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Commons Chamber

Volume 955: debated on Tuesday 1 August 1978

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 1st August 1978

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

British Railways Bill

Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Question [ 31st July],

That so much of the Lords Message [26th July] as relates to the British Railways Bill be now considered.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Question put and agreed to.

So much of the Lords Message considered accordingly.

Ordered,

That the Promoters of the British Railways Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with that Bill in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office of their intention to suspend further proceedings not later than the day before the close of the present Session and that all fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;

Ordered,

That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House;

Ordered,

That there shall be deposited with the Bill a Declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session;

Ordered,

That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first, second and third time and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read;

Ordered,

That no further fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which fees have already been incurred during the present Session;

Ordered,

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.

Oral Answers To Questions

Employment

Industrial Tribunals (Employment Protection)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the operation of industrial tribunals administering the Employment Protection Act.

Yes, Sir, I am satisfied with the operation of the industrial tribunals. Last week, my right hon. Friend laid some amendments to their procedure regulations which I hope will enable them to operate better still.

If the Minister is satisfied, is he aware that he is the only person who is? Most people think this is biased as a system of justice. Having admitted in "Into the Eighties" that some legal points need amending in the Employment Protection Act, will he now consider transferring administration under that Act to the courts, where we can at least be assured of impartiality?

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman continues to display his utter ignorance and insensitivity about these matters. First, the question is not about the Employment Protection Act but about the industrial tribunals. The industrial tribunals have been established since the Industrial Training Act 1964 and have a wide range of functions under different statutes.

The hon. Gentleman's suggestion that jurisdiction be transferred to the ordinary courts reveals that he, with many of his hon. Friends, has learnt absolutely nothing from their disastrous experience with the Industrial Relations Act.

Does not the Minister agree that we on the Labour Benches deprecate the attempts being made by the Opposition to destroy not only the industrial tribunals but organisations such as ACAS? Although criticisms may be made about the operation of the tribunals and ACAS, it would be more in the interests of the House and of working people and employers if these improvements were looked at constructively rather than destructively.

My hon. Friend is quite right. I hope he has noticed that there seems to be a sustained and orchestrated campaign to denounce not only the industrial tribunals and ACAS but the whole range of employment protection legislation which was constructed in recent years and which has resulted in an enormous improvement in industrial relations.

The Minister referred just now to making the operation of tribunals even better. In that regard, will he, when making appointments to fill casual vacancies through retirement and the like, consider especially appointing those with a background in smaller businesses?

The hon. Gentleman will know that appointments are made through nominations from a wide range of bodies, and I hope that those bodies will take account of the point he has made. It is important that on the panels we have people with the experience to which he referred.

Does my hon. Friend accept that redress for unfair dismissal is a fundamental and basic right that must be preserved? Does he accept also that the industrial tribunals unfortunately have become somewhat legalistic, basically because employers are using lawyers increasingly to promote their cause? Does he accept, finally, that there may be adequate cause for awarding costs out of public funds in certain cases that are brought frivolously?

I agree with the point made by my hon. Friend about the importance of the unfair dismissals provisions, which, incidentally, were introduced by the Conservative Party in the Industrial Relations Act, one part of which we preserved.

Secondly, there is common ground between the two Front Benches that there has been an excessive tendency towards legalism. We want the tribunals to operate as informally as possible, and I hope that those concerned with the tribunals will take note of what the House has said on this matter.

With regard to meeting costs out of public funds, we dealt with that matter in the debate in November last year. I was not then persuaded of the arguments, and I doubt that I would be now.

Is the Minister aware that we welcome the changes which have been made in industrial tribunal procedures which somewhat belatedly meet some of the criticisms that were made during the debate last November? Does the Minister also appreciate that further major changes are needed both in the composition of tribunals and the way in which they operate in order to ensure fairness for all concerned, both employees and employers?

The hon. Gentleman reminds us that we had a full debate in November last year. In June this year we had a debate on the Adjournment when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) raised some of the points about which anxiety has been expressed.

The part of the hon. Gentleman's question about which I would express some concern is the implication that somehow the tribunals act unfairly. I am sure that on reflection he does not believe that.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment—probably next week or the week after.

Unemployment Figures

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many times since March 1974 monthly unemployment figures have shown an increase and how many times a decrease.

For Great Britain, based on seasonally adjusted figures which exclude school leavers, there were 34 increases and 14 decreases.

Is not the hon. Gentleman ashamed of that disgraceful performance? Can he estimate what will happen to unemployment figures over the next two or three years?

As to the reasons for the unemployment, I am certainly not ashamed—concerned, yes, but not ashamed. We are not prepared to make an estimate. The figures will depend upon the co-operation we receive from the country in our anti-inflation policies.

Does my hon. Friend accept that in the past four years the work force has grown by over 750,000? That being the case, and as it was known during the period of the last Government, what plans, if any, did he find in his Department for dealing with it? If there were no plans, does it not show that the Saatchi and Saatchi cover-up is the grossest of hypocrisy?

The answer must be that no plans were prepared for the very large increase in the work force. It is significant that even last month the rise in unemployment was the result of female unemployment increasing by a far greater amount than the drop in male unemployment.

Unemployed Persons

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when the figure for the total number of unemployed was last over 1½ million.

The figure for the total number of unemployed was last over 1½ million at September 1977.

Does the Secretary of State believe that it is just an extraordinary coincidence that every Labour Government since the 1920s have experienced a substantial growth in unemployment during their tenure of office? Given that these periods of Labour Government have not always coincided with world recessions, is it not about time that the Government began to consider whether it might be the policies of Labour Governments that create this phenomenon?

I do not think it was any more a coincidence than that it was a coincidence that unemployment rose very rapidly under the last Conservative Government.

Does not the Secretary of State agree that the use of bogus unemployed people in advertising material by PR men plugging the Tory Party does nothing to lessen the cynicism among real unemployed people about the lack of determination by some politicians to combat unemployment?

Yes, I certainly agree with my lion. Friend. It is possibly to be regretted that the advertising agency involved used its existing employees and did not take on additional employees, which might have had a slight element of merit.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that one of the greatest growth areas in unemployment is among females and that that is caused mainly by the effect of the sex discrimination legislation?

It is certainly true that the change in the unemployment figures over the past month was due to a rise in the number of unemployed females. In fact, there was a drop in the male unemployment figures. I do not agree that the sex discrimination legislation is the reason. It may owe something more to the new method of national insurance collection which, very properly, encourages women to register as unemployed when they are seeking work.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the Opposition display hypocrisy and cant on this issue, the Labour Government have the responsibility of dealing with the urgent problem of unemployment? Does he also agree that we cannot wait for long-term solutions, and that immediate short-term solutions are necessary, particularly in those regions where unemployment is high at the moment?

Yes, I accept that. There is no justification for reliance wholly on short-term or on longer-term solutions. We must have a proper combination of both, and proper regard must be paid to those areas which are suffering the most severe effects of unemployment.

But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that over a period of about four and a half years he has been appearing at that Dispatch Box and producing every month the same sort of shuffling off of responsibilities that he has shown again this afternoon? Is that the best that he and his hon. Friends can do—to criticise a rather good advertisement put out by the Conservative Party, which ought to shame the Labour Party for its miserable economic performance over the past four and a half years? Surely he can do better than that.

Our concern about the social, individual and economic effects of unemployment is such that nothing that the Conservative Party is likely to produce in the way of advertisements will in any way affect our determination to deal with the problem in a thorough-going way.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current level of unemployment; and by what percentage it exceeds the figure for February 1974.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest figures for unemployment; and if he will make a statement.

At 6th July, 1,512,487 people were registered as unemployed in Great Britain.

At 6th July, the number registered as unemployed in Great Britain, seasonally adjusted and excluding school leavers, was 1,309,900. This figure was 1383 per cent. higher than at February 1974. Seasonally adjusted figures have to be used to allow proper comparisons between different months in different years.

I am particularly pleased to note that the Manpower Services Commission has today announced approval of 28 area plans which envisage the provision of 200,000 places in the youth opportunities programme and 35,000 temporary jobs in the special temporary employment programme by March 1979.

Does not the Secretary of State agree that there is one simple fact apparent to the British people? Is it not true that, despite all the bogus compassion of this Government, unemployment is now 1383 per cent. higher than when the Conservative Government left office?

I do not know whether that simple fact it apparent to the British people. If it is, I hope that another simple fact will be made equally apparent by those who want to publicise that figure, and that is that there are more than 500,000 more people in employment now—men and women employed part-time and full-time—than there were in 1971 and 1972 when the Conservative Government were in office.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that no one on this side of the House yields to any Member on the other side in his concern to reduce the current unemployment level, and that the vast majority of people in the land do not believe that a Tory Government would do better than the present Government in their endeavours?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend, and if people had any doubts about that they would only need to reflect on some of the courses advocated by leading members of the Opposition over the past four years.

Why is not the right hon. Gentleman reacting to these disgraceful figures in the same manner as he reacted when employment reached about two-thirds of its present level for a very brief period when the previous Conservative Government were in power?

Possibly one of the reasons that the hon. Gentleman might care to consider is that part of my reaction was reflected in the announcement that the area boards have approved 200,000 places to come into effect under the youth opportunities programme. In other words, we are doing something about unemployment that was not done by a Conservative Government in 1971 to 1974 facing a rapidly rising rate of unemployment.

Has my right hon. Friend any assessment of what the level of unemployment would have been had the Government accepted the pressures from the Opposition with regard to, for example, British Leyland and Chrysler? What would have been the effects on the economy if the NEB had not intervened in those two cases'?

There is little doubt that in those two areas alone more than 100,000 jobs could have been lost, but, as to the total effect of our measures, one would have to take into account the fact that today in this country 300,000 people are being assisted by Department of Employment measures.

Is the Secretary of State aware that there would be 170,000 more people working under Labour but for the defence cuts, and that another 143,000 people are projected to be unemployed in the next year in the defence sphere? How on earth does that square with the Secretary of State's assertion that the Government are doing everything to increase employment?

If we are talking of squaring assertions, I should like to hear someone on the Conservative side of the House square the assertion that public expenditure cuts in defence create unemployment while public expenditure cuts in the social services help to sustain employment.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the announcement by the Manpower Services Commission that 200,000 jobs will be provided for young people under the youth opportunities programme is to be welcomed, but will he ensure that there is full co-operation from the trade union movement and also from employers working through the CBI?

The 200,000 figure to which I referred means 200,000 places, and therefore I hope to see in the course of the full development of the programme some further provision for these young people. But I agree with my hon. Friend that it is of the greatest importance that we have the co-operation of employers and trade unions in maximising the benefit to be derived from the programme. That is why I welcome the commitment of CBI and TUC commissioners within the Manpower Services Commission to making this programme the most effective that has ever been introduced for unemployed youngsters in this country.

I never miss an opportunity of bashing this Government when I get the chance to do so. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that what sticks in the gullet of the British people is the hypocrisy of the Labour Party which takes one view in Government and a totally different view in Opposition? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many of the 100,000 opportunities now available through the youth opportunities scheme—which we welcome—are likely to be taken up within the next month or so and, therefore, what fall he expects in the number of young unemployed between, say, now and the middle of October?

I expect very few of them to be taken up in the next month, because the programme will not start over the country as a whole until 1st September. There are some areas where we have made exceptions to this general rule because of special problems. I expect that beyond 1st September there will be a fairly even take-up, month by month, leading through to next Easter, by which time I hope the programme will have covered more than 200,000 youngsters. Our plan is to get an even entry into the places, so that the places are fully manned throughout the 12-month period.

Working Week

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment by what percentages he estimates a shorter working week in manufacturing industry would increase employment and also costs per unit of output.

Calculations of the effect on employment and costs per unit of output of any reduction in the working week are sensitive to variations in assumptions about overtime, productivity, competitiveness and other factors. However. I would refer the hon. Member to the article on work-sharing which appeared in the April edition of the Department of Employment Gazette and which illustrates the range of effects which might result from work-sharing.

I thank the Secretary of State for his reply, but does he agree that it is very important to increase this country's utilisation of installed capacity and the efficiency of production? Can he point to a single measure taken by his Department that is aimed in that direction?

