board for it or will the electricity consumers pay?

I take this opportunity to say that the figures published by the Board about the cost to the consumers of advancing Drax B are figures for which it must take the responsibility. They are not Government figures. I invite those who take an interest in these matters to look carefully at the assumptions on which the figures are based. It is not unknown for the Government to play some part in influencing the timing of power station ordering. The Ince B station was advanced by the Conservative Government. The CPRS report made it clear that the industry required a steady ordering programme. If we can achieve that out of these discussions, we shall have achieved a very great deal.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply will be welcomed in the south of my constituency, where 6,000 workers are dependent on the CEGB's ordering of power plant? Can he give an assurance that he is looking not only at Drax B but at the forward ordering of power plant and the question of assistance for export orders? Will he also give an assurance that questions of mergers which will necessarily be matters for long-term discussions will not hold up short-term developments that would save jobs and get the power plant industry to a position in which it can survive?

These questions are of great importance. Those who work in the industry have played a considerable part in putting forward recommendations which have greatly improved the quality of the CPRS report, and I pay tribute to them publicly for that. The industry has undoubtedly suffered from very wide fluctuations in its ordering levels and costs. For example, three years ago 22 power stations appeared to be wanted very early, and now one looks into the future with great uncertainty.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry is primarily responsible for questions of mergers and whether it is right to approach problems of rationalisation of the industry. They do not fall within my departmental responsibility. 1 am, however, concerned to see that there is an industry capable of meeting a consistent and measured home demand and of playing an increasing part in getting its share of world markets for this equipment.

While the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to associate himself with the figures produced by the CEGB, may I point out to him that his own Department envisaged the possibility of a 4 per cent. increase, and that in these terms a 4 per cent. increase across the board in charges for energy would be a very serious matter for the consumers?

I appreciate that there would be a burden on consumers if it were done a certain way. I also appreciate that the Conservative Government decided to make money available to help advance the Ince B station and that that is a rational kind of decision for a Government to take if public expenditure permits. But I want to establish clearly that I, as Secretary of State, am not responsible for statistics published by the fuel industries in their competitive battles with each other. I am not saying that there would not be an increase if the cost was wholly carried by the consumers, but where fuel industries are engaged in presenting their best case in arguing against other fuels or whatever else it might be the Secretary of State cannot have paternity suits laid against him on behalf of so many children of different appearance.

British Petroleum


asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has made about the proposal to sell shares in British Petroleum.

I have nothing to add to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 15th December.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that a large national stake was taken in BP at the time when Winston Churchill was in office? This stake was a national asset. What is the sense in losing our stake in BP at a time when we are taking some North Sea oil reserves into public ownership?

We will not fall below a 51 per cent. holding in BP. Almost from the beginning that has been the traditional policy of the Government towards the company. This collective decision was taken by the Government in order to reduce the public sector borrowing requirement.

Does the Minister accept that this decision indicates a willingness on behalf of the Government to abandon their doctrinaire commitment to nationalisation? Have the Government any other proposals for similar solutions for other nationalised industries?

It was a particularly painful decision for the Government. This was a good share and a good holding. It was logically part of our national asset. Because of the exigencies and difficulties, however, the painful decision had to be taken.

Overseas Development

South-East Asia


asked the Minister for Overseas Development what contribution is being given in 1977 to United Nations assistance schemes in South-East Asia.

We contribute annually to the overall budgets of the United Nations specialised agencies and it is not possible, except perhaps in the case of special appeals, to identify a specific United Kingdom contribution within the international assistance to be given in 1977 by the United Nations to countries in South-East Asia.

As regards the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees special appeal for refugees from Indo-China now in Thailand, I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my answer on 29th November last. We have asked the High Commissioner for current details of his activities in the country and of contributions from others. When these are received, we shall decide whether to respond to the appeal.

Why are we giving no support to those appealing for the refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam? As substantial sums are being spent in that area under our aid programme, ought we not to divert some of the money which is going indirectly to the bloodthirsty Government of Cambodia in order to help their victims?

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's genuine and longstanding concern in this problem. We contribute regularly to the budget of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and some of that regular budget is spent on problems of this kind. We are looking seriously at this issue, and if we are convinced we will respond.

In considering the overall question of aid to South-East Asia, will my hon. Friend consider initiating discussions with his Japanese opposite number to suggest that perhaps the Japanese Government might heavily increase their aid-giving in that area in view of the very small proportion of Japan's gross national product spent on defence? Is my hon. Friend aware that that kind of suggestion might be received with sympathy at this time?

As my hon. Friend realises, I feel strongly that on this kind of issue, and many others associated with it, we must look at our responsibilities in an international context. We will talk with all our friends in the international community about the response that is necessary.

Overseas Aid


asked the Minister for Overseas Development what initiatives he expects the Government to take on overseas aid during 1977.


asked the Minister for Overseas Development if he will make a statement concerning the effects of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's December measures on the overseas aid programme.


asked the Minister for Overseas Development if he will make a statement setting out the practical consequences for the Government's aid strategy of the recently announced reductions in overseas aid of £50 million in 1977–78 and £50 million in 1978–79.


asked the Minister for Overseas Development whether he will make a statement about the effect on his Department of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's announcement on 15th December about further cuts in public expenditure.


asked the Minister for Overseas Development which countries will suffer reductions in aid during 1977–78 as a result of the recent £50 million cut in the aid programme for that year.

I intend to pursue our aid strategy on the lines described in the White Paper "The Changing Emphasis in British Aid Policies" (Cmnd 6270). This means working for a continuing shift in the emphasis of our bilateral programmes towards the poorest countries and the poorest people within those countries.

Within this context the reductions in the aid programme in 1977–78 and 1978–79 will obviously have grave implications; the Government do not wish to minimise these. We shall not be able to undertake all that we had hoped to undertake, but there will not be a need for change in the overall strategy. The effect on specific allocations will have to be determined after a detailed review of the entire programme and of our priorities within it, which is now in hand. However, I hope to be able to avoid reductions in existing cash allocations, even though it may prove impossible to adjust some programmes, as I would have wished, to maintain their full value in real terms.

