House Of Commons
Monday 7th November 1977
The House net at half-past
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers Toquestions
Japan (Motor Vehicles)
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the current level of market penetration by Japanese car manufacturers in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the number and value of British motor vehicles exported to Japan during the nine-month period ended 30th September; and what were the comparable figures For each of the preceding two years.
I will publish the figures in the Official Report. I am disturbed at the level of market penetration.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the first six months of this year no fewer than 75,000 units were imported into Great Britain from Japan while at the same time no more than 416 units were exported from Great Britain to Japan? Is he aware that at the current rate this represents a total import of 150,000 units a year, representing a loss of between 10,000 and 15,000 jobs within the British economy? Will my right hon. Friend give us an undertaking that the days of pussyfooting with the Japanese are over and that in particular he will attempt to deal with the marketing strategies of the multinational companies which refuse to allow their British subsidiaries to export to Japan?
Order. May I say that if that length of question is repeated throughout Question Time we shall not reach No.14?
There is an understanding between the SMMT and the Japanese Automobile Association, renewed in September, that the level of market penetration this year will not be significantly different from what it was last year, though on the present figures that will be difficult to achieve. I have impressed upon the Japanese Ambassador the dangers to which this gives rise.There is no question at all but that there would be greater employment in the United Kingdom economy and in the car industry if the United Kingdom could produce more cars. That would have a general effect on the level of import penetration.
Is the Secretary of State aware that in the first nine months of this year 121,000 Japanese vehicles were imported into the United Kingdom, compared with 86,000 in 1975 and 96,000 in 1976? What steps will he take to overcome the lethargy barrier that seems to afflict British industry in exporting British motor vehicles to Japan?
I am aware of the figures. The British industry has attempted to develop exports to Japan, but one problem, to which I have drawn attention in discussions with the Japanese Government, is the barriers which make it difficult for British exports—and, indeed, other European exports—to penetrate the Japanese market, and not only in respect of motor cars. We have repeatedly pressed upon the Japanese authorities the importance of bringing their accounts into better balance. It is vital that they should do so, otherwise there will undoubtedly be a reaction, whether from this country, from the European Community or from the United States.
Why single out Japan when the level of car imports in the first nine months of this year reached nearly £1 billion, and EEC imports were £707 million of this? Will the Secretary of State please put this into balance and stop some of his Back Benchers singling out Japan with adverse and sometimes unfair comments about the position as a whole?
The position in respect of imports of Japanese motor cars has to be seen against the background of the overall Japanese surplus with this country and. indeed, with the world as a whole. I believe that a surplus of that dimension —which, contrary to forecasts, has been increasing, not diminishing—is in the long run unacceptable if the world's trading system is to continue. That is the reason why so much concern needs to be expressed about Japanese exports and specifically about motor car exports.Nevertheless, it is certainly true that the expansion in imports of motor cars has come primarily from Europe. It is equally true, I believe, that if the British motor car industry produced more motor cars it would improve both its domestic penetration and its export achievement.
What is the Government's attitude towards the Japanese efforts to establish factories in this country and employ British labour?
I think that that goes far outside the remit of this Question.
Can the Secretary of State tell the House how many private buyers of motor cars now buy imported cars? Will he say whether this is related to the availability of the British product?
Again, it is unfortunately true that a very large proportion I think well over 50 per cent. now—of private buyers are choosing imported cars, and I think that that is significantly affected by deliveries from British manufacturers. We cannot escape the fact that if we arc to deal with import penetration affecting motor cars we have to produce more cars within the United Kingdom and offer customers more reliable supplies.
Following are the figures:
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied that Her Majesty's Government are now fully in possession of the United Kingdom's treaty rights, concerning Concorde landing rights in the United States of America.
This is a complex matter, but, with the start of tile New York service on 22nd November, British Airways will be operating Concordes on the two routes to the United States of America that they currently plan.
Now that the untruths and distortions of the anti-Concorde campaign in New York can be seen as such, does not the Minister agree that the arbitrary imposition by the American Government of even a 16-month trial is itself an interference with our treaty rights? Might this not be an opportune moment for setting aside the trial and allowing British Airways to operate the aircraft in accordance with our agreement with the American Government?
This is a very complex legal matter, and it would he quite wrong if we made a premature judgment on the situation. We need to consult very closely with our French partners in this matter before we make an announcement about the proposed noisemaking rules.
Is my hon. Friend happy that British Airways will be able to exercise their right to enter New York later this month, and is there any suggestion that there may yet be moves to stop Concorde going into New York?
I am delighted that British Airways will be making their inaugural flight on 22nd November. I know of no moves currently to thwart that very desirable objective.
Since Concorde has been operating at a loss, should we not be grateful to the American Government for making a contribution towards the British balance of payments?
In fairness, the right hon. Gentleman ought to reserve his judgment until Concorde has had a full period in which to operate into the most fruitful of the routes, which is, of course, between London and New York.
Will my hon. Friend confirm or deny reports that, despite the legal breakthrough that has now taken place, British Airways will not be able to operate Concorde into New York as effectively as Air France because of the insufficient training of pilots?
As the House will know, there were difficulties at the commencement of the training programme. These are being overcome, and it is hoped that British Airways wi11 be able to operate the full service early in the new year.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the trade loss to Great Britain through the secondary aspects of the Arab boycott.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will study recent United States legislation aimed at combating foreign boycotts of trade relations with friendly States, with a view to introducing similar legislation in the United Kingdom.
No figures are available for the effect of the boycott on our trade. We are keeping a close watch on the preparation of the American regulations, as regards both their possible extraterritorial impact on the United Kingdom and their potential effect on United States firms and their trading operations. But I have no present intention of introducing similar legislation.
In view of the fact that some 80 British companies have been abused by this boycott, involving the harassment of workers' jobs and investment potential, would my right hon. Friend like to go somewhat further and provide more than moral support to the companies, the management and trade unions which arc in volved in a considerable battle? The German experience is surely worth noting. The information is there.
We have made it clear repeatedly that we deplore the boycott. We are prepared to give advice to individual firms in exercising the judgment which they must make about how they react to the boycott. As for the "German experience ", I know of no German experience— I think I know of all the German experience to which my hon. Friend refers— that implies that Germany is in any way operating differently from the United Kingdom in relation to the boycott.
Will the Secretary of State accept that both the American and the Canadian Governments do more than the British Government to protect their business men from foreign boycotts? Does he not accept that there is a need for an EEC initiative in this respect, so that British business men can, without any problem, trade with whomsoever they wish?
Before we come to conclusions about the implications of either Canadian or American action, we have to study exactly what it is intended that those two countries will do in relation to the boycott. So far, one of my concerns about the American regulations is that they attempt to regulate the affairs not merely of American companies in the United States but of British companies in the United Kingdom. I hope that the Americans will find ways of fulfilling their policies which will not have an extraterritorial reach.
Does not the Secretary of State agree that the proposals of both the American and Canadian Governments have been pretty well known for a considerable while? Is it not possible for him at this stage to say what he feels could usefully be done to see whether we could follow some of their examples, although obviously not all of them?
I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. The American regulations were issued in draft form, I believe, on 20th September. They are now open to comment, and the final regulations will not be issued until those comments have been received and, no doubt, considered by the American Administration. Nevertheless, I must emphasise two matters to the hon. Gentleman. First, our own export record to Israel is rather good relative to the records of other European countries and, indeed, that of the United States. Secondly, individual companies in this country are entitled to consider the impact upon their affairs and employment in their companies of one reaction or another to the Arab boycott.
Retail Trading Inquiry
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what were the results of the 1976 inquiry into retail trading; and what benefits have been secured or are expected to be secured from this census.
Provisional results of the 1976 retail inquiry are likely to be published around the end of the year. They will provide information which is essential to the requirements of the Government and outside users.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his written assurances about trying to reduce the burden of form-filling on small businesses in the future, but is he not conceding that the 1976 census was particularly and excessively bureaucratic, time-consuming and costly and that it should not be repeated? Can he give us a specific example of where this country would be worse off if these retail inquiries were abandoned altogether?
So far from the 1976 retail inquiry being particularly bureaucratic, the number of firms to which the inquiry was sent out was 30,000, compared with the total of 300,000 forms sent out by the Conservative Government in their retail inquiry in 1971. The position would therefore appear to be 10 times better, from the hon. Gentleman's point of view, under Labour. The information is required for Government purposes for details of stocks, capital expenditure and sales of each commodity type. Without this material, it would be impossible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to control the economy in the way that he is able to do so.
Is the Minister aware that one of the many complaints of small retailers who are burdened with these inquiries is that, when they have taken the trouble to submit these returns, they never receive the courtesy of being told what has happened and what the results of the survey are? Will he, therefore, undertake to extend to firms which have gone to the trouble, voluntarily and at their own expense, to return these forms the courtesy of giving them the results of his census and eventually any conclusions that the Government may draw from them?
I think that that is a valuable suggestion. It was raised at a meeting which I had with persons to whom the retail inquiry forms had been sent out. We are considering how we can do that without undue extra bureaucratic expense, certainly to let the main retail organisations know the results.
Is the Minister aware that this country used to be a country of small independent shopkeepers and that one needs only to go down the High Streets of towns and cities to see that they are becoming filled with multiples backed by financial institutions? It does not need an inquiry to tell us that. All that is needed is for the Government to ease up on the restrictions, the taxation and all the rest that is now imposed upon the very small businesses and to encourage them.
