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Commons Chamber

Volume 927: debated on Wednesday 2 March 1977

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 2nd March 1977

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Rhodesia

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Rhodesia.

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent proposals he has received from the Government of South Africa concerning possible solutions to the Rhodesian constitutional crisis.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement about the situation in Rhodesia.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on Rhodesia.

As the situation in Rhodesia deteriorates, the need for a negotiated settlement becomes more urgent. We are consulting closely with the new United States Administration. We are also keeping in touch with the other interested parties to see whether it is possible to find a basis for resumed negotiations. Meanwhile the Geneva Conference, which was adjourned in mid-December, remains in recess.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, but will he bear in mind that it is important not to allow events to drift too much and not to wait too much upon an initiative from the new Administration in the United States? Will he consider, for instance, introducing a new initiative from the British side, perhaps by arranging for a sub-committee of senior Commonwealth Ministers to investigate the Problems of Rhodesia with a view to bringing about a formula whereby an orderly achievement of majority rule within a two-year period can be achieved?

We still feel that the proposals put forward by my predecessor represent a realistic basis for bringing about a peaceful settlement. As the House knows, we are in close touch with the United States. Discussion is taking place at official level. I expect to have discussions with the new Administration when I am in Washington next week.

I wish the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues well in getting negotiations going again. What does the right hon. Gentleman think the South African attitude would be to joint United Kingdom-United States chairmanship of resumed negotiations? Is not the key to the South African attitude, as well as the general attitude, the bringing into the negotiations of moderates from all races—for example, the liberals in Rhodesia, the moderate black members of the Rhodesian Assembly and all the others— so that there is a much broader range of negotiating parties?

I think that a pretty broad range of negotiating parties is already represented at the Geneva Conference. However, I shall consider any proposals. On the central issue, which is that the United States and the United Kingdom should remain in close contact, that is certainly central to my objectives for the future. The question of co-chairmanship is something that we can consider, but it presents obvious difficulties.

I should like to put to my right hon. Friend a question I put to the late Anthony Crosland before the Geneva talks collapsed. What contacts are we maintaining with sections of the white community in Rhodesia that are not represented and would not wish to be represented by Mr. Smith and the Rhodesia Front Party?

This presents obvious difficulties. I have always adopted an open door policy, discussing many difficult issues with a variety of different people, and not always those who are the elected or declared representatives of the people. I think that we have to keep in touch. We must also try to ensure that all views in Rhodesia recognise the essential reasonableness of the proposals put forward by the British Government.

May we infer from the Secretary of State's remarks that he does not accept the recent decision by the front-line Presidents, subsequently endorsed by the OAU, that the Patriotic Front should be the sole representative of black African Rhodesians in the forthcoming negotiations? If so, will he advocate a referendum inside Rhodesia to determine the leadership of the African people in any forthcoming negotiations?

I do not believe that they have actually said that the Patriotic Front should be the sole representatives. I remain solidly of the view that we should have a wide representation, and this was represented at the Geneva Conference. That is the formulation with which I should like to remain. The Geneva Conference is only in recess.

Has my right hon. Friend yet received a report from the International Red Cross on the alleged abduction of children from Rhodesia into Botswana, which was the subject of an emergency debate a couple of weeks ago?

Unfortunately, we have not yet received a report from the Red Cross. It would obviously be helpful to have it, but we have been keeping in the closest touch with developments, and I have seen reports of the situation.

Is it a fact that the British proposals turned down by Mr. Smith were, as we were told by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, different only in detail from the Kissinger proposals that were turned down by the nationalists? If this is so, why do the Government continue to blame Mr. Smith and help the nationalists?

If the right hon. Gentleman is to be fair—and he is fair on these matters—he will agree that the manner in which Mr. Smith turned these proposals down seemed to foreclose the option of using them as the basis for negotiation. The proposals put forward by the British Government were a genuine attempt to try to bring the parties together into negotiations, difficulties having arisen over the five main Kissinger principles. It was the rejection of even the chance of discussion which presented the central problem.

When the right hon. Gentleman has talks with the American Government, will he be in a position to assume that Mr. Smith still favours accepting African majority rule in two years?

I am told that this is the case, and it is extremely significant and important that it should remain so. That was the single most significant achievement of Dr. Kissinger. It was a considerable achievement to get Mr. Smith publicly committed to eventual majority rule on a time scale. I hope that there will be no shift from that position. If we can build on that as the basis for progress over the next few months, at least we shall have something concrete with which to work.

Is there not a danger that Mr. Smith may be repudiated by people even further to the Right than himself since he appears to be in danger of repudiating his own belated attempts to remove offensive racial legislation within his own domain?

There is that danger, and there have been occasions when Mr. Smith has taken a stance which he has had difficulty with some of his more extreme followers in carrying. But the history of the negotiations shows that it is usually Mr. Smith who is able to keep his own caucus in line, and it is most important that he should be the person to whom we should pin the commitment to majority rule.

Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to reconsider his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler)? Surely the truth is that the front-line Presidents made a clear statement of the need to prefer the Patriotic Front to the exclusion of all others in the ongoing negotiations. Was that not a primary factor in Mr. Smith's rejection of the Government's counter-proposals? If the Foreign Secretary has a real new initiative to take, it is to set aside that consideration and to make it very clear that he wishes all parties to be deeply involved in the selection of any majority Government.

I want to make it clear that we want all parties to be deeply involved. As I understand it, the front-line Presidents did not go quite so far as the right hon. Gentleman infers as to use the word "sole". The statement went further than I think was desirable—and I have made this clear—in giving a primacy in the discussions. But I do not think that the statement went so far as totally to exclude other involvement in the negotiations.

Suppression Of Terrorism (Convention)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement on the bringing into effect of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that my right hon. Friend gave the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on 4th February. Her Majesty's Government will ratify the convention as soon as the necessary legislation has been passed by Parliament.

In view of the difficulties presented by both the Irish constitution and the French Government, what consideration has been given to the Irish Government's idea that the principle of the parallel criminal jurisdiction legislation passed here and in Dublin should be extended to Europe so that terrorists can either be extradited or tried locally?

I have nothing to add to the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the House on 10th February. Reciprocal extra-territorial legislation is in force between Northern Ireland and the Republic. As for discussions in France and Ireland, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this stage.

May I ask the Government to give no countenance to the suggestion of extending the inherently objectionable principle of extra-territorial jurisdiction?

As the Common Market countries agreed some months ago to do all they can to suppress terrorism, what have they done about Abu Daoud? Have they avoided the matter because it was inconvenient, or are they doing something about it?

This is not a matter for me to comment upon. It is essentially a matter for the French Government. In that connection it should be noted that the convention is not yet in force, and when it enters into force it will be binding only on those States which ratify it.

Arms Trade

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will initiate discussions with the United States Government on the issue of international restraint on the arms trade, in the light of recent suggestions by President Carter.

Her Majesty's Government are in touch with the new United States Administration on this question. As my right hon. and noble friend said in another place on 17th February, we await with interest further details of President Carter's proposals.

In the meantime, will my hon. Friend clearly inform the House what response the Government made to Vice-President Mondale's invitation to co-operate with the United States Government in achieving multilateral talks on the restriction of arms sales? In particular, does my hon. Friend accept President Carter's view that the Middle East is an area that particularly requires restriction on the volume of arms sales to it?

We have noted with interest Vice-President Mondale's remarks in the conversation he had with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister two or three weeks ago. I agree with my hon. Friend that any action on this subject must be on a multilateral basis and involve commitments by a large number of Governments. I agree that the Middle East is one of those areas where we would most like to consider restrictions of this kind. We restrain our own sales of arms to the area so as not to upset the military balance.

Will my hon. Friend consider going a little further and recognising that there is no future either in terms of employment here or for our foreign policy if we continue with this vile trade in arms? Does he agree that we should be trying to set an example to other countries, including the United States, by being much more restrictive in terms of those to whom we sell these offensive weapons?

We exercise considerable restraint on the sale of arms. We consider each case on its merits. We do not sell arms to South Africa or Chile, other than those which we have an absolute legal obligation to provide. It would not be sensible for us unilaterally to cease sales of arms, however, if the only result of that was that similar arms were supplied by another country.

If the hon. Gentleman enters discussions with the United States Government on this matter, will he also call to their attention the illegal supply of arms to terrorists in Northern Ireland? In view of the United States Government's recent declaration in this respect, will the hon. Gentleman supply them with all the material aid that they need?

We have repeatedly drawn the attention of the United States authorities to the support that appears to be given to the IRA and others in Northern Ireland from certain sections in the United States. The authorities there are giving us the maximum possible co-operation on that.

Rhodesia (Sanctions)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied that no major British companies have been involved in the breaking of sanctions against Rhodesia.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what evidence he has received about the breaking of Rhodesian sanctions.

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the operation of sanctions against Rhodesia by British companies.

I am generally satisfied with the observance of sanctions against Rhodesia by United Kingdom firms, but where we have evidence suggesting breaches of sanctions we certainly investigate these. Our record in this respect is second to none.

Has my hon. Friend seen the documents "The Oil Conspiracy" produced by an American church group and "Shell and BP in South Africa" produced by the Anti-Apartheid Movement? If he has, does he agree that they contain allegations and evidence that British oil companies have been involved in breaking sanctions, which allegations and evidence warrant a full and independent inquiry? Does he agree that this is particularly important in the case of BP, since the Government have a majority shareholding in that company?

As the reports to which my hon. Friend refers were published only yesterday, I have not had a chance to look at the evidence collected in them. I shall certainly look at it very seriously indeed and if there is evidence relating to sanctions-busting by British companies we shall take appropriate action.

