House Of Commons
Wednesday 29th June 1977
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
British Linen Bank Order Confirmation Bill
Order for consideration read.
To be considered tomorrow.
Oral Answers To Questions
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what initiatives the Government are currently taking to encourage local authorities to reclaim derelict land.
Circular 17/77 drew attention to the benefits of reclaiming derelict land and set out the grants, including 100 per cent. grants in the assisted areas and derelict land clearance areas, which are available to local authorities for this purpose.
As there is about 30 square miles of derelict land in the North-West, would the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the recent statement suggesting that there will be improved conditions for Merseyside will not mean that there will be a reduction in the support for other areas in the North-West?
There has been a reduction in the allocation of grants, but the problem has been the take-up of the allocation by the local authorities, which has been only 50 per cent. The allocation has therefore been cut for this year—I am sure that hon. Members on the Oppo- sition Benches who are always demanding cuts will support that—but the amount is still above what was requested by the district and county authorities last year.
Will the Minister consider the wisdom of asking local authorities to make a check on the ground that they own already? Is he aware that some months ago in Birmingham the council wrote to a man asking him to clear up a particularly bad piece of land and that he wrote back to say that he agreed that the bottles, tramps, and rubbish should be removed from the land but that it belonged to the council? Would it not be advisable to ask councils to check what land they own?
The hon. Lady should take up that matter with the authority concerned. I have told local authorities of the need to clear up derelict land and I have said that funds are available for that purpose.
Is it enough to leave the matter to the individual local authority? Why do not the Government take the initiative and require local authorities to prepare a Domesday Book of all land in public ownership, and make sure that the land is brought forward for development at the earliest possible moment? If the resources for development are not available to local authorities, the land should be sold for private development and the capital used for public works.
I am sure that hon. Members would not approve of such dictation to local authorities. I hope that the local authorities—which, to the pleasure of the hon. Gentleman, are now mainly controlled by his party—will take full advantage of the grants available, and the hon. Gentleman should urge them to do so.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received about Government policy following his recent statement on new towns.
The consultations promised in my statement on 5th April about the reappraisal of new towns led to a series of meetings with the authorities concerned and I am now receiving comments from them and from other interested organisations.
No doubt the Secretary of State is aware of the lobby of NALGO representatives that took place on Monday and therefore accepts that many organisations fear a conflict over resources to meet the demands of inner city developments and new town development. Will the right hon. Gentleman give a categorical assurance that any expenditure on inner cities will be in addition to expenditure on new towns? Will he bear in mind the rôle of new towns in attracting industry, and does he agree that it would be ridiculous to reverse this policy at a time of high unemployment?
As the hon. Lady knows, we must try to balance the undoubted and continuing need for new towns development—although a need rather more reduced in scale in the 1980s than had previously been thought—with the development of the inner cities. I cannot give a categorical assurance that no diversion of resources will take place but I can certainly assure the hon. Lady that the greater part of the increased expenditure on the inner cities programme will not come from cuts in the new towns programme. I am aware of the lobby which took place and I have had an opportunity of meeting and talking with NALGO leaders.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in spite of the assurances that he gave a couple of weeks ago that the new towns would not be seriously affected by the cuts, the 2¼ million people who live in new towns are anxious about the situation? Will he give consideration to the possibility of encouraging development corporations to indicate to industry the possible changes, and where they will apply, so that local communities may feel that there is some sort of dialogue going on, because that would avoid this anxiety?
Inevitably at the earliest stage in our thinking about the future size of the new towns we had to conduct the discussions rather discreetly—as I am sure my hon. Friend knows. Following the statement that I made on 5th April, we believe that the people of the new towns who are interested in the future of their towns—as I know they are—will take and will be given every opportunity to take part in the debate on their future.
Following the representations from all sides about the need for the provision of health facilities in new towns, has the right hon. Gentleman had consultations with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services on the general point and, particularly, on the provision of a new district general hospital at Redditch?
I am in frequent touch with my right hon. Friend on the health provision needs in new towns. If substantial changes that are made as a result of the current review would affect the provision of health facilities, I shall have the benefit of discussions with my right hon. Friend in coming to any decision.
Will my right hon. Friend comment on any plans he may have to vary the composition of new towns' boards, especially with a view to extending the representation to local authorities and trade unions?
We keep the composition of the boards under review and as vacancies arise we seek to fill them. We have been paying increasing regard to the local communities in which the new towns are situated, rather than, as in the past, to the exporting authorities from which people have come.
Will the right hon. Gentleman emulate the decision of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who cancelled plans for the Stonehouse New Town in order to provide funds for the East End of Glasgow? Will the right hon. Gentleman cancel the Central Lancashire New Town in order to provide resources for Liverpool and other hard-pressed urban areas of the North-West? May I press him again to see that the commercial and industrial assets in new towns are realised, so that the capital can be used for new town expansion or inner city development, thereby avoiding further public sector borrowing?
The hon. Gentleman has made these points before and I have told him that I am considering them. I have nothing to add to that at this stage. The hon. Gentleman has twice made the same point about the Central Lancashire New Town and I should like to know whether his view is now the policy of the Opposition Front Bench. I have made a substantial change in the target for the new town, but, on balance, I believe that it is right to provide this new growth point for industry, commerce and people in that part of North-East Lancashire. Many Opposition Members support my decision, and I should like to know whether the hon. Gentleman is really speaking for his party.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment which part of his Department is responsible for assistance to the construction industry; and what are his plans for further help to the industry.
My Department has a general responsibility for the construction industry. We have already this year allocated an extra £144 million for construction work in the inner cities in housing improvement and through provision of advance factories. As the economic situation improves I shall be seeking further ways of assisting this hard-pressed industry.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that since 1974 cuts in public expenditure on construction have reached the enormous figure of about £2,000 million while Government help to the construction industry has been only one-tenth of that figure—a very small amount indeed? Does my right hon. Friend not realise the parlous state of the construction industry?
I realise the very great difficulties facing the construction industry. These arise, in part, not only from the need to restrain public expenditure but from the substantial fall-back in private investment in housing and private industrial building. The building industry has been very seriously affected by the general state of the economy. I am aware of this fact and I have had a number of discussions with the industry. I shall be looking for ways to help, to the best of my ability, as our economic situation improves.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the development land tax remains a deterrent to new construc- tion and particularly to the extension of existing buildings, and that this has an inevitable effect on the construction industry? Is he prepared to recognise this fact and to do something about it?
I should want a great deal of evidence to support that view. There are many factors involved, but the major one affecting industrial building has been the turndown in the economy and the stagnation in investment in recent years. I now see some more hopeful signs, and the indications are that there will be a substantial increase in industrial investment and factory building this year, with a further and larger increase in 1978.
As there are 13 unemployed skilled building craftsmen chasing every vacancy, does my right hon. Friend agree that a major way of assisting the situation would be to enable public authorities to undertake more improvement and renovation work and to give them greater opportunities to make mortgage allocations, particularly to first-time buyers?
My hon. Friend's first point was put by representatives of the construction industry when they met the Prime Minister and myself a short time ago. Their view was that considerable gains could be made in the use of labour by putting more resources into improvement and renovation. My reply is that this is very much part of the general thrust of our policy.We believe that more resources should go to renovation and improvement in our urban centres, and my hon. Friend will know that the arrangements that we have made for virement will enable local authorities which wish to do so to put more money into this form of labour-intensive activity.
As the general state of the economy was perfectly clear in October 1974, does not the present level of unemployment in the construction industry, which is the worst since 1931, make a mockery of the Government's claim in their last General Election manifesto that they would create a permanent and stable work force? Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that the measures to which he has referred will achieve a lower level of unemployment in the construction industry by, say, December?
I cannot anticipate the pace or rate of pick-up by the industry. Although the situation for private house building in particular has greatly improved, the question is one of timing and how long it will be before this improvement comes into effect. I believe that we shall see significant improvements next year—
It could not be worse.
Next year is often a good deal better than last year, and this has been the case even under Conservative Governments. It does not lie in the hon. Gentleman's mouth to blame us for the state of the construction industry, in the light of the general collapse in house building in 1973-74, when we took over, and the Opposition's insistence on cutting public expenditure programmes.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the average rate increase in 1977–78 for England and Wales.
The average increases in domestic and non-domestic rates over England and Wales are 7·9p and 7·5p, respectively. The House may prefer these expressed in percentage terms—that is, an increase of about 15 per cent. in domestic rates and about 10 per cent. increase in non-domestic rates.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency rates are going up this year by about 25 per cent? Does he realise that in a low wage and salary earning area this will put a very great burden on people whose living standards have declined considerably in the past two years?
I am aware that in the hon. Gentleman's district and in the county of Staffordshire generally there has been one of the highest rates increases this year—not much short of 30 per cent. Even so, the rates that are being paid are below the average in the West Midlands and below the national average.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that in most parts of Britain ratepayers receive good value for money from the local authorities, despite the hysterical campaign mounted over recent years to bring down the rates? Does he further agree that constant calls on local authorities to reduce their expenditure makes it difficult for them to provide not only services which are within their discretion but, at times, the services which are required by statute?
I understand the problems that face local authorities. I agree that there is far too much generalised abuse of local authorities about their alleged nondelivery of value for money. I do not agree that that is so. Given the general economic situation, we have had to establish a broad standstill in local authority expenditure. That means that many desirable locally-financed improvements have had to be postponed.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations he has had concerning his proposals on rates following his recent statement.
Consultations with the local authority associations are proceeding urgently under the aegis of the Consultative Council on Local Government Finance. A number of other organisations have been individually invited to comment on the proposals in the Green Paper and my statement contained a general invitation to interested organisations and individuals.
Is it not the case that the first-time home buyer, whom the Secretary of State was so anxious to help yesterday, could find himself worse off if the proposed shift to capital valuation took place?
That is too generalised a statement. As the hon. Member is aware, a consideration of the implications of shifting to a capital valuation system is taking place. No doubt we shall have a clearer view of this as the consultations proceed.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who talk about abolishing the rating system without telling the electorate what they would put in its place are talking absolute nonsense?
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is extremely demagogic to put before people the statement that a great national party is proposing to abolish the domestic rating system without saying what is to be put in its place. I want to be fair to the Opposition. Speaking at Ebbw Vale recently, the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition said:
I am sure that the House will be interested to hear that."An indirect tax, and more grant from central Government should replace domestic rates."
May we have an assurance that no steps will be taken by any Government Department to prepare for the transfer to capital values until the principle of the system has been agreed by Parliament?
I hope that we shall have a debate on this subject. A change can come about only through legislation. That would give an opportunity to all those who still feel that this should be opposed to express their opinion.
Will the Secretary of State make it quite clear that until Parliament has so approved the system it would be wrong for officers of the Inland Revenue to use capital values when assessing rateable values?
I am not aware that Inland Revenue officers are using capital values at present. Many discussions must take place. If the Opposition want to bring the matter to a head in Parliament and to seek the view of the House, they have Supply Days which they can use.
Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities have expressed reservations about the effect, in their area, of the implementation of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill; and if he has received any representations from the New Forest District Council.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has received from local authorities concerning the additional resources which they will need in order to implement the proposals of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill; and what reply he has made to those representations.
Up to 24th June, written representations had been made to the Department by 48 local authorities in England, including the New Forest District Council. Of these authorities, 40 mentioned resources. We have explained that we are satisfied that the Bill will not require any net overall increase in public expenditure. We accept that the effects in particular districts will varry but believe that any increases in individual areas will be very limited in scale.
Is the Minister aware that the view that the Bill will not increase public expenditure is considered by most local authorities and many councils to be pie in the sky? Is he aware that the Bill as drafted, except for the insertion into it of amendments moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi), is believed by many councils, including the New Forest Council, to place an intolerable burden on housing lists? Surely the criterion should be to help those who need help and not merely those who would like it.
Homelessness is the most acute form of deprivation. That is why we are supporting the Bill. I am aware of the representations from district councils. A total of 66 per cent. of housing authorities have adopted Circular 18/74 and authorities in areas where homelessness is most prevalent are carrying out their duties now.
I welcome some of the amendments that were moved by the Opposition and the constructive attitude taken by the Opposition spokesman, but does the Minister agree that there have been other amendments from other parts of the House?
We are bringing into legislative effect Circular 18/74, which has been the subject of continuing discussion with local authorities.
May we have an assurance that the Minister will consider carefully all the arguments that are made, because there are real difficulties in some local authorities, which are liable to be swamped by this legislation?
We have had a continuing dialogue with local authorities. Even if we accept the figures supplied by the Association of District Councils, the Bill will not place upon local authorities anything like the intolerable burden that has been suggested.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what criteria he uses when overruling recommendations of inspectors inquiring into local planning applications.
When taking a decision on a planning application or appeal, whether he agrees with the inspector's recommendation or not, my right hon. Friend has regard to the merits of the case in the light of the provisions of the development plan, if applicable, and of any other material considerations.
Does my hon. Friend realise that there is considerable local anger and dismay at the Secretary of State's decision to uphold the appeal by builders to build on land at Lydiate, despite opposition from three local authorities and the recommendation of his own inspector? On what ground does the Secretary of State believe that his Department's people are in a better position to judge than those three local authorities and the inspector? Will he reconsider this case and overturn the Secretary of State's decision?
I am aware of the feelings of certain groups in the locality but, as I have explained, the reasons for the decision were set out in the letter explaining it. I cannot elaborate, since the Secretary of State has given his decision. He has no further jurisdiction in the matter. There can be no question of reopening the case.
Is there not often a degree of bewilderment among the parties to an inquiry about the reasons for the Secretary of State differing from the inspector, who has heard all the evidence and submissions? Is it not time to give further consideration to the suggestion that I made some years ago that there should be a panel of inspectors to hear these inquiries, to whom should be entrusted the final decision within the parameters of a defined policy, supplied to the inspectors and parties involved before the hearing, in the context of each case?