I have already indicated the way in which we are reducing the burden. The retail inquiry for 1977 will actually go out to 25,000, which is less than the total for 1976. But of course, if we are to get up-to-date statistics for the whole retail trade, it must include a minimum proportion of retail traders in order to get that result.
Are not the new arrangements that 30,000 forms will go out every year, whereas the old arrangements were that 300,000 forms went out every 10 years? I cannot understand how 30,000 multiplied by 10 is fewer than 300,000. If I have understood the position incorrectly, perhaps the Under-Secretary, with his long experience of these statistical problems, can put me right.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman listened to my last answer. I indicated that we were steadily reducing the number of forms sent out each year, so that the total result would be considerably less burdensome than it was under the Conservative Government in 1971.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on his policy with regard to the import of hosiery into the United Kingdom.
United Kingdom imports of hosiery from low-cost suppliers will be covered by the new Multi-Fibre Arrangement bilateral agreements which are currently being negotiated. If these bilateral negotiations are unsuccessful, the Commission will propose unilateral measures for the EEC.
I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend on the firm stand being taken in the EEC negotiations on the Multi-Fibre Arrangement. Bearing in mind that the effects on employment in the hosiery and knitwear industry may be very serious, will he go ahead with bilateral agreements to reduce hosiery imports if the EEC negotiations fail or take a wrong turning?
I certainly hope that the bilateral negotiations now being undertaken with, I believe, 26 negotiating countries will be successful. The EEC mandate is an extremely tough one, but it is also being negotiated toughly by the Commission. It remains true that, if the results are not in accordance with the mandate, the United Kingdom, as with any other member State, will be able to veto acceptance of a further MFA. We shall certainly want to ensure that in all essential aspects, including hosiery, our interests are met
Slater Walker Companies
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what inquiries are in progress into the affairs of the Slater Walker companies.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the Bank of England has already spent many millions of pounds in helping Slater Walker put of the quagmire in which it has become involved? How many more millions of pounds will be given, either by the Bank of England or the Treasury, to help Slater Walker?
My hon. Friend's Question asks whether inquiries into the affairs of the companies are in progress. I do not think that his supplementary question was addressed to that matter, but consierable inquiries have already been undertaken by the accountants instructed by the company under Section 109 of the Companies Act 1967, by the Singapore Stock Exchange and by an inspector appointed by the Singapore Government. At present, there is no further requirement under the duties that are imposed upon my right hon. Friend which would justify a further inquiry.
When does my hon. Friend expect the report of the inquiry which has been instituted by the Department to be made available?
The inquiries were undertaken under Section 109 of the Companies Act 1967. No report will issue therefrom.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on progress being made in bilateral negotiations on textiles prior to renegotiation of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the progress being made in the renegotiation of the Multi-Fibre Agreement.
Negotiations are taking place in Brussels between the EEC and a number of low-cost supplying countries. It is too early yet to judge what the outcome of these negotiations will be, but the EEC has made it clear that it will not renew the MFA in December unless the results are satisfactory.
Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that both sides of the British textile industry are extremely grateful for the very useful role that the British Government have played in the past few weeks in the renegotiation of the MFA? Will he give assurances that extremely tough bilateral arrangements will be sought, particularly in the cases of Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, and that if these bilateral arrangements are not acceptable Britain and her EEC partners will take unilateral action to ensure that there is no market disruption of the British textile industry?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments about the British Government. We thought it necessary to make the mandate more specific, and I think that that was achieved by our intervention a few weeks ago. It is certainly our object to provide in the renewed MFA a better level of protection for the United Kingdom textile industry. The European Community has indicated that, if it is not possible to get satisfactory bilateral agreements, the Commission will propose unilateral action by the European Community. We consider that statement by the Community to be a most important element in this total situation.
Will the Secretary of State bear in mind when renegotiating either the MFA or the bilateral agreements that our textile industry cannot afford a steady increase in imports unless imports are strictly related to domestic consumption? If that is not done, it will be absolutely fatal. Will he bear this point firmly in mind when he is renegotiating, and also remember that this will mean that on some occasions there is a negative quota for a year—that is, a quota below that of the previous year?
The hon. Lady will appreciate that we are in negotiation. We have taken 1976 as a basis, which means that in certain cases, if a mandate is achieved, there will be a reduction in imports in, say, 1978 and 1979. As to relating imports to consumption in this country, the hon. Lady will know that we do not have a recession clause in the mandate.On the other hand, if we achieve the mandate it should give the British textile industry much better security in the next period than it had in the previous period, and it might allow the British textile industry to expand its production. These are our objectives. We hope that the mandate will be achieved. The United Kingdom has the position in that negotiation that my hon. Friend has just explained.
Will my right hon. Friend state the Government's principle on the question of a finished article or garment being imported into this country at less than the cost here of the raw materials required to make it? What action will the Government take about such articles coming in?
My hon. Friend is referring to cases of dumping. If there are cases of dumping, the industry which feels that it is being dumped against should get in touch with my Department. With the industry, we shall draw this to the attention of the European Commission, which is now responsible for the question of dumping in most places. In the MFA we are concerned with the control of undumped imports.
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if Spain and, possibly, Portugal join the EEC and have greater access to our textile markets, we must ensure that Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong, among others, have less access to our markets than before? Is he aware that otherwise our textile industry will get into an even worse state?
The hon. Gentleman knows that there are arrangements to cover low-cost sources in Europe. We shall no doubt be negotiating the entry of Spain, Portugal and Greece into the Community, and we shall have to take account of all these effects on the United Kingdom economy.
£ Sterling (Exchange Rate)
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what estimates he has made of the likely effects on United Kingdom trade overseas arising from the recent upward adjustment in the exchange rate of the £ sterling.
We do not know where the sterling rate is going to settle, and any estimate of the effect of the upward movement on trade must at this stage be uncertain. An appreciation of sterling might be expected initially to improve the trade balance as import prices are reduced. The eventual effect will depend on domestic costs and on how trade prices and volumes respond.
What is the best future rate of exchange for sterling for successful British exports next year? Why did the Secretary of State disagree with the Chancellor a week ago?
There is no evidence to substantiate what the hon. Gentleman has just said. There was Government discussion of this matter, and a common view prevailed about a matter on which there are conflicting interests.
What action will the hon. Gentleman take with his colleagues to put over to British exporters the example of West Germany and Japan, which shows that it is possible to have a very strong currency but also to have a $15 billion trade surplus?
The British Overseas Trade Board is constantly seeking to improve the export performance of British industry. Indeed, there is good evidence in the recent period that it has at least played a part in achieving the substantial improvement in the non-oil balance of trade, which in the third quarter of this year went up to £600 million. The BOTB must be seen to be playing a part in that, but the industrial strategy in the sector working parties is also designed to improve industrial performance compatible with a strong currency.
Does my hon. Friend accept that, unlike the Japanese and German currencies, the pound might be artificially revalued as a result of North Sea oil? Some of us are quite happy about the pound floating up to a certain extent, but what investigations or proposals has the Department considered for protecting British industry if the pound were to be too highly revalued as a result of North Sea oil?
My hon. Friend has raised an important question. It is not unfair to say that, as a result of authorising a free float a week ago, the net result compared with, say, 10 days ago is a rise in the rate to only $ 1·80 from the level immediately before of about $1·77. There are many considerations. Of course, preserving export competitiveness is a key consideration, but one must also look at the impact of an inflow of foreign money, which brings the reserves to over £11 billion.
Does the Minister agree that British industry should not have to rely upon being competitive on a low and unrealistic valuation of sterling as that is merely an illusion of competitiveness, and that it is only by abandoning that illusion that we can concentrate on the real causes of lack of British competitiveness, particularly low productivity and the lack of incentives to increase our productivity?
Of course it is important to improve productivity, and there is ceaseless effort so to do. But I think that the hon. Gentleman is a little cavalier in assuming that he knows the appropriate level of the sterling exchange rate. I think he clearly implied that sterling was undervalued. What is an under- valued sterling exchange rate is a moot point.
Would not my hon. Friend agree that, if inflation rates in this country are higher than they are abroad, that must mean that our goods become less competitive and thus, if the exchange rate is going up, it must have an adverse effect upon the export of manufactured goods?
It is perfectly true that, in the end, the exchange rate must reflect the differential in inflation rates. But it is also true that during 1976 the pound depreciated by what many observers would feel was considerably more than the then existing differential in inflation rates. No doubt we are partly seeing—I merely say "partly seeing "—a readjustment of that excess drop of last year.
Export Credit Guarantees
asked the Secretary of State for Trade how many applications for export credit guarantee have recently been refused for failing to comply with the Government's pay policy.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he will make a statement on his decision, under Section 2 of the Export Guarantees Act 1975, to refuse export credit guarantee support to James Mackie and Sons Limited of Belfast.
The Government have made it clear on a number of occasions that compliance with the Government's guidelines on pay may be a factor in the consideration of applications for export credit support under Section 2 of the Export Guarantees Act 1975. After careful consideration, and following prior advice to Mackie's, I decided not to offer cover in respect of two applications.
Did not the Secretary of State make quite improper use of his generally accepted power in the case of Mackie's, while in similar circumstances no subsequent action was taken against the Ford Motor Company for breaching the pay guidelines? What assurances may British industry have that this kind of arbitrary step will not be repeated?
I do not accept that this was an improper use of Section 2 of the Act, which permits me to make a judgment of the national interest in respect of particular guarantees asked for. It has been made clear that this is one action that the Government may take if, in their judgment, the national interest is imperilled by particular pay settlements.
Will the right hon. Gentleman now answer my hon. Friend's question? What did Mackie's do wrong that the Ford Motor Company did not do wrong?