While appreciating that it is only yesterday that the reports were published, may I ask whether it is not a fact that the Rhodesian régime can exist only for so long as oil is delivered to it in large quantities? Since the only companies that can deliver that oil are Mobil, Shell and BP, there is a strong circumstantial case that they are breaking sanctions. Will my hon. Friend refuse to allow parent companies in London to say that these are subsidiary companies over which they have no control, in view of the large ownership that the companies in this country have in Southern Oil, for example?

I do not think it would be right and proper for me to comment on what my hon. Friend has rightly described as circumstantial evidence. There have been occasions in the past when evidence that has been brought forward on this score has not been proved sound enough to take action. Any additional evidence will, of course, be looked at extremely seriously.

When my hon. Friend considers the reports that have already been mentioned, will he bear in mind that BP Southern Oil is 100 per cent. a British-owned company and that one of the managing directors of BP is also a director of Southern Oil? In view of this fact, will my hon. Friend seriously investigate the claims made by the parent companies and the claims made against them by the anti-apartheid group?

We shall certainly look seriously at any new evidence that is brought forward relating to sanctions-busting by any British company, irrespective of its ownership.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that sanctions were introduced long before terrorism began, with the idea of exerting peaceful economic pressure on the Smith Government? Is he further aware that terrorism has increased to a large extent since then and that to maintain or even tighten sanctions at present means that we are becoming accomplices of the terrorist war against Rhodesia? Does the hon. Gentleman think that this is an acceptable position for the British Government to be in?

The right hon. Gentleman referred to our being accomplices of the terrorists. But if we lifted sanctions at this stage we would be accomplices of the Smith regime. Only a couple of months ago this House debated sanctions and approved the order, which it has done for the past 11 years. We would be willing to lift sanctions if we could establish an interim Government who were acceptable to all.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that sanctions have totally failed, particularly as the only people they have hurt are the black Rhodesians? Does he also agree that the time has now come for the Government to go to the United Nations and say that it is right for sanctions to be lifted?

Of course, sanctions have not been effective as they ought to have been. Nevertheless, they are a clear demonstration by this country that we stand by what we said—that the Smith regime is illegal and that we do not intend to condone it in any way.

Does my hon. Friend agree that if sanctions had been applied vigorously and efficiently, the Rhodesian economy would have collapsed years ago? Will he conduct an independent inquiry into the allegations that were made yesterday?

There are well-known and established procedures for dealing with evidence in relation to any cases of sanctions-breaking. Those procedures should be followed in this case as, indeed, they have been in previous cases.

Middle East

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to have consultations with the United States Administration and Great Britain's partners in Europe regarding the prospects for a peace settlement in the Middle East.

We are in constant touch with our partners in the Nine, and with the United States Administration, on this subject.

Will the Secretary, of State encourage a joint American-Community policy that encourages the Palestinians to recognise Israel's right to exist and also urges the Israelis to dismantle the 80 settlements in Arab-occupied territory, which in itself is highly provocative? Is it not essential to get concessions from both sides before any progress can be made?

It is probably true that we shall not get a peace settlement without a change in the present position of both the main parties to the dispute. With regard to a joint position with the United States Administration, there is great value in having as strong consultation and co-operation between the Community and the United States Administration as is possible and feasible. But they are both independent decision-making bodies. The political co-operation machinery in the Community is used to the full, but the Community is sovereign and will make decisions in its own right. Similarly, so will the United States Administration. What we wish to do is try to encourage both to keep in step and keep each other as fully informed as possible of the views of the member States of the Community and the United States.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is no good trying to leave out the Soviet Union, because that country has a vital part to play in any peace settlement in the Middle East? Does he not further agree that it is now an urgent need to reconvene the Geneva Conference with a distinct Palestinian entity at that conference?

I agree that the Soviet Union, as part of the Geneva Conference, will have to be involved. There may be a case for going to Geneva, but there is no case for going to Geneva until there is a sensible basis for a negotiated settlement. One of the issues that still have to be resolved—it is perhaps central to whether we can go to Geneva—is the present attitude over representation, about which there are strongly held views on both sides. As a result of the efforts of Dr. Waldheim and Secretary of State Vance, it should be possible to get around this real difficulty.

The Secretary of State said yesterday that he himself would be going to the Middle East before long. Will he do so, at least in part, in his capacity as President of the Council of Ministers? How does the right hon. Gentleman see European interests in a settlement being brought effectively to bear on the situation?

I said that I was going to visit Egypt in a few weeks' time and that I would also be going to visit Israel. When I visit Egypt I shall still be holding the presidency of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Already the French and German Foreign Ministers have been to the area, and I believe that the Com- munity will fairly soon discuss their reports and impressions. It is impossible to go without holding the presidency, but whether one would act in the capacity of the President depends on the decisions of the other eight member States.

Will the Secretary of State press for a joint initiative with our allies to protect European business men from improper pressures from the Arab boycott office? Does he realise that the initiative already taken by the American Secretary of State has led to subsequent concessions by the Arab boycott office with regard to American exporters? Will the right hon. Gentleman now take similar action to protect British exporters?

I am firmly opposed to the boycott. I have made that categorically clear and I do so again at this time in my capacity as Foreign Secretary. I should welcome discussions with the new American Administration about their new measures.

United States Secretary Of State

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to meet the United States Secretary of State.

President Carter has invited my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to visit Washington from 10th to 12th March. I shall accompany my right hon. Friend and I also look forward to holding discussions with Mr. Vance in the course of the visit.

During that visit will my right hon. Friend consider talking to Mr. Vance to see what help Britain, as a second-rate nuclear Power, can give to the fulfilment of President Carter's inauguration pledge to rid this planet of the scourge of nuclear weapons? Will my right hon. Friend also discuss with Mr. Vance what specific joint Anglo-American initiative can be taken to make some real progress in the SALT talks, as one vital way of helping to cure the economic problems of this country?

The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks are between the United States and the USSR, although Britain has a vital interest in them. I have already made it clear to the House that I consider a successful conclusion to these talks is very strongly in the interests of everyone in the world. I have never made any secret about the fact that I believe in nuclear disarmament. What we need are sensible and realistically negotiated settlements. I think that is the clear intention of the new American Administration, and it was highlighted by President Carter in his inaugural speech.

Will the Secretary of State appreciate that the United States Government are very much concerned about the Soviet Union's nuclear supersonic strike bomber, the Backfire, and that they are particularly concerned by the fact that, at the encouragement of Her Majesty's Government, certain British firms, principally Lucas Aerospace and Plessey, are providing very high technology indeed for improving the engine of the TU 144, which happens to be the same engine that powers the Backfire, and that this might give this nuclear strike bomber a two-way capability of crossing the Atlantic from Soviet bases to the United States?

The question of the transfer of high technology is a matter of concern and is usually discussed on a confidential basis between us and the United States Administration. If there is concern about this matter, no doubt they will raise it with me when I am in Washington.

When my right hon. Friend sees Mr. Vance, will he express appreciation for the support given by the United States to Britain's proposal to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations that there be an independent inquiry into the deaths of Archbishop Luwum and the two Ministers? Meanwhile, is it not disgraceful that this proposal was rejected? Will my right hon. Friend tell the House which of our Commonwealth colleagues saw fit to vote against it or to abstain?

I welcome the United States' position on the whole vexed and deeply disturbing problem of Uganda. I am deeply disappointed that our proposal, made under the confidential procedure, for an investigation of the human rights situation in Uganda, was narrowly defeated in Geneva yesterday. I regard the resolution that was adopted as insufficiently firm, far-reaching or effective. This leaves us with no alternative but to press for an investigation in the open debate that is due to take place shortly. Our proposal would accord with but be rather wider than the United Nations Secretary-General's call for an impartial investigation of the recent deaths of Arch-bishop Luwum and two others.

When the right hon. Gentleman is in Washington with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, will he discuss the recent talks between President Carter and Mr. Bukovsky, and will he then try to persuade the British Prime Minister to be rather more robust and effective in giving leadership on this vital question of human rights in Russia?

I have never made any secret of my own concern or the Government's concern on the whole issue of human rights. As to Mr. Bukovsky, he was asked to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who was looking forward to seeing him. Unfortunately he was not able to keep the appointment. There are no major differences between us on this issue.

Nuclear Technology

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government intend to respond positively to proposals by the new United States Administration for further limiting the spread of nuclear technology.

As my right hon. Friend's predecessor said on 22nd December 1976, we wholeheartedly welcome the high priority which the new United States Administration are giving to this question. When they put forward firm proposals, we shall study them with care, and I expect our response to be positive.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I welcome that positive response to the indications of the new American Administration's attitude? Is he prepared, on behalf of the British Government, specifically to follow up what the Foreign Secretary himself indicated yesterday—namely, that he would give a fair wind to some of the specific proposals involved, such as a moratorium on commercial reprocessing until the need, cost and safety have been fully assessed, and a strengthening of the International Atomic Energy Agency, particularly on the very important safeguards side, where the Agency is very undermanned?

I certainly assure the hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's Government are as concerned about this question as the United States Administration or any other Government. On the question of reprocessing, we certainly share the concern about the export of this technique and we support attempts to limit the export of either reprocessing or enrichment or the production of heavy water. On the final point, we certainly agree that an essential element of this is to improve the inspection and other techniques of the IAEA.

Has not the American President recently proposed stopping all tests, underground as well as in the atmosphere, and would this not probably prevent the invention and the production of further nuclear weapons? Why has Britain not publicly supported this great initiative, which has received a response in Russia? When the Foreign Secretary goes to Washington, will he publicly acclaim this great move towards peace?

I certainly expect that my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister will discuss this question when they go to Washington. Certainly we notice with great interest this proposal and, as my hon. Friend has said, the response that has come already from the Soviet Union. including the suggestion that there might be on-site inspection, which is one of the most important aspects of the question. We should like to follow that up and see whether it means what it appears to mean.