The right hon. and learned Member has made an interesting suggestion. It is unwise to overestimate the number of cases in which this situation has arisen. I am informed that in less than 5 per cent. of appeals does the Secretary of State disagree with the inspector.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about the level of provision of camp sites for gipsies.
The latest available list which I shall publish with this reply shows that provision had been made for 2,254 families, and means that some 5,000 to 6,000 families are still without accommodation.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the 1968 Act, the Cripps Report and his own visits around the country recently have all highlighted the acute problems being faced by gipsies and being posed by gipsies? Does he further agree that it is now high time that, instead of cajoling, begging and pleading with local authorities to get on with the problem, the Government should take some direct action to provide gipsy sites in the many areas, such as Stockport, which need them?
My hon. Friend has rightly drawn attention to the fact that two groups suffer as a result of the failure to provide sites under the 1968 Act, even if that Act itself was adequate—the gipsies themselves, who suffer considerable harassment, particularly in certain areas, and householders who live near the bad, unofficial, illegal and inadequate sites, often without any water supply, without drainage and without refuse collection. The answer, as I recognise from the Cripps Report and my own visits to a number of areas, lies in more good sites. As part of the Government's examination of the Cripps Report, we shall be considering its recommendation that in certain circumstances the Secretary of State should use his powers to direct a local authority to provide sites.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that his answer about the great anxiety which is caused to the neighbours of these people will give them some comfort that at least a Minister knows that they are suffering. But knowing that people are suffering is completely inadequate. In Kent we have a massive pseudo-gipsy population. The fact that the Question calls them gipsies and the Minister has referred to them as gipsies is so much rubbish. Very few of these people are gipsies. A real grasp must be taken of this nettle, which is causing great anxiety in all the fruit-growing counties, where their traditional occupations are no longer available. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look at this matter continuingly and sympathetically.
I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said in the early part of his question. We have to realise that if we think only in terms of Romanies and the romantic view of gipsies we shall not solve the problem. The House and the Government will have to deal with the problem, which concerns not only romanies but all the other varieties of travellers—whether they are Irish tinkers, Scottish tinkers, didicois or anything else. This is a serious problem. Some counties have provided no sites whatever under the 1968 Act and I shall bring what pressure I can to bear on them to do so.
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no wish to persecute gipsies but that, as has been said, many families are badly affected by unauthorised encampments, not least in the county of Gwent? Therefore, along with the Secretary of State for Wales, will he expedite the provision of suitable camps throughout the country?
The Secretary of State for Wales and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment are meeting all the various gipsy groups as well as the local authorities. I am meeting the London Boroughs Association on 13th July and hope to meet the other associations connected with local government before the end of July. What I am hoping to get, and what is now being achieved in many areas, is a regional assessment by the people themselves in the region—local authorities and, I hope, the gipsies—of what the needs are, so that they can come to a decision about what a voluntary allocation should be without waiting for legislation.
What consideration has been given, and with what result, if any, to the Cripps recommendation that Exchequer grants for capital expenditure on the provision of gipsy sites—100 per cent. for five years—should be made?
That is an important point and one which we are considering. I think that local authority associations on the whole do not like the idea of specific grants, but the larger number of councillors to whom I have spoken in various parts of the country would welcome it. But the problem is not entirely financial. This Act has now been in operation since 1970. Some authorities have not acted at all since them. The problem concerns not only finance but public opinion, which exerts considerable and understandable pressure on councillors. Those of us who have been members of local authorities know what this can mean. Public opinion is causing a slowing up in the provision of the necessary sites.
Following is the information:
|GIPSY SITE PROVISION IN ENGLAND AND WALES AT 1ST JANUARY 1977|
|(Sites marked † are temporary)|
County and District Council (name and/or location of site)
Number of pitches
|South Bedfordshire (Pepperstock, Caddington)||12|
|South Bedfordshire (Chiltern View, Eaton Bray)||20|
|Bedford (Kempston Hardwick, Stewartby)||24|
|Newbury (Burghfield Common)||19|
|Beaconsfield (Mansion Lane, Iver)||32|
|Fenland (New Bridge Lane, Wisbech)||16|
|Peterborough (Oxney Road)||21|
|Crewe (Wrenbury Heath)||15|
|Halton (Warrington Road, Widnes)||15†|
|Chester (Hapsford, nr. Helsby)||15|
|Stockton-on-Tees (Bowesfield Lane)||20|
|North-East Derbyshire (Corbriggs, Grassmoor, Chesterfield)||15|
|East Devon (Broadclyst, nr. Exeter)||10|
|East Devon (Sowton. nr. Exeter)||20+20†|
|Poole (Mannings Heath)||22|
|West Dorset (Piddlehinton, Dorchester)||16|
|North Dorset (Thornicombe, Blandford)||10|
|Purbeck (Coldharbour, Wareham)||16|
|Darlington (Honeypot Lane)||20†|
|Darlington (Neasham Road)||20|
|Sedgefield (East Howie (near Ferryhill)||12†|
|Weaiden (Severn Barn. Hailsham)||3†|
|Wealden (Polly Arch, Polegate)||3†|
|Epping Forest (School Lane, Standford Rivers)||12|
|Harlow (Fern Hill Lane)||16|
|Harlow (Peldon Road) Wintering site||20†|
|Forest of Dean (Cinders Caravan Site, Crump Meadow, Cinderford)||8|
|Tewkesbury (Cursey Lane, Elmstone Hardwicke)||14|
|Tewkesbury (The Willows, Sandhurst Lane, near Gloucester)||30|
|Barking (Eastbrook End, Dagenham)||16|
|Barnet (Colney Hatch Lane, Finchley)||12†|
|Bexley (Powerscroft Road, Foots cray, Sidcup)||15|
|Bromley (Star Lane, St. Mary Cray)||12|
|Croydon (Beddington Farm Road)||15|
|Ealing (Kensington Road, Northolt)||16†|
|Enfield (Montagu Road, Edmonton)||15|
|Greenwich (Thistlebrook, Abbey Wood)||54|
|Harrow (Watling Farm, Elstree)||15|
|Havering (South Park, Dennises Lane)||15|
|Hillingdon (Colne Park, Cricket field Road, West Drayton||26|
|Hounslow (The Hartlands, Church Road, Cranford)||17|
|Kingston-up-Thames (Hook Rise North, Tolworth)||15|
|Kensington and Chelsea|
|Lambeth (Lonesome Depot, off Leonard Road)||15|
|Lewisham (Thurston Road)||15|
|Merton (Durnsford Road, Wimbledon)||15|
|Newham (Clays Lane, Stratford)||14|
|Redbridge (North View, Forest Road, Hainault)||16|
|Richmond upon Thames (Bishops Grove, Hampton)||16|
|Southwark (Dog Kennel Hill)||15†|
|Sutton (Carshalton Road, Woodmansterne, Banstead)||15|
|Waltham Forest (Folly Lane. Walthamstow)||16|
|Wandsworth (Trewint Street)||12|
|Manchester (Dantzic Street)||16|
|Bolton (Hall Lane)||16|
|Bury (Todd Street, Fernhill)||13|
|Wigan (Bickershaw Lane, Abram, Hindley)||15|
|Wigan (Miry Lane)||15†|
|Stockport (Hatherlow Street)||15†|
|Southampton (Redbridge Lane)||20†|
|Southampton (Kanes Hill)||20†|
|Hart (Star Hill, Hartley Wintney)||20†|
|Rushmoor (Minley Road, Cove)||20†|
Hereford and Worcester
|Wychavon (Hipton Hill, Evesham)||15|
|Bromsgrove (Houndsfield Lane, Wythall)||12|
|Welwyn/Hatfield (Holwell Court, Cole Green)||20|
|Hertsmere (Sandy Lane, Bushey)||27|
|St. Albans (Barley Mow Lane, Smallford)||15|
|Dacorum (Three Cherry Trees)||15|
|Watford (Tolpits Lane, Watford)||4†|
|St. Albans (Watling Street)||6|
|St. Albans (Park Street)||17 †|
|Beverley (Middledyke Lane, Cottingham)||45 †|
Isle of Wight
|Swale (Church Marches, Milton)||12†|
|Dartford (Claywood Lane)||12|
|Maidstone (Stilebridge Lane)||12|
|Ashford (Chillmington, Great Chard)||15|
|Canterbury (Vauxhall Road)||32|
|Blackburn (Aqueduct Road, Ewood)||17|
|Preston (London Road)||15†|
|Leicester (MeyneJl Gorse, Golf Course Lane, Braunstone)||15|
|Bosworth (Aston Firs, Sapcote, Nr. Hinckley)||15|
|North West Leicestershire (Station Yard, Castle Donington)||3|
|Lincoln (Washingborough Road)||15|
|South Kesteven (Grantham)||16|
|Liverpool (Oil Street, Waterloo Dock)||24|
|St. Helens (Sherdley Road)||12|
|Norwich (Mile Cross Road)||15|
|Wellingborough (Gypsy Lane, Irchester)||16|
|Wansbeck (Shields Road, Hartford)||15|
|Nottingham (Moor Bridge)||151†|
|South Oxfordshire (Sandford-on-Thames, Wallingford)||10+6†|
|Oxford (Slade Park)||15|
|Vale of White Horse (Woodhill Lane, East Challow)||12|
|Taunton Deane (Otterford)||5†|
|West Somerset (Farringdon Hill Lane, Stogursey)||10|
|Yeovil (Chilworthy Donyatt)||5†|
|Yeovil (Chubbards Cross, Ilton)||15|
|Rotherham (North Anston)||15|
|Sheffield (Tinsley Park)||15†|
|Barnsley (Smithies Lane)||15†|
|Newcastle-upon-Lyme (Lyme Valley)||15†|
|Tandridge (Tupwood Lane, Caterham)||10†|
|Tandridge (Green Lane, Outwood)||30|
|Waverley (Runford, Guildford Road, Farnham)||15†|
Tyne and Wear
|Gateshead (Abbott's Road, Oak wellgate)||15†|
|Birmingham (Castle Bromwich)||16|
|Sandwell (Brierley Lane, Coseley)||15|
|Wolverhampton (Showell Road, Bushbury)||15|
|Dudley (Oak Lane, Kingswinford)||15|
|Walsall (Willenhall Lane, Bloxwich)||15|
|Mid Sussex (Walstead, Nr. Lindfield)||7|
|Horsham (Two Mile Ash, South-water)||4†|
|Leeds (Cottingley Springs, Gelderd Road)||15|
|Bradford (Esholt Lane, Baildon)||16|
|Wakefield (Heath Common)||20†|
|Bradford (Bradford Metro, Mary Street)||16|
|Salisbury (Lode Hill, Downton)||12|
|Thamesdown (Hay Lane, Wroughton)||30|
|No. of permanent sites provided at 1st January 1977 102=1,652 pitches|
|No. of temporary sites provided at 1st January 1977 32= 489 pitches|
|Total 134=2,141 pitches|
* Site provided jointly with Hammersmith L.B.
NOTE: On some temporary sites there are no pitches as such and the size as shown in terms of pitches relates to the general level of occupancy. These levels clearly fluctuate from time to time.
District Council (name and /or location of site)
No of pitches
|Llanelli (Morfa Llanelli)||16|
|South Pembrokeshire (Kingsmoor Common, Kilgetty)||15|
|Preseli (Under the Hills, Haver-fordwest)||10|
|Preseli (Withy bush, Haverford-west)||10|
|Blaenau Gwent (Blaina)||15|
|Torfaen (Upper Race, Pontypool)||20|
|Cardiff (Rover Way)||21|
|No. of permanent sites provided at 1st January 1977 7=107 pitches|
|No. of temporary sites provided at 1st January 1977 1=6 pitches|
|Total 8=113 pitches|
Grand Totals: 142 sites (109 permanent, 33 temporary) with 2,254 pitches (1,759 permanent, 495 temporary).
House Purchase (First-Time Buyers)
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy on house purchase for first-time buyers.
I want to make it easier for people who wish to become home owners to do so. The Government's specific proposals include new savings bonus and loans schemes, as set out in Chapter 7 of the Green Paper on Housing Policy.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that no Minister before has ever felt it necessary to produce a Green Paper the day before answering a parliamentary Question of mine? Does he accept that, although one welcomes the proposals on low-start mortgages and longer-term mortgages, the real nub of the problem is the deposit? Is he satisfied that a maxmum loan of £500, which will carry interest after five years and a relatively small savings bonus, will be adequate? What consideration was given to the alternative proposal that to a couple who save £1,000 a grant of £500 will be given by the Government?
I personally rather agree with the hon. Gentleman that the deposit is the most important thing. It is not the only one, but it is for many people the major obstacle to starting on the journey of becoming home owners. Therefore, the proposals are designed to help overcome that hurdle. Whether a £500 loan linked to matching savings is insufficient, as opposed to a £500 grant linked, presumably, to an equivalent amount of savings—
No, it would be £1,000.
But the individual has to do the saving and nothing in my scheme would prevent a person from saving £1,000. He could easily save £1,000 and would still attract a £500 loan. Thus, the difference between the two proposals is the difference between the £500 loan, the interest on which is cancelled for the first five years, and a £500 grant. Perhaps that is not as spectacular a difference as the hon. Gentleman has suggested.
May I direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the recent General Election in Southern Ireland, in which the Fianna Fail Party got into power after promising outright grants to first-time purchasers of as much as £1,000? Surely this country can at least offer £500 as an outright grant.
There will be time, as I said, to debate particular proposals. We have put forward what we believe will be a sufficiently attractive proposal to enable many people to overcome a serious hurdle. We obviously will consider the details of the scheme as we debate it in the House, but I must take account of many other claims on the housing budget generally.
Does not yesterday's Green Paper recommend the building societies to help first-time buyers, those who cannot raise the deposit, and those who want to get the cheaper, older houses? But have not the building societies, unlike local authorities, failed largely to do this? Will my right hon. Friend therefore require the building societies to make available part of their vast funds to the local authorities precisely for that purpose?
