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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 927: debated on Monday 7 March 1977

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British Leyland Motor Corporation


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what representations he has received from British Leyland or the National Enterprise Board in connection with the investment of further public funds in British Leyland.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next intends to visit officially any British Leyland factory.

I have no further plans at present to visit any British Leyland factory. I have nothing further to add to the statement I made on 2nd March.

In the light of the comments made this morning by Mr. Roy Fraser that the attitude of the toolmakers has hardened, does the Secretary of State feel that the situation has worsened since he last spoke to the House? Is he, in conjunction with the National Enterprise Board, laying any contingency plans to keep the specialist car division, Jaguar and Rover, afloat even if the volume car production has to be irrevocably closed?

The NEB is considering the matter and is looking at the situation continually. I have not heard Mr. Fraser's statement, but I can only hope that he and his colleagues will quickly return to work in accordance with the advice given to them over the weekend by Mr. Hugh Scanlon on behalf of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions.

Has the Secretary of State any estimate of how much longer British Leyland can survive the present dispute before it begins to trade while insolvent? Is he satisfied that the AUEW appreciates the urgency of the situation given that it has taken an extremely long time even to meet its members on strike? Does he think that he can offer any encouragement to the toolmakers to return to work by announcing that no future stage of Government pay policy will be based on the principle of giving precisely the same rise to everyone regardless of skills and responsibilities?

There is no question of British Leyland trading illegally. It is clear that the financial position of British Leyland is deteriorating as a result of the dispute, and I repeat that I hope it ends as soon as possible. It is not for me to pronounce about future incomes policy. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, from this Dispatch Box last week, said that it was the Government's intention that phase 3—if it could be negotiated—would be more flexible. I think that that has been made plain to the toolmakers at British Leyland, and it has been fully acknowledged by the AUEW that we are doing everything in our power to get the chaps back to work.

Will my right hon. Friend place in the Library the letter he received last week from the NEB? Quite clearly, after the debate last week the comments of Mr. Urwin cast great doubts on the accuracy of the information given to the House by my right hon. Friend.

The letter I received from the NEB is confidential concerning certain commercial information. It is not in the best interests of British Leyland to lay it before the House. I can tell my hon. Friend that the objective set out in my speech on 2nd March was agreed with the NEB. My understanding was that the main parts of my speech had been agreed unanimously by the NEB, including Mr. Urwin.

Is the Secretary of State aware that suppliers of British Leyland are beginning to lay men off and that unless urgent action is taken unemployment will snowball in the Midlands?

The position at British Leyland is clearly tragic. For the past 18 months or more I have been prepared to back British Leyland and to persuade this House, as best as I was able, to support its long-term future. The £246 million to acquire 95 per cent. of British Leyland for the State, the first tranche of £100 million last August and the Mini replacement programme which I persuaded my colleagues in the Government should go ahead are all being placed in jeopardy.

Moderna (Witney) Ltd, Mytholmroyd


asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he has received an application from Sona Consultants Ltd. for financial assistance for a manufacturing project at Moderna, Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire.

Yes, Sir. I am pleased to inform my hon. Friend that an application has been submitted to my regional office in Leeds this morning. This application does not, however, contain all the detailed forward trading forecasts which the Department will require to process it. The company has told the Department that it expects to be able to provide the additional information in about three weeks.

In view of the most unfortunate circumstances surrounding this takeover, will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the application will be considered by his Department as a matter of urgency? Secondly, can he say how many jobs will be provided under this proposal and by when? If this proposal is supported, will he also impose a condition to maintain production and employment at this factory? Does he not also agree that these circumstances highlight the need for a revival of Labour's proposals to introduce official trustees in situations of this kind?

Will the Minister bear in mind that if he answers two out of four questions the House will be satisfied?

I shall be as helpful as I can, Mr. Speaker. The Department will consider as speedily as it can what my hon. Friend has said, but it is a complicated application and it is for a considerable sum. Therefore, we shall need to examine the viability and funding completely. The projected employment is 150 persons by 1980, and the total project cost, including working capital, will be just over £4 million. The answer to my hon. Friend's last point about official trustees is that the powers were envisaged in Labour's programme for 1973. We shall have a further look at that.

Manufacturing (Financial Assistance)


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is his estimate of the total amount of public funds contributed to manufacturing industry for the latest convenient period.

Records of expenditure are not, by and large, maintained so as to distinguish manufacturing industry from other industrial activity, but assistance to manufacturing industry during the period 1974–75 to 1976–77 has been about £6,350 million at 1976 survey prices. This figure does not include support for nationalised industries, industrial training, Redundancy Fund payments or labour market services, which together account for a further £2,582 million at 1976 survey prices.