As it requires only three months to withdraw from the proposed non-proliferation treaty, is it wise for Great Britain to agree reprocessing contracts with countries such as Japan, whose contract, if fulfilled, would provide for the return of a very large volume of plutonium to that country?

We certainly see no reason to suppose that Japan will withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty. How- ever, this aspect of the matter to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention is important, and we shall certainly bear it in mind.

East Of Suez

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on current British policy east of Suez and indicate any direct commitments which remain.

The Government's broad policy east of Suez is, of course, to promote British and general Western interests there, within the limits of our resources. Our direct commitments are to our British dependent territories and those arising from bilateral and multilateral links which we have with independent countries.

What commitments does Britain still have through CENTO and SEATO? Is it not time that both these alliances were wound up, and should not Britain in any case sever any arrangements that she has with them, if for no other reason than the very practical reason that it is no longer physically possible for Britain to deploy military forces east of Suez?

I am sure my hon. Friend will recognise that we continue to be a party to the Manila Pact. The South-East Asia Treaty Organisation will be wound up by June this year, but the treaty itself will remain in being. Concerning CENTO, as we announced following the defence review, we retain our membership.

Will the Minister confirm that the British forces in Brunei are there at the cost of His Highness the Sultan and that no burden falls on the British taxpayer for them?

Brunei is a sovereign State in treaty relationship with the United Kingdom. We are responsible for external relations and we have a commitment to consult in the event of any external threat. A British Gurkha battalion is stationed in Brunei. We are now discussing with the Government in Brunei proposals for withdrawing this battalion and modernising our relationship.

Mozambique

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if be will visit Mozambique.

Will the Minister get his right hon. Friend to follow the lead given by my noble Friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, and get him to condemn unequivocally the activities of the guerrillas operating in Rhodesia from Mozambique? Will he also get his right hon. Friend to tell the Government of Mozambique that until they stop harbouring those guerrillas not one penny piece more of British taxpayers' money will be given to them in aid?

On many occasions we have made very clear our position on the guerrilla war. I have myself spoken twice last year to President Machel. As for aid to Mozambique, our aid is in part to offset the impact of sanctions, which the Mozambique Government have adopted in accordance with the wishes of this House and the British Government.

Are the Government really intending to continue financial aid to Mozambique while the Mozambique Government are conniving at and encouraging the activities of terrorists from Mozambique in Rhodesia?

We shall fulfil the aid programme that we have established under the normal aid criteria.

May I ask my hon. Friend not to be at all deterred by the noises from the Opposition Benches and to continue to give aid to Mozambique, which is playing a very large part in trying to bring down the Smith régime? How much aid has reached Mozambique? How much humanitarian aid to help refugees in Mozambique has actually reached the camps?

I cannot give details on the last point. A loan agreement for about £5 million has been signed.

Hong Kong

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the social advance of Hong Kong.

Her Majesty's Government have welcomed the Hong Kong Government's plans for further progress in labour, social and allied fields. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the Hong Kong Government are making good progress in dealing with their social and other problems.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the deep resentment that is felt among many grass-roots organisations in Hong Kong? Does he not agree that unless there are further aids and reforms there could be disturbances and, indeed, riots similar to those that occurred in 1967?

I know Hong Kong quite well. I have spent a year of my life there. I do not honestly expect the kind of disturbances that my hon. Friend has mentioned in the immediate future. I am sure my hon. Friend knows that at the opening of the current session of the Legislative Council this year the Governor of Hong Kong announced rather sweeping measures in the very field about which my hon. Friend has spoken—social reform—for example, not only measures concerning labour relations and social welfare but measures that will raise the school leaving age to 15 by 1980 and double the rate of State house building.

Will the Minister bear in mind the burden imposed on the Hong Kong Government by a population which has increased eightfold since the war? In view of this, Hong Kong has achieved remarkable social and economic advances and now has one of the highest standards of living in Asia. Its GNP last year increased by 16 per cent. while the rate of price increases was less than 4 per cent. Will the Minister invite a team of advisers from Hong Kong to come here and advise our Government?

I accept that the rate of economic advance in Hong Kong has been very striking. On the other hand, I do not deny that we have a responsibility for this very important colony—the largest of our remaining colonial possessions. It is up to the Government of Hong Kong to ensure that social conditions correspond to the high standard of living to which the hon. Member has just drawn attention.

European Community

Direct Elections

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will discuss direct elections with the French Foreign Minister.

In view of the increasing unpopularity of the Common Market in both Britain and Denmark, would it not be wise—I mean this as a helpful suggestion—for the Common Market to reconsider the whole question of direct elections? Also, in view of the possible enlargement of the Community with Spain, Portugal and Greece, would it not be wise to consider at the same time the real aims of the EEC today?

I always take questions from the hon. Member as being asked in a most helpful spirit, particularly on EEC matters. I think that a reconsideration has, in fact, occurred in Denmark. The Danes are taking steps towards meeting the May-June 1978 target date. Every Government must try to seek to carry public opinion with them on any aspect of policy, but particularly on direct elections. That is the British Government's view too.

Would it not be better to clean up the scandal of the common agricultural policy before we wade further into the Brussels quagmire? Is it not wholly disreputable that, with the connivance of the Commission, 30,000 tons of butter has been sold to the Soviet Union at one-quarter of the price at which it is sold in member States in order to make further profits for a French Communist millionaire?

I have a great deal of sympathy with what my right hon. Friend has said. I made it clear to the House yesterday that this deal can be criticised very strongly on many different grounds. Although my views do not always coincide with those of my right hon. Friend on EEC matters, I have made it clear that where there are grounds for criticism we will criticise.

Will the Foreign Secretary accept that we are encouraged by his views about the common fisheries policy and the results that have been achieved to date? What are his views on the Irish Government's proposal to limit, as a conservation measure, fishing within 50 miles—

Order. I think that the hon. Member's supplementary question comes later. We are discussing direct elections.

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that there were some initial difficulties on direct elections for the French? Will he confirm that those difficulties have now been removed, and will he indicate at the same time what other member States within the EEC seem to have problems in their approach to direct elections, other than the United Kingdom?

I believe it is true to say that the constitutional court's ruling leaves the way open for the French Government to put proposals before their Parliament. They have not yet produced these proposals, and it is true that as yet no member State has passed fully the necessary legislation for direct elections. The Government with the most difficulties hitherto appear to be the Danish Government, and they are reconsidering their position. The promised White Paper will cover the question of the electoral system and will make an assessment of the various systems. At the moment, if we follow the Select Committee's proposals, we will be the odd man out. However, there is nothing against that as there is no necessity for a uniform electoral system.

If it is true that the Commission and a French Communist millionaire are making the EEC more unpopular, is that not all the more reason for hastening direct elections? It would be a total mistake for this party, above all others, to turn its back on the elective principle in these matters.

I believe in democratic Socialism, and I always have done. I have never believed that it is in the tradition of the Labour movement to turn aside from any democratic process. What we wish to ensure is that the democratic process is reflected in a variety of different ways. I would argue that it should be reflected in the decision-making of the Council of Ministers and in discussion on the Common Market in this House. Most hon. Members would agree that a system of nomination of Members of the European Assembly is not wholly appropriate to the full democratic process.

May I press the Foreign Secretary on the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Spicer)? Can he confirm from his own sources the information that was given in an interesting survey in The Times last week that all other EEC countries, including France, now see their way clear to meeting the target date, both politically and legally? If that is so, will the right hon. Gentleman use his best endeavours to bring this matter before the House without further delay and in a form which would turn to practical effect the broad support that the majority of this House would give to the principle of direct elections?

My right hon. Friend is not keen for me to be pressed too far. I have already indicated that the White Paper will be put before the House in a matter of a few weeks, and I cannot be dragged into the argument any further. The House will then debate and discuss these issues, on which we have not yet had a full discussion. It is perfectly clear that there are differing views on both sides of the House on this matter, which would mean a constitutional change. We need to carry the agreement of the House as a whole, and that is what we intend to do.

Will the Foreign Secretary take comfort from the fact that we shall have a very good debate on this matter, which is one of the very few issues on which the Government are sure of a majority? That is a very happy change.

I choose my friends with circumspection. I am very fond of the right hon. Gentleman, who is a fellow Devonian Member, but I will look for support from my hon. Friends on my own side of the House. I am prepared to take time to persuade my hon. Friends, even my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), that it is in the interests of what many of them hold very close—proper scrutiny of the Common Market and of the Commission—to have that scrutiny through a properly elected European Assembly.

Commission Proposals

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arrangements he has made for Departments of Government to obtain updated proposals of the EEC Commission.

The EEC Commission very seldom puts forward updated proposals for Council legislation. When it does so, those proposals are made available to Government Departments in the usual way. They are also deposited in Parliament. No special arrangements are required to cater for this possibility.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that, in pursuing proper scrutiny of the EEC proposals, it is necessary for this House to have available all the relevant documents? Although we know that the Government have done their best, it is clear that some documents are available to some citizens and bodies in this country—documents which the EEC will not allow to come to this House. If that is so and my hon. Friend can confirm the situation, will he make representations to the EEC to change that classification?

The Government recognise the force of my hon. Friend's remarks. Obviously the House wants to have at its disposal the fullest possible information as a basis for any debate, but documents produced in the framework of the Council are normally confidential. The United Kingdom, in common with other member States, is required to observe that confidentiality. If hon. Members obtain their own copies of such documents from other sources, that is not a matter for the Government. The Government will seek to ensure that full information is available to the House in time for debates on EEC documents.