Certainly. A whole series of measures were introduced by my Department to do that. The special temporary employment programme and the temporary employment subsidy have enabled a number of firms to use and adapt capacity for better utilisation. On the specific question of work-sharing, I entirely agree that if work-sharing arrangements can lead to a better utilisation of capacity they are to be encouraged. Double-shift working in place of single-shift working would be a classic example of something that both shared work and led to a greater utilisation of capacity. But I believe that it is better to negotiate changes of that kind plant by plant than to lay them down as a matter of national policy.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, despite the grand melodrama of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), every endeavour of the Labour Government to create more employment has been opposed by the Tory Party? Does he agree that if the Tory Party had been in power and had had its way on more and more massive public expenditure cuts, unemployment in this country would have been massively higher?

Had we followed the advice of many spokesmen in the Tory Party, we should have seen a massive under-utilisation of capacity to the extent that a number of firms which are now open and working would have had to close down.

Press Charter

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the progress in formulating the press charter.

I have nothing to add at this stage to what I told the House on 4th July.

Does the Minister accept that it is a matter of very grave regret and concern to a wide range of people that there is no positive expression of opinion from the Government on the particularly urgent matter of the need to protect the right to supply information by journalists and editors on matters such as trade union affairs, immigration practice and policies and, indeed, on the affairs of Southern Africa? All these matters are in urgent need of clarification to ensure that journalists can put forward a clear point of view without sanctions being applied against them.

I am not sure whether I or the House will have followed that supplementary question. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the press and the newspapers should be free from improper pressures to distort news, I wholly agree with him. That is one of the obligations which will be laid by the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Act 1976 on my right hon. Friend when he prepares and lays the charter before the House.

Does not the Minister agree that the real threat to press freedom comes from the fact that more and more newspapers are owned by a small group of powerful individuals and that it is really a nonsense to link press freedom with the legitimate rights of a trade union to sign a union membership agreement?

It would be unwise for me to try to anticipate the contents of the proposed charter that my right hon. Friend will lay before the House, but I think that it is important to safeguard the freedom of the press from improper pressure from any quarter whatsoever.

Tuc

6.

When my right hon. Friend next meets the TUC, will he press the importance of getting its affiliated organisations to make sure that the maximum number of workers' safety representatives are appointed and in situ by 1st October this year so that we shall see the greatest advance in industrial safety under this Labour Government since the first Factories Acts? No amount of lying and cheating by the Tory Party and its outside representatives will then alter that, and the point should be put across to the British people and to the millions of workers in industry and in the offices and shops who will benefit from this legislation.

I had hoped that most employers in this country would have been able to arrange that safety representatives were appointed in advance of the statutory obligation to do so, to which my hon. Friend referred. But, as they have not, I shall gladly act upon his suggestion and raise the matter with the TUC and the CBI when I see them.

In view of the earlier reply that unemployment will he drastically affected by the Government's anti-inflation policy, could the Secretary of State tell the House what the TUC's response has been to the 5 per cent. pay limit?

The TUC has been considering its response to the 5 per cent. pay limit in the light of considerations put forward by a whole number of sectional interests very properly represented there. We shall see how the TUC deals with this when claims come to be presented during the next round.

When the Secretary of State next meets the TUC, will he undertake to discuss the amendments the TUC and perhaps he himself might think are now necessary to the Employment Protection Act, so that the practice of blacklisting is outlawed and men such as Victor Matthews, the owner and boss man of the Daily Express, who is so vociferous about the rights of individuals and who also participates in this as a member of the governing council of the Economic League, will not be allowed to carry on doing that?

The problem of blacklisting by employers has been with us for a very long time. So far no Government have devised an effective way within employment legislation to deal with this entirely. I think that we should continue to search for a solution and that those who organise workers should also seek to use their industrial strength where necessary to ensure that people are not blacklisted up and down this country because they pursue proper trade union rights.

Will the Secretary of State condemn the blacking and blockading activities of the union SLADE which is putting people out of work? Is he aware that many of those affected are independent photographers, designers, and so on, who are being put out of work by one of the affiliated TUC unions et a time of high unemployment? Cannot he use his influence with the general council of the TUC to get the activities of SLADE modified in a major way?

When this matter was debated in the House my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment made perfectly clear his view—and mine—on the activities of SLADE.

Unemployment Trends

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the trend in unemployment so far in the current year.

The level of unemployment is still much too high and I would, therefore, prefer to see a stronger downward trend.

Will the Minister promise not to answer with the usual waffle that we get from his Department? To show how badly we are doing, will he give the present specific figure for unemployment in France and Germany, together with the figure for this country?

The resources of my Department are not available to give precise figures of unemployment today in France and other countries.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in spite of the apoplectic approach of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) on the matter of unemployment, if the policies of the Opposition were carried into erect—policies of cutting public expenditure and disbanding aid to industry—the unemployment figure would go up to 2½ million or 3 million?

I would not want to quantify the amount. I can confirm that, if the policies advocated from the Opposition Front Bench were implemented, unemployment would be substantially higher today than it is.

Does not the Minister appreciate that in answering a Question from me yesterday he gave the comparative figures for unemployment? Is he aware that those figures show that unemployment is running at a higher level in this country than in the United States, Japan, France or Western Germany?

And international comparisons do not solve our problems. Later we shall be showing that there are more countries which have higher unemployment rates than we have. Certainly, if we are talking in terms of increases in levels of the unemployment rate, those have been substantially higher in France than in this country in recent years.

Retraining Schemes

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he intends to strengthen the employment retraining schemes.

The Government have promised financial support to the Manpower Services Commission for the implementation of the proposals contained in the commission's report "Training for Skills—A programme for Action", which aims to improve the amount and quality of training in key skills. The commission is also undertaking a major review of the training opportunities scheme and is considering the future scale and balance of the scheme in relation to industrial training generally.

What can be the real success of employment retraining schemes, however good the idea behind them, until there is labour mobility? How can there be labour mobility until accommodation is easily available throughout the country? Does not the Minister agree that that is where the real failure of the Labour Government lies—that, at a time of rapidly rising unemployment, people have stayed in areas where there are no jobs because they are fearful of not getting housing in areas where there are jobs?

That is a very valid point, but it is not a problem that this Government alone have encountered. This has been a problem over many years. Most hon. Members have encountered it in their constituencies, and there is no easy solution to it.

With regard to the MSC's statement this morning, is the Minister aware that it is stated therein that fewer than half of the work experience places available will be in employers' premises by March 1979? Does not he regard that as a retrograde step, since most youngsters prefer to get their training at a place of work rather than in establishments outside? Further, will he explain why there are only these limited areas of exemption where the schemes can start earlier than September, because there are many places with more than 10 per cent. unemployment, including 14 work areas in Wales?

It will be wider. On the basic point raised by the hon. Gentleman, we shall have to wait and see how it works out in practice. I do not see a difficulty on the basis of the figures cited by the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, many of the people who do not receive their work experience at their place of employment to begin with will clearly go on to that situation.

Will my hon. Friend take into account the fact that more and more retraining, if jobs are not available, is not too helpful? Will he therefore consider a mobility allowance to encourage people to move from districts where there is unemployment to districts where there is work? Will my hon. Friend also take into account our young people, who have difficulty in finding jobs, who are untrained, and who probably will have to change jobs three or four times in the next 30 years without having the necessary training?

There is a mobility problem. There is, of course, the employment transfer scheme which helps considerably in that way.

On the question of training and retraining, the real problem in getting young people into jobs arises when they have no skills to offer. I do not accept, therefore, that it is in any way a bad policy to train people, even though there may be difficulties in subsequently getting them into employment.

Skillcentre Instructors (Vacancies)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many vacancies exist for instructors in skillcentres in the Yorkshire and Humberside region; and how this figure compares with other regions in England.

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that there are currently 21 immediate vacancies for skillcentre instructors in the Yorkshire and Humberside region. There are 120 immediate vacancies in the remaining six regions of England.

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that information. Is he aware that there is a serious under-use of skill-centres, and that part of that derives from the lack of success in recruiting instructors? What is my hon. Friend doing to look at the pay scales and conditions of service for instructors to put this right?

My hon. Friend raised this at Question Time last month, since when I have looked carefully at the pay scales and to what extent they may be a deterrent in recruitment. I do not think that they are. I think the pay scales compare fairly with comparable occupations in industry and with comparable occupations in colleges of further education.

I do not think that is the reason. The real reason for the shortage of instructors has been the rapid expansion of skill-centres and the sharp increase in demand for instructors.

Ussr (Trade Unions)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what recent discussions he has had with the International Labour Oragnisation about the recognition by that body of the Association of Free Trade Union Workers in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics since his reply to the hon. Member for Blackpool, South on 6th June.

The ILO has confirmed that its constitution does not provide for formal recognition of any trade union or organisation of workers or employers. It has, however, machinery for investigating allegations of infringement of the basic right to establish and join such organisations and, as I informed the House on 6th June, the case is now under investigation, but we cannot expect any report before the next meeting of the ILO governing body in November.

Are not the rights which this association is claiming guaranteed to its members by an international convention which has been ratified by the Soviet Union? In view of the increasing concern felt in this country about breaches of human rights by the Soviet Union, will the Government represent to the United Kingdom members of the governing body of the ILO that any unnecessary delay in following up this important matter would be very regrettable?

We should not want to see any unnecessary delay. The United Kingdom Government's views on this are very clear, as they are generally on human rights. But it would be equally wrong for us to try to breach the due process of the ILO. It is a matter on which we have stood firm in the past and on which we want to continue to stand firm. All I can suggest to the hon. Gentleman is that he tables another Question which I can answer in November.

Small Finns (Employment Protection Legislation)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of the effects of recent employment protection legislation on recruitment by small firms.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of the effects of recent employment protection legislation on recruitment by small firms.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the effect of the Employment Protection Act on the level of employment, and particularly as it affects, or does not affect, small firms.

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of the effects of recent employment protection legislation on recruitment by small firms.

The recent report by the Policy Studies Institute "The impact of Employment Protection Laws" indicated that, in general, employment protection legislation is not having a significant effect on recruitment. That report coveted establishments with between 50 and 5,000 employees in manufacturing industry. The effect of the legislation on smaller independent firms in the sample was not significantly different from that on larger firms. Research has also been commissioned to examine in particular the effects of employment legislation on firms with fewer than 50 employees.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the information which he has now given answers completely the misleading propaganda put out by the Tory Party and that this Government have in fact done a tremendous amount to help small firms? Will he refer to the fact that there has been a small firms employment subsidy which has helped small firms to retain existing labour and has not hampered them as the Tory Party has suggested?

The small firms employment subsidy is to direct aid to small firms which take on additional labour. The size of the qualifying firm has been increased to 200, applying right across development areas and the special partnership areas. As to the effect of the legislation, those who would try to erect a myth to suggest that this legislation deters employers from taking on additional employees are doing a grave disservice to the efforts that are being made by people to solve problems of unemployment.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that pseudo political organisations such as NAFF and crypto trade unions such as the National Federation for the Self-Employed have tried to do a great deal of damage to legitimate employment protection legislation through their activities in the small business sector? What plans does my right hon. Friend have to ensure that trade unionists are informed of this through trade union branches and trades councils?

I hope that trade union branches and trades councils will he among the first to examine the report I have published of the survey made of these firms. When it is available, the special inquiry that is being conducted by Opinion Research Centre as a first step will be followed by a study in depth of individual cases of effect in small firms. I hope that until that is studied people will refrain from taking actions which clearly will militate against the best interests of people now seeking employment.

In the light of the answer that the Secretary of State has now given the House, does he not agree that it would be greatly to the advantage of the Labour Party if the Conservative Party persisted in its opposition to the provisions of the Employment Protection Act, in that it would confirm, yet again, the general impression in the country that the Tories are opposed to all progressive protective legislation for working people?

I trust that my hon. Friend will agree that it is significant that, although members of the Opposition decry the effects of the Employment Protection Act in general, they have yet to put proposals in particular as to what parts of the Act they would repeal if they ever got the opportunity to do so.

Order. I propose to exercise my discretion. I intend to call the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Madden) and two Opposition Members before we go on to Prime Minister's Questions.

Does not the Secretary of State agree that certain Tory politicians and Tory front organisations have caused needless anxiety and confusion among small businesses, particularly about employment legislation? Will he ensure that the facts are sent to Saatchi and Saatchi so that there can be no excuses should that firm get its future advertisements wrong?

I can give the assurance that the facts will be sent to Saatchi and Saatchi, but I cannot assure the House, in so far as that firm acts as agent for the Conservative Party, that those facts would ever be reflected in its advertising.