If my hon. Friend has any particular aspect in mind, I shall be pleased to hear from him.

The aspect that I have in mind will be well known to my hon. Friend. Does not this massive figure of public money contributed to private industry make all the more urgent the need for planning agreements within industry? This is a tragedy which my hon. Friend has constantly failed to answer.

On the contrary, I have tried to answer my hon. Friend on the matter of planning agreements when his Question has been reached, which has not always happened. I hope he will have taken careful note that there is a Question on this subject later on the Order Paper.

Does the Minister agree that it is not only a question of the amount of funds that have been put into industry but rather a question of the use that is made of them? What is his Department doing to make certain that output and productivity in our industry are increased?

That is the whole purpose of our industrial strategy and the National Economic Development Office and the sector working parties. When my hon. Friend considers applications for assistance under the various selective schemes, that is obviously the kind of matter that he always has uppermost in his mind.

Aircraft And Shipbuilding


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what companies in the aircraft and shipbuilding and repairing sectors he expects to be excluded from the provisions of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Act following the Examiners' decision of 17th February.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is his policy towards the nationalisation of the aircraft and shipbuilding industries, in the light of the decision by the Examiners that the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill is hybrid; and if he will make a statement.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain clearly why the list of companies to be cut out, the ship repair companies, does not include the company whose ship repair division accounts for 15 per cent. of the total United Kingdom capacity—Vosper Thornycroft?

Our agreement with the Opposition, through the usual channels, was that the Bill should proceed to Royal Assent in its present form apart from the deletion of the 12 listed ship repairing companies. Vosper Thornycroft's ship repairing activity, as it stressed in its own publicity material, is closely integrated with its shipbuilding activity. It is a division of the listed shipbuilding company and not a separate company.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I visited Vosper Thornycroft ship repairers on Friday and that in the light of the new circumstances the men there are confused and angry with both the company and the Government at their possible exclusion from the list? Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the incorporation of the ship repairing activities at Vosper's in a massive nationalised shipbuilding company is wholly illogical? Will he consider the proposition not in a doctrinal way but in the best interests of the men who work there and of the industry, bearing in mind that fragmenting off one company seems wholly illogical?

I was specific when I made my statement on the Bill on 2nd March. The agreement that we have reached, which I hope can now proceed, to get the Bill to the statute book as quickly as possible excludes only the 12 listed ship repairing companies. In those circumstances, it would be impractical and a denial of that arrangement if we excluded Vosper Thornycroft's ship repairing activities.

Civil Aircraft Projects


asked the Secretary of State for Industry which civil aircraft projects, including aeroengines, are receiving financial assistance; and what is the amount of assistance project by project.

Total financial assistance given up to 31 March 1976 on projects currently receiving support was £7·1 million on the HS146; £522 million on the RB211; £471 million on Concorde; £245 million on the Olympus engine, and £62 million on capital assistance agreements and on work in Government establishments associated with Concorde. This expenditure was offset by receipts of £297·5 million on the RB211 and £84 million on the Concorde project as a whole.

While I am grateful to the Minister for giving those details, can he say how seriously the Government are pursuing the HS146 project and whether they really see it becoming a civil airliner? If not, what other projects with Europe or our American colleagues have they in mind?

Our seriousness about the HS146 is emphasised by the fact that we rescued that project after Hawker Siddeley had decided to abandon it unless the Government funded it 100 per cent. The latest proposals are being examined carefully. We shall make an announcement as soon as possible, but it will be for British Aerospace to make its recommendations on whether it wishes to go ahead with the HS146. We are pursuing all other possibilities for collaborative arrangements. I have had talks with Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed and our French, German and Dutch partners. Every possibility that is available will be pursued to secure projects which will bring jobs to British workers.

Does the Minister agree that it is critically important for both the civil and military divisions of the British aerospace industry to maintain the highest level of design capability in this country? In this regard, is he satisfied that we shall maintain our design capability if the Government proceed with the purchase of the American airborne early-warning system?

Questions about the purchase of the American early-warning system are not for me but for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the maintenance of the design capability is absolutely essential for the British aircraft industry that we are determined to retain and enhance.

Derelict Land Clearance


asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will outline the criteria for specification of land as a derelict land clearance area; how much land has been so designated in Lancashire; and what is the amount of grant paid in this respect in the acquisition and improvement of derelict land for industrial development.

As Lancashire is an intermediate area, it qualifies for 100 per cent. reclamation grants without designation as a derelict land clearance area. During the current financial year, 28 schemes in Lancashire have so far been approved for grant at an estimated cost of £446,000. In two of these schemes the land is intended for industrial use.

