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Commons Chamber

Volume 957: debated on Thursday 9 November 1978

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House Of Commons

Thursday 9th November 1978

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

With the agreement of the House, and in accordance with recent practice, I propose to call the Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means to move all nine of his motions for unopposed returns together.

respecting application of Standing Order No. 30 (Closure of Debate) during Session 1977–78, (1) in the House and in Committee of the whole House, under the following heads:—
Date when Closure claimed, and by whomQuestion before House or Committee when claimedWhether in House or CommitteeWhether assent given to Motion or withheld by the ChairAssent withheld because, in the opinion of the Chair, a decision would shortly be arrived at without that MotionResult of Motion and, if a Division, Numbers for and against.

and (2) in the Standing Committees under the following heads:—
Date when Closure claimed, and by whomQuestion before Committee when cliamedWhether assent given to Motion or withheld by the ChairAssent withheld because, in the opinion of the Chair, a decision would shortly be arrived at without that MotionResult of Motion and, if a Division, Numbers for and against.
—[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Delegated Legislation

Return ordered,

of the number of Instruments considered in Session 1977–78 by the Joint Committee and the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments respectively pursuant to their orders of reference, showing in each case the numbers of Instruments subject to the different forms of Parliamentary procedure and of those within the committee's orders of reference for which no Parliamentary procedure is prescribed by statute, and the numbers drawn to the special attention of the House or of both Houses distinguishing the ground in the committees' orders of reference upon which such attention was invited; and of the numbers of Instruments considered by a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments and by the House respectively, in Session 1977–78 showing the number where the question on the proceedings relating thereto was put forthwith under

Adjournment Motions Under Standing Order No 9

Return ordered,

of motions for Adjournment under Standing Order No. 9, showing the date of such Motion, the name of the Member proposing the specific and important matter and the result of any Division taken thereon, during Session 1977–78. —[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Closure Of Debate (Standing Order No 30)

Return ordered,

Standing Order No. 73A(5).—[ The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Private Bills And Private Business

Return ordered,

of the number of Private Bills, Hybrid Bills and Bills for confirming Provisional Orders introduced into this House and brought from the House of Lords, and of Acts passed in Session 1977–78:
Of all Private Bills, Hybrid Bills, and Bills for confirming Provisional Orders which in Session 1977–78 were reported on by Committees on Opposed Bills or by Committees nominated partly by the House and partly by the Committee of Selection, together with the names of the selected Members who served on each Committee; the first and also the last day of the sitting of each Committee; the number of days on which each Committee sat; the number of days on which each selected Member served; the number of days occupied by each Bill in Committee; the Bills of which the Preambles were reported to have been proved; the Bills of which the Preambles were reported to have been not proved; and, in the case of Bills for confirming Provisional Orders whether the Provisional Orders ought or ought not to be confirmed:
Of all Private Bills and Bills for confirming Provisional Orders which, in Session 1977–78 were referred by the Committee of Selection to the Committee on Unopposed Bills, together with the names of the Members who served on the Committee; the number of days in which the Committee sat; and the number of days on which each Member attended:
And, of the number of Private Bills, Hybrid Bills, and Bills for confirming Provisional Orders withdrawn or not proceeded with by the parties, those Bills being specified which were referred to Committees and dropped during the sittings of the Committee.—[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Public Bills

Return ordered,

of the number of Public Bills, distinguishing Government from other Bills, introduced into this House, or brought from the House of Lords, during Session 1977–78, showing:
  • (1) the number which received the Royal Assent, and
  • (2) the number which did not receive the Royal Assent, indicating those which were introduced into but not passed by this House, those passed by this House but not by the House of Lords, those passed by the House of Lords but not by this House, those passed by both Houses but Amendments not agreed to; and distinguishing the stages at which such Bills were dropped, postponed or rejected in either House of Parliament, or the stages which such Bills had reached by the time of the Prorogation or Dissolution.—[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
  • Select Committees

    Return ordered,

    of Select Committees in Session 1977–78 with the Sub-Committees appointed by them; the names of the Members appointed to serve on each, and the Chairman of each; the number of days each met, and the number of days each Member attended; the number of meetings held by each Select Committee and Sub-Committee, and the number of meetings each Member attended; the total expenses of the attendances of witnesses at each Select Committee and Sub-Committee; and the total number of Members who served on Select Committees; together with so much of the same information as is relevant to the Chairmen's Panel and the Court of Referees.—[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

    Sittings Of The House And Business Of Supply

    Return ordered,

    of (1) the days on which the House sat in Session 1977–78 stating for each day the day of the month and day of the week, the hour of the meeting, and the hour of the adjournment; and the total number of hours occupied in the Sittings of the House, and the average time; and showing the number of hours on which the House sat each day, and the number of hours after the time appointed for the interruption of business; and (2) the days on which Business of Supply was considered.—[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

    Standing Committees

    Return ordered,

    for Session 1977–78, of (1) the total number and the names of all Members (including and distinguishing Chairmen) who have been appointed to serve on one or more of the Standing Committees showing, with regard to each of such Members, the number of sittings to which he was summoned and at which he was present; (2) the number of Bills, Estimates Matters and other items referred to Standing Committees pursuant to Standing Order No. 73A (Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. considered by all and by each of the Standing Committees, the number of sittings of each Committee and the titles of all Bills, Estimates, Matters and other items as above considered by a Committee, distinguishing where a Bill was a Government Bill or was brought from the House of Lords, and showing in the case of each Bill Estimate, Matter and other item, the particular Committee by whom it was considered, the number of sittings at which it was considered and the number of Members present at each of those sittings.—[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

    Special Procedure Orders

    Return ordered,

    of the number of Special Procedure Orders presented in Session 1977–78; the number withdrawn; the number against which Petitions or copies of Petitions were deposited; the number of Petitions of General Objection and for Amendment respectively considered by the Chairmen; the number of such Petitions certified by the Chairmen as proper to be received, and the number certified by them as being petitions of General Objection and for Amendment respectively; the number referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses; the number reported with Amendments by a Joint Committee, and the number in relation to which a Joint Committee reported that the Order be not approved; and the number of Bills introduced for the confirmation of Special Procedure Orders:
    Of Special Procedure Orders which, in Session 1977–78, were referred to a Joint Committee, together with the names of the Commons Members who served on each Committee; the number of days on which each Committee sat; and the number of days on which each such Member attended.—[The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]

    Oral Answers To Questions

    Northern Ireland



    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will bring forward proposals to bring life back into the city of Belfast.