Will the Secretary of State get some personal experience before the next General Election and find time to visit, with me, small firms in my constituency to hear directly front them the extent to which recent employment protection legislation is stopping them from taking on more workers?

I am concerned about employment prospects in small firms in whatever constituency they happen to be situated. It is those in development areas and inner city partnership areas that have been particularly aided by measures put forward by my Department. I hope that they would be among the first to acknowledge that in doing what we have done to assist them we have not only brought about an improvement in the employment situation in their areas but have helped a number of small businesses to grow in circumstances in which they could not otherwise have done so.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if his party had paid more attention to the creation of real jobs in society over the past four years the Government would not be so worried now about the excellent advertisements by Saatchi and Saatchi which seems to sting them into rather guilty laughter?

At least those jobs in the small firms which have been aided by the small firms employment subsidies are what I would regard as real jobs. I doubt whether some of the jobs of those photographed in the Saatchi and Saatchi advertisements are any more real.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his public appointments for 1st August.

In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

During his busy day will the Prime Minister try to explain to the British people why food prices have doubled in the past four years under a Socialist Government?

The answer has been given so often that I could not believe that the hon. Gentleman had brought his supplementary question to an end. As he knows, during the past 12 months food prices have increased by only 6·7 per cent., if my recollection is correct. That means that we have overtaken the irresponsibility of the Conservative Government, who left us with a legacy of an increased money supply that was totally intolerable.

Could my right hon. Friend, during a very busy day, have talks with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry to see whether something can be done to overcome the problems of the collaborative programme with the Americans concerning future projects in the aircraft industry? This matter is most pressing, as the Prime Minister knows.

Yes, Sir. Discussions with United States firms and with European Governments and firms are actively taking place now. Indeed, the most recent discussions with the European industry have been g encouragin and I hope that decisions will be reached before long.

Does the Prime Minister agree with the Labour Party that it should be made harder for council tenants to buy their own homes?

It depends on the circumstances. Where there are enough council houses, it is the party's policy and the Government's policy that they should be sold, and, where there are not enough council houses, that they should be retained. It is a perfectly sensible approach.

The question refers to discounts. Does the Prime Minister agree that council tenants will still be able to purchase their homes at a discount?

That depends on the circumstances again. There are no general rules about these matters. It depends upon the financial circumstances of the council and of the occupier.

So the Prime Minister is prepared to deprive tenants of the discount they already have.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 1st August.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I have just given to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart).

Will my right hon. Friend give some thought today to the economy and jobs? Does he not agree that Summit meetings relate to long-term problems, but that there is a need for immediate action? Will he consider what steps can be taken by a State enterprise to develop at an accelerated rate gas on the north-west coast that would revive the economy in that area and provide jobs in the construction and shipbuilding industries?

As my hon. Friend knows, considerable assistance has been given to the Merseyside area—indeed, a total of more than £300 million—which has safeguarded about 24,000 jobs. The progress report issued today by the Manpower Services Commission also shows some special facilities available, I believe, for Merseyside and Ellesmere Port.

As regards the development of the gas finds off the north-west coast, I believe that between 2 trillion and 3 trillion cu. ft. of gas is available there that would save us £2 billion on our balance of payments when developed. This is obviously a very considerable find and goes to show how we must use the riches that are there for the best benefit of our people and not for a short-term spending spree.

May I ask a question about today's engagements? If the Prime Minister is having a meeting with the Secretary of State for Industry, as was suggested a few moments ago, will he discuss with him the continued dispute in the Post Office? Is he aware that, with the House going into recess, this matter affects constituents of every Member of the House? Indeed, a few weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman said that he would have a word with the Secretary of State about it. I wonder whether those talks produced any result.

The Secretary of State for Industry is paying very close attention to this matter and is handling it as best he can.

During his busy day today, will the Prime Minister look at a situation which is becoming increasingly bad, a propos what the Leader of the Opposition just asked him—namely, that hundreds and hundreds of those living in inner London who would normally have had the right to transfer to outer London boroughs are now being denied that right because the present Tory GLC policy is to sell? If this is to become a General Election challenge, many of us on this side of the House will willingly accept it.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend has drawn attention to the important qualification that I made —namely, that it is foolish policy, and the Conservative Party should not adopt it, that council houses should in all circumstances be sold irrespective of the needs of the people.

Doubtless the Prime Minister will have in mind today the forthcoming General Election and, in particular, his party's manifesto. Can he give an assurance to the House and the country now that his manifesto will not be based on the Marxist-inspired "Labour's Programme for Britain 1976", which he himself described as the total sum of all his hopes?

The hon. Gentleman asks whether I shall be considering a General Election today. The answer to that supplementary question is "No, I shall not." I am aware that the Conservative Party has made certain assumptions about an election. It is upon those assumptions that it is launching this huge advertising programme costing £2 million —unprecedented in British history—with which to beguile the public. I hope that, whatever may appear in anybody's manifesto, those firms, breweries and others, which are contributing freely by giving up poster sites will declare themselves, so that we shall know what benefits they hope to get from a Conservative Government.

Has my right hon. friend had time to consider the reactions in this House, in another place and in the press to the Government's White Paper on the Official Secrets Act? Is he aware that the general view is that the proposals for section 2 will make criminal prosecutions for releasing information more likely, while doing nothing to make available to the public the information to which they have a right? Will he withdraw the White Paper and introduce proposals for a freedom of information Act?

It is quite true that the reform of section 2 has no bearing upon the release of information. The two things are quite separate. That has always been so; I do not think that my right hon. Friend can just have discovered it. I originally gave evidence to the Franks Committeee in which I said that I thought there was no need to reform section 2, because its operation was clearly understood. However, the Franks Committee recommended it and the Government accepted that recommendation. If the House does not wish to reform section 2, the House must, in due course, say so. My views about this have been very ambivalent, since the section has operated with considerable satisfaction for so long, but the Government have reached their conclusion on it and will submit it to the House.

A great deal of information—much more than ever before—is given to the House by the Government, and I do not go beyond the words of the White Paper.

Dundee

Q3.

In view of the widespread and mounting concern many people feel about the infiltration of the Labour Party by extreme Left-wingers, Marxists, Communists and Trotskyists, is the Prime Minister aware that many people will be disappointed that he chose to leave the meeting of the NEC last week before being able to support his hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) and Leicester, East (Mr. Bradley) in opposing the candidature of Mr. Jimmy Reid, who is to be the candidate of the Prime Minister's party for Dundee, East at the next Election? What are the Prime Minister's views on this, specifically and in general?

As you know, Mr. Speaker, there is no ministerial responsibility for the selection of candidates. The type of McCarthyite sneer with which the hon. Gentleman always distinguishes himself may well rebound on his own head, because it may lead others to ask whether there are any former Communists employed in the Centre for Policy Studies of the Conservative Party.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that what is important, as the people from Dundee and every other constituency in this United Kingdom appreciate, is that the policy of this Government at home in the fight against inflation is to seek sensible co-operation from all sides of industry, and that overseas they seek sensible co-operation amongst all the industrial nations—

Order. I cannot hear the hon. Gentleman—[Hon MEMBERS: "You are not missing much."!] I do not know if I cannot hear the hon. Gentleman.

In this endeavour, in seeking international co-operation in the fight against inflation, my right hon. Friend has played a pre-eminent part, and the only recalcitrants seem to be the Japanese Government, some Common Market commissioners and the right hon. Lady.

My hon. Friend is correct, because if Conservative Party policies were adopted in Dundee there would be about 1,900 extra people out of work who are now in jobs. These are the people for whom special measures have been adopted under the various employment proposals. Indeed, if the Conservatives had the opportunity today in the country as a whole and all grants and subsidies which are said to be harmful were abandoned there would be 425,000 more people out of work.

Is the Prime Minister aware that he has just produced a totally unjustified smear and that all the laughter of Labour Members will not sound very good to the 1½ million unemployed that there are now in this country?

If it is a smear, I shall of course be willing to withdraw it, but what I never have had denied is the statement made in a speech by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), which I have repeated time after time, that all subsidies and grants are harmful. That was his statement, and the conclusion is that subsidies and grants should be abandoned. That would lead to the unemployment of at least half a million more people.

As the nomination of Jimmy Reid is virtually irrelevant to the future representation of Dundee, East in this House, can the Prime Minister, if he manages a visit to Dundee, concentrate on more serious matters? Will he first explain to the unemployed in Dundee why this Government have consistently set their face against an oil fund, the revenues from which could alleviate unemployment? Secondly, does he not agree that Dundee would be an ideal place to name the date of the referendum, or at the very least to name the date on which he will name the date?

In fact, in Dundee under various Acts a total of about 7,000 jobs have been safeguarded during the lifetime of this Government. I believe that that is fully appreciated by the people of Dundee.

The question of an oil fund has been argued out in this House, the House has reached a conclusion about it, and I have nothing to add to that.

As regards the date of the referendum, I believe that we must wait for the new Session to start in November, and then we can fix the date of the referendum accordingly.

Bill Presented

Compulsory Purchase Appeal Tribunal

Mr. Michael Shersby presented a Bill to make changes in respect of compulsory purchase procedures and the functions of inspectors; to provide for the establishment of a tribunal to hear appeals relating to compulsory purchase; 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 [Bill 192].

Sittings Of The House

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That this House do meet on Thursday at Eleven o'clock, that no Questions be taken after Twelve o'clock, and that at Five o'clock Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without putting any Question.—[The Prime Minister.]

This is not the Adjournment motion. This is merely the motion dealing with the business on Thursday next. The Adjournment debate takes place on the second motion.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjournment (Summer)

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That this House at its rising on Thursday do adjourn till Tuesday 24th October.—[The Prime Minister.]

3.34 p.m.

I am sure that before we decide upon this matter the House will wish to consider what happened at Question Time last Thursday, when the Prime Minister, who I see is still in his place, said that the Government's undertaking given by the Lord President to refer to the Scrutiny Committee proposals for improved arrangements for debating EEC legislation had been faithfully carried out. Indeed, he added the words "to a scintilla" with the learning which we expect of him.

But the Lord President a few minutes later, in answer to business questions, asked to be released from that undertaking. That is a very unsatisfactory situation, and we should not be expected to adjourn for the Summer Recess without an explanation from the Leader of the House of his failure to honour the firm undertaking that he gave in the debate on 28th November with regard to finding better methods for dealing with EEC matters in this House. That is, of course, a question of immense importance to the country.

The right hon. Gentleman deserves to be quoted accurately, and, therefore, I refer first to Hansard of 28th November, at the foot of column 102. The right hon. Gentleman said:
"I believe that it is of major importance that we make a fresh effort to see whether we can establish a better arrangement and a better record beween the procedures of the House and the procedures of the Common Market."
Later he went on to say:
"The Government are conducting a fresh examination of all these procedures."
He then referred to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden), who, in the words of the Leader of the House, asked
"for a specific undertaking that if there are to be fresh procedures the matter should be discussed with the Scrutiny Committee. That is a most reasonable request",
said the Lord President. He added:
"In any case, it would be an absurdity for the Government to embark upon a new method, and a new relationship between the Scrutiny Committee, the House of Commons and the EEC itself, without taking into account the experience of the Scrutiny Committee and without giving that Committee the opportunity to comment on any proposals that the Government might make. I give the right hon. Gentleman that undertaking, therefore."
He went on to pay tribute to the Scrutiny Committee and the work that it does on behalf of the House.

We are entitled to be told by the Lord President, if I may have his attention, exactly what, if anything, he has recommended to the Scrutiny Committee and, if he did recommend anything, what transpired.

I should also, in fairness to the Lord President as well as to the House—because it is part of the foundation of the case which I seek to make—refer to column 108 of the Official Report of 28th November 1977. As he was concluding his speech, the Lord President said:
"I hope very much that all the proposals that we have"—
[Interruption.] On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not find it disconcerting, but I have to raise my voice rather in order to overcome the endless hubbub on the other side of the House.

Order. Every hon. Member is entitled to be heard in silence in this House, or, if not in silence, in reasonable silence.

At column 108, the Lord President is reported as saying:

"I hope very much that all the proposals that we have for better parliamentary control will be brought forward in this Session, but I give the undertaking that if that is not possible the House will have an opportunity of deciding this matter if we have not been able to reach agreement on the more general question."—[Official Report, 28th November 1977; Vol. 940, c. 102–9.]
That was a more general question to which he referred.