Would not an acceleration of the improvement reduce the high unemployment of the area and use other unused resources at relatively low cost? Is there not a need to conserve land which is being used up for commerce and manufacturing at a rate of about 50,000 acres a year?

One of the general constraints on such expenditure is always the limitation of public funds, which the Government must bear in mind. But I take note of the points my hon. Friend has made, and he can rest assured that proper care is being given to the area of Lancashire that he represents.

Power Plant Industry


asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the outcome of his consultations on the CPRS Report on the electrical plant industry.

When will the consultations be concluded? When will the announcement be made? Can my right hon. Friend assure us that discussions about mergers will not delay a decision on Drax B?

The discussions are being pressed ahead as quickly as possible. I agree with my hon. Friend that the matter is urgent. I have had meetings with the companies concerned, the TUC Fuel and Power Committee and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions, the unions most directly involved in representing the men who work in the industry. The consultations will be pressed ahead as quickly as possible, but I think that it will be some little time before I can make a definitive statement to the House. However, I can tell my hon. Friend that we want agreement in principle for a restructured heavy electrical plant industry and that we see Drax B as a first component in a minimum ordering programme for the CEGB.

Will the Secretary of State remind his hon. Friend that the CPRS Report stated that the Drax B decision, taken in isolation from all others, would only postpone redundancies in Newcastle and elsewhere for about two years? Will he assure the House that no decision will be taken to oblige the Central Electricity Generating Board to order power plants for which there is no apparent need if that will have the effect of putting up industrial costs for employers in every other industry throughout the country?

What is at stake is whether we should preserve the heavy electrical plant industry. It is clear that if we were not to have a minimum ordering programme, of which Drax B is an essential part, we should probably finish up with no heavy electrical plant industry. The discussions with the companies concerned are going ahead as quickly as possible. I hope shortly to be able to make a statement about the outcome.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he last used the phrase "as quickly as possible" at the end of February? The end of February has passed without its coming about. Is he also aware that my constituents will welcome what he said about Drax B, but that the redundancies in C. A. Parsons' plant in my constituency are now imminent and that we must have an announcement from him soon?

I can only re-emphasise that I understand the urgency of the situation, but we must get some restructuring of the industries concerned. That is our policy, which is in line with the CPRS Report. I hope that further progress can be made in the days and weeks ahead. It is our view, too, that the National Enterprise Board should be involved in the discussions. I understand that the companies have already had discussions with that body.

Will the Secretary of State, in considering this very difficult matter which is on his plate, bear in mind that any money to provide a power station ahead of requirement must come from somewhere and that as many jobs may be destroyed and as much industrial damage done elsewhere in finding the money as in the solution which some people are urging on him?

I do not see the situation quite in those terms. It is clear that the CEGB will have to order power stations, as will the two Scottish boards, in the 1980s. We are talking about having a minimum ordering programme and preserving an industry which we certainly hope will have an export potential. It is clear that if we let our industry go we shall be permanent prisoners of overseas suppliers. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would like to see that situation.

Scottish Council

(Development And Industry)


asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next proposes to meet the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) in Edinburgh.

I have no plans at present to meet the Scottish' Council, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is in close touch with the Council.

Will the Under-Secretary congratulate the Scottish Council Research Institute on the excellent work that it has done on the input-output study of the Scottish economy which shows that Scotland is in equilibrium on the balance of payments? Given that there are no balance of payments constrictions on the Scottish economy, will he ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reflate the Scottish economy immediately and to stop any further public expenditure cuts in Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman is following his usual path of separation. The Labour Government do not feel that that path would be beneficial to the working people of Scotland. The working men and women of Scotland face much the same problems as the working men and women of England and Wales. Therefore, it seems to me that the hon. Member's question is distinctly frivolous and hardly relevant to the situation confronting this country.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the strong feelings of the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) about the need to decentralise industry and, therefore, to disperse jobs to places like Scotland? Will he arrange for an explanation to be given to the House as to why the will of the Government and Parliament is being deliberately flouted by the British National Oil Corporation, which has so far provided only 17 jobs in its so-called headquarters in Glasgow? Is not that deliberately flouting Parliament's decision to locate the headquarters in Scotland? Will he also remind the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) and his SNP colleagues that they voted against the Bill which set up the British National Oil Corporation?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I recognise his considerable ingenuity in putting a question to the Department of Industry which is not its responsibility. I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

If there is any kind of equilibrium in the Scottish balance of payments—the facts must be rather dubious—will the hon. Gentleman point out to the Scottish Council that it is overwhelmingly dependent on the British market for Scottish industry? Will he make sure that the Council fully understands that there must be no political or economic impediment in the way of a continuing British market?