Will the President of the Council of Ministers, in taking office next week—and I hope to be there to welcome him—bear in mind that the European committees as well as the House would welcome information on the proposals? We would particularly welcome the views of this House before we go into committees and into the Assembly. It is difficult to obtain an adequate correlation of information, and I very much hope that the Minister will take up this matter when he goes to Strasbourg next week.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that all Ministers concerned in this matter understand what is at stake. It has fully registered with us all. We shall be seriously examining the matter with our colleagues.

Will my hon. Friend consider updating the proposal for stopping the disgraceful sale of subsidised butter to Russia or any other country? When we joined the EEC, were we not sold a pup?

My right hon. Friend has already dealt with that point, and the action taken by the Government this week shows how strongly we feel about this matter.

Does the Minister realise that the fact that occasions when the Commission comes forward with new proposals are so rare points exactly to the difficulty, namely, that the development of legislation and its redrafting are carried out within the Council of Ministers, without any new proposals emerging from the Commission, and that whereas new proposals from the Commission would come to this House, the process inside the Council of Ministers is confidential. What would the Minister say if the legislative process in this House were also secret?

I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will accept from what has been said in all parts of the House that his point is well taken. The Government are concerned about this matter and are closely examining the situation. I am sure that he will recall that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council told the House on 28th February, in reply to a Question tabled by the hon. Member for Broms- grove and Redditch (Mr. Miller), that he is now considering the problem and will provide the House with updated information on the progress of proposals for purposes of debate in this House.

Helsinki Final Act

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent consultations he has had with the other EEC Foreign Ministers about the observance by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other Eastern bloc countries of the provisions of Basket III of the Helsinki Agreement.

Compliance with the provisions of Basket III of the Helsinki Final Act by signatory States is one of the questions on which EEC Ministers have already consulted, and these discussions will continue amongst the Nine in preparation for the Belgrade review meeting. It is an important part, but only a part, of the whole framework of the Helsinki Agreement.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I welcomed his statement yesterday that the Government will not hesitate to speak frankly when they consider that the performance of obligations under the Helsinki Agreement by other signatory countries is unsatisfactory? Is that also the view of the other Common Market countries? In view of the unanimous advice by the Russian dissidents that the best way of helping dissidents in the Soviet Union is to speak frankly, will he encourage his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to emulate President Carter in that respect?

The Government's stance on human rights issues is well known. There are other aspects of the Helsinki Agreement and the Final Act to be taken into account. The way in which we should respond to a given violation of human rights requires careful judgment. I make no secret of the fact that we shall put our views frankly—sometimes publicly, sometimes in speeches, and sometimes by exerting varying forms of pressure. This is a very complex and difficult area, but what is important is the progress that is made. We hope at Belgrade to assist the progress that has been made in the past 18 months. I have made no secret of the fact that pressure will have to continue long after the Belgrade review conference if we are to be satisfied with the completion of the Final Act.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that any struggle to free peoples from torture or from having peen wrongly gaoled is welcome in any country, and certainly that applies to the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe? Would it not be helpful if Opposition Members would also struggle to free people in Chile and Fascist States as well as in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. In dealing with human rights, when there are violations we shall carry more conviction if we are seen to apply our standards around the globe. I said that to the House yesterday. It would be helpful if on more occasions we could have the same degree of support from the Opposition Benches when dealing with violations in Chile and in some areas of South Africa as when there are violations of human rights in Communist countries. We must all of us be concerned about violations, from wherever they come. We shall carry more weight with Communist countries if they see that we condemn violations of human rights elsewhere in the world.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his remarks will cause resentment among the Opposition? He has only to read the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Horn-castle (Mr. Tapsell), in replying for the Opposition Front Bench to yesterday's foreign affairs debate to know how much support we give to these considerations.

I am the first to admit that the speech made by the hon. Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell) in yesterday's debate was an extremely thoughtful and helpful contribution to the African debate. I recommend it to my hon. Friends. I think I made a fair comment on the situation. I must tell the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) that I did not intend to refer to him personally.

The hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) will know that many criticisms have been levelled at some of my Labour colleagues who have been concerned about the situation in Chile. I strongly welcome what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), with his well-known views about violations in Chile and in Communist and Eastern European countries.

Euro-Arab Dialogue

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the progress of the European-Arab dialogue; and if he will make a statement.

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's contribution in the dialogue between the EEC and the Arab League.

The second meeting of the General Committee of the Euro-Arab Dialogue took place in Tunis from 10th to 12th February. The atmosphere was positive and frank and both sides were satisfied with the outcome. The Government played their full part in the Nine's preparation for the meeting and, as holders of the Presidency, the United Kingdom led the Community delegation.

When we bear in mind the enormous potential advantages that could arise from Euro-Arab co-operation, has not progress been regrettably slow? Is it not time to remove one obstacle at least, namely, the question of Palestinian representation, and should not the EEC accept the reality of the situation as the United Nations has done?

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the British Government attach great importance to this dialogue. At the recent meeting valuable work was carried out on the transfer of technology, commercial and cultural co-operation, protection and encouragement of investment, and labour and agricultural projects. The remainder of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question raises a wider issue.

Will my hon. Friend assure the House in regard to the EEC statement—which was agreed at a meeting in London on 29th January but which was not made public—that the Government exerted their influence to try to make that statement public—and if not, why not?

I hope that this afternoon I made our position plain on the dialogue. The British Government welcome the dialogue, and we feel that it has made a valuable contribution to Euro-Arab relations, to which both sides remain committed.

Will the Minister assure the House that the EEC will take up the question of the boycott of trade on the same lines as the United States now appears to be following?

The hon. Gentleman will have noted what my right hon. Friend has already said on that subject.

I greatly appreciate what the Foreign Secretary has said, not only this afternoon but many times, and his unequivocal denunciation of the Arab boycott. Will he take up with his European colleagues the question of how such blackmail can be made unremunerative by international action?

My right hon. Friend has made his position absolutely clear. The way forward is one that we shall consider together with our colleagues in Europe.

Aircraft And Shipbuilding Industries Bill

In the light of the findings of the Examiners in the House of Lords that the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill is hybrid, the Government have considered what action should be taken.

The Government have decided that, in view of the grave industrial consequences of further delay to the Bill, they intend to deal with the situation created by the Examiners' findings on hybridity by proposing amendments for the deletion of the 12 ship repairing companies listed in Schedule 2 of the Bill.

Consultations have taken place with the Opposition through the usual channels and the Opposition have agreed that the Bill should now proceed to Royal Assent as a Public Bill in its present form, apart from the deletion of the 12 listed ship repairing companies. It has been agreed the Bill should receive its Second Reading in another place on Tuesday 8th March, with Committee and remaining stages on 10th March. The Bill will then return to this House for agreement to the necessary amendments. It has been further agreed that the Bill should proceed to Royal Assent forthwith. I hope that the House will be content to proceed on this basis.

Ship repairing will remain one of the duties of British Shipbuilders. Several of the listed shipbuilding companies have ship repairing operations, and three of the 12 ship repairing companies now listed in Schedule 2 are already publicly owned and will be transferred to the Corporation. The Government understand that other privately-owned ship-repairing companies wish to be acquired by the Corporation, which will be free and willing to negotiate their acquisition.

The Government intend that vesting of the aircraft companies will be next month, if that can be achieved, and of shipbuilding companies in the late spring. A statement on this will be made as soon as possible.

Is the Minister aware that although we deplore the Bill and think that it is thoroughly bad for the country and the industries concerned, and although we have fought it every inch of the way, we welcome the Government's belated acceptance of the implications of the rules of procedure and of natural justice?

Will the Minister agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) performed a valuable service in the protection of the rights of the citizen in identifying the hybridity which the Government then dodged and wriggled to deny but which has now been confirmed by a Committee containing two officials of this House and two officials of another place?

Will the Secretary of State agree that had the Government chosen to accept months ago what they are now accepting—the elimination of ship repairing from the Bill—we could not have stopped them from having the Bill last autumn? The delay of many months has been entirely the result of the pique of Ministers.

Will the Minister accept that we on this side are pledged to seek to return the nationalised companies to the private sector when we have the opportunity?

If hon. Members look at the Examiners' report objectively they will find that no credit is due to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) because the Examiners rejected most of the grounds upon which he said that the Bill was hybrid. On close examination of the report it will be found that the Examiners used such phrases as that they had to consider "arid and trivial points" and "grotesque questions".

But I do not want to go over the ground too much because the Bill has been before Parliament for three Sessions now and, quite clearly, the damage that was being caused to the industries was severe. That is why we found it reasonable to come to this arrangement.

In our view, the Examiners' findings leave the general position of hybridity in an unsatisfactory and uncertain state. The implications of the report for future legislation will have to be considered extremely carefully by the Government, and we shall do that as a matter of urgency.

Having regard to the widespread economic damage that has been caused by the politically—motivated campaign—particularly the campaign conducted in another place—is the Minister aware that his decision will be regarded by most hon. Members on this side as unavoidable in the circumstances and that it will be welcomed, particularly by hon. Members who have shipbuilding and aircraft interests?

I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. There is no doubt that extremely severe damage to the industry would have resulted from further delay, not only in shipbuilding, but particularly in the aircraft industry. British Aerospace could not have entered into the collaborative arrangements that are absolutely essential if that industry is to survive.

Bearing in mind the ready co-operation of Opposition parties over the main parts of the Bill, will the Minister give an assurance that those of the 12 listed ship repairing companies that positively wish to remain private enterprises will not be subjected, at any time, to any form of industrial discrimination or financial pressure from the nationalised sector or the Government?

I do not really understand that question. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that some of the ship repairing companies that are not to be nationalised—because they are included in the schedule to the Bill containing the list of the 12 companies which are to be excluded—ought to receive Government aid, that is something we shall look at extremely carefully.

Is the Minister aware that the Government are to be warmly commended for taking this realistic step to resolve what had developed into a complex problem? Is he satisfied that there are viable boards to run the industries, particularly shipbuilding?