    I am very much aware of the problems which Belfast faces as a result of severe unemployment and acute social deprivation, together with the many physical scars of the recent civil unrest. In addition, Belfast, like most other British cities, has inherited a legacy of roads, houses and infrastructure designed to meet needs quite different from those of today.

    The Government have already demonstrated their determination to improve the appearance of the city and to rejuvenate its social and commercial life. Tenders have been invited from consultants for a new shopping complex for the city centre, and a range of other current and potential initiatives is now being pursued. Special efforts are being made in the most deprived areas under the Belfast areas of need programme.

    I have also set up a working party to consider what is required to make the centre of Belfast a lively centre of social entertainment for citizens and visitors.

    I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply, but can he at this stage give an indication of what amount of money the Government have allocated for the revitalisation of the city of Belfast? Has he any idea of how the money will be used, and of any projects and priorities?

    At this stage we have allocated over £17 million to help with the social, economic and physical problems of the city. I am pleased to say that the new Lord Mayor of Belfast is very closely involved in this drive and is personally involved in the development.

    Since this Government and their predecessors, and the planners, have torn apart areas of Belfast more so, perhaps, than the provisional IRA, and dispersed closely-knit communities in the Shankill, Ballymacarrett and other areas, may we have an assurance that action will be taken by the Government to rebuild the houses, schools and factories in those areas for the same number of people who previously lived there? The people of Northern Ireland will not be satisfied with the original answer given by the right hon. Gentleman.

    The hon. Gentleman is harking back to what happened in the past. He must admit that the 10 years of troubles have certainly left their scars on the city of Belfast. There are now plans to build 5,000 new homes in the redevelopment areas that we have designated in Belfast.

    De Lorean Motor Company


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the financial arrangements entered into with the De Lorean company for the manufacture of cars in Northern Ireland.

    The financial arrangements entered into with the De Lorean Motor Company consist of the provision of equity and loan capital by the Northern Ireland Development Agency and of grants and loans by the Department of Commerce for Northern Ireland. It would not be appropriate to give the details now, as these remain confidential between the parties concerned. However, I understand that the company will have to file information in the United States which will become publicly known, and I intend to consult the company about the extent to which the Government may, by agreement, make known the basis of the assistance provided in Northern Ireland.

    But it is intolerable for the Minister of State to spend at least £52 million of taxpayers' money and refuse to tell the House the total extent of that expenditure, how much has been given by way of grant, and how much by loan. Will he say here and now specifically to the House, and therefore to the taxpayer, just what involvement he has entered into and how open-ended is the commitment to Mr. De Lorean in the event of his company requiring more money for this somewhat doubtful project?

    I am in continual consultation with quite a number of companies througout the world. Many of the negotiations are extremely delicate and are treated as confidential. If I were now openly to go against the confidentiality of one firm without that firm's permission I should put at risk quite a few other projects that I have in mind.

    The hon. Gentleman mentioned £52 million. He is responsible for that figure, because it is not a figure I have mentioned.

    Will the Minister inform the House approximately how much per job is to go into the company?

    That is impossible at present, and the hon. Gentleman knows it. I am delighted to have secured this project and I hope that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, especially in those areas where it is needed, will also welcome it.

    When I have the agreement of the company, I shall publish the figures, but I shall do so only with the agreement of the company, because I do not want to put at risk any of our other negotiations with many other companies to come and bring jobs to Northern Ireland.

    Does my right hon. Friend accept that there are many thousands of people, particularly in Belfast, who welcome the enthusiasm and endeavour that he has put into attracting the industry to Belfast? It has given hope to thousands of people who had no hope before. Does he deprecate the view of those who are trying to knock this project—those in the media and those on the Conservative Benches? It appears that there are many people who do not want to see this much-needed undertaking in Belfast.

    I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks and for giving me the opportunity of doing so. I have wondered whether as a result of all the bashing that we have taken in Northern Ireland we are frightened of success. This is one of the worrying aspects, in my view. But we have to make this a success, because the prizes for Northern Ireland are so great.

    If the Minister is not to give figures—I am sure that he is right in not wishing to publish them—will he at least tell the House what percentage of the total equity is provided by the parent company?

    Again, I cannot do that now, because the company spent considerable amounts of money before even coming to Northern Ireland. I ask the hon. Gentleman to await what I shall do with the consent of the company when the opportunity arises. If I do otherwise, I shall be putting at risk many other negotiations that we are pursuing at present.

    As the proposed vehicle uses a French engine, as the French engine makers put it into their own car, which is not selling, and as the planned output equals that of Porsche and is six times that of Lotus, can the Minister continue to say that the project has been thoroughly vetted and is soundly based? What provision has been made for the losses to be shared between the public purse and the private promoter?

    That is pessimism in the extreme. I do not expect losses. I expect success. For the people of Northern Ireland this is a great opportunity. I do not think that it would be wise to go any further into the matter. The opportunities are there in Northern Ireland for numbers of firms. All sorts of pessimistic papers can be waved at me, but I am not filled with pessimism about this project. I am going forward with success in mind.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible date.

    Political Talks


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any plans to hold discussions with the various political groupings in Northern Ireland.


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any plans to meet the leaders of the main political groupings in Northern Ireland in the immediate future.


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the political situation in Northern Ireland.

    The political situation has not changed much in recent months. Since I last reported to the House, I have had informal discussions with the leaders of three of the Northern Ireland parties, and I hope that I shall soon be able to meet their counterparts in the other main parties.

    Does my right hon. Friend accept that, although the security situation in Northern Ireland has eased considerably, there do not seem to be—at least to me—any parallel political developments alongside that relaxation? Did my right hon. Friend notice that at last weekend's national conference of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is the leader, a resolution was passed that I am sure caused a great deal of feeling among everybody who is interested in this situation? Can my right hon. Friend comment on that and any similar developments that he has in mind?

    My hon. Friend is right. We are making good progress on the security front. Certainly, we are introducing more social reform. We are active in promoting industrial investment in the Province. But we are not making the same progress in political change. The first three matters are well within my own orbit of operations.

    On the fourth, political change, I must get the parties in Northern Ireland to be prepared to talk together and eventually work together. I am now going through the second major round of political talks with the parties. I still have to meet the Democratic Unionist Party and the Official Unionist Party. I hope that thereafter we shall be able to make some political progress.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that a number of my hon. Friends feel that his statements on Tuesday were not conducive to the kind of political settlement that he now says he has in mind? May I also suggest that many of my hon. Friends feel that we ought to inject some democracy into Northern Ireland before we talk of giving additional seats to that part of the United Kingdom?