As far as I know, Ford made no application to me under Section 2 of the Export Guarantees Act. In any case, as I think the hon. Gentleman will agree, there is a difference between a settlement at 12 per cent. and a settlement at 22 per cent.
Is it not true that there is no law which gives the Government any authority to make trade unionists or employers obey their wishes in this connection? Is it not the case that punitive action is being taken against some and not against others, when we know that for the last two years everything that the Government have done in respect of wages and incomes has been proved wrong? Why should they penalise people now?
My hon. Friend says that there is no law. There is a law—Section 2 of the Export Guarantees Act.
Is not this the most disgraceful use of the Government's discretion? Is the only policy that the Government follow that of "Might is right "? Is it really the case that the Government will use their discretion against the interests of companies and of the country only where the company is small or medium-sized but that where a larger company or institution, either in the public or in the private sector, is involved the Government will turn a blind eye to a breach of their so-called pay rules?
The Government are doing everything they can to ensure that their pay guidelines are successful, and they will continue so to do. I notice that the Opposition have been complaining recently about the lack of support given by the then Opposition to the difficult circumstances in the late 1973–74 period. I suggest to the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) that he considers whether it is up to him now to support the Gov- ernment maintaining their counter-inflation policy.
Is it not a fact that the Government have simply used perfectly legal sanctions to support the pay policy? Anyone in the House who cares to see the rate of inflation brought down should support the Government in using whatever sanctions are available. Will the Secretary of State confirm that any firm that is able to afford to pay its employees more than the 10 per cent. guidelines does not need my money or that of the British taxpayer to bail out its exports?
The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that this was a perfectly proper use of legal powers of the Secretary of State for Trade under Section 2 of the Export Guarantees Act.
Why does my right hon. Friend stand by the criterion, as seemingly he does, that it is right to bully firms into not paying wage increases of a very minor kind similar to those in Northern Ireland but to refuse to bully firms which are putting up prices to the tune of 15 per cent. and 18 per cent. even now? Why do the Government refuse to take action against, say, the Chairman of Wedgwood, whose salary has increased from £75,000 in 1975 to £113,000 this year, at a time when the rest of the work force has been under an incomes policy? Why does he tackle it in that fashion?
It is perfectly right for the Government to use what powers they have to secure the success of their 10 per cent. guidelines. If they do not achieve that success, the rate of inflation, instead of going down, will go up, contrary to the interests of the country. As for prices, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection.
If the Secretary of State and the Government wish to publish legislation to control the pay norm, that is a matter for the House of Commons. But the Government's discretion under Section 2 of the Export Guarantees Act 1975 was never intended to be used as a sanction in this case. If the Government wish to have sanctions, why do they not come to the House for them in the proper manner instead of abusing their authority and discretion in this way?
There is no question of abuse of authority in this case. Section 2 of the Export Guarantees Act permits the Secretary of State for Trade to make a judgment of the national interest. It seems perfectly clear that a judgment of the national interest includes the inflationary effects of certain settlements. It was my consideration of that, among other aspects of this matter, that led me to my conclusion.
Aircraft Noise (Heathrow)
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will reconsider the areas covered by the Heathrow Noise Insulation Grant Scheme so as to include other areas within the Royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and in particular those directly under flight paths.
The present scheme will close on 31st December. I shall consider whether any new insulation scheme is necessary in the context of decisions on airport strategy which will be discussed in the forthcoming White Paper.
I thank the Minister for that answer. I am glad that he is reconsidering the matter. Does he agree with me that, although it will be a long time before all aircraft are quiet, any householder who is inconvenienced unreasonably by aircraft noise should be entitled to a grant for double-glazing wherever he lives?
The hon. Gentleman is asking me to prejudge the result of the consultations that will follow publication of the White Paper. That I cannot do. What I am prepared to concede is that the present scheme, which was devised in 1966, is deficient, and I think it is right, therefore, that we should review the position afresh.
Will my hon. Friend give urgent consideration to the effect upon the medical services in hospitals beneath flight paths? He has had correspondence from me recently on this matter, but I am far from satisfied with the action that the Government are taking to protect medical services when these are disrupted by loud noise.
This is one of a number of difficult problems. We have to consider not only hospitals but it schools, and some progress has already been made there. Certainly I should not close my mind to the consideration of the matter referred to by my hon. Friend. I suggest, however, that we must take into account public expenditure in this area, and I cannot envisage that it will be possible in the foreseeable future to extend the scheme as widely as my hon. Friend hopes.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in London the limits of the scheme are currently determined by reference to borough boundaries, although the borough councils have no say in the matter, and that the borough boundaries bear no relationship to the pattern of aircraft noise? Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that this is completely irrational, and will he look at this aspect critically when he deals with the matter?
The scheme was designed in 1966 and accorded with the general principles enunciated by the hon. Gentleman, but I believe that it is now seen to be deficient and that it should be reviewed. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that local administrative boundaries do not necessarily bear a proper relationship to the question of aircraft noise. I agree that it is high time that we look at the situation again.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, important though the question of extending insulation measures is, people afflicted have occasionally to open their windows and to go outdoors? The noise is a massive assault on people in the surrounding area. How is the Department getting on with ending flights of the noisy Trident and in stopping night flights?
My hon. Friend may not have observed that we are taking steps to ensure that noisier aircraft movements at night are phased out over the next 10 years. That, I suggest, will be an encouragement, but the only way of getting to grips with this problem is to obtain quieter aircraft. That is a longterm project, however, and, apart from the mitigating steps that I have announced already and those which I shall be announcing, I suggest that the future should be judged on the basis of how quickly we can get quieter aircraft into operation.
When does the hon. Gentleman expect the White Paper to be published?
I hope that it will be published before the end of the year.
Balance Of Payments
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what are the latest balance of payments figures; and what further action is proposed to increase exports and reduce imports.
In the third quarter of 1977 there was a record surplus on the current account of £526 million. My Department will continue to be closely involved in the effort to improve our share of both home and export markets.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on those figures and the tremendous improvement since March 1974. Will he, however, avoid complacency and look again at the request made by the TUC and the CBI to introduce selective import controls? Meanwhile, since the British car and television component manufacturing industries are working below capacity, will he consider the launching of a "Buy British" campaign?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his congratulations, but they are due to British industry, in respect of both goods and services, for achieving a remarkable transformation in our balance of payments.
In spite of the Government.
The hon. Gentleman said "In spite of the Government ". It was his Government who permitted the country to run into serious balance of payments deficit, even before the oil price increase. There are a number of areas in which we already use selective import controls, but I and the Government would oppose any attempt to use the term "selective controls" as a guise for covering a policy of general import controls, which is an idea we reject. As for buying British, we have encouraged British industry to locate its purchases in the United Kingdom where possible.On the question of cars, which we discussed earlier, private consumers will be greatly influenced by the availability of British cars. That is a much more impor- tant factor than any "Buy British" campaign.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that a surplus on current account is always and necessarily balanced by an export of capital to the same value? Is that his intention?
The right hon. Gentleman's questions about the operation of exchange control in this country are for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not for me. As for the equation he makes, it is also true—as the other part of the equation to which the right hon. Gentleman frequently refers—that the current account will be greatly affected if there are not the capital movements necessary to finance it.
Although I welcome the obvious advances that have been made in exports, is my right hon. Friend aware that at Aintree the Courtaulds company is about to lay off 1,800 workers in the textile industry unless it receives a temporary employment subsidy? That is serious for an area like Merseyside, where there is an unemployment rate of 12·1 per cent. Reverting to a previous Question, does it not mean that the Multi-Fibre Arrangement must be renegotiated at the earliest moment, the workers kept at work and assistance given to them?
Matters regarding temporary employment subsidy are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. As for the renegotiation of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement, Courtaulds is fully aware of the Government's intention in that respect. Indeed, we have had many messages of support from Courtaulds for the attitude we are taking in the renegotiation.
Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the balance of payments is particularly vulnerable to any dramatic increase in the price of imported raw materials? Will he, therefore, tell the House when he intends to conduct an in-depth survey into ways and means of import substitution?
Such a survey is being conducted at the moment by the sector working parties under the aegis of the NEDC. It is true that changes in the price of raw materials can greatly affect the balance of payments, as we saw with the increase in the price of oil.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the trading balance of the British motor car industry with Japan, France, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America for the year 1976 and to date.
In 1976 and January to September 1977, there were deficits with the countries mentioned except for the United States of America, where we had a positive balance. With permission I will circulate the detailed figures in the Official Report.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the low morale of workers in the car industry? Will he say what action the Government intend to take, and when they intend to take it, against the penetration of foreign cars into this country? Does he not realise that the future of jobs and the British-based car industry is in danger while the present situation continues?
I am well aware of the intense concern in the industry on that matter. As my right hon. Friend said, he has already made clear to the Japanese Ambassador the concern that would be felt if the import of Japanese motor cars were to be significantly higher than last year. We have received assurances about that.The main thrust of imports otherwise comes from EEC countries, where we cannot now impose restraints because Article 135 of the Treaty of Accession cannot be invoked after 31st December this year. Our main concern is to ensure that home production is increased. In 1973 we produced 1·9 million cars. This year and last year it looks to be about 1·3 million cars.
Does the Minister agree that the long-term health of the British motor industry will not be helped by artificially controlling imports of foreign cars from Japan and elsewhere?