It would be helpful if the building societies could increase the amount which they make available to help would-be purchasers to overcome that obstacle. One looks upon this as a developing relationship among Government, building societies and local authorities. We have made a good deal of progress this year, but, like my hon. Friend, I am by no means satisfied. We shall keep in touch, together and with the building societies, to see what further needs to be done.
In welcoming the help which is to be given to first-time buyers, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that he has looked at the corollary of this situation and will make available an adequate supply of starter homes and extendable homes so as to help young married first-time buyers?
I am not certain about the particular categories that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, other than the first-time buyer. It is the first-time buyer to whom this proposal is precisely directed.
In terms of encouraging building societies to join local authorities particularly to help the first-time buyer of older property, is my right hon. Friend aware that that has been done on South Tyneside, where some extremely valuable schemes in the inner areas are now in operation, with the co-operation of building societies and local authorities?
I am encouraged to hear that from my hon. Friend, because we have had many examples—I do not complain of them—of failure of co-operation. It is good to hear of cases where we are beginning to get what we very much wish to achieve, namely, effective co-operation between building societies and local authorities.
Will the right hon. Gentleman understand that one of the greatest harms done to the ability of people to buy low-price houses has been the dramatic reduction in the ceiling on local authority lending for that purpose, as imposed on the authorities by the Government? Bearing in mind the right hon. Gentleman's acceptance that it is often the deposit that presents a difficulty for first-time buyers, does he recognise that by putting forward a policy that will provide a loan and not a grant he is reducing effectively the creditability of the couple concerned, and that the money that he is making available will come off the mortgage that they can obtain from other sources? In fact, the scheme that the right hon. Gentleman announced yesterday is a con. The only way effectively to move forward in this area is to implement a one-to-two grants-to-savings scheme that will dramatically help people to get the deposit together.
It is obviously not a con; it is an effort to enable many of our fellow citizens who wish to become home owners to overcome a considerable obstacle. As for whether we have judged the terms of the scheme exactly right, we shall be interested to hear the views of the House in a considered way. The objective is to help. It is no good the hon. Gentleman brushing it aside. The real difference between a £500 interest-free loan for five years and a £500 grant is a good deal less than he is suggesting. As for damaging prospects by reducing local authority lending, the truth is that much local authority lending in the past has not been directed in precisely the way that we would have wished. I have been making every effort to get the building societies to fill the gap that we had to create in local authority lending last year.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has held so far with those large industrial cities which were not included in the inner city aid programme about help with their particular problems.
My right hon. Friend and I have met representatives of Newcastle and, separately, representatives of the other authorities of Tyne and Wear to discuss their partnership requests for inner city assistance. Prior to my right hon. Friend's statement on 6th April we met with several other authorities and their associations.
I welcome the aid that is being given to London, the West Midlands, Liverpool and elsewhere, but is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable concern in other major industrial cities, whose inner city problems are just as serious as those in the areas to which I have referred, and that they have been overlooked in the first round? Will that be taken into consideration, and will some new proposals be brought forward at an early date?
We were aware of a very special concentration and intensity of problems in the cities and areas that have already been selected. We are also aware that similar situations exist in other cities. That is why we intend to meet representatives from Sheffield, Wandsworth, Haringey, Islington, Hackney and Hammersmith. There are other authorities that we may also meet in making a final decision on the list that will emerge. I should make it clear that if the money that is available is to be effective we cannot, unfortunately, widen the list too far.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it is not only in industrial areas that the problem of deprivation arises, it being present in many rural areas? Is he aware that there has been a sad decline in a whole series of services, whether it be local transport, village schools, building new roads or making improvements, helping the elderly and, unfortunately, the closing of many beds in cottage hospitals? Does he realise that a very real problem exists? Will he bear that in mind when considering the rate support grant for next year? Is he aware that many people in rural areas are coming to the conclusion that they are having to pay more and more to receive less and less?
I am well aware of the point that the hon. Gentleman has made, namely, that there is deprivation in rural areas. However, the Question is concerned with a very high concentration and intensity of deprivation that exists at the centres of some of our industrial cities. It is that with which we are primarily concerned. That is not to say that the problem does not exist in other areas, including the smaller cities and towns and rural areas.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the depth of feeling in Newcastle upon Tyne and the Tyneside and Wear-side area generally about the way in which his right hon. Friend's policy is developing? Will he give us an assurance that the point made to him will be seriously considered, namely, that the level of deprivation in the areas that I and others represent is at least as serious as in the areas chosen? Will he give some indication when he will come to a decision, as the delay is causing great uncertainty locally?
I was not aware, from meeting representatives of Newcastle upon Tyne, or Tyne and Wear, of the depth of concern about the way in which my right hon. Friend's policy is developing, which is how my hon. Friend put it. I am aware of their depth of concern about the problems that exist in their areas. That concern was forcefully put to us in the meeting that they had with us. My right hon. Friend and I will come to a conclusion on the whole issue as soon as we can.
Will the hon. Gentleman be frank and acknowledge that the Government's White Paper indicates that there is little hope of practical help being given to the areas outside those that benefit under partnership agreements as defined under the Government's criteria? Will he admit that the disappointment is justified in large parts of the industrial West Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire, which feel badly neglected under the policy?
I would not admit that. The hon. Gentleman knows that the rate support grant is one means that the Government have used to try to recognise the problems of the areas that he has described. We have also made it clear in the White Paper that the main policies and programmes of the Government as a whole will try to recognise the new priority in inner city areas. The urban programme, which has been transferred to our Department, will also be available to assist areas where deprivation exists, though perhaps not on the scale that exists in the partnership cities and the others that may be selected for partnerships.
Water Authorities (Staff)
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance he has issued to water authorities concerning the salary levels of employees and the number of staff employed, in the light of existing salaries and numbers.
Salary levels and staff establishments are matters for the internal management and negotiating procedures of the water industry itself, but we have made clear to water authorities the need to exercise restraint.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that rising water rates are resented? Does he accept that it is undesirable that an unelected body, which in practice is responsible to no one, should have absolute power? If salaries were excessive, perquisites were excessive and the provision of motor cars was excessive, am I right in supposing that the public would have no remedy and Ministers would have no responsibility?
If Ministers have no responsibility and if they have no powers except over the capital expenditure of the water authorities, it is because the Conservative Government enacted the Water Bill that took away those responsibilities from local authorities and from the Government. However, they are not entirely unelected bodies. The majority of the members of regional water authorities are members of local councils. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will support what the Government have to say in the White Paper on the water industry, which we hope to publish soon.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that not only was it a Conservative Bill that caused these organisations to be instituted but that the rates have roughly doubled, because the cost of sewerage is included, and that about £100 million of rate support grant that otherwise would have gone from the Exchequer to support sewerage services is now no longer available to regional water authorities?
That is true. I hope that ratepayers will recognise that the sewerage element in their rates is now in the water rate and not in the general rate.
The Government appear to have done precisely nothing, arising out of last summer's drought, to prevent a repetition. Does the hon. Gentleman expect a firm programme to be announced to meter water supplies in the forthcoming White Paper?
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is unable to be here this afternoon, will be most disappointed at the suggestion that he has done nothing about providing the necessary water. I am sure that my right hon. Friend, the Early-Day Motions from Members of the House, the Prayers and whoever answered them have provided the answer, to the extent that there is no danger of any shortage of water this year, even if we have fine weather for the rest of the summer.
Housing Policy Review
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he now expects the Housing Policy Review to be published.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he can now give a firm date for the publication of his housing finance review.
A Green Paper was published yesterday.
On the local authority aspects, is the Secretary of State aware that some—perhaps many—local authorities feel that they would be better able to meet the housing needs in their area if they were allowed to devote a little more resources to local authority mortgages and home improvements? This year many authorities, such as my own South Norfolk District Council, have been savagely cut back in these respects.In the Secretary of State's proposals, with their emphasis on local authorities knowing their areas best, is it his intention to give them greater freedom of choice to make up their own minds on these aspects or, as he rather suggested in answer to an earlier question, still to carry on with central Government diktat?
Not exactly diktat, but we are embarking on this new approach to local housing expenditure and local housing plans. We gave a degree of virement between different previously restricted separate categories of housing expenditure in 1977–78, and I hope to broaden that in the period ahead, 1978–79.
I welcome what was said yesterday, and the Green Paper, but is it the Secretary of State's intention to wait until after November before making any changes in the rateable value and cost limits of improvement grants? Cannot we have that decision speedily?
We are prepared to look at individual cases. I should not wish to mislead the hon. Gentleman and to say that I was intending to change this before we have had time to receive the general comments that we have now invited from the public and from all those concerned with the Green Paper. On the other hand, I am not necessarily saying that we have to have everything in before we can make a decision on this matter.
Will my right hon. Friend be prepared to consider bringing together the new housing people in the Greater London Council and representatives of the Ealing and Hillingdon Councils concerning the Willow Tree Lane project? If that development had gone through, it would have been a massive contribution to easing the very severe housing problem in that part of London, particularly in the Middlesex area, but the new GLC has decided not to proceed. This means that there are literally thousands of people who might have been rehoused in a few years' time and who will not now be rehoused, because of the Tory policy on the GLC.
I am indeed concerned about the apparently wholesale cancellation of GLC projects in outer London. We shall be studying these proposals with great anxiety as they come forward. I shall consider what my hon. Friend said. If he would like to write to me giving me more details of this, I shall certainly give him a reply.
Will the Secretary of State specifically repudiate the persistent suggestion by his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) that there should be new statutory controls over the building societies requiring them to lend to any particular class of person or in respect of any particular class of property? Will the Secretary of State confirm that any such proposals would only lead to suggestions from the building societies that the State should reimburse them for bad debts, and from that to proposals for the nationalisation of the building societies?
They have had £500 million.
What my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) is concerned about—and this represents the views of everyone on the Government side and a good many Opposition Members—is that there are classes of people—and classes of property—who have not been served as well in the past by building societies as we would wish. It is precisely those people whom we are trying to help. I believe that we can get a considerable way with the building societies through the kinds of arrangements that I have already discussed with the House.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations he has now had concerning the distribution of the £17 million available for dockland redevelopment in London.
The Docklands Joint Committee and the constituent authorities agreed a programme of projects at their meeting on 21st June. This has just been submitted to me and I am considering it urgently.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that information. As Mr. Percy Bell has now resigned as chairman of the Docklands Joint Committee, which now has Sir Hugh Wilson as its independent chairman, will my right hon. Friend confirm that this indicates a consistent policy of the new GLC and no change in direction?Will my right hon. Friend have a word with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services concerning the closure of Plaistow Maternity Hospital, which is in dockland, an area where we hope to have 20,000 new inhabitants in the next five or six years?
I know my hon. Friend's intense interest in the whole dockland development, but he will appreciate that, while I well understand the anxieties and worries experienced over the closure of the Plaistow Maternity Hospital—it happens also in my own part of East London—that really is a question for my right hon Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.As for the wider issue of continuity of policy in the Docklands Joint Committee, it would be ridiculous to pretend that there will not be differences between the new incumbents of County Hall and their predecessors. Of course there will. But I very much hope that the interests of dockland will be judged in a sober way and that every effort will be made to carry forward the work of the Docklands Joint Committee.
Is the right hon. Gentleman able to confirm that the sum of £17 million and other support for the dockland programme is central Government funded money and not just an authority for the GLC to spend its own money?
What we have said is that £17 million of increased public expenditure would be authorised in dockland in the period up to the introduction of the proper inner city grant. That will comprise local and central Government expenditure. But if the money comes under the urban programme, the central Government will finance 75 per cent. of any project. If it comes under housing programmes, it will be over 60 per cent., as the hon. Gentleman knows.
Government Offices (Expenditure)
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his latest estimate of the expenditure on Government office accommodation during the current year by the Property Services Agency.
The estimate is about £250 million on office rents, new construction, furniture, and maintenance.
Is the Minister aware that that figure is to some extent misleading, because about 60 per cent. of the office property held by the Property Services Agency is held on old leases, where the rent payable does not represent the full value? Does he accept, therefore, that it would be advantageous for his Department and also for all Government Departments occupying office premises if they were made aware of the true cost of the space they occupy?
The true cost to the Government is the rent being paid now. It is true that certain leases are ending and that people are moving into newly-built Crown buildings or other rented property. The £250 million is rather different from the figure in the Supply Estimates, because it does not include spscialised accommodation, such as prisons, courts, and so on.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has on recent movements in the supply of private rented accommodation in the urban areas.
Some indications can be gained from recent studies and I shall be glad to write to the hon. Gentleman about these.
I welcome the somewhat timid remarks of the Secretary of State in the House yesterday on the private rented sector, but does the Minister realise that the rigidity of the law of tenure of private rented property has been a greater cause of homelessness than almost anything else in our society?In 1977, when there are grown-up people wishing to rent for a short period, particularly in the urban areas, why on earth should not they be allowed to do so?
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned one factor among many which have affected the private rented sector. They are being carefully considered in our Rent Act review.
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he remains satisfied that the present system of allocating resources to local authorities for house building and improvement is meeting the housing needs of areas with serious housing stress.
Areas with serious housing stress are receiving first priority under the current arrangements for allocating resources. This will continue under the new system of housing strategies and investment programmes, to be introduced next year, which will enable us to allocate resources according to local comprehensive assessments of housing need.
Does the Minister accept that much of what has been said about the housing review is for the long term? Does he agree that in areas of stress there is a need to get ahead with the building programme and to create employment in the construction industry? Does he see any possibility of an improvement in that situation in the near future?
The Secretary of State has referred to the improvements for which he is looking. I suggest to my hon. Friend that in the allocations made to stress areas the Secretary of State has recognised this problem. The Government are well aware of it and are anxious that resources should go where they are most desperately needed.