    I am sorry if my hon. Friend feels strongly about what I said on Tuesday. I referred to the fact that most of the people in question in Northern Ireland were being charged with offences—and I repeated that at least four times towards the end of my statement. Secondly, I am concerned about security in the Province and about law and order. I am sorry that the prison officers' dispute is tending to affect law and order and that solicitors and barristers feel slighted by what I said on Tuesday. If they do, I am sorry, but no slight was meant.

    As for political progress, my hon. Friend must recognise that within Northern Ireland there are still 26 district councils electing 526 district councillors. Therefore, because the Macrory gap between the district councils and Westminster is not filled, there has to be direct rule of the Province, administered by a Secretary of State and four Ministers.

    My right hon. Friend acknowledges that the recently introduced emergency order has caused political trouble in Northern Ireland. Is he contemplating any emendations to the order so as to ensure that in some way or other the magistrates actually see the prisoners?

    As I told my hon. Friend the other day, I am prepared to consider his suggestion of prisoners being visited. I have also quite clearly stated that the order is just as distasteful and repugnant to me as it is to the lawyers in Northern Ireland. As soon as the prison officers' dispute is at an end I shall take urgent steps to rescind that order.

    Does not the Secretary of State agree that those who say that an urgent political initiative is needed in Northern Ireland at present to avoid a political vacuum are quite right? One way is to close the Macrory gap, as he suggested. Will the Secretary of State invite Sir Patrick Macrory to update and review his recommendations of 1970, as he has agreed that he would not have made the same proposals if he had known the circumstances that followed in later years?

    The hon. Gentleman is right to say that Macrory's view would have been different if he had known that Stormont would be abolished. However, it is too soon to call for that kind of review. I would rather hold consultations with the rest of the political parties before I take the hon. Gentleman up on that.

    Is the Secretary of State aware that we agree with his recent statement in Socialist Commentary, where he said:

    "we want to see established in Northern Ireland a new elected regional authority that can take responsibility for the great majority of those matters which affect the daily lives of the people who live there"
    Is he further aware that he can count on our co-operation in the fulfilment of that objective?

    I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. Although qualifications and reservations were omitted from that short statement, generally we are in league. But the matter has to be dealt with on the basis of acceptability to this House, and the major parties in the House have said that if there is to be a regional authority, on which I concur, it has to be on the basis of partnership between the sections of the communities in Northern Ireland.

    Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there has been a radical alteration in the political situation? Yesterday we saw the introduction of the Bill providing for extra seats in this House. Last Saturday there was the resolution at the SDLP conference which was a direct result of what was known was to be presented yesterday. Does not my right hon. Friend think that we are drifting into a position of integration and that the Unionists have no need to concede anything because under direct rule they are getting everything and the minority nothing in a political sense?

    I should be very sorry if my hon. Friend, and indeed the House, felt that we were rapidly moving towards integration. That is not so. Regarding the extra seats, Scotland and Wales are likely to get their own devolved Assem- blies and will keep their parliamentary seats on the same percentage thereafter. This compounded the difference between Northern Ireland and England, Scotland and Wales. In fairness and equity, it must be admitted that there has been injustice and it ought to be remedied. Therefore, we intend to give Northern Ireland equal parliamentary representation with Scotland, England and Wales. I do not believe, as some people do, that the extra seats will all be Unionist seats. Of the 17, it is quite likely that four or five could be anti-Unionist seats.

    Will the Secretary of State take the opportunity in the near future to have further talks with the Republican Clubs, the workers' party representatives, who in recent weeks in a by-election in my constituency showed, by defeating the present chairman of the SDLP, that they have more support than the SDLP has in the Roman Catholic community?

    It is very difficult for me—and, I am sure, for my hon. Friends—to understand how political parties mushroom in the spring and die at the first frost. They are always growing and dying. The hon. Gentleman will know that at the last local government elections eight major parties stood and only four withstood the storm, four being wiped out. Since then, the Republican Clubs Party has begun to grow in strength, the Irish Independence Party has come on the scene, and, naturally, they are going for the same electorate as that led by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). Therefore, politically in the Catholic population there is certainly competition among the parties.

    When will my right hon. Friend accept that the Irish prisoners of whom he speaks so scathingly are really prisoners of war? When will he take a real political initiative to bring about a phased withdrawal of the troops in Northern Ireland, in accordance with the wish of the majority of British people?

    I am sorry to inform my hon. Friend that I do not agree that those in Her Majesty's Prison Maze should be regarded as political prisoners or as prisoners of war. As far as I am concerned, they are criminals. They have been guilty of criminal acts. They have killed, murdered, bombed and massacred and have been responsible for major terrorism in the Province in past years. Now, because we are treating them as criminals and they are being sentenced to gaol, much of the terrorist activity in Northern Ireland is on the wane.

    Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975 (Cases)


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many cases have been instituted under the provisions of the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975 on each side of the border, respectively, and with what result.

    Prosecution under the extra-territorial legislation is a matter for the legal authorities in whose jurisdiction the suspect is located. Three persons have been charged in Northern Ireland under the Criminal Jurisdiction Act, and I understand that one person has been convicted in the Republic of Ireland by virtue of certain provisions of the Irish Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act.

    Is the Secretary of State aware that his reply means that there has been virtually no progress under this Act? Does he not agree that those figures illustrate that it is not any inadequacy in the law, or in the administration of justice, but the lack of a will to co-operate which holds up progress towards a settlement in Northern Ireland?

    One of the problems is that the Act deals only with cases since June 1976. I hope that he will not damn the co-operation that is building up. Co-operation is forthcoming. For example, Captain Nairac's death is now subject to court proceedings in Northern Ireland and the Garda are helping in the North at present.

    The main difficulty is that there are two jurisdictions responsible for the operation of the Act, and, if a suspect is located in the South, it is difficult for the RUC to interrogate that suspect; they are allowed to attend but not to interrogate.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the ideal situation would be a proper extradition treaty, and will he continue to press for that?

    Of course, the hon. Gentleman knows quite well our position. We have signed the Council of Europe's convention on the suppression of terrorism. The Republic and Malta have not yet done so. However, I think that they are likely to sign an associated agreement—perhaps with reservations. But the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that extradition is really the best answer to the problem.

    Nursery Education


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for what percentage of children under the age of 5 years there is now nursery provision.

    About 43 per cent. of all children between the ages of 3 and 5 years receive some playgroup or educational provision, mostly 4-year-olds in primary schools.

    I am sure that the whole House welcomed the report about preschool education in Ulster. Will the Minister use his best endeavours to ensure that existing and future nursery education are integrated so that there is at least a basis for integration in the earliest stage of primary education?