I accept some of the hon. Gentleman's points. We are concerned to see that the invidious propaganda of the Scottish National Party does not wreathe a mystique in Scotland which is totally divorced from the reality of the economic situation facing us.

Capital Returns


asked the Secretary of State for Industry how the current average rate of return on capital in British industry compares with the rate of return 15 years ago.

Measured at replacement cost, about one-third of what it was in 1961.

Does the Minister agree that the serious trend shown by that answer goes a long way to explaining the comparatively low level of new investment in British industry today which this year's slightly better prospects do little to alleviate since they started from a very low base last year? What steps is the Department currently taking to impress on other Ministers, including the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection in his consideration of the next stage of prices policy, the overwhelming need to improve this rate of return?

The best-kept secret from the Opposition seems to be that the world has gone through an unprecedented recession in the post-war period. Therefore, it is not surprising that our profit levels are exceptionally low, just as they probably are in other countries.

I can understand that the Opposition wish to wrap the Price Code firmly around their origination of the policy. I must point out that we have on successive occasions eased the application of the Price Code. The present discussions on it give rise to the further possibility of removing some of the rigidities while retaining some form of price control acceptable to everyone in the country. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's basic argument about the profitability of industry obviously being linked to investment. Nevertheless, I do not think that he can attribute that problem entirely to this Government. The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that we have just gone through a major recession.

Order. I appeal to hon. Members to try to get back to the old custom of a supplementary question being one question. The answer will then follow.

In the discussions on the Price Code, will my right hon. Friend, instead of being too flexible, be a bit tougher on individual items, especially items in household budgets?

My hon. Friend will appreciate that the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection is carrying out the consultations. I am sure that, from his reading of the proposals put forward by the Government, he will see that an analysis in depth, where profits appear to be unduly high, will be possible under the new régime.

Is the Minister aware that merely to hold unemployment at its present level it is necessary for the private sector to create 13,000 new jobs a month? Is he further aware that the private sector is capable of doing that provided that there is a shift to profits and provided that the Government do not follow the job-destroying proposals of Mr. Jones?

And provided that inflation is overcome and the world returns to a state of growth. I assume that, since the hon. Gentleman wants similar objectives to ourselves, he supports the policy that we are putting forward to achieve that situation.

Advance Factories


asked the Secretary of State for Industry how much advance factory space is currently under construction; and what is the total value of the contracts in progress.

The area under construction in England is 1·5 million sq. ft. at a contracted cost of £13·2 million.

Will the Minister tell us what benefit he sees in spending that amount of money and adding to the 50 million sq. ft. of vacant factory space in the 200 or so unoccupied advance factories which have already been completed?

I am sure that it will have been noted in the North of England that, in a speech last week from the Opposition Front Bench, the Conservative spokesman on Welsh affairs deplored the fact that new factories had been approved for the North of England. The hon. Gentleman asked about the value of such a policy. I should point out that 60,000 workers in England already work in Government-owned factories. I should also point out that, in the nine months between 1st April last year and the beginning of January this year, the rate of letting of advance factories was double what it was the year before and was double what it was in the last 12 months of the Conservative Government. Therefore, I think that our policy is thoroughly vindicated as an investment in the future.

Does the Minister recall that in the last day or so he has written to me about the letting of an advance factory in my constituency? Is he aware of the immense benefit which this programme has in the upland, rural areas where there is depopulation and rural decay? In view of the high level of unemployment over which the Government have presided, will the Minister ensure that upland, rural areas will not lose out in this factory development in comparison with other parts of the country?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his earlier remarks and for his vindication of my Department because we reply to letters as soon as possible. Of course I take his point, but his criticism about the Government presiding over the highest level of unemployment is unjustified. The Opposition must face up to the fact that we are experiencing the biggest world recession since the last war.

Planning Agreements


asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many planning agreements have now been concluded in the public and private sectors, respectively.

A statement will be laid before Parliament when a planning agreement has been made.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the absence of any planning agreements in either the public or the private sector is an indication of the total failure of the voluntary principle? Is he aware that the failure to achieve planning agreements in the public sector is little short of incredible? Does he agree that the Government's industrial strategy can be seen to be without substance and effect as manifest by the level of investment and employment?

Although I generally agree with my hon. Friend, on this occasion I find it difficult to do so. We are proceeding with the planning agreement policy in both the public and private sectors. We hope to make some announcement shortly. The principle of voluntary planning agreements was set out in "Regeneration of British Industry" and in the Industry Bill. It was endorsed by my hon. Friend by his votes in the House for those policies.