Order. I wish to make an appeal to the House before I call the statement. We have a half-day Supply debate and a considerable number of hon. Members wish to speak in it. There is a Ten-Minute Bill and there are several applications under Standing Order No. 9. Therefore, I shall not be able to allow as long on the statements for supplementary questions as I would normally. I must be fair to those who wish to take part in the Supply debate.
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.One of the most disturbing results of the current recession has been the very large increase in youth unemployment, which can have lasting effects on the personal development and outlook of young people. Youth unemployment remains un-acceptably high and is likely to remain high for some time to come. This is of serious concern to the Government. We have therefore decided that the Manpower Services Commission should be asked to operate a new programme of opportunities for unemployed young people on the lines of the proposals the Commission put to us based on the excellent report of its working party. In reaching this decision we have also taken into account the relevant report on the job creation programme of the Social Services and Employment Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee and comments made by hon. Members in the debate on 24th May and by many others. The new programme will draw together and build on existing schemes for young people. It meets the criticism that existing provisions do not provide adequate training for young people by integrating a series of measures for unemployed young people in the 16–18 age group which will provide them with a combination of training and work experience. These will be run to fit the needs of individuals, with the purpose of improving their prospects of obtaining a satisfactory permanent job at the earliest possible moment. There will be a maximum of 130,000 places on the programme, with opportunities being given to over 230,000 young people a year. This is about double the provision under the present schemes and corresponds to the assessment of the need made by the Manpower Services Commission. The Manpower Services Commission and Government will review the size of the total programme annually against the prospects for youth unemployment. In drawing up the programme account has been taken of the possibility of assistance from the European Social Fund. We shall want to ensure that places go to those who most need them. Summer school leavers will be considered for places from September, and it is our firm intention that no summer or Easter school leavers who remain unemployed the following Easter should remain without the offer of a place under the programme. The Government will ensure that the necessary resources are available for this purpose, and the MSC will arrange the programme accordingly, making such special provision as is necessary. About one-third of the young people who join the unemployment register leave it within one month, and we would not wish the programme to disrupt the normal flow of young people into permanent jobs. We therefore intend that places should go only to those young people who have been unemployed for at least six weeks, and the emphasis will be on those who are the least qualified with the poorest employment prospects. It will be important to ensure that the programme caters adequately for girls in this category. The work experience courses for young people will last, in general, for up to 12 months but, taking account of the Expenditure Sub-Committee's report, we have asked the MSC to operate this rule with some flexibility for individual young people with no permanent job to go to in areas of high youth unemployment. All young people on courses under the programme will be paid an allowance of £18 a week. This includes £2 for travel expenses with a discretion to pay more in exceptional circumstances. The new programme will require increased provision for education and training and we shall be making resources available through the programme to meet the extra costs to the education service. In view of the extra work that will fall on it, we shall also be providing more support from central funds for the Careers Service, which has made an excellent contribution against the odds. Initially, we shall be providing an additional 170 unemployment specialist posts, on top of the extra 320 posts already agreed, and a new allowance for clerical support in respect of all these posts. To ensure that the Careers Service can maintain high standards, we shall keep its staff requirements under close review as the programme develops. The programme will be in full operation by September 1978 and will cost about £160 million a year when it is fully in operation. Taking account of savings in unemployment benefit and so on, the net costs are about 60 per cent. of the gross cost. Preparations for the new programme will begin immediately. There will be a progressive build up of places in train-ning and work preparation courses from this coming September. The work experience programme will continue into the new programme and, to ease the transition, the job creation programme will be extended for applications until the end of 1977, after which applications under the new arrangements will be received. There will be over 30,000 extra places available under the current schemes this autumn compared with last year. In addition to the places in further education colleges required by the MSC programme, there will be a complementary education programme to enable more school leavers to continue their education. Resources will be made available to enable local education authorities throughout Great Britain to provide an additional 10,000 places in further education over and above present projections for 1980–81. My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Scotland will be providing further details shortly. We have decided that the youth employment subsidy scheme should be extended to 31st March 1978 when it will end. To improve the provisions for young people in advance of the full implementation of the MSC programme, I would urge employers to make greater use of this scheme. I turn now to measures for adults. We announced earlier this year the extension of the temporary employment subsidy until 31st March 1978, and the introduction of the temporary employment (supplement) scheme, and the experimental small firms employment subsidy which comes into operation this week. The other two existing special measures for adults are the job creation programme and the job release scheme. The Man- power Services Commission has proposed that the job creation programme should be replaced on 1st April 1978 by two separate forms of provision for adults. The first would provide 8,000 places for adults from the unemployment register who would be employed as supervisors and instructors on work experience schemes under the programme for young people. The second would be known as the special temporary employment programme—STEP—and would provide temporary employment opportunities of up to 12 months for those aged 19 and over. The Government have agreed to these proposals. We have asked the MSC to build up the number of places under the new STEP programme to 25,000. The resources will be concentrated on localities with exceptionally severe unemployment problems. Places will go to groups who have been particularly hard hit by the current recession. Priority will be given to maintaining the number of places currently provided under JCP for the 19–24 age group, whose unemployment rate is well above the average, and to increasing assistance to those aged 25 and over who have been unemployed for over 12 months. There has been a marked increase in the number of the long-term unemployed, many of them heads of families, and the new STEP programme will provide many more temporary employment opportunities for them. Adults under the two new schemes will be paid the rate for the job subject to a defined maximum. The cost of STEP when it is fully in operation will be £68 million a year. Taking account of savings of unemployment benefit, the net cost is about one-third of the gross cost. We introduced the job release scheme on 3rd January, and it is due to end tomorrow. About 20,000 applications will have been approved by then. We have decided that the scheme should be extended to 31st March 1978 but, taking account of criticisms made in the House, that from 1st July it should apply only to those in employment in the assisted areas. The cost of the extension is about £8 million. The net cost is about one-third of the gross cost. The measures I have announced today reflect our determination to continue to mitigate the worst effects of high levels of unemployment, especially for young people at the beginning of their working lives. The new programme of opportunities for young people represents a major step forward in tackling the problem of youth unemployment. It demonstrates our concern, which I know the whole House shares, that we should not abandon young people who cannot find jobs, with the depressing prospect of long spells of unemployment, but should provide them with opportunities to improve their prospects of obtaining permanent jobs.
Is the Minister aware that his statement indicates the seriousness with which the whole House and the country view the problem of youth unemployment? Is he further aware that the Conservatives consider that there are other ways to help to achieve higher employment and perhaps extra production and wealth creation for society? Nevertheless, we believe that these schemes are to be welcomed as a contribution to solving the problem, and that it is important that everybody who has not a job when leaving school should have a chance to obtain a job under one of these schemes. Therefore we welcome that part of his statement.Does the Minister appreciate that there is a great need to ensure that these schemes provide a link with longer-term employment, and that they should not be used merely as a way of putting off the evil day of unemployment for a year or 18 months? Does he also appreciate that we welcome the additional help given under the further education college arrangements entered into with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science? Will both Ministers do everything they can to ensure that there is no bureaucratic wastage in what the MSC is doing, on the one hand, and action taken by education authorities on the other? We also welcome the changes made to the job release scheme in view of what has been said in the House on this subject on previous occasions, and we welcome the fact that the European Social Fund will be assisting the scheme. Has he any idea of the amount of help that will be available? Finally, are the Minister and the House aware that the Conservatice Party will give support to any scheme which will enable young people to find jobs but that we want to see them in worthwhile jobs? We should all play our part in creating the publicity that will encourage people to take jobs instead of remaining idle on the streets.
I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's comments. I agree with him that my statement illustrates the seriousnes with which we regard youth unemployment. I also agree that there are other ways in which unemployment can be tackled. I also agree that it is necessary for these schemes to be directly related to permanent employment which will follow. I assure him that these schemes have been designed with that end very much in mind—namely, preparing people for work and giving them work experience. They contain important elements relating to job opportunities.My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and I will do all we can to ensure that there is no bureaucratic wastage, as the right hon. Gentleman called it, in the activities of our Departments in so far as they overlap substantially in the measures I have announced. To that end we have asked the MSC to consult local authorities, and they are working on this matter to ensure that schemes run effectively in combination in their respective areas.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his statement will be welcomed on the Liberal Benches and that we wish to compliment the Government on the steps they have taken? Will he take note of the necessity to ensure that existing facilities in technical colleges are used not merely in educational training but in Manpower Services training programmes? Will he agree that the Government need a long-term solution to youth unemployment, in addition to the measures which he has now put before the House? Will he, for example, consider increasing public expenditure in cases where such money would result in the creation of more jobs for school leavers?Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of calling together Members of all parties in the House who profess to be concerned about youth unemployment, with a view to seeing whether there can be some kind of national drive among employers? Should we not seek to urge those employers, on a regional basis, to consider whether private industry could create more job opportunities for school leavers?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his initial remarks. I give him an undertaking that we shall ensure that technical college facilities are used by both the MSC and education authorities in facilitating and developing this programme. In many areas this is already happening, but we shall examine other areas to see whether there is further scope for such arrangements. We regard the programme as long-term in comparison with the projects which it will replace.We have given an undertaking that we shall review the situation from year to year, but the projections on which the calculations are made run five years ahead. We shall examine within this programme what can be done by way of special projects in community service and in the public service area. There is room within the programme for that aspect. I shall consult with other parties, because I would welcome a joint party appeal to employers to support us in this programme. The matter cannot be left to the MSC and the two Government Departments now involved but will require the support of a number of sections of the community, including employers.
I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, but is he aware that the TUC and trade union movement are deeply convinced that the only effective way of tackling unemployment is the early expansion of the economy and the restoration of cuts in public expenditure? Will he confirm that the Manpower Services Commission is being charged with the responsibility of spearheading the coordination of the schemes he has outlined this afternoon, and will he say what steps he is taking to monitor and increase the training content of all these schemes? We accept that if the schemes are to be worth while they must provide for proper and adequate training. What is he doing about that aspect?
If I may deal with my hon. Friend's last supplementary question, we have ensured that all seven different elements of the programme will have a high training requirement. They are a blend of work experience and job preparation. That meets a wide criticism of a narrow area of the previous projects. As regard the attitudes of the trade union movement, I am well aware that the movement would not regard any measure of this sort as being the total answer to the unemployment problem. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and I met TUC representatives at Congress House, who confirmed their support for the programme, and we have also discussed it with the CBI. I am conscious that it has broad trade union support, which I very much welcome.
Is the Secretary of State aware that his statement, as it relates to Scotland, though welcome, contains proposals which are far too little and far too late, and that the real way in which the problem can be solved in Scotland is by an increase in the budget of the Scottish Development Agency to £300 million a year? Is he aware that unless this is done, Scotland will be the only country in the world to have found oil in its waters and to have become economically the poorer for it?
My examination of the job effects of the discovery of Scottish oil does not lead me to believe that that will solve the unemployment problems of Scotland for a long time in the future. Unfortunately, it produces a hump of requirement for employment which then falls away.As to our measures being too little, too late, I would point out that they are doubling the existing high provision and this, arguably, puts us in a position to say that we are making greater provision on youth unemployment than any other country in Europe.
Will the Secretary of State ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make an early statement indicating whether he proposes to introduce corresponding measures in the Province?
In developing this programme with the Manpower Services Commission, I have had discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who, I assure the House is anxious to bring every possible measure to bear on unemployment there. I shall be very surprised if there are any measures that we have proposed here which he will not wish to see made effective in Northern Ireland.
Given the urgent need, my right hon. Friend's announcement is to be welcomed, but is he sure that the adverse effect on school sixth forms which certain newspapers were predicting last week will not apply? Second, could my right hon. Friend publish in the Official Report his estimate of the benefit which each region will receive?
It is difficult to publish an estimate of the benefit which each region will receive because we are giving the undertaking, in introducing the programme, that we shall devote the resources on the basis of the youth unemployment levels of the areas.It follows logically that wherever youth unemployment is highest, the greatest funds will flow and the greatest effort of the programme will flow. I have discussed the position of sixth-formers with my right hon. Friend, and with that in view we have arranged to time the introduction of the various phases of the programme and the recruitment periods to ensure that these will not adversely affect sixth-formers. The major intake into the programme will take place after September when most sixth-formers have made their decisions to continue.
Will the Secretary of State accept our welcome to this scheme as a step towards integrated manpower planning? Will he comment more on the STEP proposals, particularly in view of the restrictions on job creation, in that it cannot be applied to such subjects as housing or education projects since it comes within other budgets? Will the same restrictions apply to STEP or will it be more flexible?
In the case of the STEP programme for adults we shall be seeking to give greater vocational guidance directed to the particular needs of the longer-term unemployed. That is why we are aiming at this increase in the number of places.We shall also seek to ensure that in servicing the vocational support schemes for the longer-term unemployed we shall get a feedback of information which will enable us to see how far the job creation elements can meet the particular requirements of long-term unemployed. We do not want to stamp long-term unemployed as a particular class of people. We do not regard them in that way. We realise that they have individual needs, that some of them would benefit from retraining and that some will need other forms of assistance. For those reasons, we are certain that it is right to give priority to the longer-term adult unemployed over 25 and to examine their needs in order to achieve a proper balance between training provision and job creation provision.
Under the Manpower Services Commission programme, is there a fixed maximum time limit when young people can be employed?
There has been a general limit on job creation of one year maximum. Under this programme we are asking the MSC to operate with a certain degree of flexibility in those areas where there is very high youth unemployment, so that in certain special cases youngsters can be retrained in certain parts of the programme for more than 12 months.
When the Secretary of State quotes support from the General Council of the TUC for the measures which he has announced, that will only reflect the view of all those who are clear about these problems that the Secretary of State is doing a great deal and that he shows the fullest understanding of the gravity of the problem. But it does not in any way diminish the concern expressed by my right hon. Friend that when one sees the OECD report predicting large-scale and increasing long-term unemployment, the Secretary of State can only adopt these palliative measures with the best of intentions but must persuade his colleagues in the Cabinet to change our economic strategy if the problem is to be met.In the specific field with which he has to deal, will the Secretary of State make some comment on the report of youth employment officers in recent months that a number of employers are dismissing people at the age of 18 or 18½ when they have become entitled to the full wage, after they have used them when they did not have to pay the full wage? Will his Department take measures to see that that is stopped?