My right hon. Friend will be aware that over the last two months we have been rebuilding British Shipbuilders and its Organising Committee. I am confident that we have the men there to run the industry successfully, and I am sure that the managements of those companies that are to be taken into public ownership are ready to co-operate with us.

Will the Secretary of State congratulate the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), on his success in persuading the Cabinet to take this obvious step while the Secretary of State was away ill?

Has the Secretary of State noted that the facts concerning the Westminster Dredging Company that were denied on behalf of the Government in another place by Lord Peart were admitted as the truth by the Government's own witness at the hearing before the Examiners? Had Government Ministers admitted the true facts last year—which they could have discovered just as easily as Mr. Bailey—nine months would not have had to pass before we arrived at the point at which we have arrived today.

The hon. Gentleman is given to hyperbole and he exaggerates the truth. He has said on many occasions that the Bill was riddled with hybridity and, on the basis of a close examination of the Examiners' report, he knows that that is not the case. We want to see the industries taken into public ownership as quickly as possible.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I trust that all hon. Members on this side will welcome the Government's acceptance of the reality of the situation, albeit with bitterness because of the objections that were raised and the fact that many of us still believe that there was no basic argument on the question of hybridity.

Would he agree that when Mr. Bailey and Bristol Channel Ship Repairers approach the Government next year—as they undoubtedly will—for financial aid from the Department of Industry, they should be asked to go to the new shipbuilding corporation and to consider becoming part of the nationalised industry?

Under the terms of the 1972 Industry Act, if a company comes to the Government and asks for assistance we have to consider the application. If Bristol Channel Ship Repairers or any other company which is not to be taken into public ownership came to us with a proposition, we should look at it—but only in relation to the overall corporate strategy of British Shipbuilders.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, having made one concession in an area of controversy, he has set a precedent, and will he therefore give a commitment, bearing in mind the rôle of minority parties in the House, that the Government will review another area of controversy—the establishment of a Scottish shipbuilding company?

We indicated during the passage of the Bill that we should want to look at the overall organisation of British Shipbuilders. Not only merchant shipping, but warship and marine engine companies are being taken into public ownership and certain divisions of the industry may have to have some capability in countries other than England and Wales.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my hon. Friends and I welcome his statement and regret only that it was not made six or nine months ago when we were advocating this course? In order to ensure the trading situation of the companies that are not to be nationalised, can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Government have no intention of bringing in a separate Bill to nationalise any of these firms?

Order. According to the Minister's statement, this matter will come before the House within a few weeks. I propose to call two more hon. Members from each side.

Will my right hon. Friend do his utmost to mitigate the damage caused by the action of hon. Members opposite by encouraging investment in the main ship repair yards, many of which are already in public ownership, and stimulate work towards achieving better worker relations in these yards?

We intend that there should be a viable shipbuilding industry with a long-term future. It would be unthinkable to allow that industry to be eliminated, and that was one of the reasons that we put forward time and again in justification of public ownership. Apart from the intervention fund that was announced a few days ago and was established so that we could obtain orders for British Shipbuilders—my hon. Friend is clearly right to say that if we are to have a viable shipbuilding industry, there must be an investment programme in the major yards.

Would it not be appropriate and seemly for the Secretary of State to make some expression of regret for the delay which has resulted from his curt and contemptuous refusal last summer to heed the clear warnings of this side of the House about the undoubted hybridity of the Bill?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes the same mistake as his hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton. He also used exaggerated language in all our debates and talked not just of the Bill being riddled with hybridity—which the Examiners' report shows is not the case—but about an open and shut case. That is not true either. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to be fair—which I very much doubt—he will agree that he claimed that there was hybridity not only in the ship repair section of the Bill but in other sections.

Is my right hon. Friend telling the House that his statement was edited and endorsed by the Tory Front Bench or are we, as they say on the Clyde, gradatione vincimus that is, conquering step by step?

My statement had been discussed and agreed with members of the Opposition.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the Bill is hybrid and that one cannot exaggerate or minimise the truth of that statement? The Bill is hybrid—not a little bit or a great deal, just hybrid. Why has he delayed six or nine months in making a statement that he must have known was inevitable? Is the Government Chief Whip going to whip Government supporters through the Lobbies to take ship repairing out of the Bill? Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that Christopher Bailey has shown, as has Freddie Laker, that if a person is prepared to fight, he can save his company from the Government?

My statement has been discussed between the two Front Benches and agreed. The Bill has been before the Examiners in another place and they have decided that there is hybridity in the ship repairing section. We accept the position and are removing that section. That is a simple statement of fact.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Should the House not now investigate how much money was spent in the attempted bribery of hon. Members in order to achieve, apparently successfully, a change in Government policy?

If the hon. Gentleman has proof of any bribery, he knows the course that he ought to adopt.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) was not even listening to what you just said. In the circumstances, I suggest that he should do you and the House the courtesy of doing so.

The hon. Gentleman will read in Hansard what I said. If he has any proof of bribery, he ought to bring it forward.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was careful in my choice of words. I said "attempted bribery" and I can prove that if you wish it.

Order. I am always willing to look at any matters that hon. Members wish to bring before me.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) has said that attempted bribery has caused the Government to change their policy. That is clearly an allegation that members of his Government have been influenced by bribery. Would it not now be appropriate for the hon. Member to withdraw his allegation against his own colleagues on the Front Bench?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the remarks that have been made, the most appropriate course of action would be to establish a board of examiners in the form of a Select Committee to investigate the activities of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Limited throughout the last two years.

We would be better advised to hear the application under Standing Order No. 9.

Chief Constable Of Lancashire

I beg to ask leave, Mr. Speaker, to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the conduct of the Chief Constable of Lancashire as outlined in the report of the Chief Constable of Hampshire."
This concerns the extremely serious and grave allegations that have been made by Sir Douglas Osmond, the Chief Constable of Hampshire, in a report which, unfortunately, has been widely leaked in the Press in the North-West and which has created a great deal of public controversy and dismay. The report shows that the Chief Constable of Lancashire, amongst other things, intervened in criminal cases at the behest and on behalf of his friends or friends of his friends, that he frequently associated with undesirable characters, and that he used his official car and public manpower for private visits and functions for himself and his family. The lengthy report, which is being published in full in local newspapers, shows a distressing and alarming abuse of powers by the Chief Constable of Lancashire and his potential to abuse those powers further.

This is an important and grave matter of great public importance. The credibility and impartiality of both the police force and the system of justice in Lancashire has been damaged by the activities of the Chief Constable in the revelations contained in the report by the Chief Constable of Hampshire. The morale of the police in Lancashire has been understandably affected.

It is not only a clear and specific case and one of public concern, but it is urgent. The report has been leaked, and it is a common cause of controversy and distress in Lancashire. It raises grave issues about the conduct of the police force as a whole and of the Chief Constable in particular and of several of his officers who have been said to be lying and covering up the abuses of the Chief Constable.

The matter is urgent because there are fears that the issue will be covered up and swept under the carpet. Two members of the police authority are named in the report. Too many local people arc involved in this for it to be dealt with by the Lancashire Police Authority. The issue should be debated in the House so that the Home Secretary can reply to the charges. The Home Secretary should institute a public local inquiry into the activities of the Chief Constable of Lancashire under Section 32 of the Police Act.

I submit that this is a far more serious matter and one that is far more important than the debate we are now to have, which can only exacerbate an industrial dispute.

The hon. Member asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the conduct of the Chief Constable of Lancashire as outlined in the report of the Chief Constable of Hampshire."
The hon. Gentleman gave me notice that he wished to raise this matter today. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision. I have to rule that the hon. Member's submission does not fall within the Standing Order and, therefore I cannot submit his submission to the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order for me to inform my hon. Friend—

I have no doubt that the hon. Member will meet his hon. Friend in a short while.

Ballot For Notices Of Motions For Friday 18Th March

Members successful in the Ballot were:

Mr. Mayhew.

Mr. Le Marchant.

Mr. Brooke.

Business Of The House

Ordered,

That, at this day's sitting, the Coal Industry Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, for a period after Ten o'clock equal to the time spent on the proceedings on the Motion in the name of Mr. Hal Miller relating to the Adjournment of the House.—[Mr. Snape.]

Maps

3.58 pm.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make illegal the publication or sale of maps that do not bear the date upon which the information contained thereon was valid.
I am sure that I am not alone among hon. Members in having bought maps on which the motorway ended at Watford or maps of a town on which half the streets in that town were not marked. In this day and age one has to tread a delicate balance between consumer protection and manufacturers annoyance; as the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) once said,
"One man's wage rise is another man's price increase."
If too many people spent too long trying to protect consumers we could have a totally absurd situation. We have already become something of a nation of litigants looking at the small print and wondering how it might be possible to embarrass producers. Without doubt many of the laws are verging on the absurd. At my local grocery shop the other day I bought a package of long-life milk on which it said that the contents should not be consumed after 15th September 1977. We are thinking of having a party on 16th September to see what has happened to the milk.

I have sought in the Bill to steer a careful middle path because it is not my desire in any way to embarrass cartographers any more than it is to cause the vast number of genuine consumers to be sold maps which are inaccurate, and thereby cause very considerable expense and annoyance. My Bill would make it obligatory for cartographers and map publishers to disclose the date at which the information contained is valid and would equally make it obligatory to print the price of the map on the cover. This is not only to protect the tourists, who are the prime purchasers of maps, but also to stop the totally unfair practice of selling remainder maps by covering up the original price and making it, by virtue of the new high price, appear to be more relevant than it is.

In any proposed legislation of this kind there is a duty on the part of the presenter to go to the industry and find out whether it would accept the legislation. I began in the first instance by approaching the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection. He said that he was in favour of it. As a result, I wrote to his Department and was told that the Department was against it. I telephoned the person who had written to me and explained that the Secretary of State had been for it and the man expressed surprise and said "In that case we will look at it again". I am awaiting a letter from the Department, and have been waiting for one for over four weeks.