That was eight months ago, and surely that is long enough for this Government or any Government to make up their minds on this extremely important matter. It is not that it is a matter of great complexity. Moreover, only one of the proposals put forward in the debate could be said to be, in principle, controversial —that is to say, the "loophole", as it is now known. If I may remind the House, the loophole is the occasion when, even when the Scrutiny Committee has asked for a debate, a Minister might go to the Council of Ministers without a debate taking place and make an agreement with them so long as he comes back to the House as soon as possible and gives an explanation as to why the flatter was not debated first in the House and why he had to be in such a hurry to reach agreement with the Council of Ministers. That is the "loophole", and the question is still open and unresolved. There are different views about it on both sides of the House.

But there were other matters raised in the debate and constructive suggestions were made. I was then speaking from the Front Bench and I made five suggestions asking the Government for more time on the Floor of the House to discuss EEC legislation and other EEC matters. I also asked for important matters to be raised at a reasonable time and not so late at night, as so often happens. Admittedly, that would have meant using a bit more of the time of the House in ordinary hours for EEC matters. It would have meant using a bit less time for other matters. I grant that. But surely we must get our priorities right.

Whether we like it or not, our agricultural, economic and social policies are increasingly being decided by the Council of Ministers This is a continuing process.

How did the right hon. and learned Gentleman vote?

Yes. Would the right hon and learned Gentleman explain to the House how he voted on the Common Market? I think that some of us had the right to get up in this House and explain that that sort of thing would happen, but, it I remember rightly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was one of those who supported our entry into the Common Market and supported the legislation put forward by his hon. Friends. I regard what he is saying as a slight cheek

I am so grateful for that interruption, because it enables me to remind the House that I have always voted for the Common Market. I have always hoped that this House would work out procedures which would enable the Common Market to do better, as well as enable us to do better in the Common Market, in order to make a reality of our partnership in the EEC and in order that we might take the fullest advantage of our membership of it. There is no question of the hon. Gentleman being able to accuse me of inconsistency in this matter. Indeed, this speech is an attempt to further the views that I have always held and put before the House.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Unless we develop practices which will enable the House to consider European affairs more thoroughly—[Interruption.] I know that the Left wing does not like this, but it must face up to the reality of the situation. Unless we make better arrangements, we shall fail to get the best advantage of our membership of the EEC.

That is why it was a great shock last Thursday to hear the Lord President ask to be released from his undertaking, having meanwhile, presumably, failed to propose better arrangements for debating EEC affairs. Certainly he failed to give the House the opportunity that he promised we should have of considering how to do so.

Indeed, but for this matter having been raised during business questions last Thursday by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs Castle), among others, we might not have this opportunity now. But, now that we have the opportunity, we expect the right hon. Gentleman to explain his breach of his undertaking. The electors will want to know the reason why. If it is something that has happened behind the scenes, that is a case for asking for more open government. We are asking why the Government are unable to help us to achieve these better arrangements so that, in pooling our sovereignty with others, not only do we gain an important stake in Europe but this Parliament is enabled to influence what happens there.

As it is likely that a Conservative Government will be in office within a reasonable time, and as my right hon. and learned Friend said that at one stage he was speaking from the Front Bench, may I take it that what he is now saying should happen would happen if a Conservative Government came into office? In the light of a coming General Election, it is important to know that.

That is a question which should be addressed to the Front Bench. All I can say is that my speech on that occasion was not made without careful consideration and consultation.

However, we are not today challenging the Opposition Front Bench but are challenging the Government for their failure. We are challenging the right hon. Gentleman for a breach of his undertaking. We wonder why there was a discrepancy between what the Prime Minister said at Question Time last Thursday and what the right hon. Gentleman said ony a few minutes later. I trust that we shall now receive the explanation we deserve.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am loth to worry the Chair unnecessarily, but I am somewhat disconcerted. I had hoped to seek the leave of the House to bring in a Ten-Minute Bill on the subject of libel, but I appear to have been overtaken by hon. Members complaining of the need to adjourn. I wonder whether you could explain exactly what has happened, Mr. Speaker. I should be exceedingly loth to see the House adjourn before I had had the opportunity to introduce my Bill.

The hon. Lady will have noticed that her motion to seek leave to bring in her Bill is the fourth on the Order Paper. Her motion is not Government business, as well she knows. Therefore, it is not covered by the provisions of the 10 o'clock business motion. Like any other business today, it is subject to interruption at 7 o'clock, when opposed private business will be taken.

If proceedings on the hon. Lady's motion are begun before 7 o'clock—if the debate on the Adjournment motion collapses—-and if the hon. Lady begins before 7 o'clock but has not completed her speech before that hour, she can be assured that it can be resumed after the completion of the opposed private business, if that has finished before 10 o'clock. However, if the opposed business runs until 10 o'clock the hon. Lady's motion is subject to the rule of interruption at 10 o'clock and cannot be continued beyond that hour. On the other hand, if the hon. Lady's motion is not reached at all before 10 o'clock, which is a possibility, it can be moved after that hour only if there is no objection or opposition.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If there should be a decision to adjourn, in the terms of the motion now before the House, would there be a great deal of point in the hon. Lady's proceeding with the introduction of her Bill, as it will be difficult for it to obtain a Second Reading, go through Committee and go to another place? Has not the hon. Lady even more difficulties than you have already outlined, Mr. Speaker?

Several hon. Members have had difficulties in the past few weeks in bringing in Ten-Minute Bills. May I repeat that we have opposed private business at 7 o'clock. A large number of right hon. and hon. Members have indicated that they hope to take part in this debate. I hope that that will be borne in mind.

3.50 p.m.

I shall be brief, but I wish very strongly to support the protest of the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton).

I can understand the feeling of cynicism of some of my hon. Friends when we hear those who supported our entry into the Common Market now corn plaining when they find there are difficulties in exercising proper control by this House of Commons over what happens in the Community.

The point we are discussing this afternoon is not related to the merits of the proposition that was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) on 28th November 1977. I think it is too modest a proposition to warrant all the excitement that it has caused. All that he was asking was that, where the Scrutiny Committee recommended that a piece of legislation or a Commission proposal to the Council of Ministers was of sufficient importance to be considered further by the House, it should be considered on a motion before any decision was taken by British Ministers in the Council of Ministers.

That gave us no absolute control. Indeed, the proposal was so modest that I find it incredible that any Government should have difficulty in accepting it. It certainly would not have involved an amendment to the Treaty of Rome or any of the profound reforms that some of us would like to see. Therefore, I am not concerned with the merits of that, but I am concerned about the fact that my hon. Friend put a motion before the House which was withdrawn as a result of an undertaking by the Government. That undertaking is not being kept.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman read out most of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council on 28th November 1977. I have no doubt where the Lord President's heart lies. It is that which makes me even more anxious about what has happened. I am absolutely convinced that, left to himself, my right hon. Friend would have come back to the House with proposals even more radical than those of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South. His speech on 28th November demonstrated clearly where his own instincts lay. But what matters is that he promised us an examination of the whole question as to how we could improve the control by this House of Commons over decisions in the EEC.

My right hon. Friend said:
"If we find that such an examination is taking so long that my hon. Friends begin to say that the procedure is being used as a device to avoid considering this kind of motion, we shall have to bring the matter back to the House. That would be done by the Government, and not by individual Members."— [Official Report, 28th November 1977; Vol. 939, c. 108.]
When challenged as to whether the proposals would be brought back before the end of this Session, my right hon. Friend gave the undertaking to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has already referred.

That undertaking has not been kept. I find it profoundly disturbing that what has happened is that some of my right hon. Friend's colleagues in the Cabinet have not allowed him to keep his word. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is obvious. I am no longer a member of the Cabinet. I am divining, just as any hon. Member would. But, knowing my right hon. Friend, that is quite clear to me. He would not cheat on his word. I say advisedly that this matter is very worrying. It is the second time within a matter of weeks that some members of the Government have refused to honour an undertaking.

I refer to the undertaking to introduce a freedom of information Bill which was included in our manifesto at the last General Election, laying the onus on public authorities to justify why information should be withheld. We were merely told "We are not going to do it." That, effectively, is what we have been told. We are told that talks with the Scrutiny Committee have not been concluded, and all the rest of it. But that undertaking was given in November 1977. It was not given yesterday. There has been plenty of time.

I rise this afternoon to support my right hon. Friend and, through this debate, to tell his Cabinet colleagues that we are profoundly alarmed by the indication of their collective unwillingness to do anything effective about strengthening the control of the British Parliament over what happens in the EEC.

Was the right hon. Lady here at Question Time last Thursday when I raised the matter originally with the Prime Minister? I suggested on that occasion that there should be an all-party agreement on the matter right now, before we go into recess, in case there is a General Election and in case the Government change, in which event the Conservative Party will be able to accept the undertaking given by the Leader of the House. Does the right hon. Lady agree with that?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of that. I agree entirely with what he said in the interruption he made in the speech of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire. I do not expect enlightenment from the Opposition Front Bench. In fact, I expect far greater obscurantism from that Bench. The Opposition Front Bench will not fight for the rights of the British House of Commons. After all, the Conservative Party took us into the EEC in the first place, on terms that were derisory from the point of view of protecting the interests of the British people.

The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) is quite right. An all-party agreement would be the right solution. But, clearly, the initiative must come from the Government. The tragedy is that we have not even had an initiative to get an all-party agreement. It is right, therefore, that this House should register its anger at the way in which its trust has been betrayed. My trust in my right hon. Friend remains as strong as ever. I speak this afternoon only to back him up.

3.57 p.m.

I am grateful for the opportunity to intervene in this debate, because I believe that the House should not adjourn until it has considered a most important and little-publicised document entitled "Future World Trends". It is a discussion paper on world trends in population, resources, pollution and so on and their indications, which was published by the Cabinet Office back in 1976 and which, to my knowledge, has not been debated in any adequate way since that time. The Government said in that document that it was an interim document. I hope, therefore, that the Government will feel able to publish the results of their continuing discussions arising from the document and that we shall be able to have a fuller debate on the matter in this House in the not too distant future.

The first subject dealt with in the document was population. The document pointed out—I believe quite rightly—the difficulties of demographic forecasting. It said that whereas the population of the developed countries might not stabilise—according to the projections—until about 2050 at about 1·5 billion people, the population of the developing countries seemed likely to grow, according to the authors of the document, from the present figure of some 2·8 billion to about 10 billion in that same year. There is a considerable imbalance between the two.

The authors pointed out that a delay of less than one generation by the Governments in the developing countries concerned in achieving what is known as zero population growth could mean an increase of as much as 80 per cent. in the eventual population of those developing countries. Even if fertility rates were reduced to replacement level now, the age structure of the populations in those developing countries would mean that the overall population growth in those parts of the world would continue for at least another two generations. Hence the importance of the conclusion of the Bucharest conference on population some time ago that the necessary precursor to population control is adequate economic development in the developing countries themselves.

The second subject that the document dealt with was food and agriculture. The document pointed out in a quite unexceptionable way that agricultural production throughout the world is limited by natural resources and by economic maldistribution. It also pointed out that about one-quarter of the globe's land surface is cultivable but that of that area only about 15 per cent. is now irrigated. The conclusion was that perhaps twice as much could be irrigated as is presently the case. That is an important implication for the development policies of the countries in question. However, the document made clear that this implied the need for appropriate capital investment in rural development in the developing countries and the need for adequate labour and distribution systems and, furthermore, the prospect of reasonable economic returns for the people farming the land.

In all these ways the responsibility, as paragraph 26 of the document made clear, rests very firmly in the first place with the Governments of the developing countries themselves. But it still leaves unresolved some very real world-wide problems concerning food and agriculture, such as the different dietary patterns ant' demands of different countries and societies and the fact that if people are encouraged to eat lower down the food chain they are being fed in a more effective way; the influence of climatic changes, which people are now beginning to investigate to a greater degree; the impact of multinational companies upon the development of food and agriculture, particularly in the tropical zones; and, above all, the different models of development that there are for these societies in the developing countries and the fact that, if the model of development is one of single cash crop economy with a view to getting scarce foreign exchange, this may be fine and dandy from a foreign exchange point of view but it is not very well equipped for providing the country with the possibility of self-sufficiency in agricultural production.