When planning agreements are agreed and an announcement is made, will the Minister tell the House that the likes of the toolmakers at British Leyland will be involved in the discussions prior to the agreements being made? Does he agree that if the toolmakers, who are vital to the car industry, had been consulted a little more the Government would have achieved more flexibility in the prices and incomes policy, which would have meant that the present chaos at British Leyland would not have been with us?

I am interested to hear that an hon. Member who voted for two compulsory incomes policies and has supported his right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) should now be miraculously converted to a voluntary incomes policy from no incomes policy at all. It is easy for him to change his mind when in Opposition instead of following his Whips when in Government. The whole process of the planning agreement discussions involved workers through their trade union representatives. It is open to the toolmakers at Leyland to take part in the participation machinery at Leyland, just as it is possible for the workers at Chrysler to take part in planning agreement discussions there.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the planning agreement with Chrysler will be welcomed on this side of the House? Is he aware that considerable progress has been achieved already by Chrysler on the basis of the joint reconstruction programme that has been worked out between that company and the Government?

This is a matter about which we hear little from the Opposition because it is one of the many successes achieved by this Government. When we are able to make further announcements on these matters, Opposition hon. Members, whose negativism is becoming the symbol of their party's existence, will once again be shown to be frustrated.

Because the Chrysler company in the United States has made profits and has taken the British Government for a £40 million ride, what do the Government think they can tell Chrysler about running a business?

I am interested to hear that the hon. Member's appreciation of United States capitalism is greater than for the success that he can attribute to British capitalism.

Consett And Stanley


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what expansion he expects to provide for male employment opportunities in Consett and Stanley, County Durham, in the next financial year.

Regional selective assistance offered under Section 7 of the Industry Act 1972 to projects located in Consett and Stanley is expected to provide 240 male jobs in the year ending 31st March 1978. In addition, employment is also expected to arise from the payment of regional development grants and the provision of Government factories.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Is he aware that, apart from the constantly high level of unemployment in Consett and Stanley, there is also a continuing loss of jobs in the basic industries such as steel and coal mining on which the economy of the area is dependent? Is he aware that this continuing loss of jobs shows no sign of abating?

I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern. The area to which he referred has special development area status—the highest level of assistance that is available. In Consett and Stanley there have been 19 offers of regional selective assistance amounting to over £600,000 in respect of projects that are expected to cost £11 million. The projects will involve 1,600 new or safeguarded jobs. In addition, there are two advance factories available in Consett. We try to provide every possible incentive to industry to go to areas such as this. It is a continuing problem, but my Department is using its best endeavours to bring some amelioration to the problem.



asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will pay an official visit to a factory in the city of Leicester.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if he goes to Leicester he will receive a warm welcome and will have the opportunity to congratulate the trade unions and management on their resilience and craftsmanship and their success in exports? Will he bear in mind the grave difficulties that exist in the traditional industries in Leicestershire, particularly in hosiery and footwear and even more particularly in those that rely on the home market? Can the Minister do anything to help?

I share my hon. and learned Friend's congratulations for the way in which management and trade unions in the area have withstood the pressures of the recession. I am sure my hon. and learned Friend will be glad to hear that the latest figures show that there has been an increase of about 300 in the number of vacancies in the area over the last year. Last year 35 industrial development certificates were approved, and another seven have already been approved this year. Between them about 2,000 jobs will be created. We have taken action to stop the dumping of low-priced foreign footwear. I am sure my hon. and learned Friend will be pleased that at present in the hosiery industry demand for labour, including machinists, exceeds supply.

Postal Sorting Offices


asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many postal sorting offices in the United Kingdom have been equipped with modem sorting machinery.

As this is a matter falling within the Post Office's field of responsibility, the hon. Member should write to it on this subject.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he able to tell me why many of these very expensive machines which have been installed in post offices up and down the country are not being used? I understand that there is a very large installation in London which has been lying idle for many years.

I thought that that was precisely what I was saying. If the hon. Member has any specific instances, he should contact the Post Office.

In view of the anticipated profit that the Post Office expects to make during the next period, will my hon. Friend consider discussing with the Post Office the possibility of keeping down future increases in postal charges?

Much as I admire my hon. Friend's ingenuity, that is a different question.

Is the Minister aware that such answers are not acceptable to the House of Commons? Is he aware that we simply cannot get answers to Questions about the Post Office from a Minister? It would be better to go back to the days of the Postmaster-General. Although it is true that it is necessary for the Post Office to make a profit, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is now grossly profiteering at the expense of the consumer, particularly on telephones?