Our concern primarily is to increase the production of British cars. There is no doubt that if we were able to produce nearer to the levels which we achieved three or four years ago the share of foreign cars imported into this country would be reduced.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the reason for the positive balance with only one country—the United States of America—is due to the excellence of the cars produced in my constituency? Will he make every effort, therefore, to ensure that, although the Metzenbaum amendment has been defeated in the American Senate, no action will be taken against exporters of British cars such as Rolls-Royce which is likely to damage their exports?
I am well aware of the important contribution which Rolls-Royce and, indeed, other high-quality car manufacturers make to the British export performance in the American market. We have expressed our concern about the Metzenbaum amendment and about any energy conservation measures which would unfairly discriminate against imports, because, although British imports into the United States account for about 1 per cent. of the American market, they account for about 25 per cent. of our exports.
Is the Minister aware that in both Japan and Britain motorists drive on the same side of the road, yet British Leyland puts the windscreen wipers on the wrong side of the windscreen on Marinas and Dolomites—over to the left—as if they were left-hand drive vehicles? How does the Under-Secretary of State expect cars made in Britain to appeal to British drivers when windscreen wipers are put in the wrong position?
I am sure that it would be useful if British Leyland were to appoint the hon. Gentleman as its consultant.
Does my hon. Friend realise that Chrysler United Kingdom, which is subsidised by the taxpayer, is not allowed by its American parent company to export motor cars to Japan? Is he aware that Chrysler's Japanese partner, Mitsubishi, freely exports motor cars to this country? Is not this a lunatic trading policy, and cannot he give my constituents and those in every car-producing town in the country an assurance that the Government will take some action against the multinationals which deprive us—unfairly in a discriminatory way—of employment?
We have a planning agreement with Chrysler, and I expect this to be one of the topics we shall discuss with that company.
Following are the figures:
|Crude balance in value terms—i.e., exports valued fob compared with imports cif:|
|Federal Republic of Germany||—219||—286|
|United States of America||+169||+120|
Exports (Cost Escalation Scheme)
asked the Secretary of State for Trade of he will make a statement on the future of the cost escalation scheme for exports.
This is under review, and I hope to make a statement shortly.
Does the Minister appreciate the concern felt in a number of manufacturing and export companies about the future of this scheme? Is he aware that they are particularly worried about the rumours that next spring the scheme will be scrapped completely and that they are surprised that this should be the case when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has suggested that the rate of inflation will be in single figures next year?
I am well aware of the concern that has been expressed. About 23 guarantees have been issued for contracts worth over £200 million. It is an important scheme, but it is intended to compensate for an excessive rate of inflation. In the light of the Government's success in substantially reducing that rate, we shall have to take account of the situation as we expect it to be at March of next year, which is when the present scheme ends.
Will the Minister take account of the situation as it is, not as he expects it to be, and, when considering the future of the scheme, will he take account particularly of the need to cover large components that go into a minimum order—for instance, turbines for the Ontario hydro scheme, where indi- vidual items are less than £2 million but where four turbines make £2 million?
The hon. Gentleman is referring to the access rules which have been drawn up fairly tightly. But we have also to take account of international criticisms that have been made in various forums about our scheme. Even if it were deemed desirable to renew it in the light of the prevailing situation, I do not believe that we could ease the access rules.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade what consultations he has had with interested parties regarding legislation on employee participation in industry.
I have had widespread consultations.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite the clear impossibility of basing any legislation on the Bullock Report, it is as urgent as ever to find ways—I emphasise the plural—of enabling employees at all levels within an enterprise to be more closely associated with the running of the enterprise?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is necessary to find such ways. We are now, in the light of the composite motion passed at the TUC, having further discussions on whether such ways can be found that would command the type of consensus in industry that we have been looking for throughout this investigation.
I accept that there is need for the widest possible agreement, and that there are certain difficulties about legislation, but would it not be a good thing if the Government published their own views as soon as possible?
We shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend suggests. It may be that we shall think it right to publish a White Paper at some stage during this Session so that there may be further consultation on employee participation.
What regard does the right hon. Gentlemen's timetable have to the timetable of the passage of the Fifth Directive on Company Law in the European Economic Community?
I do not know whether the right hon. and learned Gentlemen thinks that the Fifth Directive is making very much progress at the moment. Obviously, if it did we should have to take account of it. While bearing in mind the European Green Paper, we are progressing on our own lines in so far as we can find any agreement in this country on the ways in which we should progress.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is quite wrong to think that British Industry is simply waiting for legislation before it introduces or finds ways of involving its employees in decisions? Is it not true that in thousands of companies all over the land, and without legislation, steps are being taken to consult employees and to bring them into decision-making?
Fortunately, the hon. Gentleman is right. Nevertheless the CBI, evidently hissatisfied with the progress that is being made without legislation, has proposed that there should be legislation.
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the level of British exports to Japan.
Our exports have grown 35 per cent. in sterling terms in the first nine months of this year, 24 per cent. in dollar terms. This is a creditable achievement, but we should be able to do much better. I am in touch with the Japanese about means of encouraging further imports from the United Kingdom.
I welcome that news, but would not my right hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the Japanese barriers to our exports which he mentioned earlier this afternoon, there is also a British self-imposed barrier— that of relative ignorance of the Japanese market? Will he urge British companies seeking seriously to penetrate the Japanese market to train some of their executives in a study of Japan and its language in the way as the Japanese have studied our culture and our language with successful results?
Certainly, but I think that my hon. Friend, who is expert in this matter, will agree that this relative ignorance has been substantially reduced in recent years by the definite attempt by major and, indeed, smaller British firms to penetrate the Japanese market. The figures I have read out show that they have had some success, but we need a great deal more success before this situation will be anything like satisfactory.
Does the Secretary of State agree that there is a good case for the use of voluntary quotas between Japan and this country on matters such as special steels, which would allow us to export more to Japan and seek to reduce its level of imports to a more balanced figure?
The hon. Gentleman knows that in a number of cases already such voluntary restraint arrangements exist. I believe that in world trade generally it will be necessary to have such arrangements in order to reduce the effect that aggressive export drives can otherwise have, taking account of present levels of unemployment.
Is not one of our most important potential exports to Japan the reprocessing of nuclear waste? Is there any calculation of how much money has been lost through our inability to make up our minds about whether the process is safe?
As my hon. Friend knows, the Windscale inquiry has just been completed, and I hope that the report arrives at a conclusion that will enable us to take advantage of this great opportunity.
Questions To Theprime Minister
I have a brief statement to make.In May of this year the House agreed to an experiment carrying out the recommendations of the Select Committee on Procedure with regard to Prime Minister's Question. On 26th July last, several hon. Members raised points of order about the way in which the experiment had been conducted. I undertook to consider the matter and to make a statement in the new Session. Despite the recommendation of the Fifth Report of the Sessional Select Committee on Procedure, hon. Members have increased the number of indirect Questions to the Prime Minister. In fact, they have risen from less than half the Prime Minister's Questions in May to about two-thirds of the Prime Minister's Questions in July. The House will recall that in an effort on one occasion to reverse this tendency, I indicated my intention to call one supplementary question only on indirect Questions so that we could get on to the substantive Questions quickly, but it was quickly made clear to me from both sides of the House that hon. Members wished to ask further supplementary questions when topical issues had been raised. I intend to continue to try to meet the wishes of the House whenever possible by allowing a few more supplementary questions on such Questions. In conclusion, let me underline that in my view the House as a whole is unsympathetic to what I call "shot-in-the-dark" Questions and I must continue to rule that supplementary questions on the indirect Questions will have to be seen to be linked in some way with the Question on the Order Paper if they are to be allowed. The rules of relevance are binding on us all.
As at tomorrow's Prime Minister's Question Time there are eight Questions asking when he will next meet the TUC and six asking him to list his engagements, I wonder whether it would not be more politic to increase the quality of the primary Questions rather than to curtail the supplementary questions?
That is a matter for the House.
Your statement, Mr. Speaker, raises the whole subject of Question Time. You may care to comment on that. Today is the first Question Time of the new Session; we did not reach Question No. 19, and this on a Monday. I know that I am one of the frustrated parties. However, generally, do you wish us to proceed by calling more Questions that are on the Order Paper and cutting down the supplementary questions? I ask this because over the years we seem increasingly to be taking questions arising from supplementary questions and fewer of the Questions on the Order Paper are being reached.
The hon. Gentleman is a very experienced Member of the House and he is quite right about that tendency. Today at Question Time we had some long supplementary questions. I am not blaming one side or other of the House in particular. Some hon. Members seem to feel that if they rise for a supplementary question they have a right to get in three questions instead of asking one. When there are Questions, as there were today. in which there are direct constituency interests for various hon. Members, I do my best, without prolonging it unduly, to see that hon. Members who have a constituency interest are called.I deplore the fact that we were not able to get further than Question No. 18 today, because it is not fair to those hon. Members whose Questions are further down the Order Paper.
I hope. Mr.Speaker, that if you reply to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) you will not accept his implication that a question about meeting the TUC was a "shot-in-the-dark" Question. Many of us would regard that Question in a quite different light from those about the particular engagements today because it allows a general question about the Government's conduct of economic affairs.
I am much obliged.
Is not the difficulty underlying the statement the wish of the House to do two things-both to question the Prime Minister about important current events and also to get through a greater number of Questions on the Order Paper? Is not the only way to resolve this to extend Question Time by a quarter of an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that both those objectives can be achieved? There is no other way of doing it.
That, of course, is not a question for me. No doubt it will be considered by those who can do something about it.