The reductions also mean that we shall have greater difficulty over this period both in responding to new situations and in taking on new commitments. Nevertheless, I hope in 1977–78, within whatever limited flexibility may still be available, to find room for increasing support for multilateral efforts and international initiatives, particularly those which accord with our policy of helping the poorest.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he not agree, however, that, whatever the eventual effects of these cuts may be, they will bear on some of the poorest people in the world? Does he accept that, since this country has been fortunate enough to receive a substantial loan in order to get out of its own economic difficulties, it is, to say the least, unfortunate—and perhaps some people would say immoral—that we should reduce our lending to other people who are in a worse situation?

I am sure that on reflection my hon. Friend will realise that the Government wish to minimise the impact of what they have found necessary to do. As far as our programme concentrates on the poorest people, there will be implications for them, but I hope it will not be necessary to cut existing commitments. The cut will have its impact on the planned future extension of the programme.

While welcoming this statement of the effect upon Government policy of the regrettable cut in overseas aid, may I ask the Minister to look into the possibility of administrative savings as a method of meeting the expenditure that is required? Does he agree that the cut underlines the importance of private investment in these overseas countries? Private investment is also a means of producing jobs and further investment.

Private investment obviously has a part to play in development and we regard its role seriously. As to the first part of the question, my Department will have to contribute to the reduction in the planned size of the Civil Service that has already been announced.

Does the Minister agree that it is now clear that the effect of the IMF cuts will be to reduce the living standards of those most in need—not only needy people in this country, but those in the poorest countries of the Third World? Now that there is no hope in the foreseeable future of our reaching the United Nations target of contributing 0·7 per cent. of our gross national product to overseas aid, will the Minister tell his overlords in the Cabinet that it is about time that this Labour Government paid more attention to international organisations like the United Nations than to international Mafia groups like the IMF?

I am leaving this afternoon for the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme. That illustrates the commitment that the Government have to the United Nations and its agencies. It is precisely because we wish to play a full part in fulfilling our international responsibilities that we are doing everything we can to strengthen the economy.

The Minister has not replied to Question No. 37. Cuts in overseas aid are not only damaging to the poorest people in the world but directly create extra unemployment in this country.

I certainly note what my hon. Friend has said. Of course it is recognised that development programmes are not simply a matter of disinterested charity. Our own self-interest as a nation is at stake.

What percentage of our gross national product will be represented by official overseas aid in 1977–78? How will it compare with the United Nations target?

In view of Mr. Justice Megarry's recent remark in the Chancery Court about our moral obligation to the former inhabitants of Ocean Island, does the Minister propose to grant aid for them? If not, why not?

If my hon. Friend has any specific suggestions, I shall be interested to hear them, but the main issue is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

I congratulate the Minister on his appointment, which has given pleasure to his hon. Friends on both sides of the House. Can he give an assurance that before the Government make specific cuts they will consult the Opposition, industry and voluntary organisations?

We shall obviously consider the implications of where the announced cuts will fall. I stress our hope that we shall not have to cut back on existing commitments. The cuts will fall on the rate at which the programme is expanded. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind personal remarks.

Rural Development


asked the Minister for Overseas Development whether he is satisfied that a sufficient proportion of the United Kingdom overseas aid is used for rural development in the poorest countries.

There is never room for complacency. Progress has certainly been made but we must make more. In 1976–77, 65 per cent. of our bilateral aid has been allocated to countries which in 1972 had a GNP per capita below $200; their share of the total population of developing countries is only about 58 per cent. I hope that the share of our bilateral project aid designed to benefit wholly the rural poor, which increased from 28 per cent. in 1974 to 38 per cent. in 1975, will show a further increase in 1976.

In the light of his reply, does the Minister agree that one of the best ways of strengthening Third World trade with the West, and particularly with this country, is by encouraging economic development in rural areas? Since the Select Committee on Overseas Development recently made recommendations, will the Minister announce the Government's reaction to those recommendations as soon as possible?

The hon. Member has a great deal of personal experience in these matters. One of the principal objectives in concentrating the aid programme on the poorest countries is to increase productivity and investment and to affect a wider cross-section of people in the poor countries. We can assist the developing world by increasing productive investment, and we stand to benefit from doing so.

Can the Minister say why, despite all our efforts, the gap in living standards between the Western world and the Third World is becoming wider? Since the EEC subsidises our food bills to the extent of £4½ million, will the Minister approach his colleagues in the EEC about more help for the people of the Third World?

Unfortunately, it is true that the gap is growing. All of us ought to consider that, while we are in the grips of our own difficulties as a nation, our political colleagues who carry responsibilities in the Third World have more acute problems. Of course we take every opportunity to consult our EEC colleagues about a joint approach, and I am glad to see that the aid programme is beginning to develop in a sound and productive way

Can the Minister tell us more about the extent to which he plans future aid to be moved from bilateral to multilateral aid and from grants to loans as a result of the proposed cuts?

I am sure the hon. Member realises that it is premature to give absolute answers while we are in the middle of serious analysis. There is a high priority for pushing forward with the multilateral commitment because it would be better to secure a situation in which the problem was tackled by the international community as a whole than for us to go it alone.

Business Of The House

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Michael Foot)

With permission, I should like to make a short statement about the Government's business announced for today.

Because of the arrangements for tributes to the late Lord Avon, it is proposed that the motion on the report of the House of Commons Services Committee should be taken tomorrow evening. I hope to include the Second Reading of the Water Charges Equalisation Bill in my next Business Statement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that only a few weeks ago we were discussing what we were going to do in this Session in respect of legislation and matters which needed to be debated in this House? Does he recall telling the House that we should be severely restricted for time because of devolution and other matters?

Does he not understand that working people outside this place will regard it as an affront that the House of Commons is just packing up and leaving, especially when they are continually criticised if they have a day off or if they have a few extra days off, as they did at Christmas? This is having double standards. I should have thought that my right hon. Friend would take a different course.