    We have said that nursery school places will be doubled between now and 1983. As in other aspects of education in Northern Ireland, those facilities will be at the disposal of every section of the community. Indeed, we want to encourage integration, where possible.

    As the Under-Secretary has pointed out that much of this education is carried out in primary schools, will the Government hasten the reconsideration of present policy regarding the admission of 4-year-olds, especially in the case of small village schools, where it is important to have suitable sizes of class throughout the years of attendance?

    As the right hon. Gentleman knows, in Northern Ireland there is probably a somewhat higher percentage of 4-year-olds in primary schools than in other parts of the United Kingdom. The Question relates to nursery education, and there we are trying to step up the numbers of places available. But, of course, where we can get more 4-year-olds into primary schools, we shall do so.

    Is it not a fact that the Under-Secretary's reply is an admission of failure to provide nursery places for all the 26,000 infants, as promised by the Government four years ago, within this four-year period? Will he take steps to talk to the Churches about ending sectarian education?

    All that the Government have to answer for, according to the hon. Gentleman, is failure on almost every subject. But the pre-school group of children in Northern Ireland is as well served as pre-school groups in any other part of the United Kingdom. However, we have admitted that we can improve that aspect of education, and we are hoping to double the number of nursery school places between now and 1983.

    Building And Construction Industry


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will set up an inquiry into the building and construction industry in Northern Ireland with a view to improving its efficiency and providing greater stability and better opportunities for growth.

    The Northern Ireland construction industry advisory council meets regularly under the chairmanship of a Minister, mostly to advise the Government on these matters. There are 23 members, nominated by professional and trade organisations, plus, of course, the relevant Government Departments.

    Does the Minister agree that there is reason for concern that costs in Northern Ireland are much higher than in comparable regions in Great Britain—on average, 40 per cent. higher? Is that not a cause for an independent assessment? Do we need to examine the effect of a single authority in public sector housing on the industry? Do we need to look at the planning decisions and the availability of development land? The industry is not giving a good service to Northern Ireland.

    Those are matters which we discuss and for which we have working parties within the group. Every professional group and trade group in Northern Ireland is represented in this committee. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we do some hard work, and some of our recommendations are worked upon and acted upon. I shall, of course, make sure that anything the right hon. Gentleman says in this respect goes forward to the next meeting of the group.

    Does my right hon. Friend the Minister agree that there is an overwhelming case in Northern Ireland for public ownership of the building industry?

    What I am concerned about in Northern Ireland is the creation of employment. If I were told that public ownership would create another job in Northern Ireland, I should consider it.

    Will the Minister continue to look at the cement supply in Northern Ireland? Has he any further announcement to make about the supply of cement to the building industry?

    This is one of the recommendations that came from the group on which we were working. The groups in Northern Ireland asked us to put forward a programme which would make us self-sufficient in cement. That is what is happening now. I have a further meeting with the Blue Circle Group and I shall probably be able to say more after that.

    In view of the reply of my right hon. Friend to my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. (Thorne), will my right hon. Friend look at the Labour Party's construction programme "Building for Britain", where he will find some extremely good proposals which could well be applied to Northern Ireland for the benefit of both the operatives and the employers in Northern Ireland?

    I have looked at the document and will do so again on the recommendation of my hon. Friend. If there is any way in which Northern Ireland can lead the rest of the United Kingdom, we shall certainly do so.

    Gas Industry


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the future of the gas industry in Northern Ireland.

    I hope to make the Government's proposals known early in the new year, but I cannot commit myself to a date. All the relevant factors must be considered thoroughly first.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the continuing delay in giving access to natural gas to Northern Ireland is having a very detrimental effect on the industry and is putting in jeopardy the 2,000 jobs of the people employed in it? Can the Minister say what success he has had in discussing this problem with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy?

    I shall answer the second question first. I am keeping the Department of Energy well informed. It is well informed of the problems of the gas industry—perhaps I should say the energy industry—in Northern Ireland.

    It has been often said that I am deliberately delaying giving access to natural gas in Northern Ireland, but I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that the decision I am being accused of prejudging would have been easier some time ago.

    Will the Minister confirm that more than 1 million tons of solid fuel is used in Northern Ireland? It is one of our best markets in the British regions for selling coal. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, whatever happens with the gas negotiations, that market will be maintained in order to ensure that British pits are not closed if markets are lost?

    I can confirm that 1 million tons of coal is exported to Northern Ireland. I can also tell my hon. Friend that these exports were increased by 13·2 per cent. in the previous year.

    There is a problem in Northern Ireland, which has no indigenous resources of energy, and we shall have to look at that in the complete context of energy. The problem is causing us great concern.

    Does the Minister recall that the chairman of the Northern Ireland Labour Party has just said that, if Ministers continue to dither over the gas pipeline, they will have to accept full personal responsibility for the destruction of the gas industry in Northern Ireland?

    I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman knows how the gas industry is organised in Northern Ireland. I do not run the gas industry in Northern Ireland. That is done by seven or eight local councils and a few private enterprises. Furthermore, it covers only one-third of the population of Northern Ireland.

    Many people have been to see me about this matter. It is important, and it is not an easy question to answer when we have a surplus of energy in Northern Ireland. If one is providing another source of energy which will only add to that surplus, some of the industries there will also suffer.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that, whether in Northern Ireland or in this country, the national considerations concerned with fuel energy are likely to be that natural gas will be increasingly used as a feedstock. To some extent it is a waste to burn natural gas in people's fires. Is that not a consideration that the Minister should bear in mind? There will be changes of policy in this country as well as in Northern Ireland and we ought to use coal for heat-creating purposes rather than waste it up chimneys.

    This is another of the problems I am facing under this review. We do not have to provide energy just for next year. I shall have to think about the supply of natural gas in the year 2000 and what will be happening to the gas industry then.

    All the questions thrown at me today—and I hope that the people in Northern Ireland will read and study this—show that the problem is not an easy one to solve.

    Army Casualties


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the number of British troops killed and wounded in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years and so far this year.

    I will, with permission, publish full details in the Official Report. In summary, the number of deaths has dropped from 58 in 1973 to nine so far this year, and woundings from 278 to 25.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, although that information will be regarded as good news by both sides of the House, British troops were sent to Northern Ireland in large numbers and these men have died in order to buy the time in which politicians could create a political settlement? Does he recognise that, although there has been a welcome improvement in the security situation, we are as far as ever from procuring a political settlement in which Northern Ireland can live at peace without a veritable army of occupation? How many more soldiers' lives does he think have to be lost before the politicians in Northern Ireland play their part?