Order. I said "Good" because I welcomed the fact that the Minister indicated that the supplementary question was not related to the original Question, and it really applies to what the hon. Gentleman was asking.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have found with both Questions for Written Answer and Questions for Oral Answer to the Department of Industry that it is almost impossible to get any answer to any Question on the economy of the Post Office. The people are concerned to know whether the Post Office is making—

Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will raise the matter at the end of Question Time.

Ferrous Foundry Scheme


asked the Secretary of State for Industry how much money has now been given out in aid under the ferrous foundry scheme to date in each of the development areas.

Up to the end of February the following amounts, to the nearest £1,000, had been offered to companies in development—including special development—areas:

Northern Region3,149,000
North-West Region31,000
South-West Region57,000
A total of £7¼ million has also been offered to companies in intermediate areas. Actual payments so far have been quite small since they are made only when expenditure has taken place.

In view of the large number of foundry workers who are either unemployed or on short-time working in places such as Denny, Dunipace, Dennyloanhead and Bonnybridge and elsewhere in my constituency, and as this situation is likely to deteriorate with the withdrawal of regional employment premium and the cuts in public expenditure, which will cause the loss of local government contracts, will my hon. Friend consider extending the ferrous foundry scheme to give help to these workers, particularly those in smaller foundries?

The scheme closed on 31st December. Certainly we think that it is a massive scheme of assistance. The fact that expenditure has started only in a very small sort of way and that there is considerable expenditure yet to come would, I should have thought, be an indication of considerable help to the foundry industry.

With regard to the ending of REP, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced, there has been a further expenditure of £80 million on forms of selective assistance. We hope that this selective assistance will make up for and be more effective than the general across-the-board allocation of REP. I recognise and acknowledge the great concern that my hon. Friend has shown, but the foundry scheme has been aimed selectively at improving the efficiency of the foundry industry.

Regional Policy


asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he proposes to hold a review of regional policy.

The effectiveness of our regional policy is constantly monitored.

I entirely accept the concept of regional policy, but is the Minister aware that the present policy involving vast sums of money spread thinly over ever-widening areas is quite unrealistic at present? In view of the appalling unemployment and deterioration, particularly in the urban areas, is not a fresh and more concentrated approach now called for?

I think the hon. Gentleman will be fully aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is conducting a review of the problems of the urban areas, and I am sure that we should await the outcome of that survey.

Indeed I am.

Concerning regional policy, in a period, again, of intense recession there is the difficulty that the long-term underlying structural problems of the traditionally assisted areas can be overlaid by the very heavy unemployment that results from a recession. If we are not careful, we could greatly damage the long-term effect of regional policy if we reacted against what is inevitably a short-term problem of unemployment.

I do not dissent from what the Minister has said, but is he aware that in certain areas, notably of the county of Clwyd, there is a longterm structural unemployment problem? This is an area which, compared with surrounding areas, is without the development area status of, for example, Merseyside and the rest of Wales.

I fully appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point. An application is before me at present from the Clwyd County Council. The hon. Gentleman should be perhaps somewhat relieved that the application is lying on my desk instead of on the desk of his hon. Friend the Member for Harrow Central (Mr. Grant), who wants to restrict the areas that are receiving this assistance.

In the context of an earlier question put by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Canavan), does not the Minister agree that regional policy has been a disaster as far as Scotland is concerned? Does he not agree that the only way in which Scottish industry can be rejuvenated would be by a Scottish Assembly with full economic powers?

The hon. Gentleman lives in a poly-paradise. He does not seem to recognise that, if it had not been for regional policy—I hope that the nationalists will turn their attention to this matter—followed by Governments of both major parties over the last 20 to 25 years, the situation in Scotland today would be far worse than it is now. I say that as a Welsh Member of Parliament. For years many parts of England have forgone industrial development in order to help my part of the country and the hon. Gentleman's part of the country. The incredible ingratitude and bitterness of the nationalists should be seen for what it is.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the regional policies pursued by all Governments since the end of the last war have succeeded in maintaining the unity of Britain and that it is good economic policy to ensure that industry is dispersed throughout Britain, including Wales and Scotland? In view of this, although the Government are doing much in the way of selective assistance, will they look again at REP, which has worked well over the years?

I entirely accept my hon. Friend's basic premise. I am sure that most hon. Members—except a few of the frantic fringe—accept that we must have a unified approach to our industrial problems.

As for REP, the successive effects of inflation have meant that its real impact, in terms of cost to a firm, became very marginal. It seemed far better in that case to concentrate money on those really in need, who could be saved by the much higher rate of temporary employment subsidy—I am sure my hon. Friend will accept that it is a very valuable asset for many firms—and to release money for selective assistance, such as the new selective scheme that my right hon. Friend announced earlier and such as the £65 million scheme for the shipbuilding industry announced about a fortnight ago.



asked the Secretary of State for Industry at what proportion of capacity the British steel industry is currently operating; how this compares with the present position of other steel-producing countries in Western Europe;-and if he expects any early improvement in orders and production.