It is perfectly true that there is great pressure on parliamentary time. But the Government are proposing that we should follow the form which has been followed on previous occasions after the death of a former Prime Minister.

William Thomas Hughes

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.

The House will be aware of the events which led to the murder of four people in Derbyshire between 12th and 14th January. It is a story of murder with tragic consequences for the Moran family. I am sure that the House will wish to express its sympathy with Mrs. Gillian Moran in the grievous loss which she has suffered.

I have received a preliminary report from the Governor of Leicester Prison and have instructed the Chief Inspector of the Prison Service to conduct an immediate inquiry into the security arrangements at the prison and for the escort of prisoners to courts. I have received a preliminary report from the Chief Constable of Derbyshire and as a result I have asked him for a more detailed report, in the light of which I will consider whether further inquiries are necessary. It is my intention to publish the report of the Chief Inspector of the Prison Service.

Is the Home Secretary aware that the Opposition would like to be associated with his expressions of deep sympathy to Mrs. Gillian Moran?

Is he further aware that this is one of the most serious breakdowns of security arrangements affecting the police, the public and the Prison Service since the last war? Does he appreciate that there is deep and widespread concern about the handling of the case? I have received very disturbing reports from responsible people in the area concerned. In the circumstances, the reports which the right hon. Gentleman has already received and requested will not in themselves be enough to reassure the public. Will he therefore undertake to set up immediately an independent inquiry into the whole incident, as many unresolved questions require to be answered?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his initial remarks. Until we have seen the report of the Chief Inspector of the Prison Service and are not dependent on Press reports, it is impossible to decide whether matters are unresolved. I have yet to receive a full enough report from the police. But, speaking for myself and the Government, if need be, a fully independent public inquiry is not ruled out. I suggest that we see what comes from the report, which I shall publish and which I hope to get quickly.

As the Member of Parliament for the area in which the two major crimes took place, I should like to express my deepest sympathy with all the relatives of the bereaved families, plus the two warders who were viciously stabbed by this beast of a man at outlet 29 on the M1.

I should also like to pay tribute to the police, because they were working in Arctic conditions during the last three days of the search. Such conditions have not prevailed in that area for 16 years. No doubt if mistakes were made, they will come out at the inquiry.

Why was a man with a known violent record over 16 years allowed out of prison with a knife on his person to be conveyed to Chesterfield for the hearing of a most violent crime—grievous bodily harm and rape—in a taxi hired by the prison authorities? Why were there only two warders in the car? Why was the prisoner handcuffed only to one of the warders, the other warder riding in the front seat? Anyone who has been in handcuffs, as I have in 1926—this is no laughing matter—will understand that the captor is equally as handicapped as the captive if only one handcuff is used. That was a serious mistake.

Will the Home Secretary instruct that a public inquiry be held into this matter? I have been out on the moors this morning and met a deputation of my constituents. They are very disturbed. There is a lack of confidence, quite rightly, in the security arrangements of the Prison Service and doubt about the way that the police—this doubt is in the minds of people, not in my mind—handled the search during these atrocious nights of terror.

When my right hon. Friend has given instructions for and received the report of the inquiry, will he make the report public so that it can be debated in this House in order that we may allay the fears of people not only in my constituency, but in other constituencies near prisons?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks about the police in the first instance. I think that he has raised all the questions that need answering. Indeed, he was right to put them. I have seen the preliminary report, which reinforces in my mind that those questions need answering.

The use of hire or contract cars is not new. It has gone on for a very long time.

Regarding a public inquiry, I suggest that we await the report from the Chief Inspector of the Prison Service, which I will make public, as that would be a better base from which to proceed than newspaper reports and feeling in the community.

On behalf of the Liberal Party, I should like to be associated with the expressions of sympathy with Mrs. Moran in the appalling holocaust in which she has been involved.

I should like the Home Secretary to confirm that two matters particularly arising from the question asked by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) will be inquired into. First, how was it possible that a handcuffed man, albeit armed, was able to inflict his will on three able-bodied men? Secondly, why did those responsible for transporting the man, or, alternatively, those who had responsibility for his custody, not inform themselves of the violent propensities of a man whom they had in their custody?

The two questions posed by the right hon. Gentleman are two of the most important which need to be answered. They must be answered. If they are not answered in the way that I have proposed, we must look at the matter again.

I should like to express my personal sympathy to Mrs. Moran.

As the Member of Parliament for Leicester Prison, so to speak, may I ask my right hon. Friend to pay tribute to the two prison officers, both of whom were seriously wounded in the incident on Wednesday of last week? The House may be pleased to know that they have now returned home. They are still convalescing, but it is hoped that they will make speedy recoveries from the injuries that they received.

I recently visited Leicester Prison and was greatly impressed by all the staff from the governor downwards. I do not think that the House should jump to too hasty conclusions over any breakdown in security arrangements at that institution.

I concur with the remarks about the issues which this incident has highlighted. Is the Home Secretary aware that one of the prison officers is quoted today as having said that they were unaware that this man was of a violent nature? That might represent an internal breakdown in the Prison Service, but may go far deeper and indicate a lack of communication between the prison, the police and the courts. All those issues must be fully investigated.

Finally, may I repeat the point about the transfer of prisoners by private hire vehicles? This has gone on for many years and apparently is on the increase. The safety aspect must be investigated as a matter of extreme urgency.

All the questions asked by my hon. Friend must be answered and investigated. I know many of the prison officers who worked in Northern Ireland and they did an excellent job. I hope that those who were wounded will recover soon. Nevertheless, there must be an inquiry into what went on.

Is the Home Secretary aware that his statement about a full inquiry will bring reassurance to the people of Derbyshire, who have been particularly worried not only by the violence of the crimes but by the unfortunate incident involving security officers and police? Is he aware of the feeling that it is unnecessary that these people should be sitting ducks? Will he ensure that the inquiry brings out the full facts?

