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Trade

Volume 928: debated on Monday 21 March 1977

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Ussr (Credit)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade how much of the Anglo-Soviet line of credit of £950 million arranged in 1975 has been taken up at the lastest available date; and if he will make a statement.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what major contracts have been secured by British companies for the supply of goods or equipment to the USSR under the £1,000 million line of credit negotiated in 1975; and what is the aggregate total value of these contracts.

Signed contracts concluded within the terms of the Anglo-Soviet Agreement in 1975 total £188 million. Other major contracts are under negotiation and I have every expectation that more contracts will be concluded. It is not customary to identify the contracts placed under this agreement.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the distinguished Soviet exile Andrei Amalrik has made the point that, by transferring resources to the Soviet Union by means of generous credits of this kind, the West is helping the Soviet Union to maintain its police State?

We are simply competing with credits given by other Western countries. It is necessary to do so if we are to get business with the Soviet Union, and it is our wish to build up trade with the Soviet Union. That seems to us to be the right objective.

Is my right hon Friend aware that these figures show how important trade is with the Soviet Union and how many jobs depend on the expansion and development of that trade?

It is certainly true that many jobs depend on this trade. I must say, however, that I am disappointed about the speed with which trade under this agreement is being negotiated and I shall certainly look for a considerable improvement over the next few months.

Can the Secretary of State confirm that not one penny of profit will accrue to Britain under any contract placed as a result of this line of credit? Furthermore, can he deny that approximately 50 per cent. of the total production costs of anything that the Soviets purchase under this agreement will be footed by the British taxpayer?

I cannot confirm either of the facts which the hon. Gentleman suggests. These contracts bring employment to this country, and I do not think that the firms concerned will enter into them if they do not think it worth while to do so.

Is my right hon. Friend's wish for an improvement in this position likely to materialise now that the most recent five-year programme in the Soviet Union has started? Is it not necessary for us to make it as easy for our industrialists to sell things to the Soviet Union as other countries in Europe are doing, in an effort to build up trade and friendship with the Soviet Union?

I am sure that it is necessary, if we are to get business with the Soviet Union, for us to grant competitive credit terms. I hope that my hon. Friend is right in suggesting that perhaps further business will be coming under the five-year plan. Certainly we shall look for further business. We were assured by Mr. Gromyko last year that it was the intention of the Soviet Government to put business up to the limit of this agreement, and we are disappointed that nothing like that has yet been achieved.

Export Promotion

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will expand the governmental export promotion sales organisation and staff.

The export promotion organisation of my Department is adjusted, when necessary, in consultation with the British Overseas Trade Board, which advises me on the resources needed to provide appropriate services and promotional aids for exporters.

Will my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for Defence switch the 390-strong Defence Sales Organisation to promoting non-military engineering and other exports? Will my right hon. Friend take into consideration the policy of President Carter that commercial matters should not be the only grounds for considering exports but that peace should also be taken into account, since war would cost us far more than the loss of a few arms orders?

As my hon. Friend knows, defence sales are under the control of the Defence Sales Organisation and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. Non-military exports, on the other hand, are sponsored by my Department, and I will consider the resources that are necessary for assisting these exports in accordance with our judgment of the requirements. As I say, we shall adjust the resources devoted when we think it necessary.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the grave dissatisfaction of exporters with the recent changes in the policy of the British Overseas Trade Board with regard to joint venture schemes in outward bound missions? Will he have another look at these changes? In any case, is it not time now, Wednesday aside, for publication and review of all our export services?

The hon. Gentleman knows that a review is going on of many matters in that area. As for the grave dissatisfaction of exporters, the British Overseas Trade Board was asked by me to make certain savings in connection with the public expenditure cuts last year, and it assured me that it could do so without affecting the main thrust of its activities. I do not think it should be asumed that all expenditure in promoting exports is cost-effective. We give far more assistance in joint ventures and overseas trade fairs than the great majority of our main industrial competitors. I am satisfied that we are giving the help that is required.

Import Controls

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade which industries he is considering to subject to selective import controls.

The Government are ready to use temporary selective import controls to protect any normally viable industry which is suffering serious injury as a result of increased imports.

Assuming for a moment that the Government continue in office, will the right hon. Gentleman beware that in any protectionist war foreign competitors carry a much bigger clout than we do? In particular, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the paper industry there are three important lines of imports which British producers cannot produce in sufficient quantities? Will he remember the interests of the consumer in all this?