    Despite the fact that the so-called political solution has not been found, the security forces, with determination, courage and skill, have managed to get on top of terrorism in Northern Ireland. The figures that I have just given are an indication of how well they have been doing their job. In the past year or so, nearly 1,000 troops have been withdrawn. As the situation improves and in keeping with security in the Province, we shall have to consider step-by-step withdrawal. However, I will not condone the precipitate withdrawal which the hon. Gentleman has suggested. Indeed, that is just the language that the Provisional IRA love to hear. They are his friends in Northern Ireland. He is giving them joy and causing despair among the people. During the past weekend the Social Democratic and Labour Party, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), has suggested that withdrawal is desirable and necessary but that it must be in keeping with a political solution.

    Is the Secretary of State aware that he will have the full support of the Conservative Party for what he has just said? Is he aware that what the deputy leader of the Liberal Party has been urging involves much more than a withdrawal of soldiers from Northern Ireland? It would involve the removal of Northern Ireland as an entity from the United Kingdom. Is not it also somewhat naive of the deputy leader of the Liberal Party to link demands for political settlement to the killing of British soldiers? Is that not just what encourages the terrorists?

    I agree with the hon. Gentleman. The policy enunciated by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe)—he is, I think, on his own in his party in doing so—is a policy for despair. We are not prepared to accept that.

    Allied to the presence of the British Army in Northern Ireland and the fact that, so far as anyone can see at the moment, there is no possibility of a political solution being found, would my right hon. Friend take it from me, with all honesty, that the proposal to increase the number of seats in Northern Ireland will make it all the more difficult to find any sort of agreement? Will he accept that, contrary to what he said earlier, the seats will be created within the city of Belfast and will almost inevitably go to Unionists unless there is deliberate gerrymandering? In that situation when politicians are desperately trying to find a means of success, would my right hon. Friend consider implementing PR for the elections to this House?

    My hon. Friend will have a full opportunity to express his point of view on the Second Reading of the Bill and in Committee. He will also be aware that, during the course of the Speaker's Conference, Mr. Speaker ruled that the method of election would be ruled out of the Conference's deliberations. Therefore, PR was not discussed in the Speaker's Conference and is not before us in the Bill.

    If the people of Cornwall were under attack by a terrorist organisation of which the object was, by violence, to detach Cornwall from the rest of the United Kingdom, does the right hon. Gentleman think that the Government or the House would withdraw the assistance of the Army from those people?

    In those circumstances the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), as the Member for a constituency there, would be clamouring for military assistance. No doubt those in his area are pretty well ashamed of what he has been saying recently.

    Following are the details:




    1978 (to 31st October)925

    Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the operation of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1976.

    Yes, Sir. I shall not however be completely satisfied until the objectives of the Act are fully realised.

    I thank the Minister for that answer, but how can he give it confidently? In answer to 48 Questions tabled by me about the operation of the Act as it applied to municipalities, Government Departments and the Armed Services, including the Royal Ulster Constabulary, only the Ulster Defence Regiment was able to say that, of its total recruitment last year, 3 per cent. were Catholics. The Department made clear that all the others either kept no records or, for other reasons, did not know. Therefore, how can the Minister have any idea whether the Act is effective or ineffective?

    We certainly have an idea of its effectiveness. If my hon. Friend found out that I was keeping records of who was Catholic and who was Protestant, I think that he would be the first to complain. That is not the way I act in Northern Ireland and I certainly do not intend to do so.

    I am very pleased at the response to this legislation and by the signatures to the declaration of intent which over 80 per cent. have signed. Within a month of my decreasing the qualification as to the minimum number employed from 25 to 10, 35 per cent. of those eligible signed the declaration.

    Does not the Minister agree that this fair employment agency cannot act except when there is a breakdown on figures? Surely if people sign this agreement they are under an obligation to be able to supply figures.

    Those concerned are under certain obligations, but these will take time to percolate through the system. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that in certain factories and establishments over a period of years the only people employed come from a certain area. One can be 90 per cent. sure of people's denomination just by knowing where they live in Northern Ireland.

    European Monetary System


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he is having with leaders of industry and commerce in Northern Ireland about the possible implications of the United Kingdom joining the proposed European monetary system.

    I am in close touch with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other colleagues on this matter, and I will, as always, ensure that full account is taken of Northern Ireland's interests. However, I have not discussed the specific implications of joining the European monetary system with leaders of commerce and industry.

    As many experts think that it is probable that there will be a substantial dislocation of trade in Northern Ireland if the Republic joins the EMS and the United Kingdom does not, would it not be wiser for Ministers to give some thought to this problem now?

    The hon. Gentleman will understand that I have given a great deal of thought to this matter. But I think that it is too soon to involve the industrial and commercial leaders in Northern Ireland, because the terms of entry into the EMS are still very unclear.

    In addition to the advantage outlined by my hon. Friend, does not the Secretary of State agree, too, that there is every possibility that the Province would get even more Community resources and aid than at present?

    It is difficult to say because we do not know whether the Irish Republic will join or whether the United Kingdom will stay out. These are all hypothetical questions at this stage and much of the future in this respect is unclear.

    Maze Prison


    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent representation he has received about conditions in the H-blocks at the Maze prison; and if he will make a statement.

    Over recent months, I have received various representations from individuals and interested organisations about conditions in the cell blocks where the protest against the refusal of special category status for convicted prisoners is taking place.

    Some 330 prisoners are still fouling their cells as part of their protest. The cells are cleaned regularly but are promptly dirtied again. I must continue to make it clear that neither this bizarre protest in the prison, nor any other form of protest action, will deflect us from our determination to phase out special category status and to treat all convicted criminals alike.

    In view of the representations which Members of this House have received, especially the allegations of maltreatment, including beatings and deprivation of adequate food, and the fact that the European Court of Human Rights has agreed to consider certain complaints, will my right hon. Friend conduct an urgent inquiry into this matter and allow an all-party delegation of Members of Parliament to visit the prison to see conditions for themselves? Failure to do so will lead to further allegations of a massive cover-up.

    I am sorry that my hon. Friend thinks like that. He must understand from my original answer that the conditions referred to are self-imposed by the prisoners and could be put in the class of self-inflicted wounds. It is a propaganda exercise, not about the conditions in the cells but about the abandoning of our policy of ending special category status. I keep under review the question of visits to the prisons but at present, while this propaganda exercise is being perpetrated, I do not intend to give the prisoners concerned that satisfaction.

    Will the Minister of State discourage even piecemeal attempts to extend any degree of special status to convicted criminals?