I am grateful for the hon. Member's first remarks. I can only repeat what I have already said. It is right that we should get the report from the Prison Service and then look at it. This was a terrible crime. It is terrible for the family and worrying for the people of the area. I want to ensure that the community knows the full facts.

May I associate myself with the tributes paid to those responsible for eventually apprehending this man and also with the expressions of sympathy towards the family? From the reports which have come to the right hon. Gentleman already, is he able to say whether this prisoner was searched when he first entered prison on remand or when he was seen off in the taxi where this course of incidents took place? Was there a search in the village of Eastmoor on the day of the blizzard?

We must leave these matters to the inquiry. I have a preliminary view but it would be wrong for me to say what it is. I have a responsibility for the police and for the Prison Service and hon. Members should take into account that disciplinary charges may be involved. I therefore want to be absolutely sure of my facts before I say anything.

In view of the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), who said that this was an extremely serious matter, does the Home Secretary agree that the inquiry could well be fairly protracted in those circum stances? Bearing in mind the overstretch of police manpower in Derbyshire and the real anxieties of many police officers when they are suspended from duty for long periods pending charges, will he suggest to the chief officer that, since no criminal charges are outstanding, this should be a matter about which no suspension from duty should take place?

I understand the hon. Member's concern. There is no question of suspension from duty. Of course, the hon. Member has an interest in and concern about the over-stretch of the police services. Overall there is a problem of recruitment. But we should treat the case on its merits and not relate it to current political problems.

Would the Home Secretary make preliminary suggestions to the officers of the various services about the handcuffing of one hand or two and about using hired cars?

My hon. Friend should take into account that when something as terrible as this happens everyone is on the qui vive and I have taken steps with that in mind. What matters is the type of prisoner who is conveyed by contract car. I think that the happenings that have saddened us all will sharpen people's minds without any instruction from me.

While of course the Home Secretary is right in saying that we should await the report before asking questions—and that is why I did not ask such questions before—does he appreciate that the questioning that we have had makes it absolutely clear that there are many matters to be investigated other than those involving this incident in this locality, this particular prison and police force? Does he not agree that this affects the whole of our services and makes the case for an independent public inquiry stronger?

Until I see the full report on the events, I am not sure. If it were a breakdown in rules and arrangements that are normally used and work well everywhere else, I am not sure that it is necessary to look more widely. I ask hon. Members to let me look and then let me publish what comes out of the public inquiry.

Earl Of Avon

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Coleman.]

3.48 p.m.

When we trace the threads of Anthony Eden's political life, we are at the same time drawing a picture of an era in our history that came to an end with his departure from office in 1957, 34 years after he had entered Parliament. He won his first election, in the early 1920s, at a time when Britain seemed still to be at the height of her power. Germany had been defeated in the First World War, and the Russian Revolution had removed that great country from the world scene for a time.

There were no international problems in which we did not exercise a large and, on occasions, a decisive influence, but few recognised that the source of our strength and influence was already on the wane. It came to depend more and more on Britain's Imperial connections and on her control of a vast empire, and less on our own innate industrial strength.

But this was not yet clear, and Britain's all-encompassing rôle in international affairs must have seemed an attractive world for a gifted young man to enter, tempered as he was by his war-time experiences and deeply resolved for peace. With his family background and his talent for patient persistent work he could well have made a successful career in the Diplomatic Service if he had not chosen politics.

Certainly it seems that political life was for him another means of finding his way into foreign affairs, for from the beginning his interest in the Chamber was concentrated on them and was reflected in his speeches in this Chamber. His skills and talents were quickly recognised, leading him shortly from being Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Austen Chamberlain to the high office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the age of 38—the youngest Foreign Secretary in this century.

He maintained his interest and concern in foreign affairs right to the end of his life. It is only a short while ago that he was writing to me on a matter that I had been handling as Foreign Secretary and expressing his views to me.

There is little doubt that his personal experience and knowledge of the horrors of the First World War influenced him very considerably. He had lost two of his brothers during the First World War, one in the Army, the other in the Navy. He was himself courageous. He knew fear, but he overcame it. He became a resolute believer in the need for collective security to face and deter aggression and a strong supporter of the covenant of the League of Nations.

It was his work at the League of Nations which first brought him to public notice, and his stand captured the imagination of the public. He seemed to be a voice speaking out for truth, decency and honour. He was young, he spoke up clearly, he stood for the principles of the League of Nations and the covenant, and he opposed the growing menace of Mussolini and Hitler.

All these things commended him to a great body of men and women in this country, much wider than his own party. He was always a faithful member of the Conservative Party but he did not always agree with it.

This is not the occasion for me to go deeply into the twists and turns of British foreign policy in the 1930s. Those of us who were young then held strong views, as the young always do. We were outside Parliament—we listened to the debates; we read what was said—and Eden seemed to us to be the one saving grace of the Administration. We were not alone in thinking that. The words of Churchill have been recalled more than once in recent days, together with his vivid description of the impact that Anthony Eden's stand against the dictators made on him personally.

What Anthony Eden stood for was even more important than what he did. He symbolised the opposition that the British people felt, ever more strongly as the 1930s wore on, to the unceasing and insatiable demands of the dictators.

He finally broke with the Government, and resigned in 1938. He was right to do so. Nothing became him so much as that courageous stand. He thought at the time, as he wrote since, that he would never return to office. But that was far from the truth. He came back very quickly when the war came. Whatever our party differences and our final disagreement, we shall always remember him, and history will always recall him for the judgment and courage of his resignation.

It was inevitable that when war came he should be recalled and he served successively in the Dominions Office, at the War Office and later in the Foreign Office once more. He was also Leader of the House from 1942 to 1945. Then came six years of Opposition.

His resumed life as Foreign Secretary in the Conservative Government of 1951 was marked by intense diplomatic activity, particularly in the aftermath of the Korean War. Two events of that period which stand out were his policy in the conflict in South-East Asia and the way in which he helped to facilitate a Franco-German understanding at a time when that seemed very difficult to achieve.