The British steel industry operated at about 75 per cent. capacity in 1976 compared with an estimate of 65 per cent. for the Six using ECSC definitions. Part of the difference was due to production for stock by the British industry, including counter-cyclical stockbuilding by BSC. I do not expect a signifi- cant upturn in demand before the third quarter of 1977.

I thank my hon. Friend for that information. Will he assure us that the policy of ingot stocking will be continued and that the maximum sustainable level of activity will be maintained, particularly by the Corporation's most profitable plant?

I can give my hon Friend the assurance that we regard the stockbuilding schemes that have taken place as having been extremely important in maintaining employment and making sure that industry is ready for the upturn when it comes. Regarding my hon. Friend's latter remarks, we have made quite clear that we cannot accept artificial restrictions on production, although we are very anxious to co-operate with the Commission in an anti-recession scheme which helps all European steel-making countries.

As the industry has a 25 per cent. under-used capacity, is not the Minister particularly concerned? What steps will he take to rectify the problem of the amount of imported steel that is being brought into Britain particularly to meet the demands of the car industry?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have taken steps to deal with special imports of certain steels, and we are watching that matter. At the same time, we know that the industry is not yet able to meet certain demands. It is obviously important to the maintenance of other sectors of the economy that the imports should take place. However, Sir Charles Villiers has made clear that he wishes to ensure that the import penetration of steel is reduced as rapidly as possible.

Motor Industry


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what studies he has initiated with British Leyland and the NEB as to the optimum size of a factory in the British motor industry measured by the total number of people employed in such a factory; and how many factories in British Leyland are currently larger than the optimum size.

Is the Minister aware that his reply is rather unsatisfactory? He might put his mind to the fact that it is clear to me that as factories get larger there is a danger of increasing alienation between workers and management. I put this thought to the Minister. It may be that part of British Leyland's continuing difficulties lies in the very large number of people employed in British Leyland factories, and that the Minister, the NEB, and the British Leyland Board should reflect on the cautionary tale of Jack and the Beanstalk.

The hon. Gentleman has raised a question of some importance. However, I am sure he will know from his own studies that there are not unanimous views along the lines he has suggested. If he examines such books as "Economies of Scale in a Manufacturing Industry" by C. F. Pratten and "The Motor Industry: An Economic Survey" by D. G. Rhys, he will find that there are differing analyses. If the hon. Gentleman goes abroad to Germany, he will find that the view held there is entirely contrary to that which he has put forward, and in Japan very much more so. It is not that I dispute the views of the hon. Gentleman, but they are not proven.

Yorkshire And Humberside


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what increase in annual grant he has given to the Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association; and how this compares with other regional associations such as the North-East and the North-West.

As I announced on 18th February, I have doubled the grant aid to the Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association and the North-West Industrial Development Association. The grant to the North of England Development Association has been slightly more than doubled. The new grants for each of the next three years are £30,000 to Yorkshire and Humberside, £135,000 to the North-West and £250,000 to the North of England.

I thank my hon. Friend for the extra £15,000, which is what a doubling means. Is he aware that that is in no way satisfactory to the officers of the association or to myself and my col- leagues who represent constituencies in Yorkshire and Humberside? Without appearing to be too churlish, I must say that it appears to us that those who shout loudest north of the Tweed seem to jump the queue for supplementary Government cash.

I am sure that my hon. Friend does not want to be churlish. Very full and proper consideration was given to the assessment of these grants. I should point out that the North and North-West areas contain special development areas whereas Yorkshire and Humberside does not. This is an indication that their problems are worse than those of Yorkshire and Humberside, and, as a consequence, the grants are assessed on this basis. I know that the Chairman of the Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association has written to us expressing concern. We shall reply to him in the fullest possible terms. We much appreciate the excellent work that is being done by the association in attracting industry and jobs to the area.

Without wanting to enter into a competition to see who might be more churlish with my hon. Friend, may I ask whether he will address himself to the particular purposes of the Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association and, in the light of that, reconsider what he said this afternoon before he sends a final reply to that association? The purposes of the association are fully supported by business, trade in and many social organisations Yorkshire covering a wide area, and by all the Members from Yorkshire and—

Order. It is reasonable to ask the hon. Member to put his question. Fair play. The Minister has given information—

Will my hon. Friend reconsider the reply that he gave this afternoon on behalf of the Government?