The interest of the consumer is one matter that has to be considered. The Government have made public their position on import controls. Our policy is well known, it has been discussed in the House repeatedly, and I have no change to announce today.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the hardest hit of all industries, by foreign countries, and the fastest declining, is footwear, and that the industry has every right to expect greater protection against foreign countries than it has had so far?

We control imports of footwear from Eastern Europe, and we have duties on, for example, Brazilian footwear. I am aware of the problems of the footwear industry, and we have taken action to give it protection. On the other hand, in our relations with Eastern Europe there are other considerations that have to be taken into account, and one is our exports to those countries.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with the criteria by which dumping is established, and is he happy with the proposed transfer to Europe in the next month or two of responsibility for anti-dumping regulations?

The criteria for dumping are laid down both in our own legislation and in the GATT anti-dumping code. We have been using that legislation more rapidly and more effectively in recent months than ever before, and I think that there have been some expressions of satisfaction from industry on that account.

As for the transfer of responsibility on 1st July to the European Commission, the House knows that last year I discussed this matter with Sir Christopher Soames, and more recently I discussed it again with Vice-President Haferkamp to make sure that they are aware of the need to build up staff in Brussels to handle the case load that they will face when the transfer takes place. It is the intention to maintain a unit in my Department to assist in the investigation of anti-dumping cases.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Department of Applied Economics at Cambridge has again come out in favour of selective import controls as a safeguard in a necessary expansion of the economy, which is the only way to prevent unemployment rising to more than 2 million?

Although the department has kindly sent me a copy of its report, I have not yet had an opportunity of reading it in full. My impression is that, unlike my hon. Friend, it wants not selective import controls but general import controls. I think that would involve dangers, to which attention has been drawn on many occasions. If the forecasters, including those forecasters, are right in suggesting that this country will shortly be moving into a balance of payments surplus, it will make it even more difficult to use the sort of policy instrument recommended by Cambridge.

England And Scotland

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if, following the work being done by the Scottish Council Research Institute on the input-output model of the Scottish economy, he will re-examine the feasibility of his Department's conducting a survey into the value of cross-border trade, including food and drink, between England and Scotland.

No, Sir. The Department of Industry is already sponsoring a research project which is concerned with assessing the merits of alternative methods of estimating trade flows between different areas in the United Kingdom, including those between Scotland and England. The suggested survey would still entail substantial official costs on top of additional commercial costs which we do not think would be justified.

Does not the Minister's reluctance to initiate such a study show that he and his Department are frightened of the possible results, and that they do not wish the people of Scotland to know that Scotland's trade is basically in balance, unlike England's?

I take it that the evidence on which the hon. Gentleman purports to make his case that Scotland is in balance is drawn from an article by Michael Fry which appeared in the Scotsman on 14th February, which suggested that the preliminary results of the Scottish Council Research Institute's input-output project suggested that Scotland was in balance in 1973. The directors of the project said afterwards that the article was based on incomplete data, which was subsequently misinterpreted. There is, therefore, nothing in the hon. Gentleman's case to answer.

Is it not true that cross-border trade in drink has been greatly improved by the bevy of SNP Members in this House?

I am sure that members of the SNP have made their contribution to the £300 million or more earnings from Scotch whisky.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is part of the SNP's campaign to create physical barriers between Scotland and 'England, including Customs posts and other impediments to the free movement of capital, goods and, indeed, people? Will the hon. Gentleman investigate whether, because of this alarming propaganda by the SNP, its prominent supporters, such as Sir Hugh Fraser, are selling out in Scotland and investing funds in London and elsewhere?

I do not think that anyone, other than members of the SNP, allows his political fantasies to run away with him and ingnore the hard-headed economic facts of interdependence between Scotland and England.

Concorde

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has received in the light of the New York Port Authority's decision regarding landing rights for Concorde in New York.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what efforts his Department is making to back up the efforts made by British Airways and Air France to obtain landing rights for Concorde at New York.

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the question of Concorde's landing rights at New York.

The Port of New York Authority decided to postpone its decision so that it could consider any new proposals on how the noise impact of Concorde on local communities could be reduced. Its next meeting is on 14th April. The court hearing has been postponed, but a new date will be set this week.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that if by any unlikely chance the Government are still in office in June they will not sign a new Bermuda Agreement until the American Government have lived up to their obligations under the present one and have ensured New York landing rights for Concorde?

We shall sign a new agreement on 22nd June, or before, if we negotiate a new agreement that is satisfactory to us. Among the problems with the existing agreement, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, is that we have not been able to obtain our true rights in respect of landing Concorde in New York. There are many problems about the current agreement and many improvements that we could make. If we can get a satisfactory agreement, we shall sign it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm today's report in an American newspaper that, whereas the French Government have spent more than $2½ billion on the promotion of Concorde in the United States, our contribution has been only $100,000? As we each have a stake in the commercial success of Concorde, is there not a danger of our spoiling this aircraft for a penn'orth of tar?