Business Of The House
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will know that on Friday the normal motion was passed through the House dealing with the division of Private Members' business—that is, the division between Private Members' Bills and Private Members' motions.This is a matter that was raised in the House on 11th July, as the Lord President knows. I asked him then whether
—by which I meant outside these two magic Front Benches—about the division of time given to Bills and motions. If I recollect correctly, there was a growl of approval from many parts of the House to that effect, except, of course, from the two Front Benches. Members prefer to use the time usefully for Bills and not to waste it on motions which have no effect. The Lord President replied that there was a good deal in what I said. He went on:" before he tables the motion next Session about Private Members' Bills and motions he will consult hon. Members in all parts of the House "
That is certainly true. He ended :" I am prepared to consult to see whether we can alter the balance. If that were to be done, it would have to be done with the concurrence of Private Members generally."
As the Lord President knows, I heard from him last week that he had, indeed, consulted, through the usual channels—so-called ; and that means that the two Front Benches do not want to make any change. There has not been the consultation with other Members in the House. But the motion on the subject was put down on Friday, a day on which there could not even be 24 hours' notice to any Member that that motion was to be taken. I realise that this is something for the Lord President to answer rather than for you, Mr. Speaker, bat I hoped that you would give him the opportunity to say that there will be another chance for me to table an amendment to that motion in order to increase the amount of time usable on Bills at the expense, slightly, of the time usable upon motions. Insofar as it is in your hands, Mr. Speaker, to permit such an amendment at some time to be selected, I hope that you will be prepared to select it in view of the categorical assurance that I received on 11th July from the Lord President." I shall consult before the next Session."—[Official Report, 11th July 1977 ; Vol. 935, c. 29.]
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I shall certainly look at the question whether my hon. Friend should be given another chance. But it is the case, of course, that it would be a chance in addition to the one that he had before. In the reply I sent to him, from which he has quoted a part but not the whole, I expressed some sympathy with the general view that he has put on the matter. There are others in the House who take a different view. But I am quite prepared to have further consultations on the general question how we should divide Private Members' time. I have indicated that in my reply to my hon. Friend, and I think that that is as far as we can carry the matter now.
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
At this moment the lives of many of our constituents are being put at risk. Industry is being disrupted. Travellers are suffering great inconvenience and danger. Criminals are having a bonanza. but, worst of all, the lives of the sick, the elderly and the disabled are being jeopardised. The situation has altered dramatically in the past 72 hours and I submit that it is very urgent that the House should have an opportunity of debating this matter." the threat to the supply of electrical power caused by the unofficial action of power workers which is endangering life and creating hardship for millions of people."
The hon. Member gave me notice this morning that he proposed to raise this question and to make the application for an emergency debate under Standing Order No. 9 due to
As the House knows, I do not decide the importance of an issue—and this, undoubtedly, is a very important issue. I have to decide whether, today or tomorrow, the debate should take precedence over the business of the day. I am afraid that I cannot grant his request." the threat to the supply of electrical power caused by the unofficial action of power workers which is endangering life and creating hardship for millions of people."
Manpower Services Commission (Grant)
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 grant of £60,000 by the Manpower Services Commission on Merseyside to the Indian terrorist group, Ananda Marg, which practises homosexuality and ritual murder."
I am surprised that Labour Members find ritual murder amusing. The Opposition do not.The matter is specific in that it is a precise grant to a particular organisation. It is important in that it sets an appalling precedent for the spending of public money in a way that is contrary to the public interest, and it is urgent because it is vital that such organisations should in no way receive help and encouragement from public funds. Therefore, the grant should be immediately withdrawn before a wholly undesirable precedent is set. Professor Ridley, the chairman of the Merseyside job creation committee, said that he originally had misgivings about making the grant, having heard about the group's activities in India, and wondered whether its members might be on the lunatic fringe. He ultimately decided, however, that such questions were irrelevant and that what he was interested in was the group's ability to run the project. On that criterion, Mr. Speaker, I respectfully suggest that the IRA could apply for a grant for training its members on the ground that they would thereby increase their efficiency in murdering their fellow citizens. I therefore appeal to you. Mr. Speaker, to allow the matter to be debated.
The hon. Lady asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing
I can only tell the House once again that the hon. Lady has raised an important question but that I am afraid that I cannot give it the precedence she seeks." the grant of £60,000 by the Manpower Services Commission on Merseyside to the Indian terrorist group, Ananda Marg, which practises homosexuality and ritual murder."
Grunwick Processinglaboratories Ltd
I apologise for not letting you have notice of my application, Mr Speaker, but unfortunately I was engaged in aspects of the events which I wish to raise.I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9—
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but 1 can take the House into my confidence and say that I have already indicated to another hon. Member who wished to raise the matter of Grunwick that as he had not told me before 12 o'clock—and the facts were known to us in the House well before 12 o'clock—I could not allow the hon. Gentleman to pursue his application. I have already dealt in the normal way with one hon. Member who accepted my ruling that he should have given me notice of his intention before 12 o'clock. That is the Standing Order of the House.
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. May I draw to your attention that there have been developments which I believe are additional to those of which you already have cognisance, namely, the possibility that a national strike is now to be called arising from those events.
With every respect to the hon. Gentleman—who I know is deeply concerned about this matter—I suggest that he leaves the matter for today and seeks to raise it some other time. It would be very unfair for me to allow the hon. Gentleman to seek the Adjournment of the House on the Grunwick affair when I have already indicated to another hon. Member, who accepted my ruling, that if he proposed I should indicate to the House that he had not given me notice, as is required, before 12 o'clock
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You referred to an hon. Gentleman who wished to raise this issue under Standing Order No. 9 and did not advise you of that before 12 o'clock. May I point out that in fact I applied to you at a quarter to 11 this morning to put a Private Notice Question on this very subject?
That is part of the secret life of this House. We do not usually refer to the fact that a Private Notice Question has been sought and not allowed.
Mr. Secretary Benn, supported by Mr. Joel Barnett, Mr. Secretary Hattersley, Mr. Harold Lever, Mr. Frank Judd, and Dr. J. Dickson Mabon, presented a Bill to exclude the application of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976 in relation to certain agreements ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed.
Orders Of The Day
Debate On The Address
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [3rd November].
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—[ Mr. Bradley.]
Question again proposed.
This is the third occasion this year—but the first time in this Session—on which we have discussed the subject of the prevention of crime. It is right that we should. There is public concern about law and order, and the Government and the House share that concern.Crime is not a new problem; nor is it a national one. Previous generations have had to face the difficulties of law and order, and it is an international problem. It is important that we have a rational discussion about the matter based on information and not emotion. I say at the beginning that the speech to his party conference by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) earned full marks for emotion, but it was much weaker on fact and analysis. I want to increase the flow of information on matters of law and order. Therefore, I shall publish soon a fresh descriptive document on the Prison Service as well as a review of the development of criminal justice policy over the past 10 years. This afternoon I want to survey the general size of the problem and then look at the resources—financial, legal, physical and human—that we have available to deal with it. I should like first to say a word about criminal statistics. As to the amount of crime in this country, it is a disturbing fact that the number of serious offences known to the police has increased by 62 per cent. in the 10 years up to the end of 1976. The first six months of this year show an increase of 11 per cent. over the same period last year, and this increase is most marked for the most worrying offences, such as violence against the person and robbery. The rate of increase has varied according to the offence concerned. There have even been decreases in some offences. Sexual offences, for instance, have been decreasing steadily for several years and continue to do so. For this we must be thankful, although it remains true that the overall trend continues to show a steady increase. It is not possible from the statistics to say that matters have got either notably worse or notably better under any particular political party. This is not surprising. The level of recorded crime charts a very complex human situation to which there is no simple solution. All major Western societies have experienced similar trends. In the face of these facts the question is what resources we have deployed. I turn first to police strength. At the end of September 1977 the number of police officers in England and Wales was 108,700. Three years ago, on 30th September 1974, the strength was 100,800. There has, therefore, been a net increase of nearly 8,000 policemen over the last three years.
I shall qualify that, but I have said that in total there are 8,000 more, and that is a fact. Three years ago the deficiency on establishment was 12·5 per cent. Now it is slightly more than 8 per cent., and this again would have been less but for wastage, which has been increasing in recent months. So far this year there has been a net loss of 772. October and November are normally good months for recruitment, and we shall see what turns up.The recruitment rate is still reasonably satisfactory, taking into account seasonal variations, but the present trend in wastage is disturbing. There is no one cause, but the major factors are losses during the early stages of training because individuals are not suited to a police career, pay, the ability to obtain other work, and unpleasant aspects of police work, including shift duty and the increasing rate of violence against police officers. The result is that we are replacing experienced officers with inexperienced new entrants at a rate which, if it continues for long, is bound to have an effect on efficiency.
Clearly the Home Secretary is anxious to lay all the facts before the House. In dealing with wastage is he referring substantially to male police officers? In dealing with recruitment can he reveal the increasing number of women police officers?