He showed a much better understanding than John Foster Dulles about the nature of the conflict in Indo-China, and he was right in his hostility to the proposals for massive American air strikes to assist the French in the war against the Vietminh. All of his very remarkable qualities were shown to the full in the Geneva Conference of 1954 which resulted in armistice agreements being signed which effected at least a temporary improvement in the situation, which, alas was not to last.

As to Europe. it was almost entirely due to his initiative and energy that the nine-Power conference of 1954 came to a conclusion that materially assisted in the permanent reconciliation of France and Germany—a reconciliation which has itself done so much to promote the greater sense of security in Western Europe that we now enjoy.

One of the major strokes of his policy was the unprecedented treaty arrangement under which Britain undertook to maintain on the mainland of Europe permanent armed forces. We have done so to this day at great cost to ourselves. But his decision at that time ensured that France did not feel isolated in Europe and it enabled the Federal Republic of Germany to be given its full place in Western Europe. It led to a concerted Western policy between France, Germany, the United States and Britain, whose purpose was to ensure the peace of Europe—and so it has been.

Anthony Eden always believed in working closely with the United States, even though at times the policies of our two nations diverged. He was on familiar terms with all the world's leading statesmen. They respected and admired his industry and his energy, and his standing undoubtedly contributed to Britain's influence in the early 1950s. He was not only the longest serving Foreign Secretary since Grey but one of the outstanding holders of that great office.

When we come to his period as Prime Minister, we have to accept that his name can never be dissociated from the ill-advised Suez adventure. There are some in the House who can speak about that period with greater authority than I, for they served with him. I can only say, as an observer sitting on the Opposition Front Bench at the time, that when we heard that British troops were actually going ashore in Egypt, the news came as a thunderbolt.

For those of us who had watched the Eden of the 1930s his actions seemed totally out of character. He was one Minister who had always been able to command a hearing from the Labour Benches when we were in Opposition. We listened to him because he spoke without rancour. He was never excessively partisan. Indeed, on one of the comparatively rare incursions that he made into speeches on domestic matters, on an occasion in the 1945–51 Parliament, when he spoke on the Coal Mines Nationalisation Bill in 1945, which a handful of people will still remember, I think it is fair to say that his heart hardly seemed to be in the task at the time. Perhaps he was influenced by his Durham background.

He certainly recognised the need for change. But I wonder whether his intense concentration, which lasted throughout his life, on foreign affairs prevented him from fully comprehending the social revolution that was taking place in Britain. However, we all knew of, and remarked on, his courtesy, his fairness and his truthfulness, and we knew of the great personal courage that he had shown.

But we were not prepared for Suez. I do not pretend to know whether physical disability contributed to the decisions that he took at the time. It may be that he over-reacted because he remembered his experiences with Mussolini and he did not intend to allow what he saw as a dictatorship to prey on British weakness. Ever afterwards he vigorously defended the policy that he had followed, and at the time his actions achieved considerable short-term popularity among many sections of the British people.

On the Labour Benches we thought that he was wrong, very wrong. The policy divided the nation. The successors of the young people who had supported him in the 1930s were now deeply offended because our actions seemed to be naked aggression against the Charter of the United Nations.

Many will recall how the scenes in the House mounted day by day. It was a sad period. They were the fiercest I can ever recall, and they taxed both his health and his nerve. It was no surprise that they taxed them to the limit, and shortly afterwards it led to his resignation.

Anthony Eden never changed his view about the correctness of his policy, and those of us who fought against it most strongly will always recognise that he honestly believed that what he did was in the interests of his country and of the international community. Suez, as we all know now, marked a watershed in our nation's history. As Lord Blake wrote yesterday, Anthony Eden behaved as though Britain was still a great Power, and he had to confront a crisis which proved that she was not.

He was the victim of that period rather than the villain—a period in which he had failed to recognise that our role in the world had changed since the time 20 years earlier when he had first become Foreign Secretary.

I cannot claim to have known Anthony Eden personally, but when our paths did cross, as they do occasionally in this House, he was always kind and courteous, as indeed he was to all younger Members on both sides of the House. Despite those last few weeks of office, which I have touched upon because in any review of this man's life it is necessary to do so, I want to make it clear that he always enjoyed great respect and affection in the House as a parliamentarian who combined a unique experience of foreign affairs with great determination and courage.

Twenty years have passed since Anthony Eden left Parliament. During that period he lived quietly away from politics, yet he kept a close and active interest in foreign affairs. He was dogged by recurring ill-health, but he was rewarded with the enjoyment of a happy family life, and for that we pay tribute to the matchless devotion and care of Lady Avon. Our sympathy and our respect go out to her today as we mourn the passing of this most distinguished man.

4.1 p.m.

May we on this side of the House join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lord Avon? The death of Anthony Eden, as most of us still think of him, takes from us a distinguished statesman, a gifted parliamentarian and a courageous politician. We honour and mourn him today knowing that his like may never come among us again.

When Anthony Eden came into the House in 1923 at the age of 26 he had already distinguished himself as a brave and gallant soldier. He had gone straight from school at the age of 18 to serve in the Great War. At 19 he was an adjutant, and at 20 a brigade major. He fought in the battle of the Somme and the the Messines. In war, as in peace, the Eden courage never failed. Like many of his contemporaries, the lessons of those early experiences were etched on his mind, and he always remembered those who had served with him and who had sacrificed so much. His great ideal was of a new international order between nations founded on mutual respect, mutual undertakings and mutually honoured. Signatures on treaties would offer hope for a new era, but an enduring peace could be achieved only by carrying out the obligations assumed.