I do not think there is any doubt about the commercial success of Concorde at Washington. There is no doubt that it would be a commercial success if it was allowed to fly into New York. That is not the issue. The issue is obtaining our rights to secure admission for this aircraft to New York.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a Written Answer to me last Thursday the Foreign Office said that

"a party to a treaty may not invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty."—[Official Report, 17th March 1977; Vol. 928, c. 305.]
Is not that precisely what President Carter is doing? In that case will the right hon. Gentleman consider, as part of his renegotiation of the Bermuda Agreement, taking action specifically against New York, not against other United States cities, and withdrawing traffic rights between New York and Britain, and New York and France, until this aeroplane is accorded the rights to which it is entitled under the treaty?

I do not think it would be right at this time to talk about the steps we might take in certain circumstances if we do not secure admission to New York. As the hon. Gentleman knows, and as I said in my answer, there is a further meeting on 14th April. We have a court case outstanding under which we can proceed. It is entirely premature to make the sort of threats that the hon. Gentleman invites me to make.

Has my right hon. Friend had any chance to speak to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment about the report in yesterday's newspapers concerning the Noise Advisory Council's report on Concorde being made available to the New York Port Authority? Would he care to comment on that?

I have had an opportunity of talking to my right hon. Friend about this. The question which is the basis of this matter in New York is whether Concorde can meet the noise requirements of Kennedy Airport. We believe that it can. We believe that that has been demonstrated to the New York Port Authority. We see no justification for its keeping Concorde out of New York.

Is the Secretary of State able to tell the House whether the load factor on the Concorde route between London and Washington has been above or below expectations and, at the same time, whether the level of complaints from those living around Dallas Airport has likewise been above or below expectations?

We have been favourably surprised by the low level of complaints from people living around Dallas Airport. The hon. Gentleman knows that Concorde has been operating to Washington at a satisfactory level of capacity. Whether that is below or above the expectations of British Airways I would not like to say.

Is not my right hon Friend aware that what angers the British people about this situation is that if the Americans had been first in the field with supersonic aircraft we would have been expected to receive this aircraft with open arms? Is this not a case of sour grapes on the part of the Americans?

I certainly think that my hon. Friend is right in suggesting that if the aircraft was American we would have been expected to receive it in London. I welcome the statements which have been made by various aircraft manufacturers in the United States recently and by others saying that Concorde should be allowed into New York.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress he has made on obtaining new routes for Concorde.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what supersonic routes for Concorde are at present under negotiation; and whether he will make a statement.

Apart from New York, we are concentrating our efforts on securing Concorde routes to Melbourne and Tokyo.

Can the Minister say what progress he is making in his negotiations with the Governments concerned response from the Australian Government. ment will take an initiative with the new Government of India on this important matter?

We have had a favourable response from the Australian Government. Negotiations are still continuing with the Indonesians about supersonic overflying rights. The Indian Government have objected in the past, and we shall have to await developments with interest as and when the new Indian Government are formed.

Is it not true that, whether or not the Indian Government continue to object, there is now no problem over a Far Eastern route? We could start it. Is not such a route vital for the future of Concorde, irrespective of whether we get permission to go to New York? Does not the Minister agree that it is extremely disappointing to see how slowly British Airways seem to be getting this route going? Air France has trained sufficient crews. Why is there a delay here? Will the Minister put pressure on British Airways?

I do not accept that British Airways have been slow in dealing with this matter. There has been an industrial dispute which has slowed up the opportunity to train crews. Matters are not as simple as the hon. Gentleman suggests, because far more crews are needed to deal with the London-Melbourne route than any other route. Nevertheless, I can assure the House that British Airways are proceeding with this issue as rapidly as possible. We must, of course, see what happens with regard to New York, because that situation impinges upon the operation of the London-Melbourne route.

Since the Minister has demonstrated that he is powerless to stop Air France flying up the English Channel supersonically and in so doing causing great disturbance, through sonic boom, over South-West England, will he ensure that he does not apply for routes which involve supersonic flying up the English Channel?

I have done my best to keep the hon. Gentleman informed of the progress which is being made over a specific complaint which has affected a substantial number of people. The hon. Member knows, as do other hon. Members, that this matter is being carefully investigated. The flights and the noise are being monitored. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, instead of making constituency points, will recognise that it is not a demonstration of powerlessness on the part of the Government but rather a recognition of the need to investigate this matter in depth before coming up with the sort of simplistic solutions which he has put to me.