Oddly enough, the complaints that came to me regarding this proposed legislation came mostly from those people whom I actually thought that the Bill would protect—that is to say, the most reputable map companies. One of them wrote:
"A dated publication would lead the customer reasonably to expect the information to be correct to the date shown and this would, of course, be the intention of the Publisher. But the Publisher is at the mercy of the source of the information upon which he prepares his drawings and the accuracy of the compilers and draughtsmen. It may well be that information shown could be incorrect and that roads in existence for many years have been omitted and not brought to our attention. Making a claim that the publication was revised to a certain date would render the Publisher liable to infringement of the Trade Descriptions Act …".
I accept that no map is ever totally accurate; that even on the day a map is published there will have been some change. For example, if it is a town map, a road may have become a one-way road in the other direction or a new housing estate may have been built. But what I am seeking to do is to force publishers of maps to state from which source they got their information and when.

Another helpful cartographer wrote to me:
"We have just heard that the Ordnance Survey memorandum expresses the opinion that such a Bill would put an end to the publishing of maps both public and private in this country."
That is an extraordinary contention because every Ordnance Survey map already has a date printed on it. Why it should be felt that if all maps had their dates printed on them it would be the end of the Ordnance Survey and all other maps is beyond me.

Another letter said:
"Although your bill is well intentioned, as with all other bills it will ensnare those for whom it was not intended …Another fear is that should your bill become law, the hundreds of helpful letters we receive each year drawing to our attention where we are wrong, would be replaced with threats of litigation …".
I totally reject that. People do not buy maps in order to litigate, and it is as easy for all map publishers to go on doing what some are doing now, which is to state that at the time of making up the map the information contained was as accurate as possible and that it was derived from or based on Ordnance surveys, or whatever.

I have had a helpful letter from the RAC, though it also felt that the Bill might hail the end of cartographers. It wrote:
"In considering the proposed Bill, whilst would readily agree that maps should include the date on which the information was correct, there has always been, and there always will be, opposition to the dating of maps because there must be instances whereby a map remains correct for the major part of its detail over many years."
That is no part of my Bill. I am happy for a map of the sea to remain there for ever until they find an island which may not be charted. The RAC letter went on to say:
"In order to keep costs to the minimum, publishers of maps must have long print runs. But if dating was made compulsory, this would have the effect of increasing prices by encouraging publishers to print annually."
I am totally in favour of publishers publishing maps annually. Roads are built annually; new streets in towns are constructed annually; new housing estates go up annually. Why in these consumer protection days we should give someone leave to print and sell out-of-date maps is beyond me.

The point about town maps is slightly different. In their case, there used to be a great proneness on the part of shops to advertise on a map of a town, and this trade helped to finance the cartographer's job. I believe that it is the duty of the local authority to see that its main conurbations are charted, and charted as contemporarily as they can be. One might well ask "How can they afford it?" I remind the House that a great deal of money is spent pointlessly by people looking for places which they never find because they do not appear on the map—so how can they afford not to? It is for this reason that I seek the leave of the House to introduce this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Clement Freud, Mr. Jeremy Thorpe, Mr. A. J. Beith, Mr. Cyril Smith, Mr. Andrew Welsh, Mr. Dafydd Wigley, Mr. Ivor Clemitson, Mr. Tom Bradley, Mr. Antony Buck and Mr. George Younger.

Maps

Mr. Clement Freud accordingly presented a Bill to make illegal the publication or sale of maps that do not bear the date upon which the information contained thereon was valid; And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed.

British Leyland Motor Corporation

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

Leave having been given on Tuesday 1st March under Standing Order No. 9 to discuss:

The worsening situation at British Leyland as a result of the continuing refusal of the toolroom committee to recommend a return to work on the advice of their union.

4.7 p.m.

I make it plain at the start of this debate that my purpose in requesting it is wholly constructive. I very much welcome the return to the House of the Secretary of State for Employment, and I hope that he is strong enough to take part in a constructive and helpful debate on this very difficult question.

Let no one in the House underestimate the difficulty. It is no part of my purpose to rake over old ashes of controversy or to be wise with the benefit of hindsight. I think, however, that it would be for the convenience of the House if the Government could give an early indication in the debate that the Secretary of State will still be making a statement on the position vis-à-vis the National Enterprise Board and its recommendation on British Leyland, so that the minds of later speakers can be clear as to whether we are to concentrate today solely on the worsening situation as a result of the continuing refusal of the tool makers rather than on the whole question of the strategy of British Leyland, for which time does not allow.

My starting point, therefore, is the worsening situation. I ask the House to understand the very real sense of bitterness, isolation and loss of confidence amongst the tool makers, a body of skilled people who have undertaken a long apprenticeship and have a vital rôle to play, not only in this company but throughout our industry. One of my main worries is that unless their problems are resolved we shall be faced with a grave shortage of people offering themselves for apprenticeship, thus depriving the country and the company of much-needed skills.

I can testify to the feeling of bitterness from my constituents, some of whom have had to give up their cars and send their wives out scrubbing for the first time or seeking other forms of employment, so that when the men return from the night shift they have to stay up during the school holidays to look after the children until their wives come home. There is a feeling of bitterness which I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to understand. My purpose in introducing this debate is to try to see whether this afternoon we can offer the tool makers some way out of the impasse in which they find themselves as a result of the various policies which I shall go into.

First, the tool makers find themselves trapped by the provisions of the pay policy, in the same way as the company finds itself trapped by the provisions of the pay policy. The company is unable to offer a common starting date for the various rates of pay in different plants and is unable even to offer a common rate of pay for the same job in different plants. The company's position is fixed, through no fault of its own.

The tool makers have been driven by their frustration and bitterness to make an impossible demand for a separate negotiating unit, which must clearly run counter to the whole thrust of company policy, which is to reduce the number of negotiating units, as recommended in the Ryder Report. It is also unreasonable of the tool makers to expect their union to agree to the formation of a separate negotiating unit for tool makers. We have real difficulties here. Unless the Government can tip their hand and show these people that there is some hope of reward for skill and some incentive for acquiring skill and for work, the bitterness and frustration will continue and the company will remain in its straitjacket.

Secondly, the situation is grave because it raises serious doubts about the effectiveness of our present system of industrial democracy. The tool makers are in a real difficulty because they fear that they will be outvoted on the Leyland shop stewards' combine and that they will be unable to obtain satisfactory negotiation of the differentials which they are seeking. This is a real difficulty and leads us to explore the whole meaning of industrial participation, because, despite the progress that the company has made in establishing machinery for further worker participation, the tool makers are still left with a feeling that they are unable to have any influence on the situation.

The situation is also serious because of the manner in which a genuine grievance—I hope I have carried the House with me in understanding that it is genuine—is being used by people who have totally different purposes. Here I quote what was said by Mr. Bert Benson, district secretary of the Birmingham West District of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers.

The tool makers are largely Conservative, as the hon. Gentleman should know.

Mr. Benson said:

"The tool makers are being used as a battering ram against the social contract, with a direct liaison between a group within the tool makers and a Communist-backed organisation. 'Defence of Free Trade Unions', which held a meeting in London last Saturday."
There is also a serious question for industrial democracy in the fact, reported by Mr. Benson, that three former shop stewards from the Rover car plant, which is not supporting the strike, who had been rejected on a vote by the union membership nevertheless still attended the unofficial tool room committee's meeting on Saturday, when it was decided to continue the strike. As I have shown, there is real concern about the whole process of industrial democracy in relation to the tool makers.

I turn now to the question of industrial strategy, which has been very much called into question by this strike. I referred yesterday to the fact that in this country we have excess capacity for the manufacture of motor cars yet somehow we are unable to manufacture the output to meet domestic demand. The Prime Minister himself said that floods of cars were waiting to come into the country which would never come in if we were able to utilise the industrial capacity that we have available.

It is not an easy question of simply adding further investment, as our whole experience in British Leyland has shown. It has raised the whole question of the Leyland industrial strategy, on which the Minister—I hope he will confirm this—will be making a statement later. It has been shown at Leyland that the injection of finance is not enough in itself to restore confidence, to motivate the company and all involved in it, or to solve the problems of management and production.

There may be some who feel that the more successful parts of the company—there are still some very successful parts, such as the Truck and Bus Division and the Special Products Division—should be separated off so that their development and success is not held back by the troubles affecting the other parts of the company.

I realise that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, so I shall draw my remarks to their conclusion. My whole purpose has been to try to find a way out for the tool makers involved in this most unfortunate dispute, who are not accustomed to striking. For most of them it is the first time they have taken any industrial action whatever, but it raises the question of how people are to be motivated to produce the potential output that can be obtained from our factories. How is their confidence to be restored to enable that to come about?

It was most disappointing to hear the Minister of State suggest that this was simply a matter for the union and the company and that the Government had no part to play. I hope I have shown that the company and the men are caught in this bind by Government policies. That is why I am requesting the Government to tip their hands about the next phase of the pay policy and to offer some possibility of a way out. The Government should understand how great is the lack of confidence among the men. There is lack of confidence in the management, lack of confidence in the ability of their union to deal with the problem and lack of confidence in the Government, who have shown no consistent policy towards the industry, and who have given the impression—I hope falsely—that simply by ladling out taxpayers' money all these problems will be solved. That is far from true.

Unless the Government can this afternoon give some reason for confidence, I warn them that the loss of confidence will spread from the toolroom throughout the company, throughout industry and throughout the country.

4.20 p.m.

I shall take up some of the detailed observations of the hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Red-ditch (Mr. Miller). First, I should like to respond to his wish that I should set out the current position at British Leyland.