The third subject on which this excellent document touched concerned minerals. It is interesting that the records, so far as they are available, show that the average real price of many minerals has remained almost constant for about 80 years. The remaining recoverable reserves of minerals in the world are therefore very much a function of price, investment, technology and now, of course, politics itself. We know how much political considerations intervene in all these matters.

It is significant that the House should know that recycling is now an important aspect—or ought to be—of minerals policy. The United Kingdom, for example, gets about 26 per cent. of all its aluminium and about 62 per cent. of all its lead in this way. In paragraph 34 of the document there is a clear pointer to the fact that there ought to be a more coherent policy on mineral availability than this Government, or any Government, have had for a long while.

It is rather deplorable that, in answer to recent parliamentary Questions which I have put down to the Prime Minister and other Ministers asking where the ministerial responsibility lay for minerals policy, I got the very clear answer that it was divided, that there was no clear division of main responsibility, and the rather wet reply:
"The procurement of raw materials is primarily a matter for the industries exploiting or using them."—[Official Report, 18th July 1978; Vol. 954, c. 152.]
The Government ought to think very carefully about the examples of Canada and Japan, where there are Government Departments which take the prime responsibility for minerals procurement for the countries in question, and a certain Department or Minister should focus very much upon ensuring that, as far as possible, conditions are right for investment by mining companies and waste in the use of minerals is eliminated. The Government should consider the possibility of strategic stockpiles of one or two important minerals—something which is already done in the United States—and the Department of Industry should look very seriously at the whole area of product durability, because it is not until we eliminate the degree of planned obsolescence that we now have in many of our industrial processes that we shall be able to use our minerals and other scarce materials to the greatest effect.

The next area touched upon in the document is that of energy. Because that has been well discussed recently in the House and elsewhere, I shall not go into the matter in any detail. Suffice it to say that the document underlined very clearly the critical relationship between future energy growth and future economic growth. It made clear that the forecasts of future energy gaps, although slightly vague and indeterminate, none the less have been sensibly refined during the period since the document was written.

However, this has left the House and the country with one or two key problems to consider regarding energy. These include the lone lead times in supply and demand which make decision-making so difficult; the enormous investments required in the energy sector; the need for international co-operation—it is increasingly difficult for any one country to secure its energy supplies on its own—and the success or failure of Governments and societies in achieving energy conservation. In many ways energy conservation can achieve much more, much more quickly and much more cost-effectively than energy supply.

This still leaves one or two key questions for the future in relation to energy. For example, there is the rate of depletion of our offshore oil and gas reserves. There is the extent to which we regard a return to import dependence as acceptable and how we propose to handle that. There is the extent to which we believe in an essentially centralised energy supply, or a more decentralised one. Above all, there is the mismatch, if I may call it that, between the technological and political time scales involved.

One of the dilemmas of energy policy —indeed, it is a dilemma with which the document is shot through—is that so many of these questions require sustained, honest effort by Governments over a period of a decade or more, and yet, of course, we know that this Government are shortly to come to a well-deserved end and, therefore, the political time scale is out of tune with the technological one.

The document also touched upon the question of pollution as a residual result of many of these matters. It is important for the House to recognise that pollution is a matter of increasing concern among people in this country and abroad. We are often told by Ministers that the United Kingdom has been fairly successful in dealing with air and water pollution, but, of course, there are considerable gaps, to which I hope that the next Parliament will pay attention. For example, there is the problem of motor vehicle emissions, which no Government have dealt with adequately.

It is also essential, as the document make clear, that the principle of the polluter paying for pollution should be established in every area. Clearly, the whole area of safeguarding the environment is a legitimate one for Government intervention. Yet much more must be done on an international scale if we are to ensure that the measures we introduce and the standards that we set in this country do not jeopardise the competitive position of British industries.

I believe that the public will be right to demand progressively higher standards of pollution control and that this will produce public goods which benefit the less-well-off sections of our society a great deal more than the rest. Perhaps it is significant that, within the OECD countries as a whole, the average spending on pollution control, taken overall, is still less than 2 per cent. of their GNP. There is, therefore, need for further effort. There should be no complacency in this area, because pollution is something about which advanced societies such as ours should care and about which they should be prepared to act.

Therefore, my final point is that all the strategic policy issues raised in the document draw our attention to one or two areas of wider concern, which I believe the House ought to be able to consider before it rises for the recess. These include the extent to which the market can or will solve all these problems. I instance energy as a good example. There is the extent to which Governments have to intervene to do what will not be done naturally within the normal process of industrial events. Here one thinks of pollution. There if the extent to which, above all, we cam modify existing institutions or evolve new ones which take more account of these future considerations.

It was interesting that in a recent article in The Guardian by Harford Thomas in his "Alternatives" column, entitled "After 1984—the danger years", it was pointed out, quite rightly, that
"Neither the parliamentary nor the Whitehall systems encourage serious consideration of long-term alternatives".
That is precisely what this Government, via the Cabinet Office, sought to do some years ago, and it is what I seek to illustrate and highlight in my speech this afternoon.

I hope that we shall get an assurance from the Leader of the House when he replies that in the fag end of the present Administration we shall have more serious consideration devoted to these long-term issues mentioned in the document. I hope, too, that we get that assurance from my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), when he replies from the Opposition Front Bench on behalf of the new Conservative Government who, I am sure, will come in the autumn. I hope that consideration will be given to the establishment of a new, independent institution to bring these factors to the attention of successive Governments and that politicians in all parties will be prepared to attack what has been called by Mr. Ronald Higgins the "seventh enemy"—namely, ourselves—and the fact that all too often our time scales are not sufficiently forward looking. If we are to cope with what are often ignorance, myopia and apathy among the public about these important long-term issues, we in this House must set the example.

4.11 p.m.

I think that I might take as a cue, in making one or two remarks this afternoon, the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton). He spoke of open Government and, indeed, half-way through his speech I felt that we should have been talking about open Opposition. If I recall correctly, the right hon. and learned Member honestly admitted that he voted for the Common Market. Therefore, calling for controls at the present stage seems to some of us somewhat hypocritical. During our debate an amendment was tabled to improve the powers of this House. If my memory serves me correctly the right hon. and learned Member voted against that amendment.

There was no vote. While I am on my feet, may I point out to the hon. Gentleman that it is perfectly consistent to be enthusiastic about our membership of the EEC and at the same time to want the House of Commons to be as close as possible in its consultations so as to have the right point of view expressed by Ministers in the Council of Ministers?

There certainly was a vote on the amendment to which I referred and I tried to check it with the Library. Time is short, but I should still like to check that point. There certainly was a vote on the amendment to which I referred.

My background is a seafaring one and many of the people I represent are seafarers and fishermen. They are very concerned about their safety and livelihood. I want to put on record my appreciation of the Government's recent proposals to improve safety for seamen. Their death and accident rates are high. The announcement yesterday by the Government about improving safety by statutory controls for seamen is a considerable advance and I congratulate them on it, having demanded it for the last 10 years.

I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the fact that fishermen who are not covered by this safety recommendation are facing an increase in the number of deaths in their occupation. For example, between 1961 and 1963, taking the average of those three years, the death rate for fishermen was four times that of miners and 10 times that in manufacturing industry. Between 1974 and 1976 the rate had increased to 10 times that of mining and 50 times that in manufacturing industry. I hope that the Government will bring in legislation dealing with statutory controls for fishermen. The Government are committed to reintroduce legislation in the next Parliament, but the Opposition have made clear, apparently, that they do not give a new Merchant Shipping Act a high priority. I hope that we shall have a statement from the Opposition to the effect that they will reconsider that attitude in view of the carnage in the seafaring and shipping world.

The second matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the House is the strike which began today, closing a number of the ports, and affecting my own as well as many other constituencies. This is of considerable importance and justifies a debate in itself. Part of the trouble is the attitude of the Opposition to the dock labour scheme. We witnessed this attitude a week ago. It is due in part to the application of the Government's inflation policy.

It is made clear that these men, who do engineering and maintenance work on the docks, were promised three years ago that they would have parity with the dockers within two years from 1974. They were promised by the British Transport Docks Board, as I am informed, that from today, 1st August 1978, they would receive that parity. Apparently they have gone on strike from today, arguing that if it can be paid, who is stopping it?

I put this question to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and perhaps he can pass it on to the appropriate Minister: are the Government denying payment of this parity agreement? Even though the White Paper is mentioned on these occasions, a close reading of it and the debates does not necessarily lead one to the conclusion that the Government are in any way directing—and it is supposed to be a voluntary principle. There is a great danger that the inflation policy will become self-defeating.

That is the second factor which could, within the next few weeks, cause a prolonged and continuing strike in many of our major ports, with considerable consequences for the Government's inflation policy, the continuation of commerce, and my constituents' livelihoods in the Humberside area.

The main point I draw to the attention of the House, in this short opportunity to ask the House not to adjourn, concerns prison policy. In Hull, there is a high-security prison. Almost two years ago, it was the centre of a particularly violent dispute—a riot, in fact—lasting five days. It was a riot which reflected considerable concern and distress within our prison system. It reflected a considerable lack of policy implementation—namely, that there had been developments within the prison system which were not following any coherent pattern, and that the policy tended to differ from prison to prison—so much so that governors in different prisons were considerably influencing the nature and type of policy being pursued at that time.

I want to bring recent developments to the attention of the House, some of which are before the courts and, therefore, I am not entitled to pass comment on the possible consequences of action. But there are, by the very nature of the charges being brought, certain implications that are very important in the development of problems within the prison service which may lead to similar explosions in our prisons, at witnessed by the Hull prison riot.

At that time, when one investigation was taking place into the causes of such riots, allegations were made about brutality—prison officers assaulting prisoners. This was denied by the authorities. It was certainly rejected in the report of the Fowler inquiry that took place into the causes of the Hull riots—the report was produced almost 12 months later—to which I gave considerable evidence of my investigations. The Fowler inquiry found that the charge was not proven and that the reaction in the prison was due to a number of reasons other than any possible assault on a prisoner.

The inquiry agreed that assaults had taken place and that four prison officers had been involved with a prisoner, but the inquiry found—as did the board of visitors—that the one prisoner had assaulted four prison officers. That is a matter on which one must make judgments. But the important point to gather from this interpretation is that it was argued, certainly by many of the prisoners to whom I was given access in a number of prisons around the country after their dispersal from the Hull prison, that brutality was one of the major reasons for the riot.

In my own report, I referred to this. In paragraph 3.9, I said:
"Certain matters, such as the allegations of assault by prison officers, are of a criminal nature and are presently being investigated by the authorities. I am not able to judge the validity of these allegations but mention them since, if they are substantiated by the inquiry, they will he extremely pertinent to the occurrence of the incidence."
By "the inquiry", I meant the Fowler inquiry, and it did not find proven the charge that assaults had taken place. However, these allegations were put to the police authorities. After two years of investigation, the police have now issued charges against 13 prison officers, one of them an assistant deputy governor. The nature of the charges are such that the events took place after the men—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is pursuing a matter where charges have been made. He will realise, therefore, that the matter is sub judice.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I did not intend to stray into that, and perhaps I have done so in making those remarks. The point I wanted to make is that it has been substantiated by the two year inquiry that there was sufficient evidence for the courts to consider a case. That is now before the courts. The whole case within my own inquiry and report was that I was not in a position to ascertain the justification for such charges. That is for the courts to do, and the matter is now under the due process of law.

I have no intention of reflecting whether these matters are substantiated. My point is that it appears that if one takes this matter, in advance of the process of charges, with other matters which have recently been announced, we have a breakdown in the prison system which is a matter for concern and debate by the House. I refer to those other incidents now.

For example, it has been announced in a case before the High Court, which does not affect individuals, that Parliament decreed, in a ruling, that prisoners have the right when allegations or charges have been made inside the prison system to make their case to the board of visitors with the best possible opportunities available to them. They are entitled to a proper defence before the visitors' board. Apparently the courts have now ruled that even though Parliament decreed that that should be the aim, if it is denied to them—as in the case that is before the courts—there is no way in which any authority can see that it is implemented outside the Home Office.

At this stage, a prison board investigating any acts of indiscipline committed by a prisoner inside a prison should be able to consider the case. But if the members of the prison board decide that they will not listen to witnesses regarding the charges against an individual defendant, the defendant is denied the very elements of justice before the prison board which has the power to take away remission and deal with him in the way the courts deal with people outside prisons.