One of the reasons why a guarantee of six months' employment was attached to the youth employment subsidy scheme was to ensure that those who entered it had the essential protections of the Employment Protection Act against unfair dismissal.As to the approach of the OECD, that report backs our own experience that part of the youth employment problem is structural and demographic and that it would be necessary to have special regard to that even if we did not have the major problem of recession.
I propose to call two more hon. Members from each side.
Does the Minister realise that this new scheme is yet another way over the past 18 months on which he has spent £700 million, and would he tell the House what he is planning to do for the 100,000 or so young people who will be the hard-core unemployed young people, drawing the dole and with nothing to do?
I cannot agree that one more scheme to be added to many schemes is an appropriate description. One of the special aspects of the programme which I am announcing is that it meets the criticism very largely that we have been running a lot of separate schemes which are not sufficiently integrated and do not take an overall look at the youth employment problem. This programme integrates very closely seven schemes. I think that it is entitled to be viewed in that way.As to the 100,000 hard-core—or the higher number which was indicated by the Holland Report—I think we have met that by preparing a programme which, when fully in operation, will offer to all youngsters who have been without a job from the previous summer or Easter school leaving dates an opportunity to participate in a part of this programme by the following Easter. Therefore, it would be unthinkable, with this programme in operation, that there could be anything like that number who were without some opportunity to be trained or to take further education or work experience within 12 months of leaving school.
Is the Secretary of State discussing with employers and the industrial training boards the problem of the contraction in the number of proper apprenticeships for young men and women in industry—a problem particularly important in development areas? Taking the longer-term view of labour demand, is he seriously looking at the possibilities of earlier retirement, of a shorter working week and longer holidays, and discussing this with his EEC counterparts?
I announced today that we are extending the job swap scheme in respect of employed people only for a further period. I do not claim that this is more than an experimental scheme. It does not fully meet the whole question of what contribution can be made to reducing unemployment by earlier retirement, longer holidays, a shorter working week or keeping youngsters longer at school, but it is something which we must continue to examine. We are dealing in another way with the problem of maintaining the intake of youngsters into apprenticeships. Under the training awards scheme, which we operate through the Training Services Agency and the industrial training boards, we are funding up to 60,000 apprenticeships in industry with the aim of maintaining the level of intake into industry in that way up to the pre-recession level.
Has the Secretary of State offered any funds from the job creation scheme to his right hon. Friends to help with the employment of young teachers as supernumerary teachers in deprived areas, thus enabling them to complete the probation period without which their professional qualification is not complete?
Under the job creation scheme I have arranged with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science that we shall provide certain money for retraining teachers who are unable to obtain jobs in their particular qualifications, to train them to obtain jobs where there are vacancies. We are therefore prepared to consider other applications of the same principle, including that to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred.
Has my right hon. Friend noticed that the representatives of all the Opposition parties have remarked upon and welcomed his statement although it was principally they—including the Liberals, I may say—who were calling for massive cuts in public expenditure only two years ago? It has been the cuts in public expenditure which have created most of the problem with which my right hon. Friend is now confronted, so will he learn the lesson from this, restore the cuts and intervene positively in the economy instead of having to introduce make-do-and-mend Lib-Lab policies as he has had to do today?
I welcome widespread support for measures which help to deal with youth unemployment, but, particularly in our present parliamentary situation, I cannot pick and choose too closely among our supporters on the basis of whether their attitudes on public expenditure generally are consistent with what they advocate on particular problems of youth unemployment.
European Community (Council Of Ministers Meeting)
With permission, I wish to make a statement on the meeting of the Council of Ministers which was held in Luxembourg on Monday 27th June and chaired by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.The main issues which were discussed were the internal fishery arrangements for the common fisheries policy and the conservation of certain herring stocks. Among other issues considered were the allocation of catch quotas in Norwegian northern waters, the allocation of quotas to Spain, and membership of the International Commission for North-West Atlantic Fisheries. On the common fisheries policy, I made it clear to the Council that the internal régime is a matter of the greatest political and economic importance to the United Kingdom and that the proposal which the Commission has so far made did not represent a satisfactory oasis of agreement for us. I indicated that the basis of the United Kingdom position is that we are bringing to the Community a major proportion of the total fish resources and that this contribution must be fully recognised and be seen in relation to other important aspects, including the heavy losses which we are suffering in distant waters. I reminded the Council of the proposal for a variable coastal belt up to 50 miles which my right hon. Friend the then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made to it in May of last year. I made it clear that this proposal remained on the table. I indicated, however, that we were willing to look at other ways in which our essential needs might be met, so long as they provided our fishermen with an assured future and ensured that the fish stocks were properly conserved. I then outlined a proposal for dealing with the coastal band up to 50 miles on the lines indicated by my right hon. Friend in the debate on fisheries on Thursday of last week, involving an exclusive limit of 12 miles and a dominant preference in the area from 12 to 50 miles. There was a useful discussion which appeared to reflect some willingness on the part of some member States to recognise our essential requirements. Discussion of the internal fisheries régime will be resumed at the Council Meeting on 18th July. The Council also considered the measures necessary to conserve the herring stocks in a number of areas. In the case of the Irish Sea stock, it was agreed that consideration of the Commission's proposals should be deferred until there has been an opportunity for discussion with the Irish authorities and the Isle of Man Government about the management of this stock. Further consideration was given to the West of Scotland stock. The Commission again put forward a proposal for a quota allocation but on the basis of a much reduced total allowable catch. We supported this proposal on the ground that it took account of the latest scientific evidence on the stock and also because the proposed distribution of the total catch among member States reflected out dominant interest in the stock. We were successful in getting agreement to the introduction of this quota allocation, subject, however, to an Irish reserve which will allow the new Irish Government time to consider the matter further. The present ban on the fishing of the stock will continue until 20th July. The introduction of this quota arrangement, under which more than 70 per cent. of the total allowable catches to members of the Community is allocated to the United Kingdom, will provide useful fishing opportunities for our industry during the remainder of the year without risking the possibility of further serious damage to the stock. The Commission's proposal for a continuation of the ban on the North Sea herring stock led to a long and particularly difficult discussion. I made it clear to the Council that, in our view, the scientific evidence was quite unassailable and that there could be no alternative to a further ban if we were not to run the risk of exterminating the stock. No agreement was reached on this point. I therefore felt it necessary to tell the Council that, in the absence of Community agreement, we had no choice but to consider taking national non-discriminatory measures in terms of the Hague Agreement. We are now in touch with the Commission with a view to putting in hand the necessary steps to continue the ban on directed fishing for herring in the North Sea within our 200-mile limits for the rest of this year.
Although it will mean hardship for the Scottish herring fleet and fish processors, will the Secretary of State accept that he will have the support of the Opposition if, as seems to be the case, he proposes to introduce a ban on herring fishing in the North Sea, which is necessary if the stocks are to be saved from such ruthless decimation as has been suffered along the shores of some other EEC States? However, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that we have the resources in fishery protection vessels and aircraft to supervise such a wide area? Can he give a clear assurance that the ban will be backed up by the most intensive policing, including, where necessary, boarding and the checking of by-catches?On the other hand, will the Secretary of State take it that we deplore the Government's decision to abandon the demand for an exclusive 50-miles management zone, on which the industry is united and on which the House appeared to be united only last Thursday, despite having received no apparent concession on any issue—in particular, added scope for our trawlers in areas such as Iceland, the Faroes and Norway? As the Government now seem willing to come to a settlement on dominant preference in the 12- to 50-miles zone, can the Secretary of State at least give an assurance that the catch allocation will be based not on quotas, in which the industry has entirely lost confidence, but on licensing and therefore restriction? Finally, as the industry is vital for Scotland and for Britain, can the right hon. Gentleman at least give an assurance that he will make no further retreats or sell-outs unless he obtains comparable safeguards for the future of the industry?
If there were any sell-out of the British fishing industry, it took place several years ago, under the previous Tory Government. There has been no sell-out, and the proposals which I made on Monday were exactly in line with the proposals described to the House by my right hon. Friend and myself during the debate last Thursday. I note that the hon. Gentleman is careful to talk about an exclusive 50-miles management zone. What we are talking about here is a fishing zone, not just a management zone. That is what we are concerned about, because it is the amount of fish which we are able to get out of the 200 miles of Community waters as a whole and also what we can get from third-country waters which, at the end of the day, is the essential consideration.We have, in fact, never asked for a 50-miles exclusive fishing zone because that would not make sense in terms of the needs of our industry. For certain species we can get more than our needs within 50 miles and we have to be willing to trade off the surplus fish within that area for fishing opportunities elsewhere including, of course, fishing opportunities in third countries such as the Faroes and Norway. What my right hon. Friend did in May 1976 was to talk about a variable belt of no less than 12 miles but in some places up to 50 miles. The proposals that I have put forward on Monday are a development of that which, I believe, will give even better assurances for our own industry. I also believe that it is a development on which we can make progress in the negotiations with the Community. With regard to the herring ban, of course the necessary arrangements will be made as soon as the present ban runs out at the end of this month. We want the new ban to operate from 1st July. I am confident that the other nations of the Community will see that their own fishing vessels respect the ban, which is, of course, perfectly legal. But apart from that, we shall see that the necessary enforcement measures are taken—if that is necessary.
Will the right hon. Gentleman define further the new concept of preference which has been introduced into this matter? While, of course, this country has never claimed that it would exclude all other fishermen from a zone of 50 miles or anywhere else, will he make it clear that what is essential for this country is the control and determination of the catch and quotas up to at least 50 miles around our coasts and that there will be no relaxation of that minimum requirement for the British fishing industry?
An essential requirement for the British fishing industry is that we have effective enforcement and satisfactory quotas, backed up by licences, for the whole of our 200-miles limit and not just for the 50-miles limit. That is extremely important because we can get most of our requirements within 50 miles. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that we need a satisfactory agreement for the rest of the 200-miles zone as well.I made it perfectly clear on Monday that any arrangement, whether of quotas, licences or whatever, would have to take account of the fact that we contribute about 60 per cent. of the total fish resources available to the Community. Any allocations to our industry must fully reflect that fact.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the proposals for a total ban on North Sea herring fishing will close the herring processing industry in Shetland indefinitely? How is it that the Dutch have a special concession of 1,500 tonnes for festival when Shetland, with a far more telling case, cannot get an allocation of 200 or 300 tonnes for a vital industry? Even if the Shetland boats can go to the West Coast, no herring will reach the Shetlands in any form. We demand to keep our ain fish guts for our ain sea maas.
What the right hon. Gentleman, the House and the industry as a whole must face up to is whether we are serious about conservation. We are serious about conservation. I argued that the North Sea herring ban was the first test for the Community on conservation. I am sorry to say that that test was not met by the other members of the Community. But we are serious about herring conservation.Figures show that as recently as 1972 the herring catch in the North Sea was 500,000 tonnes. Last year that went down to 169,000 tonnes. If we do not have adequate conservation measures the stock will be completely fished out and there will be no fish at all either for our own fishing industry or for our processing industry. I have also met representatives of the processing industry. However, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that even if it had been legitimate on conservation grounds—which it would not have been—there was no way in which we could negotiate some special arrangement for the Shetlands in the negotiations that we had at the beginning of the week. Representatives of the Scottish herring industry, who were present at Luxembourg on Monday, at least accepted that fact.
I shall forget the nonsense about a sell-out and refer to the total unity in this Chamber last week when we all wished to have a 50-miles exclusive economic zone. Is it not a fact that the Government's position has slightly shifted? We are now speaking of a 12-miles exclusive zone with another belt of 12 to 50 miles in which we are in a preferential position. Is that not different from what the Foreign Office said some time ago when it talked of a 50-miles belt or zone which contained within it East Yorkshire, West Scotland and the South-West peninsula?
I am surprised at my hon. Friend. At no time have the British Government asked for a 50-miles exclusive fishing zone. The proposals put forward in May 1976 were for a variable belt as little as 12 miles in certain places and up to 50 miles in other places. That was the previous proposal. It has never been the policy of the Government to ask for a 50-miles exclusive fishing zone. What we have said is that we must have first call on the resources within 50 miles.I believe that the proposals which I put forward on Monday are better proposals for the British fishing industry than those put forward by my right hon. Friend in May of last year. I also believe that my proposals provide a better basis for negotiation.
Is the Secretary of State aware that Commissioner Gundelach at a meeting in North-East Scotland last Friday attended by all strands of the fishing industry, in the face of a united demand for a 50-miles exclusive zone and warnings of the dire social consequences that would befall the United Kingdom if we did not obtain it, nevertheless showed an implacable opposition to the concept of the United Kingdom obtaining it? In those circumstances, is unilateral action ruled out by the Government? Will the Secretary of State consider the excellent suggestion which came from a young fisherman in the body of the hall to Commissioner Gundelach that we should try a 50-miles zone for five years to see the benefit of conservation of stocks? I urge the Government to consider unilateral action.
I have already made it clear that I believe that the 50-miles zone is the most important economic zone for the British fishing industry. But it is not the only zone, with all respect. We had numerous arguments in this House in earlier debates about Icelandic fisheries, for example. Any agreement that we would be able to reach with Iceland would depend on reciprocal arrangements allowing the Icelanders to fish within certain waters within our 200-miles zone. The same applies to the Norwegians and the Faroese.We must not forget the very important fish resources available within the 50 to 200 miles for our own national interests. Therefore, it is not enough for the British fishing industry to concentrate exclusively on a 50-mile exclusive limit. When it comes down to the definition of what this would mean, no one has seriously suggested that no one, apart from British fishermen, should fish within the 50-miles limit. That does not make sense in terms of the overall requirements for our fishing industry. I repeat that the proposals outlined in the House during the fisheries debate last Thursday, and which I repeated at Luxembourg on Monday in exactly the same terms, provide a far better opportunity for us to get an acceptable solution to this very difficult problem.