Anthony Eden's association with the Foreign Office began early as a PPS, and he became one of our youngest Foreign Secretaries, at the age of 38. News that he had resigned after only two years shocked Britain. He was the first Foreign Secretary for 60 years to resign on a matter of principle, and the decision was the more significant when we recall that in 1938 it was Britain, not America, that played the leading role in world affairs. Perhaps it was Winston Churchill, that master of the illuminating phrase, who best captured the feelings of many people at that time. To him, Eden seemed to embody the "life-hope" of the British nation. He described him as
"one strong, young figure standing up against long dismal drawling tides of drift and surrender."
While it is right to lay emphasis on Anthony Eden's action in resigning his great office at an early age, we must not forget his achievements at the Foreign Office during the post-war period, between the years of 1951 and 1955. Then, he used to great advantage both his masterly diplomacy and the good will and authority which this country had acquired by supreme exertion in war. His patient handling of the Persian dispute, his expert negotiations at Geneva on Indo-China, his timely offer of a British contribution on land in Europe, after France had rejected the proposals for a European Defence Community, were all personal triumphs for him, and enhanced Britain's international standing.

After longer experience as Foreign Secretary than any previous Prime Minister save Palmerston, Anthony Eden entered on the highest office. In home affairs, many of us will remember him for the emphasis that he gave during that period to individual responsibility and decision. He, more than anyone else, impressed upon the country the merits of a property-owning democracy. In overseas matters, his judgments on the Middle East were, and will be, the subject of debate for many years, but that the principal aim of his every action and policy was the benefit of Britain and the good of the international community has never been in dispute.

We must not overlook Anthony Eden's great talents as a parliamentarian. Others can bear witness to his skilled performance in debate. He records himself that he much preferred to wind up debates than to open them and that he disliked scripted speeches. In 1956, although the scenes in the House distressed him, he retained his natural dignity and composure throughout, and early in 1957, when he was forced to leave office through ill-health, the late Hugh Gaitskell, himself an outstanding parliamentarian, paid a moving tribute to him.

For part of the last war Anthony Eden added the job of being Leader of the House to his many other duties. His energy and zeal were prodigious because, as well as being Foreign Secretary, he was one of the six or seven members of the War Cabinet and a member of the Defence Committee. It was while serving in the War Cabinet that he developed a great admiration for the late Lord Attlee, Herbert Morrison, and, particularly, Ernest Bevin, who later succeeded him as Foreign Secretary. They were very close.

He experienced again, although in a different sphere, some of the comradeship of his previous war years. Of those he had written:
"War promoted working together into something good and true and rare, the like of which was never to be met within civil life."
After the end of the war in Europe, fate was to deal Anthony Eden its cruellest blow. In the war that he had striven to avoid his son Simon was killed in the Royal Air Force in Burma. The Eden courage had passed from generation to generation.

It is difficult to do justice to the many facets of Anthony Eden's personality. There was a natural reserve about him, but no one who spent any time in his company failed to respond to his charm and sensibility. Those who knew him well speak of his tenacity and refusal to indulge in self-pity, his warm appreciation of the qualities of colleagues and opponents alike, his discerning taste in literature and painting, his abiding interest in the universities, and especially in Birmingham University of which he was Chancellor for more than a quarter of a century, his accessibility, his fairness and understanding, and his unfeigned dislike for tyrannies, bullying and intolerance.

Anthony Eden spent most of the last 20 years of his life at his home in the country. Lady Avon, herself a remarkably gifted person, dedicated all her time to caring for him. Her devotion must surely be one of the deeply inspiring examples of our time. To her we can offer only sympathy and admiration, however inadequate those feelings may seem in proportion to her grievous loss.

We are grateful that the Prime Minister and the Royal Air Force enabled Lord Avon to spend his last days in the surroundings of the English countryside that he loved; that same countryside of which his poet contemporary Rupert Brooke, when faced with the possibility of death in the Great War, had written:
"And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given.
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven."

4.10 p.m.

My right hon. and hon. Friends would wish to be associated with the tributes that have been paid to the late Anthony Eden. His qualities have already been fully extolled by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. We subscribe to all that has been said. Mr. Eden, as he then was, was once, in December 1947, called on in this House to pay a tribute on the death of a former Prime Minister. He said this:

"it is too early yet to attempt anything like a final judgment on Earl Baldwin's life work. It will probably be many years before any historian can hope to do this with anything like impartiality. So many facts have to be weighed … a later generation will be able to judge in truer perspective than we can today."—[Official Report, 15th December 1947; Vol. 445, c. 1468.]
Those words about Earl Baldwin are even more true of the Earl of Avon himself.

In the assessment by Lord Blake yesterday—to which the Prime Minister has already referred—he described Anthony Eden as the "heir apparent" to the highest office of State since 1940. Yet after waiting 15 years he enjoyed the office of Prime Minister for little more than as many months.

I never met Anthony Eden. I never even saw him. Yet the abiding impression he left on me was that there can be few men in recent history who have served this country over such a long period with such a pre-eminent combination of physical and political courage. For the last 20 years, with his health impaired, he lived out his life tended by his devoted wife, with whom the thoughts of the whole House must be today.

4.11 p.m.

I would like to add my words to the very eloquent tributes to Lord Avon to which we have listened. I had the privilege of serving him as his Chief Whip for the last year of his premiership and of sitting round the Cabinet table with him during that time.

For my generation at university, in the second half of the 1930s, Anthony Eden personified the struggle against tyranny in Europe. He had a deep and passionate belief in the maintenance of the rule of law. I do not believe it possible to understand any period of his life or any aspect of his career without recognising how deep that belief went. In international affairs it meant the creation and the maintenance of a framework of international law to achieve justice and, he believed, in the long run, peace. He was, therefore, prepared to fight for it, although he believed that what came first was the use of diplomacy to bring about peaceful change to accommodate the various adjustments of power which were necessary in the world. Even more than that he stood, for my generation, as an idealist. He displayed a personal idealism which appeared to be lacking in others even though they agreed with his policies.

We both agreed with his policies and shared his ideals. When he resigned we supported him. When the Oxford by-election was fought after the Munich agreement we fought against Munich and against those who had reached the agreement. We believed, and rightly, that we were following his policies. This was really the nature of the man—that he believed in this principle throughout his life.