    There is no piecemeal attempt. There is nothing piecemeal about this at all. I can only repeat, and shall go on repeating at every opportunity, that we are not going back to special category status. These prisoners are criminals, and will be treated as such.

    Tuc And Cbi


    I meet representatives of the TUC and CBI from time to time, at NEDC and on other occasions. Further meetings will be arranged as necessary.

    Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the TUC and the CBI the severe misgivings which they have both expressed about the European monetary system—misgivings which must surely have been intensified by today's increase in the minimum lending rate, which is surely a foretaste of the sort of policies that would be necessary if we were to join an EMS or, indeed, pursue policies parallel to it?

    We discussed with the TUC on 30th October the proposals for a European monetary system. It was a useful and valuable discussion. The TUC set out the kind of conditions that it thought would need to be observed if we were to join, and we shall continue to bear those and other representations in mind, including the evidence that the Expenditure Sub-Committee is now taking.

    Does the Prime Minister recall that the last time the minimum lending rate went up, in June, to 10 per cent., the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House that he expected it to come down within—at most—a few weeks? What went wrong this time?

    Yes, it certainly was our expectation at that time that MLR would come down within a matter of weeks, and I regret very much that world conditions have prevented it from doing so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It may have escaped the notice of Conservative hon. Members that there has been a certain turbulence in the position of the dollar, and a general rise in short-term interest rates. The increase in the MLR reflects that but goes a little further, because we are determined to keep inflation under control. I hope that we have the right hon. Lady's support in that.

    As the American rate went up 1 per cent. to 9½ per cent., the Prime Minister can hardly claim that the cause of the increase to 12½ per cent. is what has happened to the dollar. Why does he not accept cause and effect—namely, that the reason that MLR has gone up to 12½ per cent. is that he is borrowing far too much and trying to take far too much out of the economy for Government spending, and that those who will bear the increase to 12½ per cent. are the home owners and the small businesses—the very businesses that are trying to expand and make more jobs, which he also wants?

    I partly agree with the right hon. Lady—that it is our borrowing requirement that determines to some extent the level of interest rates. But the corollary of that, as the right hon. Lady has always said, is that we should cut down public expenditure—items such as education and the social services. As is well known, old age pensions and child benefit are going up next week. Perhaps the right hon. Lady would care to choose which of those she would like to reduce.

    Given that the pound is rather too strong to suit our international trade convenience and that it is difficult to understand why a rise of 2½ per cent. in the MLR will assist in stabilising the turbulence of which my right hon. Friend speaks, will he tell us whether this change has anything to do with conformity to a possible European monetary system, or whether it is in order to enforce, by indirect means, the 5 per cent. wage policy?

    The change does not enforce a 5 per cent. wage policy, because we are in a period of free collective bargaining. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If we were not, I promise that some of the settlements would be a lot different from what they look likely to be. We cannot enforce anything there.

    But I am sure that my hon. Friend will have studied what I have said consistently on many occasions. We have three legs to this tripod. We intend to use them all to keep inflation down. The country will have to make up its mind whether it prefers these short-term mea- sures, as I trust they will be short-term, in order to keep inflation down to prevent unemployment from soaring, or whether it is ready to let inflation rip. The Government are not ready to do that. I have said more than once, and say again, that we shall take all the necessary measures.

    The Prime Minister told the House last week about the three-legged stool. He told us that if the leg of pay policy were weakened the other two legs would have to be strengthened. But surely his principle of carpentry is wrong. If that one leg is weak it is that one that should be strengthened. Otherwise, the stool will collapse. Therefore, in talking to the CBI and the TUC will the Prime Minister discuss with them, particularly in the context of the Ford pay claim, the fact that the Ford company in America has a very sophisticated profit-sharing scheme, whereas in Britain there is no way in which the Ford employees can share in the increased profitability of the company in the past year?

    I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I dare say that in logic he is right but, alas, logic does not always cover all political decisions. Let me add that when it is strictly applied one always comes a cropper.

    I am still waiting to hear from Ford. I cannot really believe it when its spokesman says that it does not know what effect the impact of the proposed wage settlement would have on the price of its cars. It seems to me very unlikely that a company of that size should take decisions about pay without knowing in advance how they will feed through to its prices.

    European Community Heads Of Government


    asked the Prime Minister when he intends next to meet the Prime Ministers of other EEC Governments.

    I shall be meeting EEC Heads of Government at the European Council in Brussels on 4th and 5th December. I shall also be meeting Signor Andreotti in London on 22nd November and President Giscard d'Estaing in Paris on 24th November.

    Apart from telling the Prime Ministers of the other EEC countries by what recondite reasoning putting up interest rates brings inflation down, will my right hon. Friend tell them that the majority on the Labour Benches and the party we represent are opposed to joining a European monetary system that will mean an erosion of our economic sovereignty? Will he ensure that we have a free vote on this matter, and that all relevant documents that will assist us to make the decision are made available in the interests of open government?

    I take it that my hon. Friend will want a free vote even if the Government come down against joining.

    I think that the subject of erosion of sovereignty is getting a little moth-eaten. The power of Governments to control their rates of exchange has been severely eroded in recent years. I should not have thought we had much control over the rate of sterling in the autumn of 1976, and I have not noticed that the American authorities have had much control over the value of the dollar during recent weeks. I beg my hon. Friend and others who think like him to consider whether a zone of monetary stability, irrespective of the merits of any particular scheme, would not have advantages that are denied when the speculators have a free run.

    Regardless of what may be happening over the German pressures for the system of EMS, will the Prime Minister undertake to discuss with his colleagues the whole question of managed exchanges, as it is becoming clearer and clearer that since the breakdown of Bretton Woods the world may be facing monetary chaos by the middle of next year?

    I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in every respect. Indeed, it seems to me that when the EMS was conceived the dollar was not in the difficulties that it has recently passed through. I hope that this will give us an opportunity of beginning discussions for a new world monetary system, although I would not want to advance that if my colleagues in Europe thought that it was merely a means of ditching their EMS which we may or may not decide to join.

    Will my right hon. Friend also take the opportunity of discussing with his fellow Prime Ministers the fact that it is very inefficient and expensive for the Nine to insist that the European Parliament meets in rotation in different cities? Surely it is time that the Nine Governments reached agreement on one city whether Brussels, Strasbourg or Luxembourg.

    That matter has been discussed in the past, but the powers of the European Ministers are limited in deciding the issue.



    I meet representatives of the TUC from time to time, at NEDC and on other occasions. Further meetings will be arranged as necessary.