To that extent, Parliament has decreed that each man has the right, even in prison to the elements of justice. Apparently, the courts have ruled now that they cannot interfere, even if that justice is denied to a prisoner.

The second fact that causes concern about prison policy is the recent television allegation of the involvement of prison officers in gun-running and drug-trafficking. It was revealed in statements on television and by the prison officers involved. It has been announced publicly that two men have been suspended. I notice that the incidents at Hull did not lead to suspensions, but a television show did. That is another cause for concern for this House—justice and the happenings in our prisons.

The third matter was announced in a report published yesterday by the Home Office on increasing violence in prisons. Also it was announced yesterday in the press that there is an increasing number of murders inside our prisons, all connected with certain practices that are continuing unabated in our prisons.

The fourth area is the public reaction to some of these events by the prison officers—that if there is a further incidence of rioting or of trouble within our prisons, the officers will remove themselves from the place of trouble, go to the perimeter wall and allow to take place whatever may take place.

Whatever the reasons for the breakdown of confidence between the prison officers, the Home Office and others, there is no justification for their action. The matter causes considerable anxiety to my constituents, particularly those who live just outside the wall and who have to face the consequences should a similar prison eruption occur.

In addition, there is the present public conflict between the BBC, the police and the prison officers—access by the media into the workings of the police and the prison officers being refused for whatever reasons—so it must be recognised that it is time for Parliament to discuss these substantial breakdowns of confidence.

All these matters contribute to a breakdown in definitions and in the present operation of prison policy. I welcome the opportunity of a meeting soon with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, when I shall spell out some of the things that I believe need to be done, which were spelt out in my evidence to the Fowler inquiry. Since the riot two years ago matters have not greatly improved, a fact which causes me considerable alarm and leads me to believe that we shall see a greater breakdown of confidence and more violence within our prisons.

The House will accept that this speech is not an election winner. To say what I am saying does not necessarily gain votes, but it is a matter that concerns justice. It is a matter of a breakdown in an area for which we have entire responsibility. If we cannot provide proper time for debate of such an important issue at this stage, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will find the first opportunity to provide us with such time on our return after the recess.

4.26 p.m.

May I briefly return to the subject raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), who was followed by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). They seemed to be referring to two matters, one of which was the specific and clear undertaking given to the House and to the Scrutiny Committee by the Leader of the House in connection with the control of this House over EEC legislation. The second matter raised by both, although not so directly, was the content of any motion or formal procedural matter which the Leader of the House, on behalf of the Government, might bring before the House.

I should like to make one comment on the first matter as Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee. Last Wednesday the Leader of the House invited me to exchange one or two comments with him about his undertaking to the House. As it happened, this was just before the final meeting of the Scrutiny Committee in this Parliament before the House rises for the Summer Recess. After discussion with my colleagues in the Scrutiny Committee, I made clear to the right hon. Gentleman that it was not possible to comment properly on any resolution or any matter of that kind which we had not had sufficient time or opportunity to consider in depth.

I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members will understand that though we might wish matters to proceed apace it is not possible to do justice to a matter of such substance at very short notice. Therefore, I accept the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend that there is a considerable amount of time between last week and November—a point which I am sure the Leader of the House also accepts—but that as between Wednesday of last week and the introduction of any motion, or any other matter that he might have had in mind, it is quite impossible for the Scrutiny Committee to do it justice.

The second matter, upon which I advance only a personal view, concerns the content of any resolution of the House, should we ever reach that point. I do not speak as Chairman of the Committee but advance a personal viewpoint derived from a practical observation of these matters during the time that I have been in the Chair of that Select Committee.

I believe that it would be impossible to have a resolution which did not allow for the exceptional activity which is often generated within the EEC. There have been occasions, are occasions and undoubtedly will continue to be occasions when it is in the interests of this country, and therefore obviously in the interests of the House, for Ministers of the day to proceed to an agreement in the Council of Ministers before invoking the full scrutiny procedure in the House. It is most important that they are enabled to continue to do that, but that they should also be accountable to this House for the action they take. They must answer to the House and must justify to it any agreement to which they have been party, if, in the process of coming to that agreement, they have not invoked the full scrutiny procedure.

That said, there should be little difficulty in devising a resolution which would meet all the proper interests of the House. I am naturally anxious, as is every other right hon. and hon. Gentleman, that we continue to exercise effective scrutiny over EEC legislation and that the voice of this House is heard and observed by Ministers of the day.

4.31 p.m.

Later this evening, or in the early hours, a number of London colleagues and I will hope to catch the eye of the Chair to talk generally about the problems of London and about the fact that decay is taking place faster than regeneration. I want to take the time of the House during this debate only to emphasise one separate, important event in London, about which the House should hear more before we adjourn, because it is a matter that goes far beyond the context of London.

I want to ask the Home Secretary for a statement to the effect that he will personally, preferably within the next few days but certainly within the next few weeks, visit the Brick Lane area of East London to try to reassure the local community about his concern with events there and to say that the Government will contemplate taking strong action to resist the outbreak of obscene racialism which has occurred there in recent weeks.

My right hon. Friend will perhaps realise why I referred to the later debate when I say that in the other context I shall be urging that non-London Members should visit London generally, because I think that they can get a false impression from looking at Trafalgar Square, the Mall, Whitehall and wherever they stay overnight. There are many aspects of London life of which they may be unaware. Certainly there is a general sense of rundown and of social deprivation to be seen in the East End of London and, indeed, in some parts of my constituency of Paddington in the West. Many of us believe that it is those conditions that have made the Brick Lane area ripe for National Front recruiting and have provided the opportunity of exploiting those circumstances for racialist purposes.

I understand that the Home Secretary is prepared to consider—but no more than that at the moment—making a visit to the area. A number of us have been visited here this week, at our request, on behalf of the Labour Party in London. We have met representatives of the five East London boroughs and their community relation officers, and also of the Bengali community in the Brick Lane and Spitalfields areas. I do not know whether the Home Secretary is aware—I doubt whether the House is aware—of the seriousness of the situation we now face in those East London boroughs. I have no wish to trespass on a constituency matter, but I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) will recognise that this is certainly an issue which now has an all-London dimension.

What the community relations officers and the Bengali community have asked for in particular is that there should be a public judicial inquiry into events in Brick Lane. I hope that the Government can say before the House adjourns for the Summer Recess whether this is likely to happen. Whether it can be a public or a judicial inquiry may be open to question. But if there cannot be a public judicial inquiry, a public inquiry or a judicial inquiry, at least let the Home Secretary or the Government satisfy the local community that there is to be an inquiry of some sort.

I want briefly to underline the case for such an inquiry, and for a special interest by the Home Secretary, by referring to seven specific doubts which the local community feels. Whether those doubts are justified—whether or not some of the allegations are correct—does not matter. What matters is that very large numbers of people in the East End of London believe these things to be true. Since they believe them, some action to reassure them or to prove their doubts invalid is required.

First, there are complaints of the harassment of anyone whose skin is anything other than white in the belief that he may be an illegal immigrant, and of constant demands upon those people to produce papers to establish their right to presence in the country. That is one of the things that has undermined confidence in the police in that community in the East End. I understood that there had been assurances that, in general and at large, the police were not going to indulge in swoops of that kind.

Secondly, there is the belief that there is insufficient diligence when acts of violence occur—as they increasingly do—in the East End of London. It is true that the police have now arrested three youths charged with the murder of the Asian who was killed there not so long ago. But the local community believes that it is exceptional for the police to pay attention and to make arrests within a relatively short time.

The third point certainly warrants urgent attention from the Home Secretary. There is a belief—true or not—that within the police force in the East End there are some constables who are National Front sympathisers. The local community needs to be disabused of that suspicion. Indeed, when the Home Secretary recently gave an assurance that there were now 3,000 additional policemen in the East End of London, and when we suggested to the community relations officers that that should be some comfort to them, the response from people who are professionally concerned with trying to improve community relations was, "We do not want more police like those we are complaining about."

The hon. Gentleman has made a very serious accusation against the police. It is the tradition in this country that all policemen wear their number, prominently placed. Before the hon. Gentleman makes such allegations in the House of Commons, should he not check the numbers?

Perhaps I could give way to the other hon. Gentleman, to see whether he listened to what I said.

I wish to put it to the hon. Member that he is in danger of abusing parliamentary privilege by making such an allegation without substantiating it and without giving the definitive evidence of the names of the individuals concerned and the grounds for suspecting that they are National Front members.

I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the record will show me to be in order and that you would have drawn my attention to the fact if I had made such an accusation. I shall repeat the preamble to my remarks. These are things that are believed by very many people in the East End of London. I went out of my way to say that I do not know whether they are true. But I believe that the existence of these doubts, fears and anxieties makes the case for an inquiry and for positive official attempts to reassure the local community. I hope that the hon. Gentlemen who have just intervened will listen with care to my four remaining instances of the doubts of the local people and will understand why the local community has these fears and suspicions.

Fourthly, there are suggestions that not merely in the lower ranks of the police force but at higher levels there is not sufficient concern about arresting racist activity and dealing with National Front provocation in the East End. The Leman Street police station has been mentioned, and many of the local community who have themselves offered to be witnesses by personally arriving at Leman Street station complain that they have not been treated as members of the public coming forward to give information as evidence but have been herded off into a room and treated as though they were offenders in some way. The reception, treatment and attitude at Leman Street police station discourages these people from going there and lends credence to the suspicion that the police, if not antipathetic towards that community, are certainly not as sympathetic or as impartial as they should be.

Similarly, there were acts of violence against Asian workers leaving a brewery in the East End a short time ago. In any other situation, any hon. Member of this House would have supposed that given that act of violence one evening as workers left that brewery, the next evening there would at least have been police present, however few in number and however inconspicuous. But their presence was so inconspicuous that it was totally out of sight, because it was non-existent. The fact that when Asians have been attacked by racist thugs one evening and the police are not present to watch events the following night is one of the pieces of evidence that encourage the local community and the Asian workers at that brewery to believe that the police are not doing the job that they should to protect them.

There is an even more worrying incident for which I have testimony from fellow members of the executive committee of the London Labour Party who were present to witness events in Brick Lane on the Sunday morning of the weekend before last. There is regularly a National Front pitch at the junction of Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road. Some members of the community decided that it was about time that something less obscene and anti-racist was distributed from that pitch. They arrived at 5.30 a.m., so that they might be the first to stake a claim to stand and distribute their literature. They found the police there to bar them, and they were prevented from using that pitch. On the following Sunday morning, the police were there, not to prevent members of the National Front from occupying the pitch, but to provide them protection in order to do so.

When incidents of that kind occur, is it any wonder that the local community ask on whose side the so-called forces of law and order may be? Similarly, when a colleague was proceeding from one end of Brick Lane to the other during one Sunday morning confrontation, at one end were the Anti-Nazi group and at the other end were the National Front. When people passed from what I shall call the Anti-Nazi end of Brick Lane to the National Front end, they were diligently and assiduously searched by police for weapons. But when they moved back from the National Front end to the Anti-Nazi end, there was no similar interest to ensure that offensive weapons were not being carried. That occurred several times with people moving from one end of the road to the other. If that account is true, is it any wonder that people have doubts about the way in which the area is being policed?

Those are the seven points which it seems to me give cause for anxiety, and I believe that a visit by the Home Secretary and an announcement of his intention to do so is vital before the House goes into recess. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be able to announce this on behalf of the Home Secretary today so that he will have the opportunity to hear these matters at first hand and to sec some of these incidents at first hand. I hope, too, that the fact of his visit will be a contribution towards reassuring the local community.

4.44 p.m.

I believe that there is a strong case for delaying the beginning of the Summer Recess beyond 3rd August, particularly as we may well be talking about not just the date of the Summer Recess but the date of the end of this Parliament. My view is based on the need for this House to consider a matter of growing public concern—namely, the rapid spread of bureaucracy by the proliferation of unelected, unrepresentative bodies beyond the reach of Parliament and in many instances not accountable to anyone for the expenditure of large and growing sums of public money. I refer, of course, if I may coin a phrase, to the quango explosion. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have indicated their concern about the extent to which individual Ministers are bypassing parliamentary checks. They are doing this by exercising a growing power of personal patronage that currently fills 8,500 paid and about 25,000 unpaid, but influential, appointments.