Undoubtedly there is a wastage of young men after four or five years when they have been trained. At the other end there is a wastage of very experienced officers, and that is not solely because of other job opportunities—I make the point as it is put to me—but because, when the man is getting within the retirement range, he tends to retire earlier these days because of very generouse retirement pensions and job opportunities outside. That is a fact.A growing number of young women are joining the police, and I am glad of that. They do extraordinarily well in the training schools, and there are many jobs that they can do as well as any policeman. But there are some jobs that they cannot do as well as a policeman, and that is a factor in the situation. I understand, although I have no figures, that there tends to be a wastage rate among young girls joining when they are in their middle twenties, for the obvious reasons. The distribution of police strength is a factor that has to be taken into account. I should emphasise that the position is not the same over the whole country. The Metropolitan Police strength at the end of September this year was 22,126, with 4,502 vacancies. Nearly half the total vacancies in England and Wales are in the Metropolitan Police. But, even so, the Metropolitan strength is 1,500 higher than three years ago. The six metropolitan county forces have gained 2,400 together and the non-metropolitan county forces 3,815 over the three years. But even here there are variations. Twenty-four forces in England and Wales have deficiencies of less than 5 per cent., and only four have deficiencies of over 10 per cent.—the City, the Metropolitan, West Midlands, and Derbyshire. I should like to say a word now about police pay. The House will recall that special transitional arrangements were made for the police when phase 1 of the present pay policy first came into effect. They had 30 per cent. rather than the £6. In July 1976 their negotiating machinery broke down when the Police Federations for England, Wales and Northern Ireland walked out of the Police Council. One of the problems in my time as Home Secretary has been that there has been negotiating machinery. That is a factor that I have had to take into account. This was why the Government set up the inquiry under Lord Edmund-Davies into the negotiating machinery. Obviously, we must have proper negotiating arrangement; that take full account of the interests and views of all the parties concerned. Whatever happens at the end of the day and wit inquiries, the local authorities supply about 30 per cent. of the money. The local authorities have a rôle to play as things are, and I cannot ignore the local authorities in wage negotiation for the police as it is at the moment. At the same time there is the problem of the rôle of the Police Federations themselves. For example, they are not a trade union. Their members may not strike. They are regulated closely under statute. The Government agreed some time ago that there should be an inquiry into the constitution of the Federations. Although the Government were prepared for the inquiry to proceed as soon as possible, the Federations wanted it to take place over a reasonably long time-scale, and I have no complaint about that. It follows, as I was glad to agree recently, that the Federations should conduct a survey of their members' views on the issues that the inquiry would cover. Against this background, I am naturally pleased to be able to report some progress on police pay. The House will know that the Police Federations submitted a statement of claim on pay which sought to show that increases of between 78 per cent. and 104 per cent. were justified. The Federations compared the position in the pay league in which they saw the police, following the Royal Commission in 1960, with what they occupy now. Although comparisons of this sort are notoriously difficult to sustain, there can be no doubt that the job of the police has changed in various ways over the years. In these circumstances an offer was made to the Federations on 27th October of an immediate increase in pay of 10 per cent. of earnings, in line with pay policy, and an independent, wide-ranging inquiry into pay and a number of other matters. The inquiry will be undertaken by the review body which was set up a short while ago and to which I referred to consider the negotiating machinery. I should like to take this opportunity to say how grateful the Government are to Lord Edmund-Davies, the chairman of the review body, for being prepared to take on the very much greater task now before it. He will need more help, and we are inviting other persons to join the review body. I told the Federations on 27th October that the Government are willing to accept the conclusions of the inquiry on pay. I added that the committee of inquiry would be told that it was free to recommend a degree of phasing, and the Government will also want to consider phasing of the implementation of the recommendations. Although detailed terms of reference have yet to be fixed, the inquiry will consider the levels of remuneration appropriate for the police in the light of such factors as developments in the responsibilities and work load, the stresses and dangers to which the police are exposed, the need to ensure adequate police strength. and the restrictions to which the police are subject. I should, for the record, add that on 27th October the Federations also considered an offer on pay similar to mine from the official side of the Police Council, together with a proposal that the inquiry on pay should he carried out in the Police Council, which considered that it could be done there much more quickly. It is, of course, a fact that the Council has already carried out a survey of the situation which would have allowed it to make good progress, but the Federations chose to accept the offer of an independent inquiry and the immediate increase of pay that I have mentioned. I should simply like to say, bearing in mind all that was said before agreement was reached, that I am pleased that we have at last been able to get away from the atmosphere of the past 15 months and turn our minds in a constructive fashion to the future.
Does the Home Secretary recognise that the appointment of Lord Edmund-Davies both to deal with the Police Council matters and to deal with this very much wider review of pay, among other things, is very welcome to the police service? Will he confirm to the House that it is within Lord Edmund-Davies's terms of reference to make an interim report on pay and, moreover, that the Government would be prepared to implement the results of that interim report as soon as may be in the New Year?
I stick to what I said, and it is what I said to the Police Federations in negotiations. The Federations showed great responsibility. Of course there is an interim report.
The right hon. Gentleman did not say that.
With respect, I said that there was an interim report. That is what the previous section of my speech was all about. when I said that the review body will be free to make recommendations on phasing and that the Government will also be free to consider them. It is an interim report. Those were the words that I used.
Will the Home Secretary confirm to the House that the terms of reference of the inquiry will enable recommendations to be made, whether they are implemented or not, outside the Government's pay policy? This is not what is happening in the case of the Armed Forces, which is somewhat similar, although I know that we are only discussing the police today. Will the terms of reference allow the inquiry to make recommendations without consideration of Government pay policy?
We reached an agreement with the Federations. We are discussing the recommendations to put to Lord Justice Edmund-Davies. Now that we have started discussions and negotiations, they are better conducted in that way than across the Floor of the House. The Police Federations have taken what I said to them in the spirit in which it was said. I think we should be better to leave it alone now. I am sure that everybody in the House was pleased that there was not a police strike and, as we are doing well in that respect, let us see what happens.
I have discussed the matter with the Police Federations. We have reached agreement and the recommendations are there. I shall not go any further because this is not the way to proceed.
I can understand the right hon. Gentleman's attitude, but why is it one that he expects the House to share? Are we not entitled to be taken into his confidence in this matter at all?
It is not a matter of confidence. I have said that the extended inquiry will take some time to complete, that we hope to make an early start, and that we have come to agreement. I have put to the House what was decided last week. But if the hon. Gentleman really believes that negotiations on the recommendations can take place on the Floor of the House, I say to him that that is not the way that proper negotiations should be held. I think that we are doing it the right way.We are already spending over £250 million more in real terms on law and order services than in 1974. There will be an extra £9 million next year, mainly for civilian support for the police, to restore substantially cuts in the police cadet scheme, to make more provision for vehicles and equipment, to assist prison manpower, and to extend and strengthen community service schemes. But this is only a small part of the Government's increased help. The additional £9 million is included in a much larger sum of about £50 million. The balance is to cover the increasing cost of the fundamental law and order services, in particular the higher costs of police and fire pensions and the running costs of courts and prisons. In addition, £5 million will be available next year for capital expenditure on the police, courts and prison schemes. Altogether, there is an extra £55 million available next year for law and order services above the real increase that has taken place in the past three years. Given the whole discussion about the need to contain public expenditure, and the successful efforts of the Government to do so, these sums are the best possible evidence of the priority the Government give to law and order issues.
The hon. Gentleman says "Rhubarb" which, no doubt, is his dish, but law and order is a serious matter. I have shown that the amount of money spent is far greater than ever before, and I believe that that is something that the whole country will note.
My right hon. Friend mentioned Derbyshire as being one of the areas in need of greater numbers of police. Is he aware that when the Labour Party lost control of the county council in May this year the police service had a fairly substantial budget? The Tories and their allies, who took over then, have slashed the police budget by approximately £100,000, all in the name of trying to cut the rate by 0·3p.
That is an interesting point and it shows that some people talk differently in opposition as opposed to when they are in office.The additional resources for the law and order programme will allow police civilian staff to rise by about 800 by May next year. Most hon. Members have written to me about civilian staff, and in my view it is essential that these additional staff should be used in posts which give direct operational support to the police in the fight against crime. I hope that they will not be used indiscriminately but in the best possible way. There is also provision for an increase of 1,100 in the average number of cadets. A total of 900 new cadets have been taken on so far in 1977, and the increases should mean that about 1,600 more can be taken on in 1978. The Expenditure Committee in its Ninth Report recommended that there should be a qualitative and quantitative review of the needs for cadets. I have invited the Police Advisory Board to set up a working party to do this, and I hope that it will make a thorough review of the cadet system. Again, it is not enough to talk about police cadets. It is a matter of where police cadets, in different parts of the country, can perform the greatest function as the seed corn for the future and where, meanwhile, the need for growth in police manpower is greatest. Those are the areas with the high percentage deficiencies. The additional resources are sufficient to allow some relaxation of the restrictions we had to ask police authorities to impose on vehicles, goods and services for the police and on some increases in particularly important aspects of the common services which we provide for the police. The Government have, therefore, throughout done their best to shield the police service, recognising its importance. They have tried to do so responsibly, while preserving a coherent economic strategy. I should say a word about what has happened at Grunwick today. This is the latest information I have. I did not feel that the House would have wanted me to press the Metropolitan Police in the course of the morning to come up with accurate figures. These are the figures that I have so far. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis tells me that 8,000 demonstrators were assembled outside the Grunwick factory this morning and 4,000 police officers were deployed. There has been considerable disorder as a result of which there have been 108 arrests and a number of injuries, which led to nine police officers going to hospital. I have no figure yet—it has not been obtainable—about any of those taking part in the picket being taken to hospital.
Always the same way round.
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Perhaps he would look at the figures. I am concerned about the injured policemen. If he has information about the numbers of non-policemen hurt this morning. I should be grateful to know, but I suspect that he has not.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) was on a BBC radio programme this morning entitled "Today" and in the course of an interview said that the police were responsible for the trouble? Does he repudiate that statement entirely? Will he tell his hon. Friends of the Left that any attempts to undermine public confidence in the police can only undermine law and order, and it is time that they stopped?
I say again that the police have my full confidence and that of the Government. I stick to that.