I propose to call the six hon. Members who have been standing and then we shall have to move on.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that, while there will be disappointment among fishermen with regard to the North Sea ban, there will nevertheless be a welcome for the fact that he is prepared to take resolute action to conserve stocks? Is he also aware that the test for the EEC will be how the other countries respect this ban? Since the major issue is whether quotas or arrangements can stand, if the other Community countries fail to accept and agree to the ban that my right hon. Friend has proposed, the whole of the common fisheries policy will disappear.Will my right hon. Friend stress to our partners that failure to accommodate the genuine essential interests of the British fishing industry will have repercussions in the Common Market far beyond the fishing policy itself?
I have already made it clear, as has my right hon. Friend on numerous occasions, that we consider this an essential British interest and that we are negotiating accordingly in our discussions with our partners in the Community. There is no question of the other nations of the Community having to agree to this ban. When we have imposed it. there will be a legal obligation on them to abide by it, and I would expect them to do so.
Does the Secretary of State appreciate that the Government are fully justified in taking the strongest possible stand on this matter on the basis of the statement that I made to the House of Commons on behalf of the then Conservative Government on 15th December 1971, a statement which naturally the Labour Government did not have to renegotiate? Does he accept that that fully justifies the Government in being perfectly firm on conservation measures and access?
I am glad to have the right hon. and learned Gentleman's approval for what I have announced today. However, at the moment, out of kindness, I shall refrain from commenting on his record on fisheries policy generally.
My right hon. Friend took those last words right out of my mouth. Does he accept that, despite the problems which will especially face people in Shetland, there will be a general welcome for the forthright declaration of a unilateral ban within the 200-miles limit, because the long-term effect is much more important than our immediate needs? I hope that other Ministers involved in Brussels will follow this forthright lead in other matters. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt), on behalf of the Scottish National Party, also endorsed the view on variable belts up to 50 miles in a letter to the Commission last year?However, will my right hon. Friend define what he means by the word "dominant"? Does it mean that beyond 12 miles we shall control the situation and decide whether other countries should have the right to fish or otherwise? This surely is the issue.
There has to be Community agreement under the terms of the common fisheries policy. I said that we should have first call on the resources up to 50 miles and priority fishing in these areas. That is the basis on which we shall be negotiating.
Is not the Secretary of State setting up the British fishing industry for yet another sell-out? Does he accept that hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that the Government were negotiating for an exclusive 50-miles limit?
I can only repeat what I said earlier. I ask the hon. Gentleman and everyone else to re-read the statement that was made in May 1976, which was endorsed by the Opposition Front Bench spokesman last Thursday.
The right hon. Gentleman drew a distinction between a variable 50-miles limit and an exclusive 12-miles limit. Has he accepted the figure of 12 miles? In certain areas in the South-West it would make a considerable difference if, instead of saying 12 miles and accepting 12 miles, we had said 15 miles or even 20 miles. Has he already conceded that 12 miles is it? Whatever figure he has conceded or will stand by, will it be absolutely exclusive within the 12 miles, 15 miles or whatever the distance is, with no other rights, traditional or otherwise?
I can only repeat what was said last week. Within the 12 miles we would want to get to the situation of having exclusive fishing for coastal States. There are certain problems relating to historical fishing rights at which we have to look. The 12-miles limit has a certain currency not only within the Community but elsewhere. It seems sensible in the first instance to look at a 12-miles limit and to get a satisfactory solution for that in the wider context of looking at the 50-miles limit as a whole. However, that would not exclude arrangements which would effectively meet the point which the hon. Gentleman has legitimately put forward.
As the EEC Commissioners have always indicated that in the long term they would be prepared to concede an exclusive 12-miles limit, plus a special British preference interest in the outer zone, has not the Secretary of State, by announcing these terms, having paid lip-service to an exclusive 50-miles limit, let down our fishing industry and gravely damaged its future?
I repeat, we have never argued for an exclusive 50-miles limit. If the hon. Gentleman had been in Luxembourg on Monday he would not have got the impression that the statement that I then made was looked upon by the members of the Community as a weakening of the British position. It is not a weakening of the British position. I made that absolutely clear there and I make it absolutely clear here, too.
Grunwick Processing Laboratories Limited
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
The Standing Order requires that the matter should be specific, urgent and important. I do not think that I need persuade you, Mr. Speaker, that this matter is specific, because it plainly is, nor that it is important, because again it plainly is. Certain aspects of this subject are within the consideration of the courts and it would therefore be wrong that they should be debated in the House. But on other aspects, which are in no way before the courts, which are of the highest national importance and which are being discussed and commented upon in every newspaper in the country and in countless broadcast programmes, I submit that it would be unacceptable that the House should not be heard. I think that that sentiment will command the approval of the House, whatever view hon. Members take of the merits of the issue. The particular matter to which I have referred in my notice arose out of a decision taken last night by the London district council of the Union of Post Office Workers, I believe against the advice of the union. That decision is probably already in operation. Even when I last raised this question with you, Mr. Speaker, on an application under Standing Order No. 9, 85 sacks of mail destined for or dispatched from Grunwick Processing Laboratories were held immobile. Since then the position has deteriorated. Now the proposal is that all movement of mail should be stopped and also—I have not included it in my notice, because I was not fully informed about it—that telephonic communication should be interrupted. In those circumstances it is clear that a question of principle of the utmost importance might emerge from this dispute not solely linked to the dispute, namely, whether the rule of law shall prevail in this country. I submit that this matter should have the immediate consideration of the House, because the Attorney-General, when answering a Private Notice Question recently, said that he would make inquiries about the probable reaction if he were to prosecute for breaches of the Post Office Act. We have heard nothing since and no prosecution has been launched. If it be conceded that a hostile reaction from those whom the Attorney-General sounded is enough to prevent the application of the law, important constitutional questions arise. Therefore, I submit that the Attorney-General should have the earliest opportunity of coming before the House and explaining his inaction and accounting for the manner in which he has exercised his discretion. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that when the question of the Attorney-General's discretion arose in another matter he said that he was accountable for it not before the courts but before Parliament. I ask that, in accordance with his own repeated declaration, he should come before Parliament and account for the manner in which he is exercising his discretion in this important and urgent matter."the situation at Grunwick with particular reference to the decision of the London district council of the Union of Post Office Workers to ban all movement of mail to and from Grunwick."
The hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) and several other hon. Members gave me notice this morning that they wished to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
I indicated to the House that I have had applications from both sides of the House on this matter, and in the plural on both sides. I have realised from the beginning of this dispute that there was bound to be a time when the House should have the chance to discuss the national issues involved. Since my previous rulings on the matter there have been other developments in connection with the dispute. I want the House to know that if I accede to this request the matters that are sub judice will still remain sub judice in any debate that follows. Secondly, it is possible if other legal action is taken this day or tomorrow morning that it could still prevent our discussing the Post Office matter. That subject would become sub judice and would be added to the list. I remind the House further that if I agree to this request the debate will be on the Adjournment and therefore everything will be in order except those matters which are sub judice. Bearing those considerations in mind, I believe that the time has come when I must agree to the request. I am satisfied that the matter raised is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 9. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman have the leave of the House?"the situation at Grunwick with particular reference to the decision of the London district council of the Union of Post Office Workers to ban all movement of mail to and from Gran-wick."
The leave of the House having been given—
I must tell the House that the motion for the Adjournment of the House now stands over until the commencement of public business tomorrow.
Question Of Privilege
I wish to raise briefly a matter that relates to a question of privilege which arose from an article in today's Daily Mail which sets out the recommendations of an all-party Select Committee on the Tote and betting shops. It is reported that the findings of this Committee have been endorsed by the Cabinet and supported by senior Tory Members, but hon. Members have not yet seen that report.I am well aware of the ruling given in 1948 by one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, which stated that once a report has been presented to the Clerk of the House it was deemed to have been sent to the printers. Your predecessors have ruled that once a report has gone to the printers it is taken to have been laid before the House and therefore in this case a breach of privilege may be said not to exist, even though no hon. Member knows what the report contains. Notwithstanding the time that has elapsed since the 1948 ruling, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider whether it is still undesirable that the report of a Select Committee should be publicised before hon. Members have had a chance of reading the report. I ask you to state that you regret very much that this has happened and that you support the view that the Select Committee's report should not have been disclosed to the Press. The article in question today may not be a breach of privilege, but you may say, Mr. Speaker, that it calls for your displeasure. Even if today's article is not a matter of privilege, I should still like to know whether it calls for your displeasure.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. If the hon. Gentleman will bring the papers forward I shall give this matter the consideration that he expects me to give it. I shall give my answer tomorrow.
Copy in newspaper handed in.
Magistrates (Democratic Selection)
I beg to move,
The Bill that I am proposing, although in a sense seeking to make only a minor constitutional amendment, is, I hope, consistent with good constitutional principles. I suggest to the House that in any part of our system of government, whether the Executive, legislature, or judiciary, we should be concerned—and all democrats should be concerned—to ensure that at least two principles are applied. The first principle is that as far as possible the method of recruitment and selection to Parliament, the Civil Service and the judiciary should be by a system that is open and understood, so that anyone who wishes to join any of these bodies knows exactly how to do so, and anyone who wishes to propose another person for these bodies should also know how to do so. That is the principle of openness. Secondly, everyone concerned with democracy should also be concerned that no branch of our government, either by accident or design, becomes the exclusive privilege of any one social group or class, any one economic group, or any particular section of our community. It is important that as far as possible Parliament, the Civil Service and the judiciary should be representative of the community at large. The part of our system of government that I want to change is the magistracy, because I do not believe that it fulfils either of these two requirements. The magistracy is a very important part of our judiciary. It deals with 98 per cent. of criminal cases, and large numbers of magistrates are responsible for carrying out this work. As for openness, I do not think that anyone could seriously argue that the present system of selection of magistrates is not shrouded in secrecy. A Central Office of Information leaflet, which is a guide to becoming a justice of the peace, enshrines this secrecy almost as a matter of principle. The leaflet states that the advisory committees that advise the Lord Chancellor should not have their identities disclosed so thatThat leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the democratic selection of magistrates; and for connected purposes.
I should have thought that the truth was almost the reverse of this proposition. The more one shrouds the system in secrecy, the more likely it is that there will be undesirable influences. The more open the system, the more people can recognise the undesirable influences if they exist. It is desirable that the system should be more open. On the subject of how representative magistrates are, the leaflet states that the advisory committees are told that they should take a number of factors into account in making their recommendations. The committees"they may be shielded from undesirable influences in performing their duties".
The committees are also told to take into account the need for a balance between men and women and also a balance between political parties. I undertook a little research in my own constituency in Lichfield and Tamworth to see whether the bench was representative on any of these counts. Of the 29 members of the bench in Tamworth only two are weekly wage earners and the great bulk of the bench is composed of company directors, farmers, business managers and groups of that sort. In Lichfield, the other half of my constituency, three of the 45 magistrates are weekly wage earners and the rest are representative of the other groups that I have just mentioned. I must make plain that a consideration that the advisory committee must take into account is the political structure of the bench. If one considers the political balance in Tamworth one finds that out of 29 magistrates—and one must remember that Tamworth has been consistently a Labour town and intends to remain so—just six are Labour party supporters. That is some sort of indication of the lack of balance and representation of the area. Both benches have few young people—and by young I mean people in their 30s. As for the balance between men and women, both benches, as one would expect, are overwhelmingly dominated by men. If one looks at the balance between town and country, one finds that the small villages are most heavily represented, not the urban area of Tamworth. The village of Fisherwick, with a population of 123, has two magistrates, while the urban area of Trinity in Tamworth, which has three important settlements and a population of 10,000 to 11,000, has only three magistrates. This imbalance goes right through the system. It may be that Lichfield and Tamworth are exceptional and that throughout the rest of the country the balance tends in the other direction, but I regret that the evidence is entirely contrary. If anything, Lichfield and Tamworth are mildly more representative than other areas. The most recent national figures, which date from 1972, showed that 84 per cent. of magistrates in England and Wales came from the Registrar-General's social groups one and two, that is, the professional and managerial classes. It is significant that that figure has hardly changed during (he last 20 years in spite of the injunctions of the COI leaflet, the words spoken by most Lord Chancellors on this subject and the feelings of most hon. Members. The bench is not socially representative in any way at all. It is important that we should find some means of ensuring that the magistracy is what it was originally intended to be, that is, composed of people living in the community, from the widest possible range, sitting in judgment and deciding on cases within the community so that the lay view can be brought to bear. How can one reform the system? The proposal in my Bill is that, subject to certain controls, the district councils should take over the responsibility for recommending appointments to the bench. Of course the district councils could be advised by the law officers who are employed by all district councils as chief executives or in other posts. The appointments should be made openly and there should be a vote. Everybody should know who was recommended and why certain people were rejected. The other part of the proposal in the Bill is an appendix to lay down the principles that should apply to the appointment of magistrates and the criteria that I have suggested for a balance on the Bench between age, sex, social background political background and geographical spread within the area. Finally, the district council would have responsibility each year for publishing a list of its magistrates and of these various classifications to show how the bench was changing and to show whether it was becoming more or less representative over a time. That information should be available to the public. Particularly on matters of political affiliation, it is vital that such information is up to date. Hon. Members may be aware that there is a common phenomenon whereby as people grow older, as their judgment becomes blurred and their brains are not what they used to be, there is a tendency for them to move from the Labour Party to other political parties. When that happens, it is obviously something that should be recorded in the composition of the bench. A person's political affiliations of 20 years ago should not be regarded as true for all time. I make this modest proposal to the House and I hope that it will be accepted."must also ensure that each Bench is broadly representative of all sections of the community which it has to serve".