Cotton Imports

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what percentage of the home market for cotton textiles is supplied by foreign imports; and how this compares with the previous percentages over the last 20 years given at five-year intervals.

It is estimated that the share of the home market for cotton yarn, in terms of weight, supplied by foreign imports in 1976 was 25 per cent., and for cotton cloth, in terms of area, it was 62 per cent. The comparable figures for 1959 were 4 per cent. and 31 per cent. respectively. With permission, I will include figures for intervening years in the Official Report.

Does not this show a serious decline in the Lancashire cotton industry? Is there any hope that the industry will eventually survive? If there is such hope, in which direction must it look for help?

We believe that through the Multifibre Arrangement we have already brought more help than ever before to the textile industry. We are taking a tough bargaining stance in the renegotiation of the arrangement in Geneva, particularly over cumulative disruption and the downward adjustment of growth rates, which are the two key problems for the textile industry. If we can succeed here—and we intend to try—the textile industry will be in a stronger position than ever before.

Has my hon. Friend's Department had the opportunity of examining the level of imports of cotton yarn from India recently? Could he have a look at that?

The import level of cotton yarn from India is about 20 per cent. I might add that it is exceeded by imports of cotton yarn from the EEC, which are 22 per cent. It is not, therefore, the largest supplier. I am glad to take this opportunity to announce that with regard to Indian hand-loom textiles, exports of which to the United Kingdom enormously increased in 1976, we have, in collaboration with the EEC, managed to secure a substantial cut-back in trade. In the case of woven shirts, which reached a level of 7·6 million pieces in 1976, we are today announcing a cut-back to 5·45 million for 1977. For women's shirts and blouses, which reached a level of 11 million in 1976, we are announcing today a cut-back to 7·4 million pieces. This is a substantial cut-back and I am sure that the House will be pleased to hear of it.

Following are the details:

The figures for the intervening years were as follows:

Cotton Yarn (in terms of weight)

per cent.

19618
19667
197112

Cotton Cloth (in terms of area)

per cent.

196139
196639
197148

Figures prior to 1959 are not comparable with those for later years.

Special Steel Imports (Price)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has received evidence that certain imported special steel products are currently offered for sale in the United Kingdom at prices which are well below those applying in the producer countries.

Yes, Sir. In each case brought to its attention my Department is taking appropriate action.

Is my hon. Friend aware that when action is taken and is known about in South Yorkshire it will be widely welcomed? Will he confirm that in at least two cases imported special steels are available for sale in Britain at prices 50 per cent. below the price charged in the countries of origin? Will he show urgency in taking action on this issue?

I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friend has said about a figure of 50 per cent. Our investigations, which are nearly completed, in several areas dealing with imports from different countries show that the figure may be substantially lower. I recognise, however, that there is a significant problem. Dealing first with Japan, which is perhaps the price leader, we have had an understanding on high-speed tool and stainless steels from last September for the first half of this year. In a few days' time we hope that negotiations will begin again in Tokyo for the second half of this year. Similarly, in the cases of Sweden and Austria we are ensuring that there are no breaches in the ECSC rules. In the case of Spain, where we already have a provisional charge on stainless steel imports, we have a full investigation in progress which started last month. We hope to announce the results very soon.

Can the Minister tell the House what he thinks about the latest EEC discussions on general steel imports and whether he agrees that there may be a necessity for minimum prices on a number of steel products and import licences for all imported steels coming into the EEC? Is he taking part in the discussions?

Of course, we are participating in discussions over the evolution of the EEC's steel policy at this particularly difficult time. I do not think it would be appropriate for me at this point to say exactly what we have proposed or what conclusions we hope will be reached. The considerations that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned are relevant.

Aircraft Noise (Gatwick)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proposals he has for reducing the present maximum noise limits at Gatwick Airport.

Is it not vital that the noise levels should be progressively reduced in view of the fact that a considerable number of people live within the monitoring points and in fact are closer to the monitoring points and are, therefore, subjected to greater noise than the so-called official noise limits?

I am aware of the noise problem at Gatwick. The hon. Gentleman will know from the consultation document issued on the London airports that there is likely to be, because of the projected increased use of Gatwick, a short-term worsening of the situation. That is unavoidable. On the other hand, he will also know that I have taken steps to restrict very substantially the number of night jet movements during the summer, and there is now a consultative document out to deal with the question of night jet movements at Heathrow and at Gatwick.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the endeavours of himself and of his Department to reduce noise at Heathrow Airport are very much appreciated, but would he not accept that to suggest the simple transfer of some elements of traffic from one London airport to another is not really constructive? In view of his remarkable endeavours in the past three months, can he state whether any progress has been made in reducing night flights at Heathrow?