Today a total of 3,500 British Leyland workers are on strike, of whom approximately 3,000 are tool makers. Some 28,000 workers are laid off, of whom about 21,000 are unable to work because of the effect of the tool makers' dispute. There are a dozen smaller disputes, of which all but one are unconstitutional. The agreed procedures have not been followed.

The tool makers' dispute is led by an unofficial group of shop stewards who are demanding separate negotiating rights for tool makers. The executive of their union—the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers—has expressed sympathy with the aim of the tool makers to improve their wage position, but it has not supported a call for separate negotiating rights and has told the men to return to work.

Since last summer, disputes have taken an increasing toll of British Leyland's car production. In 1976 British Leyland lost about one-fifth of its planned production schedules. While disputes were not the sole cause, they were by far the largest factor.

This year, after a brief improvement during January, the position got steadily worse during February. Last week production was down to only one-third of the planned level. The prospects today are that this figure will diminish still further.

I should emphasise that we are concerned not simply with the effect of the present tool makers' dispute, serious though that is. The matter goes much wider than that. There has been since last summer a failure to maintain the improvements that were achieved during the first eight months of public ownership—improvements which I described to the House last August—which justified the approval of the first tranche, against which the Opposition did not vote.

The poor record since then has meant that British Leyland's market position in the United Kingdom and abroad has fallen far short of what could be achieved with a proper supply of vehicles. This failure to make the most of our opportunities is not a once-and-for-all loss. It is fast eroding the foundation on which British Leyland's future as a volume car manufacturer must rest.

The whole future of the strategy for British Leyland is being devastatingly undermined. The effect on profits is crucial to the whole operation. Calculations show that, as a result of the stop-pages so far this year, including the tool room dispute, the British Leyland cash position at the end of April will be £70 million worse off.

If there were to be an early full return to continuous working, by the end of the year a substantial part of that loss might—I emphasise "might"—be recovered. But if the strike continues, the harm to British Leyland's cash position will escalate rapidly. At the same time, the confidence of customers at home and abroad, and of the public, will be rapidly eroded.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State reminded the House on Monday that the failure to generate sufficient cash within the company will be crippling to its long-term plans, quite apart from any decision by the Government to withhold funds.

I confirm that the company's present plans call for £1,500 million to be generated internally in profit over the next seven years, as well as the £1,000 million needed from external sources. That ratio of 1½to I makes all too clear a point which the Government have repeatedly made: that public funds alone cannot in any sense secure the future of British Leyland or, for that matter, of any British company.

As the Secretary of State has just told us that the whole basis on which the Ryder Report was approved by the House in 1975 is not being met, because the company is not providing the 1½to 1 ratio from its own resources, will the right hon. Gentleman instruct the National Enterprise Board to renegotiate the Ryder Report, because clearly all assumptions are now no longer valid and are totally out of date?

I have not finished by any means. I shall say something more about the attitude of the British Leyland board and of the NEB. I shall tell the House as much as I can about the discussions that I have had with the NEB and Lord Ryder, its chairman.

The future of British Leyland rests largely in the hands of the company's management and employees. It is some of them—not all, certainly not the majority—who are jeopardising its future by the action now being taken. The great majority of disputes which interrupt British Leyland's production take place without exhausting the agreed procedures for settling disagreements.

When I visited Longbridge recently in the company of my colleagues on the motor industry tripartite group—Jack Jones and Hugh Scanlon—we emphasised as strongly as we could that if only agreed procedures could be observed, that in itself would bring about a massive improvement in the continuity of production. Again and again comparisons made between the performance of our industry and industries on the Continent show that the fact that we do not get continuity of production is one of our greatest weaknesses.

Does the Secretary of State recognise that the phenomenon that he has described has been familiar to us for the last 25 years? Does that not indicate that there is something intrinsically wrong with the procedures, not with the people concerned?

The procedures governing disputes, which have recently been revised with the full support of the AUEW and the trade unions involved, should be observed. That point was put across extremely strongly by those who have the responsibility for leading the major trade unions in the industry.

I am not suggesting that the situation is perfect—of course it is not. We must see whether we can bring about an improvement. But I am bound to tell my hon. Friend that there is no justification for the level of disputes which has taken place. In 1976 there were 700 disputes of one kind or another at British Leyland. That was not solely the result of the pay policy or the serious issues to which my hon. Friend referred.

Does the Secretary of State agree that he can no longer continue to blame the workers or the management for these problems? Until such time as he gives the motor vehicle industry and the whole of British Leyland a complete shake up and shake out, he will not get anywhere.

I am sure that that intervention was just in case the hon. Gentleman failed to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. I think that he has probably made a speech and does not require any comment from me.

I was referring to the procedures, which have recently been revised at British Leyland. The procedures were revised only after the most lengthy and detailed discussions with those who were directly elected to represent the work force. The work force and its representatives were fully involved. In my opinion and that of the Government, there should be no circumstances in which it is justified to take strike action before the agreed procedures have been fully explored. To do so puts at risk the livelihood of everyone who works in British Leyland. I cannot emphasise too strongly that the livelihood of everyone who works there is being put in jeopardy by this constant interruption.

The hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch mentioned the bargaining structure at British Leyland. British Leyland has said time and again over the past few years that it fully accepts the recommendation in the Ryder Report that reform of the bargaining structure there is long overdue. It is widely known that movements in this direction have not been possible so far because they need to be preceded by movements towards a common negotiating date. This in turn is not permitted under the present pay policy, but the 12-month rule is an essential part of the present policy negotiated with the TUC.

A bargain has been made, and, as Hugh Scanlon told the Leyland workers at the meeting three weeks ago, when we met 600 shop stewards,
"A bargain made is a bargain kept."
Discussions are now going on about the next phase of the pay policy. As the Prime Minister reminded British Leyland workers from this Box yesterday, it will be a more flexible policy in the next phase.

However, the demand being made now for separate negotiating rights for different groups of workers would not in any case help to rationalise the bargaining structure of British Leyland. In fact, it would have the opposite effect: it could be argued that it would only exacerbate the existing already unsatisfactory situation. No one should be in any doubt about that.

As I have tried to make clear to the House, Leyland was in danger of reaching crisis point even without the current devastating series of disputes. The Leyland board has been considering what action should be taken to deal with this crisis and give the company the hope that even yet it may survive and prosper, but already it is clear that present plans must be reviewed.

Consultations have taken place between Leyland and the NEB. The NEB in its turn has considered the position over a period of days. It reported to me the evening before last, 28th February, and the Government have urgently considered its conclusions. For reasons of commercial confidentiality that I hope the House will understand, it would not be right to make available the whole correspondence, but I can give the House the outline of the main points.

British Leyland has reported to the NEB that since the major review of progress last summer there has been insufficient evidence of a reduction of industrial disputes or of improved productivity in Leyland Cars and that the situation has deteriorated sharply in recent months. British Leyland has also stated that, unless there is a substantial improvement in performance, the generation of cash by Leyland Cars—an essential component of the Ryder Report strategy—would be insufficient to support the Cars Plan. British Leyland would then be unable to recommend to the NEB and the Government the injection of further funds for modernisation and expansion of Leyland Cars. The NEB has decided that in those circumstances it would be unable to make further funds available for the Cars Plan and I can tell the House that the Government accept that position.

I address this remark to the Minister as a former toolroom worker. I am not prepared to go too far back, but there is no doubt in my mind that this dispute is strictly and almost entirely related to differentials. In the toolroom, that is asking for trouble. Trouble is bound to happen. With great respect to my right hon. Friend, may I ask whether any decision has been taken, first by the company, second by the NEB, and third by the Government that differentials will be restored as soon as possible?

So far as this Government are concerned, phase 2 of the pay policy is absolutely sacrosanct. That is inviolable. There is no way in which we can break that and we refuse to take any action that will break it. But my hon. Friend should know that yesterday the Prime Minister said and others have said that, pay policy permitting, the next phase, phase 3, of the pay policy should be more flexible and that under it some of these things can be taken into consideration.

I should like to go on a little further. In the context of what I have just said, there are other things that I ought to say. Then I shall certainly give way to my hon. Friend, if he still wishes to intervene.

If no further funds are available, the inevitable consequence is a drastic revision of the Cars Plan. The NEB's aim remains that it wants to see British Leyland become a viable car manufacturer. This also remains the Government's wish. There is, however, no prospect of achieving this aim unless urgent action is taken with the following objectives.

First, a complete return to normal working and to planned and agreed levels of output and productivity should be achieved quickly. If, as a result of lost production through industrial disputes, cash continues to flow out of the company at the present rate, the drastic review of the Cars Plan will have to take place at the latest during March, and the consequent cut-back in major investment plans and substantial unemployment will become inevitable at that stage.

Second, after continuity of production has been established, it must be sustained and the planned and agreed levels of output and productivity must be achieved steadily and regularly. Failure to achieve this will bring about the same serious financial consequences and the same need for a drastic review of the Cars Plan.

Third, if the first two objectives can be achieved, the period between now and the time when the next tranche would need to be sought must be used for discussions among management, trade unions and the work force which will result in tangible measures offering the prospect of a radical improvement in industrial relations in Leyland Cars in the future. Without these solid assurances for the longer term, in addition to the achievement of the first two objectives, there will still he no basis for the provision of further funds, and a drastic review of the Cars Plan will again be inevitable.

The Government have carefully considered the NEB's conclusions and objectives and I feel it right to inform the House that we fully endorse them.

On that basis, what my right hon. Friend is now enunciating is an entirely new concept in the whole purpose of industrial relationships. Would he not agree that if any private manufacturer, such as General Electric or ICI, were to make the injection of new capital into its organisations conditional upon industrial relations and the number of disputes, that would be treated in this House as an absolute scandal? Therefore, is it not a disgrace for a leading trade unionist in this country, as my right hon. Friend is acknowledged to be, suddenly to enunciate a new method of this sort and to say that the future of a company depends upon its industrial relationships, when the management is the cause of many of the problems?