    I wonder whether the Prime Minister will tell the TUC that his pay policy will be kept in respect of those who proliferate on the housing market—estate agents, property solicitors and the rest of the speculators who have just made a killing out of the 25 per cent. increase in house prices in a year. Instead of supplying us with this rickety three-legged stool that he keeps talking about, why does not he add another stave and call it controlling prices?

    Talks are going on between the TUC and the Chancellor, and I should like to thank my colleagues who are conducting them and the representatives of the TUC for those thorough discussions. The question of prices will be covered in their debates. My hon. Friend will recognise that the elements about which we have been talking today all form constituents of prices. We shall certainly be ready to strengthen price controls if it seems likely that they would have the effect that my hon. Friend described. But if I may say so—indeed, my hon. Friend has said it himself on many occasions—we have had considerable success in keeping prices down as a result of our policies over the past 12 months.

    When the Prime Minister next meets members of the TUC, will he tell them that the massive increase in MLR announced this morning is the beginning of the end of the pre-election boom which was so conveniently arranged in anticipation of the October election which did not take place?

    No. I would not tell them that because I would not want to rub salt into the wounds of those who really thought that there was a pre-election boom. The simple fact is, and I hope that some day the hon. Gentleman will recognise it, that this country's position is such that the Government ought, whether there is an election ahead or not, to take the appropriate decision that will keep inflation down and prevent unemployment from soaring. Nothing will deter us from those objectives.

    Does my right hon. Friend remember the answer of the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in 1968 that it was impossible to control prices and that the Government must retain control over the part of the economy which they already controlled? Is that the policy of this Government?

    I do not recall the exact occasion on which that was said, but certainly it is not impossible to control prices. The work of the Price Commission has reduced price increases, that would otherwise have taken place, to the tune of well over £100 million a year. A control is taking place and my hon. Friend may take it for granted that we shall use every means to prevent unwarranted price increases. What we cannot prevent, if industry is to remain healthy, are price increases that arise out of cost increases. Therefore, costs must also be kept down.

    Will the Prime Minister tell us what the increase in American interest rates has been, what the increase in British interest rates has been and, in the light of what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has said, what has changed since the Chancellor made his statement some time ago?

    I cannot answer about the American rates off-hand, but if the hon. Gentleman puts a Question down to the Chancellor I am sure he will receive a detailed reply. But it is known, even to the hon. Gentleman, that American rates have gone up during the past few months, which is the general point that I was making. What has changed are the fears of the market about certain consequences that might arise during the winter. Those fears arise out of a number of different considerations. They do not know which way to go. If we enter the EMS, will it make sterling weaker? [Interruption.] We know where we are going. The point is that the market do not know where they are going. Let us see the result of the vote tonight, and then see what the country has to say if it goes the wrong way.

    There are, as I think the hon. Member knows in his more rational moments, a number of uncertainties. The Government do not intend to be caught by those uncertainties and we are therefore taking steps in anticipation of them, in order to prevent their developing into reality.

    Business Of The House

    The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
    (Mr. Michael Foot)

    The business for next week will be as follows:

    MONDAY 13TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Bill. Proceedings on the Pensioners Payments Bill.

    TUESDAY 14TH NOVEMBER—Motions on EEC documents S/763/78, S/911/78 and addendum 1 on enlargement, on R/1277/77 and R/1131/78 on display and pricing of foodstuffs and on R/236/78 on groundwater pollution.

    WEDNESDAY 15TH NOVEMBER—Supply [1st Allotted Day]: debate on a motion to take note of developments in the European Communities January to June 1978, Command No. 7361. Motion on EEC document R/1123/78 on mutual assistance.

    THURSDAY 16TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Estate Agents Bill. Motion on the Assistance for House Purchase and Improvement (Variation of Subsidy) Order. Motion on EEC document on R/511/78 on misleading and unfair advertising.

    FRIDAY 17TH NOVEMBER—Debate on the report of the Royal Commission on civil liability and compensation for personal injury, Command No. 7054.

    MONDAY 20TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Companies Bill.

    May I put one or two points to the Leader of the House? First, can he say when the Boundary Commission's report on European constituencies will be available? It was expected in October but has not been published.

    Secondly, can he say what is the present state of the strikes affecting this House? He will know that the public find it impossible to get copies of Bills which may affect the way in which they conduct their business. We shall have the Companies Bill shortly, and companies simply cannot obtain copies unless hon. Members send them or unless members of the public come here for them.

    Thirdly, when are we to have a debate on the European monetary system? It seems that decisions are close at hand and there has been precious little debate officially in the House and practically no official documentation from the Government on the very big issues at stake and whether we go in or stay out.

    I certainly appreciate the importance of all the points that the right hon. Lady has raised. On her second question concerning the hold-up of papers I fully acknowledge the great inconvenience that has been caused to the House and to members of the public resulting from the industrial dispute in Her Majesty's Stationery Office publishing and bookselling activities section which has been continued since the beginning of September. Every effort is being made to overcome it. I fully acknowledge what the right hon. Lady has said and I certainly hope that it will be brought to an end as soon as possible.

    The Boundary Commission's report and the draft order will be laid before the House as soon as possible. I hope that it may be next week.

    Regarding the third question, about a debate on the European monetary system, the Government have already given an undertaking to the House that we shall have such a full debate before any decisions are taken. I cannot give the House the exact date now, but I agree that it should be very soon.

    I have always believed in the cock-up rather than the conspiracy theory of history. Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the business for next week? It seems that the EMS debate is now likely to take place, unintentionally, after the decisions have been taken. When the General Sub-Committee, or some members of it, yesterday visited the Commission in Brussels, we were told that the crucial decisions were likely to be taken on Monday, 20th November at a meeting of the Council of Finance Ministers. If that is true, we ought to have the debate this coming week.

    Apart from the two theories to which my hon. Friend has referred, there is also the misapprehension theory. I think he is under the misapprehension that the decision will be made before the debate.

    That is not so. We shall have the debate before the decisions.

    On the assumption that the Treasury minute will be published within the next 14 days, can the Leader of the House tell us how soon thereafter he thinks we shall be able to have a day for a debate on the reports of the Public Accounts Committee?

    Secondly, does the right hon. Gentleman remember the several occasions on which a wish has been expressed by both sides of the House that more time should be allocated whenever possible for debates on reports of Select Committees? As the Government do not have as heavy a timetable and programme as is sometimes the case, will he see whether he can allocate more time to this purpose now—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and, in particular, to a debate upon the report which many of us, inside and outside the House, regard as being of fundamental importance—the report of the Select Committee on Procedure?

    I said last week in response to a question that I regarded the report of the Select Committee on Procedure as a major report to the House, and, of course, there must be a full debate upon it. I hope that we shall have a debate on the subject before Christmas.