The redistribution of noise is always a problem, but it is separate from the need to utilise more effectively the facilities which will become increasingly available at Gatwick, and it is necessary that we should do that.

On the question of the reduction of night jet noise, only last week I issued the consultative document putting forward the options that are available for dealing with this matter. They comprehend essentially possible closures as far as night jet movements are concerned or gradual phasing out of noisier aircraft while permitting quieter aircraft to continue to operate. These matters should be carefully considered.

In view of the Minister's highly unsatisfactory answers, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he is satisfied with the arrangements for monitoring aircraft noise at Gatwick.

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what are his current arrangements for monitoring the noise levels created at Gatwick Airport as experienced in the main adjacent centres of population.

The noise caused by each jet aircraft take-off is recorded by the automatic noise monitoring system using four fixed microphones. In addition, sample measurements of aircraft noise are taken at a variety of other places around the airport.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of those who live near Gatwick Airport believe that airline pilots know exactly where these microphones are and do their best to avoid them? Will he either use his powers to get the airlines to fly on their proper flight routes or move the microphones to where the aircraft fly?

We believe that it is better to try to persuade those who have infringed the noise limits to adopt a better and more reliable course than they have in the past rather than engage in confrontation. The evidence is that the infringements constitute about one-half of 1 per cent. of all jet take-offs. At Heathrow the position has improved substantially. At Gatwick the position has not altered materially since last year.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, having taken fairly robust steps to limit night noise at Heathrow, he has not taken comparative steps to help at Gatwick, where the nuisance is increasing—and he knows that it is increasing?

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong, and he knows that he is wrong. The permitted number of night jet flights has been reduced by 25 per cent. in the summer and by 30 per cent. in the winter. This is a direct result of action which my Department has taken over the course of the last few years.

Tanker "Globtik Venus"

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what investigations he has made into recent events concerning the tanker "Globtik Venus"; and if he will make a statement.

On 3rd March the Attorney-General was asked to consider whether any criminal offence had been committed in connection with this incident, and inquiries are being urgently pursued. The industrial dispute involving the original crew has been resolved and the vessel is expected to sail from Le Havre at the end of this week.

In view of today's reports about another planned raid similar to the "Globtik Venus' incident, will the Government take immediate and firm action against those responsible for setting such a dangerous precedent? Is it not sheer cant and hypocrisy for the Tories to make polite gestures towards the trade union movement when two members of their Shadow Cabinet are connected with Globtik Tankers Limited, which hired the gang of thugs to try to beat the trade union movement into submission?

I have no evidence to confirm what was said in the report in the Daily Mail this morning. As I have indicated, we are considering very carefully the action which should be taken in the circumstances arising out of the "Globtik Venus" matter.

What is far more important than the activities of the two hon. Gentlemen to whom my hon. Friend has referred is the reaction of the Opposition and the weasel words of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South (Mr. Parkinson). He said that he could not see any reason, nor did the Opposition, to hold a strong view about the recruitment of mercenaries to undertake this outrageous action. The House and country will now know where the Opposition really stand on matters affecting industrial disputes.

What I in fact said in the course of my remarks was that unreasonable actions often produced unreasonable reactions. In no way did I condone the action of Mr. Tikkoo, but I said that in the circumstances he had been provoked. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he is repeating or setting for himself the low standard which he demonstrated in replying to the debate?

Lectures about low standards ill become the hon. Gentleman. What he said was:

"This was not the way in which I would reclaim a ship of mine, but I do not own any ships. I do not see any reason"—[Official Report, 7th March 1977; Vol. 927, c. 1120.1

Order. It is very unfair to others who have later Questions on the Order Paper to go over a debate which has already been held.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the leader of the gang of armed mercenaries recruited on Humberside, a Mr. Miller, has criminal convictions for rape, buggery, larceny and possession of firearms? He is not a defender or upholder of the law. It is extremely noticeable that the unions have praised the Minister's action in dealing with this matter but have noticed with astonishment that there has been little noise from the Opposition, who had a lot to say about the Shrewsbury Two and the Clay Cross rebels.

Not only the trade unions but the General Council of British Shipping and the employers condemned the action. The only people out of step were the Opposition.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, with the single exception of the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr), although there is great gloom on his side of the House today, he will have to think of an issue other than the "Globtik Venus" on which to fight the election? His answer was very unsatisfactory indeed.