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bruce Grocott, Mr. John Cartwright, Mr, Ivor Clemitson, Mr. Bryan Davies, Mr. Geoff Edge, Mr. Bruce George, Mr. Doug Hoyle, Mr. Russell Kerr, Mr. Kevin McNamara, Mr. George Rodgers and Mr. Ken Weetch.
Magistrates (Democratic Selection)
Mr. Bruce Grocott accordingly presented a Bill to provide for the democratic selection of magistrates; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 15th July and to be printed. [Bill 147.]
Orders Of The Day
[25TH ALLOTTED DAY]— considered
Society Of Lithographic Artists, Engravers, Designers And Process Workers
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Tinn.]
I have been trying during recent months and years to lower the temperature of debates in the House on industrial relations because it is right that the House should speak as nearly with one voice as possible for parties with different views on matters of legislation in industrial relations. We are having an exploratory debate on the recruiting methods and techniques of SLADE—the Society of Lithographic Artists, Engravers, Designers and Process Workers. It is not the intention of this side to divide the House. I cannot say that we hope that the debate will be conducted in a low key because there are passionate views on the matter. However, we hope that it will be conducted in a reasonable spirit, showing that we are trying to understand the problems that have arisen and to make suggestions as to the action that should be taken.We are drawing attention to the recruiting techniques that are being applied by SLADE in commercial art studios, photographic laboratories, advertising agencies and among individual illustrators and fashion photographers. People have been appalled by reports that they have seen on television and read in the newspapers and many hon. Members have been appalled by letters that they have received from their constituents. Trade union officials have approached enterprises. They have been greeted with disinterest by the staff or, worse still, have not even bothered to talk to the staff. The officials have then gone to management and demanded that the workpeople should join the union. Having recruited not one member by voluntary methods, the officials have demanded not merely recognition but an instant closed shop and have backed up their demands by indicating that work going to or coming from an enterprise may be blacked. Occasionally to show that they mean business they have blacked the work even before seeing the management. That is not free trade unionism at work. It is against all traditions of free organisation which the Labour movement in this country has stood for in the past. It is reminiscent of the protection racket and gangsterism. Trade unionists and the public alike can hardly believe that such things can go on without the law, the Government, Parliament or the unions lifting a finger to stop it. People rightly look to us in Parliament to debate these issues and to provide a lead. That is why the Opposition have brought this matter to the attention of the House today. Let me give some examples. Mr. Ben Massara, Managing Director of Gilchrist Studios, is quoted as saying,
Mr. Max Rayner, Chairman of Combined Graphic Studios, says that he had a phone call from a SLADE official"At the start of 1975, SLADE tried to recruit the staff on a voluntary basis, but there was very little response. Then in May hotted up. They approached us directly and left me in no doubt that if the staff weren't persuaded to join the union, it could lead to trouble. We were emphasising all the time that it was up to the individual. Then we allowed SLADE to address the staff, and the reaction was quite hostile. After the meeting the union officials said to me: 'You do something. Unless they join you'll be blacked.'."
I also had a letter from a member of the public—I expect that many hon. Members have had such letters—who wrote that he had always been a moderate and had never before spoken out in protest on a public matter. He said,"in which he told us what had happened at Gilchrist and that we were next in line. He told me we had two weeks to get organised or we would be blacked. I said it was his job not mine to recruit members and pointed out that this approach was just the same as a protection racket. He said that he didn't like to hear me put it that way but that I was right."
he is referring to SLADE and the National Graphical Association—"I fully appreciate the admirable rôle unions have played in the past as I come from a working-class background and my father was an active trade unionist all his working life. But surely these two unions "—
He went on:"have no place in a profession they know little about, is certainly not oppressed and need a high degree of flexibility in order to operate. What the trade unions fail to understand about advertising and commercial art is that the people who work in it are highly skilled individuals who are more than capable of selling those skills at a fair price. For unions to try, and impose restrictions and structures of skill and pay would only be detrimental to the very high standard of skill that exists at the present time."
We are concerned not with the merits or otherwise of unionising advertising agencies, studios and related activities."Yet if I were not to join either SLADE or NGA I would no longer be able to continue in my profession. I must also force union membership on the people I employ, stop subcontracting work to non-union freelance artists with whom I have worked for years, some of whom have been self-employed all their working lives."
I am a member of NGA. The right hon. Gentleman has read a serious letter, but does he intend to indicate whether he has made any inquiries about its authenticity?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is an absolutely authentic letter. I know the firm involved and the source from which the letter came. This is the first time that this man has written to me, and it is an authentic source. I have received a number of letters in which people have asked me not to disclose their names. Although the big advertising agencies may not mind their names being disclosed, it seems that individuals do not want their names used. I can vouch for the authenticity of this letter and I hope that the House will accept that.Employers argue, with wide support from their staffs, that it would be inappropriate to bring unions into a business that demands entrepreneurial flair, where the atmosphere is one of individual rather than collective bargaining and where they cannot afford to "carry" those who do not meet the high standards of talent and flexibility that are demanded. I understand that the unions fear that more help is needed for those who fall by the wayside in this competitive busi- ness, that common standards should be set and that work once done by their members may be handled elsewhere. I am trying to understand both points of view. We are talking not about whether SLADE has a right to recruit or to seek recognition. What has deeply disturbed people inside and outside the business and trade unions is the way in which SLADE has gone about it. Consider the position of an individual employee in an advertising agency. He may have worked in a job for many years and never even seen a trade union official. Suddenly he is called to a meeting by his employer who explains that he must join a union or the work that they do may be stopped by unionised workers elsewhere. Perhaps a union official is dispatched to explain the position. Two things impress themselves on the employee very quickly. First, the union knows next to nothing about his business. Secondly, unless he joins and persuades a sufficient number of his colleagues to do the same, he runs the risk of seeing his firm shut, himself out of a job and unable to find similar work elsewhere. And what happens if he does join? For a start, this is not a sweatshop business. In most cases he is unlikely to find himself any better off. The union pay agreement is below normal rates. In return for this he will find himself the member of something called the SLADE Art Union. As the union has had such a very large if unrequested impact on his affairs, he might reasonably wonder what chance he has of influencing it. The answer will be "precious little". The relationship of the recently invented Art Union to the main union is highly unclear, and the main union itself only has constitutional provision for a meeting of branch delegates once every three years. Ernest Bevin once said:
What would he have made of SLADE procedures? And at the end of all this, is the individual employee free to work in peace? There is no such guarantee. For SLADE is not the only union recruiting in this area, or in this manner. For example, we have NATSOPA, too, setting up a National Association of Advertising Representatives with the ultimate aim of achieving a closed shop in advertising. Once a worker has joined SLADE, what guarantee has he that his work will not then be blacked by another print union? And what about the position of the employer? He finds himself being faced with the prospect of blacking unless he tells his work force to join up. Nor does it end there. Now we have the "fair list" produced jointly by SLADE and the NGA. It covers advertising agencies, studios, laboratories, typesetters and illustrators. This is not fair and open recruitment. It is disgraceful. It should be, and I believe is, an embarrassment to the whole trade union movement and the Labour Party."Let us be quite frank with one another… Trade union ballots do not reach the standard of parliamentary election".
People understandably ask, how can it happen? The answer is that they could not have done it or anything like it had the Government accepted the reasonable amendments in the original Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974. For SLADE members would not have had the immunity against breach of commercial contract that gives the blacking threat its sinister menace. And, of course, it would not have been possible under the Industrial Relations Act.It is possible now for two reasons. First, because the Trade Union and Labour Relations Amendment Act gives individuals that immunity they previously lacked; Secondly, because when a trade union comes to an employer demanding recognition, he has no right to refer that claim to an independent body—only the union can do that. During the passage of the 1974 Act, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), who was Secretary of State for Employment, spoke about the controversial immunity provisions relating to a commercial contract and said:
What a travesty of the facts as seen against the operations of SLADE in the past three years! I do not believe that it was ever intended that the 1974 Act or the Employment Protection Act should work in this way. Procedures under the Employment Protection Act are being blatantly ignored while machinery for recognition and powers granted for other purposes under the 1974 Act are being abused in an intolerable manner. We know why the Secretary of State cannot be here. We warned him that it was not enough to give only the unions access to the recognition procedures under the Employment Protection Act. We raised the problem in Committee when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) asked the Secretary of State:"In restoring the rights we are not making a threat to the community; we are, indeed, enlarging the freedom of the individual".—[Official Report, 11th July 1974; Vol. 876, c. 1588.]
The Secretary of State replied:"What about a dispute between two unions on a recognition issue? Neither union, because it supposes that the case may not be resolved in its favour, may be prepared to refer the dispute to ACAS. But in the meantime they make life hell for the employer in pursuit of their own internecine differences".
The Secretary of State asked "How?". Now he knows how, as a result of what has happened in recent months. On Report the Secretary of State indicated that he saw the difficulty. He said"How? The hon. and learned Gentleman must explain that".—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 12th June 1975; c. 390-1.]
We have not had that. These procedures have not been adequate. They have totally failed to deal with the situation. What needs to be done? First we need recognition by the Government that the present position is intolerable. We expect to get that from the Government and from Parliament in today's debate. I do not believe that any hon. Member could say that the present position is anything other than intolerable. Secondly, we know that there are voices in Congress House that express the same view. We expect that their views will be strengthened by what Parliament says today. The TUC, through its Printing Industries Committee, must now get to work. We know that it is to meet the IPA on 19th July. I suggest that its first action should be to ensure that all blacking is called off immediately. It must also ensure that the fair list drawn up by SLADE and the NGA is withdrawn. This is most important and the House sould support this suggestion. I certainly hope that the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Moonman) will. Although he is a member of the NGA, he must recognise that what is going on is intolerable. Thirdly, in due course the House will want to look at the law relating to recognition. Of course there are difficulties about persuading people to use the ACAS procedure, as the Secretary of State recognised during the Committee on the Employment Protection Act. What is to be done if a union refuses to use the recognition procedure that is laid down, or if an employer refuses to accept the recommendation? A sanction was devised to apply to the employer. The union can go to the Central Arbitration Committee to determine pay. Yet there is no sanction if the union refuses to use the procedure because it thinks that it can do better by ignoring it and that it can get away with it. To hon. Members on this side of the House and to the country this is an intolerable situation. Will the Government now indicate that employers should be allowed to refer recognition disputes under Section 11, or some other section, of the Employment Protection Act? Will they also look at sanctions applying to unions who dodge the procedure? Surely no one would suggest that unions who fail to use the appropriate methods should be entitled to the legal immunities for inducing breach of contract that make the threat of blacking so menacing and so effective. That goes to the nub of the problem. There is no case for having the procedures under Section 11 of the Act, which allow a union to take a case for recognition to ACAS, and yet, at the same time, allow a union to black and to bring about a breach of contract while retaining the immunities under Sections 13 and 14 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act. The Government and the House must consider these problems. We must consider the general problems of persuading the TUC and its Printing Industries Committee to take the action that we have suggested. We must draw attention to the practices of SLADE, which are deeply resented and detested by people outside the House as well as by hon. Members. Let the Government answer. Did they intend that the Employment Protection Act and the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act should work in this way? I cannot believe for one moment that they did. In which case, is it not time that they gave firm indications of what they intend to do and whether they will hold a review that will lead to the necessary changes. The House has a right to expect answers from the Government on these difficult problems. We do not expect them to be positive today about changes in legislation, but we expect them to recognise that there is a genuine problem that must be dealt with if justice is to be seen to be done."If, as a result of such consultations, a way can be found to accommodate satisfactorily both the voluntary TUC procedures and any new statutory procedures, the Government will consider bringing forward an appropriate amendment at a later stage of the proceedings of the Bill".—[Official Report, 30th July 1975; Vol. 896, c. 1968.]
I appreciate the restrained approach taken by the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior).The House will recognise that we are discussing only one aspect of the complex web of industrial relations problems that have emerged in recent years in the printing and allied industries. Of course, this aspect is an important one. Saying that it is only part of a wider scene is in no way intended to minimise that fact. Perhaps, in order to understand the issues and problems more clearly, I should say something, albeit briefly, about the background and history of the matters before us. SLADE—the Society of Lithographic Artists, Engravers, Designers and Process Workers—is a relatively small union. It is about 20,000 strong, or perhaps a little less. It is an old-established union, and its members are concentrated in the printing industry. They deal primarily with the preparation and printing of pictures in all their forms, as distinct from the reproduction of words. In recent years new techniques and new technologies have tended to transform the printing industry. Old skills are becoming redundant, new equipment is replacing men and new methods are slashing the need for labour. Nowhere have these factors hit harder up till now than the sector of the printing industry in which SLADE's members have been traditionally employed. I shall not weary the House with a description of these new techniques and changes. It is sufficient that we are aware of them and of their impact if we are to recognise and respond correctly to the problems described by the right hon. Gentleman. We have to recognise that for SLADE—and indeed for other printing unions—the jobs and the livelihoods of their members and their families are at issue. In such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the union should react by trying to extend its sphere of influence. Two years ago the union embarked upon a new and vigorous campaign to set up the SLADE Art Union, as a distinct, yet constituent, part of its organisation, to represent those employed in the advertising and related industries. The union has consistently sought to recruit and retain members in such sectors outside the mainstream of the printing industry. But until recently it has done so without a great deal of success. Of course, efforts by trade unions to recruit new members or to move into new sectors of employment are commonplace. It is a normal form of trade union activity to which only those opposed in principle to trade unions would object. In the circumstances of the industrial changes that I have mentioned, such an effort on the part of SLADE to diversify was understandable. What was unusual in this instance was that soon after the campaign started, in addition to the usual trade union methods of persuasion and proselytising, SLADE used the threat of blacking non-SLADE work by SLADE members in printing establishments to persuade people to join the union. This was a potent weapon, since individuals and companies in areas such as advertising and publishing depend, often to a large extent, on having the material that they produce processed in printing establishments.