Increasingly these jobs are being filled by present or past trade unionists, by Left-wing academics, who seem to have a lot of time on their hands, by ex-politicians from local and national levels, and by anyone else that the Minister who hires, fires and pays them thinks will acquiesce in the implementation of his plan. I do not criticise anyone for accepting a job in a quango. I am criticising the Ministers who appoint them and the way they are selected. The public have a right to know the sort of people who are being given these new positions of power in the land and why they are getting them.

I shall give way in a moment.

These people who have been selected and appointed are our new masters in some respects and we have no say in their appointments.

I am grateful to the hon. Member. So that we can raise this debate—the hon. Gentleman has raised an important subject—out of the gutters of the Tory Party to a level where reasonable men can discuss what is a particular problem, would the hon. Member give an example of a previous Conservative Minister ever advertising a quango job, as some of my right hon. Friends have done since 1974?

If the hon. Gentleman will have a little patience, he will hear that what I am proposing are changes for the benefit of the House of Commons and to restore power to the House of Commons for the future. I accept that all Administrations in the past have created bodies such as this. I am opposed to the way in which it is being done now and I am saying so. If the hon. Gentleman will have a little patience, he will find something in my speech that will be of interest even to him, although that is a rather difficult objective to achieve.

The new Executive style, currently, is to pass social laws designed to favour narrow sectional interests in our society and then to entrust their operation to official bodies composed of representatives of the very people they are intended to benefit.

Under the present Administration, even those quangos that were set up with the best of intentions have been degraded into predictably partial pressure groups. So we now have a conciliation service that is seen by many to be operating as a recruiting sergeant for the big battalion trade unions. We have an Equal Opportunities Commission that seeks to make women into stevedores and men into chambermaids whilst distorting the English language with the need for such abortions as "chairperson".

The trouble is that the myth has been created that if we set up a separate body outside the confines of Government and Parliament we shall hear the voice of the people through the members of that body. Of course, all that we hear are the voices of those who are on that body and who have been carefully selected for their views. The present Government are stuck in tramlines on the quango trail. They feel compelled to create more and more quangos.

We are to open a fourth television channel, so let us have five large new quangos at the public expense. We must give the unions even more control over industry—I am sure that some Labour Members will agree with that—so let us set up an industrial democracy commission to duplicate some of the functions of that other quango dedicated to union power, ACAS.

In the past four years the present Government have set up 42 major, national, powerful quangos, each of which has either multiplied within itself or has spawned a number of satellite quangos. The Price Commission, in two years, increased in size from seven members to 16. Last year the Central Arbitration Committee increased in size from 34 to 82 members, all paid. The Health and Safety Commission has produced 10 new little quangos. Earlier Socialist—

My hon. Friend may like the little quangos because they are subordinate to the big quangos.

Earlier Socialist quangos included the 1969 Metrication Board, which was composed of a chairman and 12 members. It very quickly set up eight steering committees requiring eight more chairmen and another 104 part-time members. The 1968 British Tourist Authority and its four attendant national boards were followed by a whole new family of regional tourist boards. Incidentally, hon. Members will recall that the Metrication Board was set up without the knowledge or approval of Parliament, at the whim of the Minister of the day, who simply informed Parliament in a Written Answer to what was probably a "planted" Question when it was a fait accompli. Parliament had no say at all in the setting up of the Metrication Board.

So the multiplication of bodies continues, and at such a pace that the explosion is totally out of control. No one Minister has overall responsibility for them. Official lists are out of date. Nobody even agrees how many quangos there are in total. Why is the "Directory of Paid Public Appointments made by Ministries" not published annually? Why is the list of members of public boards of a commercial character not yet published for 1978? Last year it was published in April.

It is published only every three years. Did not the hon. Gentleman know that?

I heard what the hon. Gentleman said from a seated position. He may be interested to know that in answer to Questions I put down earlier this year we were promised publication of both lists this year, but they have not yet appeared.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when some of us got into Government after the 1974 General Election we wanted to bring in a system whereby people could be appointed on the basis of selection committees, which is what happens with local authorities? The hon. Gentleman may know of a book called "The Great and the Good" When we went into the matter, we were told that selection had always been done in the present way and that nothing could be done about it.

The hon. Gentleman has a good point, but he is making a mistake in implying that a Labour Government are responsible for the system when we inherited something that had been with us for the past 50 years. It is about time the House put the matter right, but not on the basis that it is something for which the Labour Party is responsible. On the contrary, Labour Members in and out of Government have been trying to do something positive about it. It is the Opposition who have resisted change in the past.

I was delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks, because it looks as though we might achieve all-party agreement in the future to get something done, which I should welcome.

As for the hon. Gentleman's later remarks, the present Government are making matters considerably worse by accelerating the growth of quangos and abusing the way in which appointments are made. I am attacking the Government for that reason, not because they started the system. I accept that all Administrations in the past have pursued a policy of setting up official bodies. The time has come when we ought to get together in the House and do something about it.

Hon. Members are in the dark about such matters. Some Oral and Written Questions receive answers, but some answers refer us to the quango in question. There is no working definition of a body's day-to-day activities, nor are there any agreed limits to the responsibility that a Minister bears to the quangos that he makes.

Ministers answering parliamentary Questions about quango membership get their facts wrong and send letters, often weeks later, to correct them. For example, on 2nd May I was informed in a Written Answer that Mr. J. L. Jones CH, was a member of 13 quangos, which were listed. Twelve weeks and one day later I received a letter from the Secretary of State for Employment informing me that the information supplied in respect of three of those quagos was inaccurate and that Mr. Jones had now resigned from two others. I was glad to have the correction. I am glad that the Secretary of State for Employment has corrected the mistake made by his Department.

That is an example of how even senior members of a Government lose track of quango membership. They are losing control of quangos. It is clear from my researches over more than two and a half years that there are about 900 national and regional quangos ranging over every aspect of life, work and leisure. Quangos have been established to tell us what we should, can or must do in certain particulars in our day-to-day activities. Some even tell us how we should think, and some dictate our moral behaviour. In the event of any lapse in our prescribed behaviour, in certain circumstances there are some quangos with the power to prosecute us before other quangos.

As if the present were not bad enough, "Labour's Programme 76", which we are told is to be the basis of its manifesto—or, at least, of its programme for the next Labour Government, if we have one—promises us a national planning commission, an agricultural land commission, a housing finance agency, a national transport planning authority, a communications council, a public broadcasting commission, a national youth body, a central advisory committee on education, a co-operative development agency and a statutory energy forum. And the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) asked me why I was concerned about the present position.

The remedy lies, first, with the Ministers to stop and reverse the present growth trend by sharply reducing the overall number of quangos. Those that escape the pruning knife should be made properly accountable to Parliament. The hon. Member for Walton has already indicated that he would agree with that.

Most of all, however, urgent steps should be taken to correct what I regard as the present ministerial abuse of the appointments system. This does not go far from what the hon. Gentleman said. When members of official bodies are paid out of the public purse, there is a strong case, first, for requiring an increase of parliamentary control over the nominations, secondly, for limiting the number of such appointments that ran be held by a single individual, thirdly, for making Ministers answerable to Parliament on the question of attendance records and other details that arise out of that appointment, and, fourthly, for a clear accountability to Parliament through the Select Committee system.

I am wondering, if my hon Friend's recommendations were implemented and all this quango business were stopped, what would be done with Labour ex-councillors who had lost the confidence of the electorate and, therefore, their seats?

I, like the hon. Member for Walton, slightly mistrust intellectuals, but I had not recognised any intellectuals among my hon. Friends.

In answer to my hon. Friend, I do not regard it as any solution to remove people of one political party and replace them with people from another political party. I want to see the quangos peopled by those who have the qualifications to do the job and by people of merit who are suitably equipped, rather than by people chosen for their political persuasion, of one side or the other. So I do not advocate, as my hon. Friend suggested, taking off all the Socialists and putting on all the Conservatives.

I am sorry if I misunderstood my hon. Friend. I believe that people who are incompetent should be replaced by people who are competent.

I suggest, too, that for all full-time paid appointments advertisements should be used stating the qualifications required. A short list of applicants should then be submitted to the Minister for his selection. Certainly, in the case of the commercial and industrial boards involving full executive positions, the Minister's selection should be submitted for approval to a Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Nationalised industries. The time has surely come to call a halt to appointments made irrespective of merit or ability and simply to reward political service. There is another much-maligned but far cheaper way of rewarding voluntary and political service.

Let me emphasise again that I am not criticising people for accepting appointments on quangos. I am gravely concerned at the present massive spread of bureaucracy outside the control of the elected representatives of the people. A great constitutional change is taking place to concentrate power in the hands of the Executive and its nominees. It is time for that power to be restored to the elected representatives of the people. It is time that it was returned to this honourable House, and I believe that we should not rise for the Summer Recess until some of these problems have been resolved.

4.58 p.m.

I want to raise two matters before we pass the motion for the Summer Adjournment. Before I do so, however, I want to com- ment on the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland) about quangos. Before this word gained the fashionable currency that it now has, I thought it meant that somebody had a speech impediment and could not pronounce "tango". But "quango'" now has an accepted definition, although I have seen an argument in The Times that there is also an American definition.

I know that a lot of my hon. Friends have been waiting for some time in order to speak, so I shall get on.

In the unlikely event of the Conservative Party being returned to power, whenever the General Election comes, I believe that it will find it not quite so easy to abolish these quangos or whatever they are called. My experience has always been as an unpaid member of a quango. Most Labour Members find that when starting off their trade union careers—becoming committee men and the like, and gradually becoming branch secretaries—they are invited, almost as a matter of course through the trades and labour council and through the trade union movement to submit names to serve on various committees connected with all kinds of Government Acts, down to the very lowest level.

For instance, people may be asked to serve on committees of one sort or another. They may be asked to serve on the local disablement committee or on the local hospital board. One could give a whole list of such committees. However, I merely emphasise the general principle. Members of such committees are selected by their peers, who may vote for Joe Bloggs or Bill Smith, or in some cases a miner is nominated by custom and practice. As a result one gives up a lot of one's time. I did not get paid for it, and I do not think that the majority of Labour committee members got paid for it.

As a result of Government Acts, these bodies are often at evelated levels. I do not know what salary or honorarium is given, although sometimes it is reported to be quite big. I suppose that if one serves on several of these committees one is not doing too badly. But I get the impression that what really hurts the Conservative Party is the fact that some of our lads have their snouts in the gravy train, whereas at one time it was entirely the lads of the Conservatives. I am not defending quangos by that argument. All I am saying is that I believe the Tories will find it very difficult to abolish them.

Just a moment. The hon. Gentleman has had a good say and I have hardly got a head of steam up. I believe that the Conservative Party will find it almost impossible to abolish these quangos per se. However, I believe that the Conservatives have a deeper grievance, which is that more of our lads now serve on these committees whereas previously the Conservatives had a greater share.

I remember talking to a former Member of this House who was once identified as our shop steward. He has now gone to another place, so there are no prizes for guessing his name. When he was making an inquiry, he discovered quangos going back for a couple of centuries. Eamonn Andrews once hosted a programme on which a person signed in and did a bit of mime. I know one person here who signed in and as a result got several thousand pounds a year. These things have been going on for a long time and have a very long history.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I only wanted to make the point that the whole essence of my drawing attention to this problem now is that I recognise that there is a strong vested interest throughout all parties in maintaining a system of patronage which is to the benefit both of those who give out the patronage and of those who receive it. I was delighted when I heard the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) suggest that something should be done about this. The more we can make this issue an all-party one, the better.

I believe that this is an unsavoury business and I think that there should be an inquiry into it. I do not know what form such an inquiry should take. The hon. Gentleman follows a long line of hon. Members who have raised this matter. The late Maurice Edelman was one. He used to put down a whole string of Questions in order to find out what patronage various Ministers had. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman is doing a worthwhile job.

I am not opposed to discussing this matter. It is good to ventilate it. Far too much secrecy surrounds it. But I do not know what form we should decide upon in order to achieve a better system. However, the more light we throw upon it, the better. What I am saying is that, first, it is foolish to pretend that one can abolish these quangos by a change of Government. Secondly, I believe that within the ranks of the Tories there is a feeling of resentment that they no longer control these quangos and that we now have our share of them.

How would my hon. Friend deal with a comparable situation—namely, the appointment by a Prime Minister, such as Harold Macmillan, who appointed 10 of his relations to his own Government, and some of them just on the right side of imbecility?