What I have been enunciating is the policy which has been decided by the NEB, which has put certain proposals to the Government and asked whether we will endorse them. As my hon. Friend knows, the NEB does not wholly consist of hard-nosed industrialists. Three trade unionists are among its members. While I do not say that they are necessarily the sole arbiters, the views which I have put to the House and endorsed on the Government's behalf are the views of the NEB collectively.

I cannot go further than that. The simple point that I want to emphasise is that no one is more sick than I am about this situation. I want Leyland Cars to be a volume producer of cars. I shall say exactly in a little while what I have done and what part I have played in this. The simple fact is that if the company is to be successful not only the £1,000 million of Government money is involved but the profits which British Leyland can make.

Apart from the Ryder strategy, there was not only the £1,000 million of public funds or funds from external sources but the £1,500 million which Leyland would have to generate itself. It is clear from what has happened so far that the 1977 Cars Plan cannot be realised unless a dramatic improvement takes place immediately.

I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hills-borough (Mr. Flannery).

Will my right hon. Friend take note that on this specific point all the support is coming from the Opposition Benches? There are many Labour Members who, like himself, know a great deal about industrial relations—[HON. MEMBERS "What does the hon. Gentleman know?"] The barracking from the Opposition is welcome. On the Government side there is quietness and a willingness to listen. I hope that my right hon. Friend takes note that we think that the Government's stance is liable to intensify the problem and to make a solution more difficult.

My hon. Friend is entitled to that view. We are sorry that we have had to make this statement. The NEB, which was set up by this Government to monitor the performance of British Leyland, has made a recommendation to the Government on certain action. What have we to do as a Government? Do we say to the NEB that it has no right to make those recommendations? Do we deny it the right to make them? If we did that, it would be serious for the NEB and for those who are charged with responsibility for it. No one should act on any assumption other than that the Government, the NEB and the British Leyland board mean what they say and accept fully the implications and consequences which will follow unless the situation is quickly put right and stays right.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, the position will be reviewed thoroughly before further funds are committed. The implications for employment in many areas of the country, particularly the West Midlands, could be profound. I want all workers at Leyland, including those on unofficial strike today, to be quite clear that their own future employment and the future of their company is now in their hands. They can kill it or they can save it. They will have no one else to blame or to thank.

Could the right hon. Gentleman help the House by telling us what happened to the existing authorised tranche of £100 million of which, I understand, £25 million has already been drawn? Is the other £75 million, destined for investment, available only for investment, or is it for working money?

The £100 million approved last August by this House will still go to British Leyland. As the right hon. Gentleman said, £25 million was drawn by British Leyland last week, and a further £25 million will be required very shortly—

for commitments that have been entered into by British Leyland for investment. If the situation deteriorates further, I shall take an early opportunity of informing the House. The situation is changing rapidly from day to day because of British Leyland's cash position and the fact that car production targets are not being met.

A year and three quarters ago I had responsibility for asking the House to approve the proposals for placing British Leyland in public ownership at a cost of £246 million. Seven months ago I asked the House to approve the Department of Industry's share of the first £100 million tranche of loan finance for British Leyland. Since then I have approved the plan for the new Mini, on which rests the future of Leyland as a volume car producer. I have always had high hopes that Leyland could win through and succeed, for its work force and the country. That hope now depends on the actions of the work force from today onwards. Even now that hope can still be fulfilled, But time is running out fast. I hope that the serious statement which I have made will be taken fully into account by all those in British Leyland and that action will be taken quickly to put the situation right.

Before I call the next hon. Member, may I tell the House that a large number of hon. Members have indicated to me that they hope to catch my eye? Brevity, therefore, would be a great help.

4.46 p.m.

The Secretary of State has described a bleak and grave situation, but he has spoken with considerable firmness, which has not always been self-evident. It is encouraging that he has spoken in that way in order to bring home the seriousness of the situation to all those concerned with Leyland.

Last night I had a long telephone conversation with the AUEW convener of the Leyland factory outside Swindon in my constituency. He was a very worried man, not about his factory but about the whole future of Leyland. He, too, emphasised many of the points which have been made today by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) and by the Secretary of State about loss of confidence. The convener asked how any company could continue to lose £12 million a day through lost production and yet remain in business. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, 200,000 cars, which were included in the Leyland plan for last year, have been lost.

There is a total lack of realism on the part of some tool makers, but not all, which put the whole future of Leyland at risk. Adjacent to Swindon in my consituency there are 1,011 tool makers, maintenance men and machine maintenance men, who make up the biggest Leyland toolroom and, I am told, supply 45 per cent. of presswork needs. They are not on strike and they do not support the unofficial strike.

The AUEW members were consulted about the tool makers' strike but believed it was untimely and would create a loss of money and hardship for their families. They are resting their hopes on phase 3 of the pay policy. Yet the Swindon tool makers are among the lowest paid. Their differentials have been steadily eroded. Phase 1 and phase 2 of the pay policy precluded them from achieving their objective of comparability with Cowley, which was agreed with management before the introduction of the incomes policy. Therefore, undoubtedly there is bitterness and they have more reason to strike than many.

Why are they not doing so? The explanation I have been given is "sheer common sense" and an appreciation of the serious consequences of a strike for the future of the company, coupled with their loyalty to their union. That that common sense and realism are not prevalent elsewhere is self-evident.

It is worth recalling the comments made by the Expenditure Committee's Trade and Industry Sub-Committee in its conclusions to the report on the motor vehicle industry, published in August 1975. It said:
"There is an urgent need …for the greatest degree of co-operation between, and effort on the part of, management and workforce …The possibility of concerns becoming permanent pensioners' is something which neither Government nor Parliament should contemplate."
Parliament and Government cannot contemplate permanent pensioners, simply because the country cannot afford them. Therefore, the alternatives for Leyland are to die or to rejuvenate itself by a much greater effort by the management and work forces. The Secretary of State strongly repeated this today.

Why have there not been that effort and co-operation in the past? I think that there are two reasons. The first is the Government's inability so far to communicate to the total work force that the money is limited. That is barely surprising. To publicise all the Ryder proposals and to make a commitment to them was to imply that money from the National Enterprise Board or the Government was to be available regardless of productivity, regardless of unofficial action by labour and regardless of any cause of disturbance to the flow of production. Not to insist on firm productivity agreements was highly irresponsible in the use of the taxpayer's money.

The right hon. Gentleman and the House may remember the words of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), who said on the publication of the Expenditure Committee's report:
"We were left with the feeling that Ryder and his team thought of money rather as confetti."
If that was true of the Sub-Committee's Chairman and its members, of whom I was one, it was bound to be true of the Leyland work force. If money was thought to be so plentiful, why should anyone worry?

The second reason why there was no adequate co-operation or effort stems from the pay policy's inflexibility. It does not allow for the consideration of differentials, productivity, special cases, and so on. But it should, and it would have done if there had been any consistency in economic or incomes policies.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Secretary of State's response this afternoon has been most disappointing in that he has given no clear commitment to recognition of differentials at the end of phase 2 in August, but will, as I understood him, take a decision on the company's future in March?

My hon. Friend has anticipated what I was going to say. I agree that that is a considerable shortcoming in what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon.

We are now considerably concerned with differentials, as my hon. Friend implied. Early in 1974 we were concerned about what were then termed relativities. Logic may have very little to do with politics, but it seems to me that if there had been a logical progression and development of incomes policies from, say, the Roy Jenkins freeze of 1966, by now we should have an incomes policy which took account of many if not all of the points now in dispute, and the country would be far better off. Instead, each Opposition in turn have believed that they could do without an incomes policy, until 18 months after taking office they discover that they cannot. Therefore, some of the pressing Leyland problems stem from the lack of continuity and consistency provided by the British political system.

Does my hon. Friend agree that after two or three years of having an incomes policy each Government have concluded that it will not damned well work?

I do not accept that. Each Government have concluded that if they are to continue with the incomes policy they will become somewhat unpopular before the next General Election. If each Government tried harder, they might bring about progress with an incomes policy, even though they might not improve their chances of winning an election. The consequences of the present chopping and changing are adverse for the whole country.

The Secretary of State says that if any pay concession were made to the tool makers now it would be seen as a concession to extremism. I was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman standing so firmly by phase 2. If there were a concession, it would totally undermine the position of moderate shop stewards such as those at Swindon, and would immediately cause trouble amongst other skilled unions. Therefore, what the Government must do now is to reiterate, as the Secretary of State has, that there will be no more funds without a firm productivity agreement, and that if there are no funds Leyland will indeed gradually bleed to death.

There must be a terminal date before which agreement must be reached and after which, without an agreement, Leyland will be broken up. That was done in the case of Chrysler. If the unions there had not accepted and signed the details of the statement of intent of, I think, 16th December 1975, Chrysler would have gone into liquidation on 31st December. I believe that a similar approach in Leyland will mobilise the moderate majority of people working for that company. It will stop them believing, in a good old-fashioned English way, that somehow the company will muddle through.

This sort of shock treatment is the only hope for the future. If it is coupled with the repetition of a commitment to flexibility in phase 3 and tax cuts in the Budget, I think that there is some hope of a solution.

The possibility that Leyland might go under, putting at risk 170,000 jobs directly and several hundred thousand more indirectly, is a very grave one for British industry. It is by no means certain that our political and social fabric could stand the strain of such a disaster. But every day that passes in the present crisis makes what is a possibility more of a probability.

The Government must from now on act without the ambivalence which they have sometimes shown and with a firmness that has been far too intermittent so far.

4.58 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson
(Coventry, North-West)