The relevance of the "Globtik Venus" issue is that it depicts in all its nakedness the real way in which the Conservative Party looks at trade unions. We are not gloomy; but I think that the Opposition should not be quite so self-satisfied. They resemble turkeys lust before Christmas.

Power Plant Industry

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects to respond to the CPRS Report on the future of the electrical power plant industry.

The Government are carefully considering all aspects of the proposals in the CPRS report and will be responding as soon as possible.

Does the Minister agree that the only way in which we can maintain in this country a viable electrical power plant industry with an export capability is by having a flourishing nuclear industry? Will he have words with the Secretary of State for Energy and remind him that some crucial decisions must be taken on the future of the nuclear industry in this country if the electrical power plant industry is to survive?

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend. I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's remarks to his attention. All these matters are being taken into account in our examination of the CPRS Report on the electrical power plant industry.

In any consideration of the report, will my hon. Friend make it perfectly clear that the Government's attitude is that rationalisation of the industry will not be made an excuse for substantial factory closures in any part of the industry, with substantial numbers of people losing their work?

The proposal for rationalisation of the industry was one of the five main recommendations made by the CPRS. We are now examining its report. Before any conclusions are reached we shall have the fullest consultation with all those concerned, including particularly the trade unions.

Before the Minister makes the decision, will he put to the House the Government's genuine energy policy? Will he assure the House that there will be no nonsense about building the unnecessary Drax power station without the consent of hon. Members?

The proposal about the Drax B station was again one of the recommendations of the CPRS Report that we are examining. The right hon. Gentleman's question is more relevant to the Secretary of State for Industry. All I can tell him is that this has been fully considered along with all the other recommendations in the report.

Will my hon. Friend take into consideration the fact that we have heard nothing from him today that we did not hear during the last Question Time when his Department appeared? Will he now say that before Easter we shall at least get some progress in regard to export credits, because these are vital to the firms of Babcock and Wilcox and Clarke Chapman which are at the heart of our industrial strategy?

I appreciate the significance of those industries with regard to exports. I can only reiterate what I said before—that we exclude no option in examining how we can give assistance in respect of exports. My hon. Friend will not expect me to spell out the ideas that we have been examining, but I can assure him that there has been a great deal of discussion on this issue. I am also aware of the urgency of the matter. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry has said that it would be some little time before he could make an announcement, but we are aware of the need to make an announcement as quickly as we can.

Does the Minister realise that many thousands of employees at Babcock and Wilcox will not be prepared to wait "some little time" for an announcement?

It is precisely because we are engaged in the fullest consultations on the proposals, which must be wide-ranging and comprehensive, that we cannot produce conclusions before the House quickly. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would prefer us to reach the right conclusion rather than one which perhaps might appeal to him but which would certainly have a devastating effect on employment.

In view of certain developments overseas, which were a disappointment to us and to Babcock and Wilcox, will my hon. Friend press upon his right hon. Friend the imperative nature of getting the Drax B order through as quickly as possible? Will he also bear in mind that only a few short months ago the SNP, which is now speaking weasel words in favour of the workers in Babcock and Wilcox, was asking for a cut-back in the electricity generating programme, which would plunge my local factory into total redundancy?

My hon. Friend has again hit the nail on the head. I shall certainly draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend. We intend to produce a report to the House as soon as we possibly can, but I ask hon. Members to recognise that very extensive consultations have to be undertaken. There are many interests involved and we want to get it right.

Air Fares

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what control he exercises over the level of air fares in connection with International Civil Aviation Organisation obligations.

Membership of the International Civil Aviation Organisation places no obligations on the Government with respect to the level of air fares.

Is the Minister telling the House that he has absolutely no say in the setting of air fares? Will he tell us what particular steps he has taken to do something about the excessively high level of fares in Western Europe? Has he suggested to his colleagues in the Council of Ministers that European rates should be declared a cabotage route?

The Air Service Agreement with other countries gives the Governments concerned the right to control air fares on the services they cover. Fares are normally agreed between IATA and submitted for approval to both sides. If either Government is dissatisfied, the matter is settled by negotiation. The question of European fares is under review in Europe. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the CAA has recently given close attention to this, and I am awaiting its report.

Civil Aviation (Bermuda Agreement)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what further progress has been made on renegotiating the Bermuda Agreement.

The fourth round of negotiations for a new Air Services Agreement was held in London from 28th February to 11th March. Some progress was made towards agreement on the methods of regulating capacity on North Atlantic services and establishing tariffs. The negotiations will be resumed in Washington on 28th March.