Before the hon. Gentleman, with his wealth of experience, gets on to the blacking issue, would be say whether he has ever heard of any other union which has two types of member—one with full rights to pension funds and strike funds and the other, some of whom have now been recruited, with absolutely no such rights, paying a lower subscription of only 20p a week and having no access to pension funds or strike funds? There are two discriminatory types within the one union. Is there a precedent for that?
I do not know what distinctions are laid down in the union's rule book—I have a copy with me—between the different classes of membership, but it is a fairly common characteristic of unions. Indeed, my own union, the AUEW, Engineering Section, has its craft section, its women's section, its guilds section and its young people's section. This is usual in the trade union world.Over the last few years, the SLADE campaign, or the publicity given to it, has fluctuated. In the advertising industry, the particular target of SLADE, individuals and companies, both large and small, have been approached and, according to Press reports, have been threatened that the work will be blacked unless they or their employees join the union. Incidents which have attracted particular publicity have been the union's unsuccessful attempt to impose union membership on employees of one of the largest advertising agencies, Collett, Dickenson and Pearce, last autumn and the successful attempt earlier this year to do the same to Tattersalls, a smaller Yorkshire-based agency. However, as is so often the case, the issues have generated more heat than light. There have been allegations, on the one hand, that SLADE was trying to force union membership down the throats of workpeople who did not wish to join and on the other that employers were in some cases taking up an intransigent, anti-union stance, preventing the trade union from attempting to organise, threatening individuals who joined with victimisation and keeping down wages as a consequence. The exact truth is often difficult to discover. One must readily accept that SLADE's action has provoked dispute and controversy, not only within the advertising industry but, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, also within the trade union movement. The blacking action has on occasion affected the work produced by members of other unions. It is true that a number of these other unions are not prepared to concede that SLADE should have exclusive recruitment rights in the advertising and related industries.
Is the Minister aware that there is a small firm in my constituency, in a country village, employing only three people, which has been blacked unless those three agree to join SLADE, that none of them wants to and that all have refused to do so? Can he advise me what I should say to the owner of the firm, the employer, about what he should do? His business is likely to be ruined. These three people have rights not to belong to the trade union if they do not want to do so. How may those rights be exercised?
If the hon. Gentleman were patient, he might find some of the advice he seeks in the later part of my speech. I have read the article that he wrote for the Daily Telegraph, published today. I wish that it had been as informative as it was interesting. In that article, he puts forward the idea, which was embodied in the Industrial Relations Act, that workers should have a statutory right not to join a trade union. The whole House will recall the disastrous consequences of providing for that in the Industrial Relations Act.Also in that article, the hon. Gentleman assumes that many people will leave the trade union movement once they have a statutory right to do so. When that statutory right was accorded between 1971 and 1974, trade union membership, instead of falling as proponents of this idea suggest, actually grew. Few, if any, people left the movement when they had a statutory right to do so. To turn back to the main stream of my speech, I would remind the House that last year, in particular, the dispute on the issue which I had been describing flared up between SLADE and the National Graphical Association, which also has members in the printing and newspaper industries. Talks were arranged under the auspices of the TUC's Printing Industries Committee, which has been active in recent months in trying to encourage the satisfactory solution of the various problems which have arisen from SLADE's action, and a temporary solution was arrived at towards the end of last year. However, I understand that SLADE, together with the NGA, has now initiated a new joint campaign which involves the dispatch of a so-called "fair list" of approved firms which employ SLADE or NGA labour to members of these unions together with labels which are to be used to chart the progress of printing work. The object of this exercise is apparently to make sure that printing work does not come into contact with non-union labour at any stage and to enable anything that has been handled by non-union labour to be identified and blacked so that it will not be reproduced or printed. It might be useful to look briefly at the elements of the SLADE action in the light of the traditions of industrial relations practice in this country and the changing pattern of law over the last few years, before considering them as a whole. First, let us consider SLADE's objectives. Its principal objective is clearly to increase its membership and to expand into hitherto non-unionised areas. The right hon. Gentleman fairly recognised that that is a legitimate activity of a trade union and that none of us should seek to deny SLADE the right to recruit new members. Indeed, our legislation now contains safeguards for the individual against dismissal or other forms of discrimination by his employer for trade union membership or for taking part in trade union activities, as well as the procedures, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, by means of which unions can seek recognition. The right hon. Gentleman make it plain that what he objects to is not that legitimate objective but the tactics adopted by the union in trying to achieve it. Although there are now new safeguards and procedures in this area, tolerance and reasonable behaviour by both sides of industry—unions and employers—are required if industrial relations are to be developed amicably and disputes are to be diminished and avoided. I hope that the House will agree that it is unreasonable for an employer to refuse to allow a trade union to attempt to organise his employees, as has been alleged in a number of instances recently. On the other hand, where there is a dispute about recognition, I would expect any union, including SLADE, to pursue the matter as far as possible through ACAS and through the statutory procedures laid down by Parliament, rather than by taking direct action. I am encouraged by the fact that so many unions have chosen to pursue recognition issues in what is now the statutory way, and that, up to the end of last May, 198 references to ACAS had been withdrawn by voluntary settlement. The right hon. Gentleman pressed me on his suggestion, which, as he said, the Opposition made in Committee on the Employment Protection Bill, that employers should have access to the recognition procedures and should be able to trigger off those recognition procedures. However, in addition to the arguments which we adduced at that time—strong arguments, I thought—we should still be left at the end of the day, even if this suggestion were adopted, with a problem. It would be interesting to hear the right hon. Gentleman's view on how enforcement could be imposed on behalf of the employer at the end of the procedure. The right hon. Gentleman fairly drew attention to the difficulties which face unions in securing compliance with a recommendation of ACAS and the protracted nature of that procedure.
I can give the Minister one view straight away. That is that, if a union does not use the recognition procedures laid down by ACAS, it should not have the immunity which is granted to it under Sections 13 and 14 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act. It is intolerable that no sanctions may be applied to a union which does not abide by the procedures laid down by the Employment Protection Act, with which the employer is forced to comply.
I understand that, but I was dealing with the right hon. Gentleman's separate point about giving the employer the right to trigger off the procedure under Section 11 and subsequent sections of the Employment Protection Act. In the event of the employer being in a position to activate the trigger mechanism at the end of the road, how would the employer secure implementation in the event of securing a favourable recommendation from ACAS? Among the other problems that we discussed in Committee, it is that particular problem to which the right hon. Gentleman must address himself.I turn to the second part of SLADE's action—the closed shop. It has already been pointed out that in many instances it appears that SLADE and the National Graphical Association are seeking to secure closed shop agreements. This is a matter that the House has debated on many occasions during the past three years. I stress again, as I have done on many occasions, that our policy is one of neutrality towards the closed shop. Current legislation reflects that neutrality and restores the legal position basically to what it was before the Industrial Relations Act made it such a hot issue. Closed shop agreements are lawful now as they were for so many years before 1971. It is now generally recognised that the attempts made in the Industrial Relations Act to outlaw the closed shop were misconceived and impracticable. I should be surprised if Opposition Members would be prepared to turn the clock back to that grim period. Notwithstanding the fact that many unions are now seeking to take advantage of the restored opportunity to enter into closed shop agreements, I hope that they will seek to return to the traditional tolerance and flexibility that in general characterised closed shop situations and the pursuance of the closed shop before 1971. I turn to the other aspects of SLADE's tactics and its objective of increased membership.
The right hon. Gentleman did not differentiate in his statement about closed shops—I waited until he finished before intervening—between post-entry and pre-entry. It would be interesting for the House to hear his views and the Government's views on SLADE's attitude to post-entry and pre-entry closed shops.
The hon. Gentleman is luring me down a road that would take up a disproportionate amount of the time of the House. It is a subject that we have debated on a number of occasions in the House. It is no part of my responsibility to seek to defend SLADE's actions, or even to explain the details. It is not for me to explain why it has adopted a particular position. I understand that SLADE is quite clear that it is seeking to establish post-entry closed shops.Complaints have concentrated on sympathetic action, or the threat of such action, by SLADE members in other establishments to reinforce the claims put by SLADE to particular employers and individuals. As the House will be aware, blacking and similar secondary industrial action of that sort has for many years been a traditional weapon of trade unions in their struggle for industrial objectives. I think I am entitled to remind the House that the Donovan Commission firmly rejected any new legal controls on secondary action. It recommended certain changes in the law to clarify what was a rather confused legal position built up on case law and to reduce the intrusion of the law into this area. The Industrial Relations Act attempted to restrict the freedom of workers and their unions to take sympathetic action in support of a dispute, but it proved wholly unworkable. I am surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman, speaking on behalf of his party, seriously suggest that the Conservative Party might consider attempting to introduce a similar provision in future. The 1974 and 1976 Trade Union and Labour Relations Acts broadly restored the position to what it was before 1971, with the addition of the amendments to which I have referred that followed upon the Donovan Commission's recommendations. If, in general, not only attempts by trade unions to increase membership or secure closed shop agreements are lawful and legitimate but so is sympathetic action in support of those and other industrial objectives, one might be tempted to ask why there has been so much concern about the current activities of SLADE. The advertising industry, by its very nature, is more capable of publicising matters of concern to it than most other industries. In some quarters, of course, every opportunity is taken to attack trade unions in general, and attempts by trade unions to introduce closed shops in particular. However, I accept that there are significant differences between this and most of the other closed shop issues that have emerged in the past few years. I am bound to say to the right hon. Gentleman that they have caused me some concern, as they have to friends of the trade union movement. When a union seeks to obtain a closed shop agreement with a particular employer, in normal circumstances it is starting from a basis of substantial membership amongst the employer's work force. It is interesting to refer to the comments of Clive Jenkins, the General Secretary of ASTMS, whose union has had a good deal of success in recent years in recruiting new members. Clive Jenkins is reported as saying a month or two ago that as a general rule of thumb he would ask for collective bargaining rights when his membership in the organisation or company had reached about a third, and that he would be prepared to negotiate for a union membership agreement when the membership had reached 85 per cent. to 90 per cent. He said that he thought that was the normal trade union approach. That is broadly true. Where a closed shop is being sought, it is almost invariably the case that the union already represents a substantial number, and usually a significant majority, of those in the plant or the grade of worker concerned. In the context of the closed shop we have consistently maintained that we doubt whether it would be right to attempt to grant individuals a legal right not to belong to a trade union, especially where the majority of their fellow workers want a closed shop. We must have regard the views of the majority as well as those of the minority. If the majority in an establishment wants to work in a 100 per cent. closed shop, that must be weighed against the views of dissenting individuals. However, to attempt through external pressure to impose closed shop agreements on establishments in which the great bulk of the work force does not wish to join the union in question, and still less to be subject to a closed shop agreement, is a different matter. Throughout all my years in the trade union movement, many of them served as a shop steward, I have always believed that for the overwhelming majority of workers the case for trade union membership was so compelling as to need no coercion. Persuasion and explanation of the benefits and obligations of membership are much more likely to bring the laggards into effective and positive participation in a union than any amount of stick. However, that implies the opportunity to persuade, and access, which is recognised in SLADE's Executive Committee declaration. On the same point, i note that the distinguished Industrial Editor of the Daily Mirror, Geoffrey Goodman, writes today:
I share that view. In the circumstances, I hope that SLADE will be prepared to consider a more tolerant and patient approach to the recruitment of new members in the advertising and publishing industries. In saying that, I am sure that I reflect the view of the TUC."The union case should always stand on its own feet. It should be achieved by persuasion. Though that persuasion has to be based on an equal right and power to be able to persuade".
As the right hon. Gentleman knows from the correspondence that I have had with him, exactly the same principle applies in the Midlands where the Transport and General Workers' Union seeks to impose a closed shop at two firms where it has only 20 per cent. union membership. Sanctions are being applied and petrol is not being delivered. Bearing in mind the right hon. Gentleman's plea for a change of attitude, does he agree that it applies just as strongly to these activities in the Midlands?
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will welcome the statement that I have made on principle without wanting to lure me into its application in particular cases. It is clear that there are a number of cases that I could take up, but to do so would be to take a disproportionate amount of the limited time that is available. I am sure that the House will wish me to seek to come to a conclusion.As I was saying, I am sure that my view reflects the view of the TUC. I believe that its good offices probably provide the best hope of securing a satisfactory outcome. The TUC's Printing Industries Committee, chaired by Mr. Bill Keys, has been active in attempting to conciliate in these problems. Apart from seeking to mediate in the disputes between affiliated unions that have broken out as a result of SLADE's actions, it will shortly—I understand on 19th July—be meeting the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising to discuss the situation with the aim of promoting jointly agreed procedures under which the unions concerned will have proper opportunities to seek to organise employees in the advertising agencies and art studios. I also understand that discussions of a similar nature are taking place with the trade associations which represent photographers and illustrators. I am convinced that these talks offer the best way forward. But the situation is delicate and, in view of the imminence of the discussions, and my anxiety, which I am sure is shared by the whole House, that the outcome should be constructive and beneficial, I hope that we shall avoid saying things that might prejudice progress. In conclusion, I should like to make three points. First, although I have myself expressed disquiet at SLADE's tactics, I firmly reject any suggestions that this affair could be more satisfactorily resolved through the intervention of the law, or that some sort of new statutory prohibition should be imposed to make tactics such as those employed by SLADE illegal. As we all know only too well, such statutory prohibitions have only recently been tried and found wanting. A reversion to industrial relations law of this kind would be a retrograde step. Secondly, although I cannot say that I am altogether confident of a satisfactory outcome to this affair, I very much hope that good sense will prevail. I am reassured that the TUC has this objective very much in mind and is working actively to that end. Finally, I think it right to remind the House, and the parties to this and other disputes, that industrial relations problems cannot be solved without some give and take on each side. We have established procedures to encourage the peaceful settlement of disputes and the strengthening of collective bargaining arrangements, but without this give and take and a willingness to accept the spirit underlying current legislation, as well as the letter, we shall not make the progress that is needed.