I had better not follow my hon. Friend in that argument. I have said that I do not know what form the change would take. The only answer I can give my hon. Friend is that if one is going to do things like this, it should be done in style.

The two points I wish to raise are on a much lower level and relate to my constituency, although they have wider implications for the south-west Lancashire area. The first is that I now believe that this House needs to discuss the Government's industrial policy. A theme that I have raised several times already relates to the way in which Government policy, in terms of development areas, special development areas and assisted areas, is in some senses carried out almost capriciously. It is not carried out with the kind of forethought and planning which I would expect of a Labour Government.

I give one simple example. As I understand it, Government policy is designed to assist areas which are disadvantaged in that their traditional industries have disappeared. I regret that one of my hon. Friends who is listening to me now, though not on the Front Bench, is charged with the duty of administering this policy but has so far not been very helpful to me. However, I hope that he will be converted, having heard what I have to say.

Broadly, it can be said that in areas which are disadvantaged, because their traditional industries have disappeared over a number of years or have suddenly collapsed, the Government have a policy of helping those regions, areas or districts to attract industry, the help being given on the basis that if such an area did not receive this help the industry would go elsewhere. In other words, this is an inducement to industrialists to come into a specific area in order to provide jobs. They receive assistance depending on the three grades. There is the intermediate area, which virtually covers the whole of the country bar the south-east, and perhaps a few isolated pockets. There is also development status, and then there is the higher grade of special development status.

I have already raised the question of the Wigan travel-to-work area, which at present has a 9 per cent. unemployment rate. I have suggested that Wigan should be given such help because its traditional industries have disappeared. It has a higher rate of unemployment than 14 other areas which at present enjoy the highest form of grant aid, namely, special development area status.

But the Government's answer has always been that one should not spread the jam too thinly. They say that there is only so much jam to go around, and although they recognise that there is a lot of merit in Wigan's case they maintain that this would spread the already thin lump of jam too thinly and, as a consequence, the taste would go out of it for everyone.

I believe that that is a false argument, because in a sense the Government do not provide a lump of money to be distributed equally. What they provide is an opportunity to a certain area to attract industry. If it does, certain benefits will go to that area. But other areas can attract industry without any inducement, because certain industries feel that whatever advantages the Government offer are outweighed by geographical and marketing reasons or whatever. Where regions are at a disadvantage, it is illogical to say that an area fulfils all the relevant criteria but, because the jam is not to be spread too thinly, nothing can be done for it. Because of its unemployment rate, no jam will be taken away from anybody if the Government confer on Wigan special development area status.

I hope that when we return in October, as we surely shall, whether or not we have a General Election, one of the first priorities of the Government will be to examine this policy. I hope that they will investigate whether the "jam" argument has any relevance. The Government's duty is to ensure that areas are not put at a distadvantage compared with other areas suffering the same high unemployment or environmental problems.

The second point I wish to mention relates to the basic unfairness in our rating policy. Last week, together with my hon. Friends the Members for Newton (Mr. Evans) and St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs), I attended a meeting in St. Helens town hall. It was obvious from that meeting that the pattern of rating which has emerged has had a bad effect in St. Helens. I should make clear that a part of my constituency comes within the St. Helens metropolitan district. It appears that following the last rate support grant scheme the older industrial areas lost out considerably. I believe that the scheme needs to be fundamentally rejigged. There is obviously something wrong when one examines the lists of authorities and finds the boroughs of Stockport, Bury, Rotherham, Wigan and St. Helens almost at the bottom of the list. There appears to be an imbalance which puts some industrial areas at a disadvantage. This applies particularly to the older industrial areas.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be able to stress to his ministerial colleagues that the rate support grant needs to be greatly rejigged Furthermore, I wish to emphasise my earlier point—namely, that the Government's industrial strategy needs to be examined, particularly in regard to whether an area is given development status or special development status. I believe that there is an excellent case for Wigan to be afforded special development status.

5.13 p.m.

There are many people outside this House who would regard it as odd if the House were to adjourn without being given some statement, at the start of what the public are pleased to call our "holidays", about the way in which a certain situation may affect theirs. If it comes to our holidays, there may be many Labour Members who will find themselves working harder during this Summer Recess than they have worked for some time past. However, among the great British public there must be growing concern about the effects of the air traffic controllers' dispute in France on people's prospects of arriving safely at their destinations and enjoying a well-earned rest. I believe that we should put in a word for the great British public.

I very much hope that the responsible Minister will feel it his duty to come to the House, having spoken to the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, and assure us that he is content that the effects of this dispute on the safety of air travel, on the security of British aircraft and British air passengers, and on the general economy of the tourist industry are such that there is no need for him to take action—or, if he sees a need for action, to assure the House that he is taking it.

It is worrying to see what is happening at our airports. It is also worrying to read what is being reported in the press about the emergency and makeshift measures of air traffic control which are being put together in order to get aircraft round French air space to their destinations. If something serious should go wrong, there would justifiably be an outcry. Therefore I believe that it would be appropriate for Ministers to come to the House to give us the assurances which I seek.

My second point also concerns air traffic controllers and aviation. I refer to the serious effect that is beginning to be felt on the development of British North Sea oil interests because of the curtailment of operating hours at Sumburgh airport. I know that this may seem a rather remote subject, nor is it closely connected with holidays. It is also a subject in which I immediately declare that I have an interest; but I hope that the Leader of the House will accept that, despite my interest, it is not improper of me to raise the matter now. I believe that, because of what is happening in Samburgh, the national interest is becoming seriously involved.

Because of shortage of staff, the hours of operation at the airport are now restricted, from Mondays to Saturdays, to between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and on Sundays to between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Operators using the airport were given an assurance some time back that the situation would be put right by the end of July or early August, by the recruitment or training of additional staff, by the appointment of a new airports manager, and by an increase in remuneration for the air traffic controllers at Sumburgh. If those steps are taken and taken now, it will still be six weeks or more, so I am told, before the airport can return to the full operating conditions which the airport management wants to achieve, and which the users and all those concerned with the exploitation of North Sea oil around the Shetlands also want to achieve.

Unhappily, although the matter was first referred to the Government six weeks ago, for a decision on a Sumburgh allowance for air traffic controllers, so far that decision has not been forthcoming. I understand that the matter has moved from the Department of Trade to the Department of Employment, and for all I know, it may have gone from there to the Department of Energy. What matters is that it now appears to have come to rest in a committee chaired by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection.

No, it is not a quango. I can reassure my hon. Friend on that score and I am being serious, because this is a serious matter.

I enter a plea that the House should be told before we rise that that necessary decision will be made without further unnecessary delay or minuscule quibble over the decimal pointage of pay policy. It will cost this country enormous sums of money if we are forced to delay these North Sea operations and accept operating handicaps, well into the winter, when the hours of daylight get shorter and shorter and the weather gets worse and worse. We shall all pay for that in the end.

I hope that the Leader of the House will not just tell the House that it is all very difficult. I hope he will say that a decision is to be taken and that if it means a breach in pay policy, that will have to happen. Let us get the North Sea oil going, and for once in a while let us not let the sacred cow of pay policy dictate every consideration about our future.

My third point is also connected with pay policy and with the unions. This matter was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party in an intervention at Prime Minister's Questions earlier today, although he got remarkably little change out of the Prime Minister on it—not that there is anything new about that. I refer, of course, to the subject of the ban on new telephone installations by the members of the Post Office Engineering Union. I am sure that the Leader of the House knows that this dispute has been grinding on for nearly nine months. It is true that until May this year the Post Office was maintaining a low profile on it, for reasons of its own. Local managers were loyally not revealing to prospective customers the full awfulness of the situation and Post Office management was doing its best to sort out the situation with the union.

In May I received a letter from the managing director of Post Office Telecommunications, which set out the history of the dispute briefly and concisely. It said:
"The engineering technicians, on the instructions of their union, the Post Office Engineering Union, have been taking this action against our customers since November 1977 in an attempt to achieve a 35 hour net working week without loss of pay (at present they work a 40 hour net working week). We consider that claim to be unjustified and if it were conceded it would result in a reduction of the level of service we could offer to our customers and would increase our costs.
We have made repeated attempts to settle the dispute in a way that does not conflict with the Government's pay policy, and which will give our engineering technicians some shortening of their working week. We have also told the union that we would be willing to have the dispute referred to independent arbitration. The union has so far refused every offer we have made including arbitration."
When I received that letter, I wrote to the responsible Minister. His reply, dated 8th June, included this immortal phrase:
"…highly sensitive industrial relations issues of this kind can usually be best settled by responsible negotiations between the employer and his employees."
In other words, the Minister was saying "We should not do anything unless we have to". But since they had to do something, the Minister concluded by saying that Lord McCarthy had been appointed to conduct a special review. That appointment was made in the first week of June. We are now in the first week of August and the situation has not improved in any way.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House must know that there is mounting evidence throughout the country of the social and economic effects of the union's action. I have tried to draw Ministers' attention to this. About a fortnight ago I wrote to the Secretary of State for Trade instancing some of the cases that were known to me. In due course I received a reply from the Under-Secretary of State for Industry.

At an earlier stage I had also tabled a parliamentary Question in an endeavour to stir things up. On 24th July I asked what representations the Secretary of State had received concerning the effect of the industrial action, and what estimate he had formed of its effect upon the import and export trade. The answer that I received was not exactly encouraging. It was to the effect that it is for the Post Office to estimate how many people are affected by this sort of industrial action. The Minister had received a number of letters drawing his attention to the fact that the dispute had affected certain groups. He could tell me only that he was aware that an early settlement of the dispute would be of benefit to all concerned. That was a fairly blinding glimpse of the obvious.

The letter that I received from the Under-Secretary of State for Industry was not much better. It contained the following soothing passage:
"Naturally we sympathise with people who are prevented from getting the use of a telephone and we understand the significance in circumstances such as you describe. However Lord McCarthy is conducting the special review and is fully aware of the urgency of the problem. We hope to have his report soon. You will no doubt agree, on reflection, that in the meantime it would he inappropriate to seek to exert influence on either party."
I do not agree. I believe that influence should be exerted on somebody even if it is only Lord McCarthy, who has had two months to deal with this "intractable" problem. If it is an intractable problem, at least he should now say so.

The problems are not confined to families that may have clubbed together to buy their parents a telephone because either father or mother is in failing health and may urgently need to call a doctor. Nor are they confined to families that are separated, where mother likes to telephone at the weekend to make sure all is well—though I know of one instance where the Post Office has lost at least £50 as a result of the mother's inability to use the telephone in that way.

The problems are not even confined to those experienced by the Continental Bank as reported in the press over the weekend, where the bank has been deemed by the local branch of the Post Office Engineering Union no longer to exist.

Significant examples have come to me concerning business men involved in the import and export trade. I instance the case of one of my constituents who is the managing director of one of Britain's major flour milling companies. My constituent needs to conduct a great deal of business outside normal office hours. He buys large quantities of grain for the United Kingdom market from the North American market. He cannot do that now as efficiently and smoothly as should be possible, and it is inevitable that the national interest is suffering as a result.

Companies that are selling to the Middle East and to other parts of Britain are finding that their efficiency is suffering. Those who used to conduct business from their own homes are being prevented from doing so because they cannot have telephones installed.

It is high time that somebody exerted some pressure. I hope that the Leader of the House will now be able to tell us, after diligent inquiry, when Lord McCarthy expects to be able to produce his report, and when the Government expect to be able to act on it.

It seems likely that this is the last time that we shall have this debate in this Parliament. Parliament will be none the worse for that. The prospect of the Summer Recess is welcome in some respects but in others I find it nauseating because we shall see a continually mounting campaign, as if it had not already begun, on the pal t of the Government's good news machine. It will use all the serried ranks of information officers on the public payroll. It will make any campaign conducted by the Conservative Party appear modest in the extreme. Let there be no mistake about that.

There will be a positive crescendo of artificial statements or purported good news shovelled out on to the unsuspecting public throughout the summer, culminating, perhaps, in a grand charity football match at Wembley Stadium between the Prime Minister and all his family on one side and a selected team of quango All-Stars on the other. No doubt the match will also have full television coverage on all three channels.

I may be a bit pessimistic on that score, but when we look back on previous Parliaments it is clear that we have had bad ones and mad ones. This Parliament is the worst that we have ever had, and good riddance to it.

5.26 p.m.

Mr. J. W. Rooker
(Birmingham, Perry Barr)