During the war years Anthony Eden put his skills to very great effect, and his contacts with the leaders in the Soviet Union, which he maintained even after the Ribbentrop Pact was signed and before the Soviet Union came into the Second World War, proved to be of great advantage to him during the war and afterwards. When he was in opposition here, from 1945 to 1951, as the Prime Minister has said, he was greatly respected and liked by a large number of Members on the Labour side of the House. He used his close association with them, in particular with Ernest Bevin, to lower the temperature of the House on every aspect of international affairs, because he believed it right that Parliament should always try to speak with one voice on great international matters which affected not only this nation but Europe and very often other countries.

Those who say that our position had changed by 1951 when he came back into office might recall that his skill in diplomacy, backed still by strength—because part of his policy was always to enlist the help of others whenever possible—achieved a remarkable string of diplomatic successes. These are names which are now forgotten for the most part—the Anglo-Iranian oil settlement, after Musadiq, Trieste, Dien Bien Phu. We remember his restraint with those who wished to use nuclear weapons at that time. We remember the first settlement in South-East Asia, of which we have heard, and which lasted in substantial form for a decade, the Austrian State Treaty, and, above all, the creation of Western European Union, which brought Germany back into rearmament and then into NATO and, as others have said, ensured the security of France and indeed of the Western European world. This was a string of brilliant achievements for which he, first as Foreign Secretary and then, at the end, as Prime Minister, must take full credit.

He was, of course, a natural diplomatist and anyone who has seen him, as I have, at the Cabinet table going through the Foreign Office telegrams with that extraordinary instinct, his antennae almost visible as he reacted to each message from ambassadors in different parts of the world, knows that he had extraordinary skill and rapidity in dealing with every aspect of foreign affairs. In Cabinet, he was expeditious and businesslike. He was a very good House of Commons man. He was best, I always thought, when answering Questions or, as my right hon. Friend said, when replying to a debate.

I recall his diplomacy—I am sure that the Lord President will recall it, too—during the great debate on German rearmament. He sat on the Front Bench waiting to reply, working out his answer, diplomatically assuring the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), dealing with the differences which had appeared on the Opposition side of the House. He displayed extraordinary skill in drafting what was an almost spontaneous speech in answer to the arguments deployed by the Opposition.

Anthony Eden was a good House of Commons man who loved this place. He also loved the British people, and they loved him. He understood them, I have always thought, for the reason the Prime Minister mentioned—that he came from the North-East and had close contacts with the people there.

So we come to the last part of his career. This is no occasion on which to deal with that in detail. All that I ask is that those who have been writing recently should go back and try to understand the situation which existed then and which was quite different from that which many now, looking back, believe it to have been. That is surely the purpose of a historian, that he should put himself in the world situation as well as the national situation at any particular time.

I return to my former theme, that the one thing which governed Anthony Eden's actions right to the end of his political career was a passionate belief that not only in the interests of this country of Western Europe but in the ultimate interest of the peace of the world it was necessary to ensure the maintenance of the framework of international law. If others were not prepared to accept their responsibilities, he would discharge them.

During most of the sadnesses and disappointments of the last 20 years of his life it was Lady Avon who was always by his side, who cared for him and who brought him the happiness which he then had. His interest in pictures supported him. He was among the first in this country to recognise the importance of Cézanne.

I remember one debate to which he was replying and Emrys Hughes was sitting here in the seat behind me. Interrupting him, Emrys Hughes said, "No, no. Never more." Anthony Eden looked up and said "You know, 'Nevermore' was Paul Gaugin's picture and it is not relevant here." It came out quite naturally, from a man whose interests were so wide and so cultivated.

I have been glad of the opportunity to pay my tribute to Anthony Eden this afternoon. I was proud to serve him and I am grateful for his friendship.

4.19 p.m.

I am grateful for the opportunity of adding a brief word. It is more than 30 years since I first worked with Anthony Eden as his personal assistant and more than 20 years since he made me Minister of Supply in his Government.

The Prime Minister rightly referred to Suez as one of the great episodes. I remember writing a letter to Anthony Eden then saying that I was proud to be a member of a Government who were doing the right thing for this country. What we can both agree upon is that whatever Anthony Eden did, he did out of a passionate conviction that it was right for this country.

I want to add a word or two about the sort of man that he was to work for. I always found him kind, understanding and deeply appreciative of any help that he was given. He was enormously keen and active to help younger men. I and many others owe him a deep and permanent debt of gratitude.

The other thing that I remember most about him was his love of England, not only of the great scale of her traditions and accomplishments, but of the countryside and the roses to which he was so deeply attached. We can say of him that he was a man from whom all who knew him derived much from his humanity. All who knew him will cherish his memory with the deepest respect and abiding affection.

4.21 p.m.

The reason I venture to take part in the tributes to Lord Avon is that I believe that I am possibly the only Member of this House who was a contemporary of Anthony Eden's at Oxford after the First World War. My arrival at Oxford was somewhat delayed because of that war.

The other memory that I have of him is that, although many Oxford men reached political eminence after they went down, they served a kind of apprenticeship with the Oxford Union, but Anthony Eden never took part in the activities of the Oxford Union. He went on to take a first in Oriental languages and in 1922 fought Spennymoor in the county of Durham, to which he and I belonged. He was substantially beaten, but, like many other Durham men, he went south and was elected Member for Warwick and Leamington in 1923 and served as the Member for that constituency until his retirement.

He was always proud to include among the many honours that came his way the fact that he was a justice of the peace in Durham. In fact, he was awarded the freedom of Durham. That was always included in biographies that related to his record.

When I came to the House in 1945 we resumed a casual acquaintance. My last memory of him was January 1971. I happened to be in Barbados. He heard that I was on the island and invited me to call and see him. He was a sick man and he lay on the verandah and for an hour we talked about Oxford and the House of Commons. He was interested in everything that went on.

I shall always treasure the memory of that hour that I spent with him in 1971. He was a cultivated and cultured man as well as a man of great charm. He was a great English patriot. In more than the technical and conventional terms that we use in this House, he was a right hon. Gentleman.

4.24 p.m.

Perhaps I may be allowed to add a short footnote to what has been said. For more than 30 years Anthony Eden—that indeed is the name by which he will be remembered—was the Member of Parliament for Warwick and Learning-ton. Indeed, that constituency was the base for his long and outstanding career as a world statesman.