I will repudiate the statement of anybody who denies that. I have said so. But I also say that I share the views expressed in the Early-Day Motion in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Pavitt) and others. I have no sympathy for an employer who has resolutely refused to abide by the normal processes of arbitration and conciliation, nor for those who have latched on to this speech as an excuse for provoking violence, particularly violence against the police.The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) asked me whether I stood by the police. Does he stand by what has been said in courts of law and in inquiries? I stand by the police. Does the hon. Gentleman stand by that? In this House, we have to have it both ways, but the hon. Gentleman always wants it one way.
My right hon. Friend has brought up Grunwick. As one who was there in a non-violent capacity, may I add to what has been said by the Home Secretary and by hon. Members on the Opposition Benches? Let me say to my right hon. Friend that, as a person who holds the police in high regard, I was absolutely appalled by the degree of violence which they showed to many pickets, those nonviolent and perhaps those violent.
Here it comes!
There was wanton destruction of banners which were causing no damage either to passers-by or to the police. Those banners were gleefully ripped, gleefully smashed and the tatters thrown to the wind.
They were being used as weapons.
They were not being used as weapons. Will hon. Gentlemen opposite listen to what actually happened? I asked my right hon. Friend if I could come to see him on this matter—to which request I am sure he will agree —and, when I do, I shall urge him to have a public inquiry into the violence and vandalism executed by the police force of the Metropolitan area this morning.
I say to my hon. Friend that the police have a most difficult job. They have the task of ensuring both that those who wish to picket peacefully are able to do so and that those who wish to go on working can do so. Through this House we passed the new procedure for hearing complaints against the police, procedure of a strongly independent nature. If anyone has any complaints against the police, there is a proper procedure that can be used. There is a proper procedure, not to come through me, but to go direct to the Commissioner. This House thought that that was a good idea, and I recommend to my hon. Friend that we use that procedure.
Would my right hon. Friend not agree that what happened today at Grunwick bears out what many people have said already about the omission from the Gracious Speech of any reference to an attempt to reform the law of picketing? Such a reform is needed, because people on both sides in these violent confrontations are unable to see what the law actually is. At the moment very few people know.
A study is taking place on that very point. Many people involved in the trade union movement over many years realise the difficulty of definition which has shown itself in this House on previous occasions. It is not an omission Just because of parliamentary time, though that is always a problem. It is a difficult matter. It would be a mistake to legislate for years to come purely on the basis of the Grunwick dispute, which is not typical. I simply say that it is being looked at, but that at it is not an easy matter.I felt that I should say a word about public order in view of the National Front marches and the whole issue of public order, which has loomed large in my work during the recess. The Public Order Act of 1936 arose out of pre-war Fascism and a demand from the Labour Party Conference of that year. The law is quite clear. All requests for a ban on a march originate from the local chief constable—or, in London, the Commissioner—and he is is obliged to make his decision on public order and not political grounds. As Home Secretary I have no powers whatsoever to initiate a ban on a march. If right hon. and hon. Members read the debate in the House at the time, they will realise that those on the Opposition Benches at the time—my party—felt very strongly against allowing a chief constable or a policeman to make a political decision. The historical evidence of the use of these powers under the Public Order Act is that in practice it is extremely difficult to stop at a ban on a particular march by a particular organisation. In the past the pressures have led to the banning of all marches in an everwidening area over a prolonged period and all kinds of reputable events may be caught up by this broad approach. It may well be that the Public Order Act, which was passed about 40 years ago, is in need of revision. We are considering the points that have been made in the recess. A whole range of proposals has been suggested—including that advance notice should be given of processions. Right hon. and hon. Members from Northern Ireland constituencies will know that that has long been the practice there. It has been suggested that there should be greater powers to ban particular marches and that I as Home Secretary should have powers to ban marches of my own volition. When I have to make decisions I look at charts and take advice about the pub- lic order aspect. If I were making a political decision, I would need no advice from any official, but would be taking the decision on my own subjective views. But the subjective views of any Home Secretary are not, in my view, necessarily the best.
Is it not essential that in the consideration that the Home Secretary has given he distinguishes between politics and racialism? Does he agree that there must be complete freedom of speech and assembly for all parties, Left, Right and centre, but no such freedom for racialist parties? [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not? "] I say that because racial incitement is already a crime under the Race Relations Act. Does my right hon. Friend not agree that there should be a ban on all marches and public meetings by the National Front since it is a self-proclaimed racialist party? Its banners at Lewisham said "The National Front is a racialist front ".
This matter needs to be considered, but if one reached the point of proscribing an organisation, it would be very easy for that organisation to change its name. We know from experience that that has happened. There is then a royal road of banning everything under that name.It is not easy, particularly if the new organisation never mentions racialism, but talks about some aspect of the EEC. It is not easy to handle such a matter under the Public Order Act, but it is in terms of race relations that we should look at it. On 13th June an amendment to the Public Order Act came into force under the race relations legislation of 1976. It is for the Attorney-General to authorise prosecutions under this new law and we shall study carefully its effectiveness. This is the aspect of the matter to which we should be putting our minds, as well as the Public Order Act. I am looking at the court cases, for which I have no responsibility, to see whether there is anything that should be done in that direction. On the whole matter of race relations, again on Saturday I was picketed by the National Front—I seem to have been picketed by a wide variety of people in my time. When dealing with such persons we have to counter the myths and propaganda about immigrants and state the positive case for a multi-racial society. That is much more difficult to do than fighting a street battle. Street battles will not resolve this problem. They will make it a good deal worse. It is in that spirit that I shall look at the Public Order Act in its wider aspect.
Does the Secretary of State not find something anomalous in the conflicting demands upon him? On the one hand, some members of his party call for bans on marches, which would inevitably involve the police in having to maintain that ban and therefore risk being knocked about in the streets. On the other hand, there are the claims from the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) that when the police do their duty, as they have this morning at Grunwicks, they are accused—and I quote the word—of "vandalism ". Will he recognise that it is not good enough to call for bans for certain discriminatory acts when that suits hon. Gentlemen and for them then to condemn the police when they maintain the law and do their duty in other respects?
It is quite clear that on marches the police have the most difficult job of all time. They are accused by one side of protecting and so on. If errors are made, there are procedures for dealing with them, and those procedures were approved by the House. But I know that marches such as those at Lewisham or Manchester put great tensions on the police force in the area concerned. It has a most difficult job to do. But if there are genuine complaints, there are methods of dealing with them.I should like briefly to say a word or two about international terrorism.
Before the Home Secretary leaves that topic, having dealt with police pay and equipment and so on, will he address himself to the question of police morale? To those of us who have spent a good deal of time talking with the police about their job, this appears to be a fundamental problem. Basically, they appear to feel, particularly in view of the smugness of the Prime Minister, who has never once in this House condemned the violent treatment of the police on the streets, that they do not seem to be receiving the necessary support from the Government. Will the right hon. Gentleman say something about the morale of the police?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has spoken forcefully in the House and he spoke forcefully at the Labour Party Conference about this matter. No doubt the hon. Gentleman was otherwise engaged at the time.On the matter of international terrorism—
What about morale?
The morale of the police is a worrying problem to deal with. All I would say is that it will not be dealt with just by an increase in pay. It will not be dealt with, either, by putting the blame on one political party or the other. It is a subject to which the country as a whole must put its mind, because the job of the police is a difficult one.I shall not swop notes about who knows more policemen and what they say. I met a large number the other night who, I was told, were not typical. Be that as it may. I meet a large number of police and I know how they feel. I know how they feel when their affairs are bandied about politically. They tell me that one of the reasons for their wanting to get out of the negotiating machinery was their view of politicians. I presume that the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) comes into that category. In respect of international terrorism, I mentioned earlier the international dimension. Recent events in Mogadishu and elsewhere have shown us the threat that this brings. We have continued, therefore, to revise and up-date our contingency plans for dealing with such incidents in the light of experience gained from exercises, from the study of actual incidents in other parts of the world, and by taking into account the current assessment of the threat. It would obviously be inappropriate for me to go into this—it would give too much information—but we have taken the view that it would be wrong for the United Kingdom to adopt an insular attitude and refuse to share the knowledge and experience we have gained. I chaired a meeting of EEC Ministers of the Interior in May this year. There are working groups on a wide range of subjects of concern to the police, the security service, and other Government Departments and agencies. Based on that initiative of discussion in Europe, which followed from an initiative taken by my predecessor, there are constant discussions and a constant exchange of information. Only last week I had discussions in London with the Italian Minister of the Interior, Signor Cossiga, which is typical of the co-operation that is taking place. I also talked to him in Rome a few weeks ago. The exchange of information is extremely valuable. One cannot say that one is absolutely ready, by the nature of the problem. But I assure the House that we firmly take into account what has happened elsewhere I shall not say much about penalties. Last year we put through legislation that increased the penalties. I shall say simply that we are increasing the number of attendance centres and giving priority to areas of greatest need, namely, Ipswich, Stockton, Birmingham, Bolton, Warrington and Brighton, in addition to those we already have. With the increased money available we are also seeking to increase community service orders. What we shall do is to bring in new schemes from 1st December in Cornwall, Derbyshire, Middlesex, Northampton and Suffolk. That is the basis on which the extra money will be spent. I want to say a. brief word about prisons. The development of non-custodial sentences will not—it could not—do away with imprisonment. But one of the most persistent fantasies about prisons in that they are "holiday camps" or rest homes for the incurably anti-social. I know that the hon. Gentleman visited a prison the other day which is near where I live, and that prison is by no means a holiday camp. We have 41,700 people in prison, and of these nearly 15,500 are sleeping either two or three to a cell. The worst overcrowding is in the local prisons. We have just brought into service a new prison at Featherstone. A further one at Wymott in Lancashire is almost complete. There will therefore be 1,500 extra places. But all that that will do is help. It will not appreciably diminish the general level of overcrowding. Paraphrasing a longer argument that I wanted to put, those who kill, murder, or maim ought to be in prison. But what is clear to me, after a year or so as Home Secretary, is that we put far more people in gaol than does any other country in Western Europe. There are people in gaol when it is the wrong place for them. Selectivity is of the greatest importance and is a matter we should discuss across the Floor of the House, particularly with regard to the mentally ill. But, having read with the greatest interest the report issued by the Conservative Party, I believe that there is no way through on the glasshouse mentality. It is not true, in modern times, that after a quick, short period in the glasshouse with one's head shaved, one comes out and behaves properly. It is much more complicated than that. I hope that in the discussions we shall not find that some want weak regimes and some want strong regimes in prison. That will not do at all. There are far too many people in prison. We should be concerned about those who, when they are released, did not just commit crimes—because that would happen however long they were imprisoned—but those who would be a disturbance in society in terms of murdering, mugging and all the other words we use in the modern world.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his reference to the study group conclusions published in August. Is he aware that the view taken by members of the study group, set up by my right hon. Friend for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), that there should be short, sharp sentences in suitable cases, is in exact line with the conclusion reached by the Advisory Council on the Penal System? It is a view taken by the majority of prison governors and prison officers.