Is it not the case that the Americans have still absolutely no intention of restricting the activities of their airlines to a policy of single designation? What is the Government's policy with regard to regulation as opposed to competition?

The Government are in favour of competition, but not by means of putting such grossly excessive capacity on the North Atlantic that it means a gross waste of fuel at a time when energy conservation is important and leads to excess fares paid by customers travelling over the North Atlantic. It is not true to say that the United States has entirely ruled out the idea of single designation. What we are concerned with is a system of capacity control. In the last negotiations the United States made certain proposals in this regard. We are now negotiating with the United States, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish me to reveal the whole of our negotiating position.

Within the concept of capacity control, will the Minister consider introducing regulations for the control of air freight and passenger charter flights?

We have, of course, considered whether charter should come within the renegotiation. The present view of both parties is that it should not, althugh charters are closely connected with services across the North Atlantic. That is the basis upon which we are negotiating at the moment and it seems more convenient to both sides. We want a memorandum of understanding with the United States to govern the operation of charters, and I think that that is better done outside these negotiations.

As the United States Government have already stated that they do not have the authority to stop aircraft in certain circumstances landing within the United States, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that they are in a position of authority to sign such an agreement?

That is a very interesting question which we shall have to discuss during the negotiations. We have had many disagreements with the United States Government on the interpretation of the Bermuda Agreement. One of the reasons why we wish to renegotiate the agreement is so that we can have an agreement that both sides understand and which is actually operated. We believe that there are cases where the United States has not operated the Bermuda Agreement. The landing rights of Concorde at New York are one example.

Arab Boycott

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will take measures to deny Government support and facilities for various kinds of trade transactions in order to combat the discriminatory effects of the Arab trade boycott.

My Department and the British Overseas Trade Board will continue to give advice and assistance to British exporters to the markets of the Middle East.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government's lack of action has contrasted very unfavourably with that of other Gov1ernments in taking positive action against the boycott, against which they have expressed positive disapproval?

Our position in practice is the same as that of other Governments. We have indicated that we oppose and deplore the boycott, which lacks international authority. We have also said that it must be left to the decision of individual companies how they react in particular situations, although we give advice. In practice, our position is the same as that of our partners in the European Community and other Governments.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the authentications by the Government of boycott documents is regarded as a gross offence to Israel and those concerned with free trade? Will he reconsider this practice with the Foreign Secretary, who has openly condemned the Arab trade boycott?

As my hon. and learned Friend knows, this is a question for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It has been explained by Ministers in that Department, however, that what is authenticated is the signature of notaries.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the United States Government and the Government of Canada and their Departments of Trade have come out forcibly against the concept of a boycott against the interests of international trade? Surely he should be seriously considering bringing legislation in this country into line with that proposed by the United States and Canada.

We, too, have expressed our opposition to the boycott. I am examining what the United States is doing. It has further proposals for legislation which may be brought before Congress. As far as I am able to say at the moment, the practical effect of the present United States position is that it leaves to individual companies their own decisions as to how they react in the situation they are faced with. The practical effect, therefore, seems to be the same as the practical effect of our policy. If there are changes, we shall observe them.

What advice is the right hon. Gentleman giving to industries for which his Department is the sponsoring Ministry? Is he telling them to make up their own minds, or is he telling them to take the advice which the Government are giving and not give in to boycotts?

We give private advice on this matter to companies which ask us for it so that they may be aware of the nature of the problems known to us. A fact which is relevant in this context is that in 1976 our exports to Israel, I am glad to say, went up very substantially at a time when imports by Israel were stable or declining. In that respect, we have a good record in our trade with Israel. That is perhaps one measure by which our policy can be considered.

Industrial Democracy

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what consultations he has so far held on the Bullock Report; and with what results.

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what consultations he has had with the CBI or other employers' associations on the recommendations of the Bullock Committee; and if he will make a statement.

I have had discussions with the CBI and the British Institute of Management. I have also received the views of a number of other organisations. It is too soon to talk about results.

In his discussions with the CBI, did not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the CBI was implacably opposed to the majority report? If his earnest to work with the private sector means anything at all, could he not make a gesture and say that the Government have now decided to drop the whole proposal?

No, I will not make that gesture. Advances in industrial democracy will be of value to industry. I am aware that the CBI is implacably opposed to the majority report. It has made that perfectly clear. Nevertheless, very useful discussions with the CBI are currently going on, and the Government are committed to introducing legislative proposals on this subject by the summer.