I am sure that the overwhelming majority of residents of Warwick, Learnington and Kenilworth—of which I am proud to be one—would today like to subscribe to the understanding tributes that have been paid by the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, and other right hon. Members.

Many of those residents, even 20 years on from his retirement, remember Anthony Eden personally and with considerable affection. They admired his courage in the long years of physical adversity that he endured. Above all, they held him in the greatest possible esteem as a man whose very name was a byword for integrity.

4.26 p.m.

I merely want to say a few words about adjourning. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that not too long ago we questioned the Leader of the House—we did so last Thursday—about our ability to raise various matters. You will also recall that during the debate on the Queen's Speech requests were made for many other topics to be included. We were assured by the Leader of the House and by many other Government spokesmen that there was not sufficient time to debate these many and varied matters.

For the life of me I cannot understand why the House of Commons, after paying tributes, then packs in for the day. I can well understand the need to pay tributes for a half an hour or an hour to a man who was a member of this club. But hon. Members ought to understand that they are speaking not merely as members of a club, but as legislators. They should understand that people outside, whom they represent, rarely have the ability to down tools and pack in.

I come from the mining industry. I remember that during my period down the pit the National Coal Board introduced a scheme whereby when a man was killed down the pit, however horrific —unless it was a major disaster—miners were begged to stay at work. We got over the problem by introducing the fatal accidents scheme to ensure that the coal was produced. We, as legislators in the House of Commons, have all this business before us, yet, after the tributes have been paid, we are just packing up and going away, for no reason that I can understand.

Last Thursday we discussed devolution. We spent a great deal of time on points of order about the way in which the Bill would be discussed. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that discussion on the first amendment took a great deal of time and it could have taken longer. No doubt there will be many other debates that will take even longer.

I can well imagine my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council saying that unless there is some progress, we shall run out of parliamentary time, telling us of the need for a guillotine. I can well imagine my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Helfer) being berated for continuing to oppose the devolution. Bill and taking a little time about it.

Yet today we are deciding to pack up and go. We can pay tributes to Anthony Eden, as has been done by those who knew him. I can understand that, and people outside will understand that. But those who have to clock on and clock off, who have to get up at 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning and not get home until 4 or 5 o'clock at night. will never understand the way in which the House of Commons adopts these double standards.

Over the last two or three years there has been a small tendency to change this attitude of the club. We have had shorter recesses and we have tended to spend more time in Parliament, which is right and proper. We have not only to act in tune with the people, but in many ways to give them a lead as well. We are not doing that today. Much has been said about the long Christmas holiday. Manufacturing workers who work in physical jobs as well as those who work by their brains were berated and attacked because they had the effrontery to catch up with the Common Market with a few additional holidays. In many respects, they still have not caught up with some countries. I am on the side of those who took that extended holiday.

When I walk into this building, I want in some way, although I cannot do it exactly as I should like, to show that those on these Benches—I am not worried about hon. Members opposite—want to synchronise with the attitudes of those we represent. We are not doing that today. To pack up and go, to abandon the ship after only two hours, is a total and utter disgrace. I can understand the Tories doing it. I can understand what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about convention.

But we on this side are not about convention, are we? Is it convention that motivates us? It is not what motivates me. I am here to change things. The Lord President, who used to be the innovator of change on this Bench below the Gangway for so many years, should have said, "We shall pay the tributes. Many hon. Members want to do so and they will have the appropriate time. But, because of the pressure of business and the need to get some work done and legislation through, we cannot adopt double standards any longer." We must say to those outside who put us here that we shall continue to do a day's work and not pack up in this way. For that reason, I oppose the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

4.32 p.m.

With respect and not without considerable personal regard, perhaps I might be permitted to say two things about what has just fallen from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

The Member hates humbug, but he is not the only hon. Member who hates humbug. Those of us who do are under a duty to tell ourselves that sometimes what appears to us to be humbug does not so appear and is not so to other people. Many of those—not only from one side of the House—who purport to speak on behalf of the British people, particularly the working classes, assert that they do not understand that which is historical, that which is traditional, even that which is governed by precedent. I believe that it is those who thus speak who misunderstand the British people, particularly the great mass of them, who are not represented only on one side of the House.

I believe that it is a characteristic of the British people, which has saved them in the past and may again in future, that they have a sense of the history of their country and of the conventions, which are as strong and important as law itself, by which this country has always been bound—and long may it be so.

4.34 p.m.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) began his speech, some hon. Members went out saying that it was disgraceful that he should be making the point that he has made. I do not agree. It took a lot of courage, a lot of guts, to do what my hon. Friend has done. It takes a lot for hon. Members to buck the conventions of this House. My hon. Friend has done it honestly, and I believe that that should be recognised.

I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend about one thing. In the working-class movement, in the building industry particularly, I have been on jobs when workers have been killed. For that day, other workers have actually stopped work and gone home as a mark of respect to a good comrade who perhaps had fallen to his death.

Nevertheless, we do sometimes have double standards. Too often, hon. Members lecture people about working harder to get the country out of its economic difficulties. Working people resent such lectures, particularly from hon. Members who have never worked in their lives in the sense that a working man works.

I would draw the attention of anyone who thinks that working men do not have a different type of life to an article in The Sunday Times yesterday by a middle-class man who actually went to work as a road sweeper and on a building site. He was amazed by what he found, but I could have told him all that from my own experience. Hon. Members too often lecture people in this way.

I think that people outside will probably understand why the House is doing what it is doing today, but I hope that at least we shall hear no more lectures in future about workers getting down to work, without recognising their great contribution. My hon. Friend has made a contribution today by at least raising the matter as he has.

Question put, That this House do now adjourn: —

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. DONALD COLEMAN and Mr. TED GRAHAM were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, and Mr. DENNIS SKINNER was appointed a Teller for the Noes, but no Member being willing to act as a second Teller for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared the Ayes had it.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty minutes to Five o'clock.