I am surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman says that, because I had the report analysed. I have it in front of me that the report by the Conservative Party is in direct contradistinction to the report from the Advisory Council on the Penal System. It may be that we have greater resources for analysis. One should look at it carefully, because the ACPS Report, which has had the support of successive Governments, recommended that while discipline in detention centres should remain firm, as it has, it should in general be less rigid than it was. As I go around, talking to the people working in those centres, they tell me that that is the right thing to do.
Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of a sentence in the pamphlet "The Proper Use of Prisons ", which states:
" We share the view Flit forward recently by the Advisory Council on the Penal System that the major impact and deterrent effect of custodial sentences occurs—certainly for those who are going to prison for the first time—in the initial period of imprisonment. "
We will not go on swapping quotes; it is a matter we discussed. It went on to suggest that all aspects of the regime in a centre should be as constructive as possible; that there should he increased emphasis on education for both remedial and general purposes, and that the aim of each member of staff should be to prepare the detainee for life in the community after his release.As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, if we both agree with the advice given to me, that is fine. We have to be sure what the advice was, and I have no doubt that that will become clear during the course of the debate. I should like to finish—
Will the Secretary of State tell us whether he will be bringing any proposals to the House during the current Session of Parliament to reduce the number of people being sent to prison who should not be there at all?
A major proposal relates to the mentally which I am discussing with colleagues in other Departments.With regard to extra money for prisons, which can have only a marginal effect given the overcrowding, the short answer is that the major way in which the prison population can be affected is by those who are sent to prison for unimportant offences—I am not talking about the serious ones—being given shorter sentences. I am sure that that is the key to the matter. I should just like to say a final word about the fire service, which has a bearing on law and order. The Government set out their position last week after I had met the National Joint Council. It was explained that any settlement would have to be within the pay guidelines. The Government recognise the long standing claim for a reduction in the 48-hour week. They would be prepared for a reduction of working hours to be negotiated but the implementation of the reduction would not be practical before the autumn of 1978—it would mean training more firemen—although preparations could begin before then. Detailed arrangements on cost and other aspects of the reduction would be matters for negotiation. The Government also recognise the need to establish a formula for determining fire service pay. They welcomed the fact that the NJC was seeking to do this through the established negotiating procedures. The Government were following closely the discussions on this subject in the NJC but the phasing of any pay increase would have to be considered in the light of prevailing circumstances. All I say about the circumstances of today and the possibility of a national strike next Monday is that we have already put in hand arrangements to protect our cities as far as possible. If the strike comes off, the Government will have no alternative but to use all possible methods to protect people's lives and, if necessary, troops may need to be used. In those circumstances, the Government are quite clear that people's safety and their lives are the paramount considerations.
When the Scottish officers of the Fire Brigades Union met Scottish Members, one of their strongest points was that in places like British Petroleum at Grangemouth there were people doing exactly the same job in industry who were getting markedly more. Cannot this problem be looked at, because it weighs very heavily on them?
It certainly can be looked at, but in terms of all the large anomalies that may be around at the time. I have given my view as to what the Government policy is on this claim.The whole area of law and order is a complicated one which is shaped by the growing complexity of modern society and the unpredictable nature of individual behaviour. It does not lend itself to instant analysis Dr easy solutions and the day will never come when a Home Secretary can express his total satisfaction about the situation. But the problem of law and order is not resolved or even improved by speeches which over-simplify the issues and excite public anxiety. We need to study the facts objectively and have our disagreements. There is no clear future in a large-scale political argument about law and order with one group that is not interested and another group that is interested. It will do nothing to deal with the problem that We have to face. I resent the implication that one political party has a special concern about these issues and I state what was in our manifesto in the last General Election, which we have followed:
That we have done. I believe that the Government are fulfilling that undertaking."Labour believes that respect for the law must be firmly based on the rights of the citizen and on his or her obligations to the whole community. We share the view of those who are alarmed at the growth of violence in our society, particularly among young people. Labour believes that law-abiding citizens are entitled to full protection. We will strengthen and uphold the police in the exercise of their proper functions."
I was fascinated to hear the Home Secretary criticise a speech of mine as being strong on emotion and short on facts. Those are remarkable criticisms to come from any politician but especially so coming from a Member of that Front Bench, containing, as it does, the Lord President of the Council who has never, in my judgment, made a speech which had any facts in it at all. His speeches are entirely emotional. It the Home Secretary is to criticise me, clearly he must think that I am beginning to get somewhere near to the views of the Lord President of the Council. That would distress me deeply. I should not like that, but I am fascinated that this should be produced as a criticism of what I said at that time.The right hon. Gentleman said that he welcomed positive proposals and that he believed we should be objective in this debate. I agree entirely and that is what I intend to be throughout my speech this afternoon. But if we are to be objective, we must start by accepting certain fundamental facts of our present situation from which neither the right hon. Gentleman nor anyone else can escape. We had an 11 per cent. increase in crime in the first six months of this year compared with the first six months of last year. We have to face, not only in this country but throughout the world, increasing violence. We have to face serious problems with juvenile offenders, vandalism, mugging and general lawlessness. No one can escape from that. We have to recognise too, whatever may be the other arguments, that our police force which has to deal with these problems has been weakened by the loss of experienced officers and the force is, in any case, seriously undermanned. We have to face the fact that some of our penal measures are just not working and that prisons are so overcrowded that they cannot perform their proper role. Above all, we have to face the fact that our people have real anxieties about the increasing crime, violence and lawlessness in their own neighbourhoods. If we in this House do not accept these facts, we shall not measure up to the arguments of producing positive proposals, which now intend to do. I am convinced that we can hope to give our citizens the protection that is their right only if we devise a basic strategy to combat crime. Of course, it is true that the measures necessary to carry through such a strategy will place demands—the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right—in some cases heavy demands, on our national resources. This means that they cannot all be carried through at once, nor, indeed, as soon as we would wish. But that does not and must not divert us from the need to have a strategy and to make plans which are ready to implement. I have no intention of being dogmatic about the various proposals that I shall put forward, But, equally, where we are clearly not succeeding, I refuse to accept that we can stand by idly simply because we are not broadminded enough to admit that some changes in our penal arrangements have been a mistake and that some developments have plainly not worked out as predicted. Naturally, it would be best if we could have more success in stopping young people taking to crime in the first place. This requires action by parents in the home and by teachers and community leaders throughout the time in school. Discussion on this aspect of our problems is worthy of a debate on its own. Today, I will make only two points, but when my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) winds up the debate he will no doubt amplify them. There needs to be more effective liaison between schools, social services and the police to detect those families whose internal stresses are likely to lead to trouble. To this end, the police should be strongly supported in setting up special antitruancy and antivandalism task forces. They should also be encouraged in their valuable community relations work. Secondly, we are failing to involve children and young people in the many excellent volntary groups in our society. I sense that in recent years there has been too much indifference towards and scepticism about the use of voluntary groups. Nor do I feel that the Government have been sufficiently active in changing this attitude through their support for voluntary groups. Why, for example, are these organisations subjected to endless bureaucratic delays in obtaining small sums of money in grants from central and local government? Cannot the Government encourage local authorities to allow the use of their schools on advantageous terms instead of, as in some cases, steeply increasing their charges? If the hon. Gentleman looks surprised I have found, on going round the country, that this is exactly what is happening now.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about endless bureaucratic delays before some voluntary organisation got its money. Will he please specify these, because my experience, as the Minister in charge of the voluntary services unit, is that the unit is very speedy and flexible in giving such grants?
If the Minister of State can prove to me that that is so, I shall be very pleased. However, that is certainly not what the voluntary organisations all over the country are saying. What I am saying is perfectly fair. Hon. Gentlemen can give examples from their own constituencies of long delays in the bureaucratic arrangements for giving these grants. The Minister of State says that these delays do not exist. I tell him that they have existed with all Governments and with all local authorities. They are probably worse with local authorities than they are with Government. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that he can be complacent and sit there imagining that it is working, I must tell him that the people on the ground do not consider that it is.