Since the Government apparently have abandoned the majority proposals of Bullock, will they now put in its place the whole of the Liberal Party's policy for participation, and are we to assume that the Prime Minister will announce on Wednesday that this is the new policy of the Government?

At any rate, the hon. Gentleman concedes to the Liberal Party that it has a policy on participation. That is more than he can claim for his own party.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in no sense can there be any political democracy until there is some form of economic democracy, that at least the Bullock Report is moving in that direction, and that it should be looked upon benignly by the Government?

We are trying in this area to get a consensus about the way in which industrial democracy shall be advanced in this country. That is the process going on in Europe. We believe that this country cannot dissociate itself from that process. That is why in my discussions I am trying to seek a consensus about a basis on which to proceed.

Laker Airways Skytrain

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress he has made in bringing the United States of America to accept Skytrain services as part of the Bermuda Agreement.

On 18th February our Embassy in Washington formally asked the United States Government to issue an operating permit to Laker, in accordance with the Bermuda Agreement. However, as I informed the House on 14th February 1977, I envisage negotiating a special arrangement with the United States to cover the operation of Sky-train instead of including it in the new Air Services Agreement.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the view held in some quarters that the apparent lethargy by his Department springs in part from its recent defeat by Mr. Laker?

The hon. Gentleman's accusation is unjustified. I made an announcement in the House on 14th February. On 18th February we made representations to the American Government asking them to issue a permit so that the Laker Skytrain could operate. The CAB has now asked Mr. Laker for further information. It is our wish to get the Laker Skytrain into the United States, and we shall exert all necessary pressure to that end.

Has there yet been any indication that an application for a licence will be made by an American counterpart of the Laker Skytrain?

Not yet. But obviously, if the United States Government indicate to us a wish to discuss that matter, we shall ourselves be ready to discuss it with them.

Motor Vehicle Headlamp Bulbs

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade how many light bulbs of the type used in motor car headlamps were imported into the United Kingdom during each of the past four years.

Imports of all vehicle bulbs not exceeding 28 volts were 22 million, 28 million, 34 million and 49 million respectively for the four years to 1976.

Does my hon. Friend realise that the importation of these bulbs is doing great harm to companies in this country? Is he aware that these companies are saying that the cost of materials is equal to, if not greater than, the cost of these imported bulbs? Is not that dumping? Will my hon. Friend do something about the quality of these bulbs by letting the public know that they are very much below the standard of bulbs manufactured in this country?

That last point is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. My hon. Friend asked me about dumped bulbs. The Lighting Industry Federation submitted an anti-dumping application to us last year, but it withdrew it a couple of months ago because it could not provide domestic prices for comparison for more than a few of the 200 different types of bulbs imported. We are therefore examining the possibilities either of operating through the Commission to seek price and quantitative action from the Eastern bloc suppliers or of across-the-board import restrictions for all suppliers. I hope that one or other of these routes will he successful.

Steel

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what are the latest figures for import and export of steel.

In the 12 months ending February this year, 4 million metric tons of ingots, semi-finished and finished steel were imported and 3·6 million metric tons exported.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the figure for imports is incomprehensible to many people, given that we are cutting back on production? If this is due to the cyclical production of steel, does not my hon. Friend agree that we should be making investment now? In that event, will he have a word with British Steel at Scunthorpe so that it might put forward plans for increasing blast furnace capacity there?

The question of imports is undoubtedly affected by the fact that customers were lost when the British Steel Corporation could not meet the demand in 1974 during the after-effects of the three-day week. [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but it is a fact which their business friends realise. Once customers are lost to cheap imports, it is very difficult to get them back. Opposition Members may try to conceal their embarrassment about the disaster of two years ago, but the effects of it are still being felt. We are encouraging the British Steel Corporation to increase investment as a result of the funds that we are making available both for investment and for stocking.

Coming back to something rather more recent than the three-day week, is the Minister satisfied that the Japanese are following the voluntary restraint on exports of steel agreed with Britain and other EEC countries in November? If he is not satisfied, what action does he intend to take?

In respect of special steels, we are having discussions with the Japanese in Tokyo on the 28th and 29th of this month. In regard to high speed steel the Japanese have generally kept to the forecast, but on tool steels and stainless steels there is some dispute. On bulk steels, I draw attention to the fact that we made an announcement on 14th March that we intend to investigate the Japanese light sections and flats.

Will the Minister take note of the deep concern that is felt in all steel areas, including Sheffield, about imports of steel? Will he accept that at the new Thrybergh Mill near Rotherham recently when proper investment took place—which did not happen under the Conservative Party—a world record for production of steel was achieved?