I very much appreciate the promotional work that the association undertakes, and I have mentioned that.

My reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson), who, I thought, was rather less churlish than was my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), is that this represents a 100 per cent. increase in public expenditure for the Yorkshire and Humberside Development Association, and not many public or assisted bodies can say that they have received that kind of help.

Criminal Jurisdiction Legislation


asked the Attorney-General whether he will give particulars of trials held under the Criminal Jurisdiction Act of the United Kingdom Parliament and the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act of Oireactas Eireann.

The hon. Member's Question refers to the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975 and its counterpart in the Republic of Ireland, the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976. The Acts came into force on 1st June 1976 and relate only to persons arrested for offences committed after that date. No prosecutions have yet been brought under either Act.

Is it not the case that an extradition must be refused before the second-best procedure, which is the subject of the Question, is invoked? Is the Attorney-General aware that New Scotland Yard is reported to have alleged that wanted terrorists are walking about at large in the Irish Republic, but Dublin replied that warrants have not been sent by the British police to the Garda Siochana? Will the Government look into this as it is clearly a source of friction between the two Governments, who should be and are co-operating in the war against the common enemy?

It is not essential that extradition procedure should be taken before a resort to this Act is followed. On the hon. Member's second point, I will look into this matter. I welcome what he has said about the desirability of very close collaboration between the two nations, and I have no reason to doubt that this is taking place.

Director Of Public Prosecutions


asked the Attorney-General when he next expects to meet the Director of Public Prosecutions.


asked the Attorney-General when he last met the Director of Public Prosecutions.


asked the Attorney-General when he last met the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I meet the Director as often as the need arises. I last met him on 25th February.

When my right hon. and learned Friend met the Director of Public Prosecutions, did he discuss with him the problems caused by lack of control by the public over the rights of private citizens to institute prosecutions, as opposed to civil proceedings? Does he agree that this trend is being exacerbated by an attempt to erode the discretion vested in the Attorney-General in a recent case?

That was not one of the subjects on the agenda at that particular meeting. Certainly I agree that there is a very distinct danger in what my hon. and learned Friend has said. I accept the need for private prosecutions to continue, but what I do not like—and, I imagine, other hon. Members do not like—is organisations making use of the private prosecution system or the analogous civil system in relation to one particular class of offence rather than across the board on all offences committed.

Can the Attorney-General confirm that next week he will make a statement on the report of the Director of Public Prosecutions about allegations of corruption in Birmingham?

I have answered a number of questions about that par. ticular matter. It has been a difficult matter to resolve, and I hope that a definite decision will be taken shortly.

Has the Attorney-General discussed with the Director of Public Prosecutions the possibility of a prosecution of Mr. Tikkoo, the owner of the "Globtik Venus", who raised a mercenary gang of armed people to attack a British ship and her crew? It would appear that Mr. Tikkoo in public statements seems to have committed an act of conspiracy, presumably supported by Opposition Members who are his parliamentary advisers, and the directors of his board.

My only information on this matter comes from the newspapers and the other media. I have asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider the matter and advise me whether offences have been committed.

What progress has been made on proposals to reform the prosecution system, and in particular on the proposal to open regional offices of the DPP?

The question of reform of the prosecution system is for the Home Secretary, and questions about this should be directed to him. Needless to say, he seeks my views and those of the DPP when considering the matter.


asked the Attorney General what is the establishment of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The present complement of the Director of Public Prosecutions is one Director, one deputy director, two assistant directors, eight assistant solicitors, 52 senior legal assistants and legal assistants, and 140 administrative and secretarial staff, making a total of 204.

Is the Attorney-General sure that the complement of the DPP's office is enough, bearing in mind the heavy load placed on that office as a result of company frauds? These amount to at least 28 current cases in which companies are being investigated by the DPP. It takes an inordinate length of time to get these cases to the courts—up to six years, as in the case of the Pergamon outfit.

The needs of the DPP's office depend in part on the matters with which it is concerned, subject to the regulations affecting it. They depend also, in part, on the number of cases which local police superintendents send to the DPP for advice. I am not in a position to reply directly to the question because, as I have said, the whole matter of the prosecution process is one for the Home Secretary, even though I am closely concerned with it.

Can the Attorney-General confirm that there is a serious problem in staffing the DPP's office, in view of the vast amount of work which that office must undertake? Would he agree that it is difficult to attract sufficiently competent people into that office with the salaries that are offered at the present time?

I have said many times that careers in the Government legal service generally are very rewarding, particularly in relation to the type of work carried out. I would hope that more practising members of the Bar would, after a period of time in practice, think it right to apply for positions in the office of the DPP.