    As to the first of the other matters mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, I hope that I may be able to make at any rate, a reference to it in the Business Statement next week, although I do not absolutely guarantee it. Of course, I have taken into account also the representations that he and others have made for fuller opportunities for debates on these subjects. I have also to take account of the representations that he and others have made for fuller and earlier debates on many questions affecting EEC business. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that in next week's business I am helping to fulfil that obligation.

    With regard to the Pensioners Payments Bill to be debated on Monday night, a Bill which I presume relates to the £10 Christmas increase for pensioners, will my right hon. Friend confirm that if the Government are defeated tonight by the Tories and the minority parties there will be no £10 bonus for pensioners this Christmas?

    If in my reply to my hon. Friend I were to give all the reasons why we should not make a mistake about the vote tonight, I should be at the Dispatch Box for many hours on end, but I am glad to confirm the general idea behind my hon. Friend's question.

    In view of the publication this week of the "Directory of Paid Public Appointments made by Ministers", which I think has aroused concern in all parts of the House, showing as it does that there are now over 5,600 salaried jobs in the gift of Ministers and over 360 quangos, could we not now have an early debate on the uses and abuses of ministerial patronage?

    I should be very happy to have such a debate, although I know that there are many other pressures for debate, and to discuss all the proposed quangos, if that is the proper name for them. But when I arrived at the Department of Employment in 1974 I discovered that some of those who feature in the document were already fixed by the previous Government, and there was no greater collator of so-called quangos than the previous Government.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern in the country about the inability of the House to find time to discuss the question of the export of live animals? As over half the Back-Benchers in the House signed an early-day motion calling for such a debate many months ago, will he now find time for it?

    [ That this House considers that the contents of the report by agriculture departments of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that was issued in March 1978 under the title "The Export Trade in Live Animals for Slaughter or Further Fattening" are of great interest and concern to honourable Members of this House, to animal welfare organisations, the farming industry and the general public; and asks Her Majesty's Government to set aside time for an early debate.]

    I will look afresh at all the representations that were made on this subject. I know very well that at the end of the last Session many representations were made about it, and I will see what opportunity there may be or whether private Members should seek to claim time for it.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Order in Council on remand procedure in Northern Ireland is brought forward as soon as possible for the approval of the House, since it is in the public interest that there should be an early debate upon it?

    I accept what the right hon. Gentleman said about the desirability of having a debate in the House on the subject. That was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State when he made the statement to the House. We will consider when such an affirmative order can be brought forward.

    Will my right hon. Friend provide time soon for a debate on the disgraceful dismissal by the South African Government of Mr. Justice Mostert? Meanwhile, will he express unequivocal condemnation of that dismissal?

    I do not believe that That is necessarily a matter which calls for a debate in the House, although hon. Members such as my hon. and learned Friend are fully capable of expressing our views about it, and I certainly share the view which he has expressed.

    With regard to Friday's debate on personal injury and civil compensation, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that the Government will bring forward in that debate their proposals for compensating slate quarrymen suffering from silicosis?

    I cannot guarantee that the Government will bring forward the detailed proposals on that subject in the debate, but, of course, the Government will listen most carefully to the representations that are made on that subject and others in the debate. It would be in order for discussion then. The Government have already given a commitment in the Queen's Speech on this subject, and we have every intention of fulfilling it.

    The Lord President will have heard the Prime Minister say earlier how we are controlling prices. I am particularly pleased to hear of the Government's effort to control the price of bread. However, since rail fares are to rise by 10 per cent. in January, will he ask the responsible Minister to control that increase, at least within 5 per cent., which seems to be the magic figure for wages and salaries?

    No doubt all these questions of how the Government seek to control prices and how nationalised industries have contributed to that—and they have made a considerable contribution to the solution of the problem—are open for debate in the House this afternoon.

    Since it was reported the other day in The Guardian that the Prime Minister is taking a personal interest in the affair of the Select Committee's report on the National Land Fund, may we have an early Government decision and debate on this?

    I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but obviously I am not making any promise about next week.

    Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a full debate during the present Session of Parliament on unemployment? This is one of the country's major problems and there is no evidence that the steps so far taken by the Government are dramatically reducing unemployment.

    There are persistently continuing debates in the House at different times, as I am sure my hon. Friend will acknowledge, on different aspects of the unemployment problem. Many of these matters were open for debate during the debates we had on the Queen's Speech, but I will certainly look afresh at the suggestion which my hon. Friend is making that we should have debates on unemployment affecting particular areas. There are some areas, such as Merseyside, which are more deeply and harshly afflicted than almost any other, so I will take into account what my hon. Friend has said.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is now some two years since an inquiry made its pronouncements about the Stroud inner ring road and that I have been promised a decision every month since May? In view of the great inconvenience and expense, will he ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to make an announcement during the coming week?

    The point about the Stroud motorway had escaped my attention for a moment—I cannot understand how this could have occurred—but I shall discuss it with my right hon. Friend.

    In view of the visibly ever-rising tide of EEC legislation, including demands for even more debates, is it not even more important that the Government should discharge their undertaking of 28th November last year to have a debate on the procedure for EEC legislation, particularly in view of the report of the Scrutiny Committee, House of Commons Paper 642, which remarks on the Lord President's withdrawal of the undertaking, and the report of the Select Committee on Procedure on EEC legislation? May we have an early opportunity to deal with this matter?

    I freely acknowledge that the House must return afresh to this matter. That was understood when we had references to the subject in July, and the necessity to deal with it has been underlined by the two reports to which my hon. Friend refers. Last week I indicated to the House that I thought that perhaps we should deal with that part of the procedure report in a different way from the rest of the report. I am fully conscious of my hon. Friend's point.

    I have a very long list of Members who hope to catch my eye today. There is a statement to follow after business questions, so I propose to take four more Questions from either side and then move on to the statement.

    The Leader of the House will recall that during the recess another Select Committee reported on the consequences of oil spillage. I drew this to the right hon. Gentleman's attention and received a courteous reply. He said that he realised the importance of a debate on that report but suggested that we should wait until the Government's comments were available. Will those comments be available before Christmas, and when will a debate follow?

    I have nothing further to say to the hon. Gentleman now, but I may be able to make a further statement on the matter next week.

    When the Leader of the House has information about the Stationery Office strike, especially about the Boundary Commission report, will he give an early warning to those of us on both sides of the House who are anti-Marketeers so that we can ensure that that very important strike continues? We are thinking of setting up a fighting fund to keep these reports from being produced in order that these gallant men can prevent Britain from being dragged even further into the European mire.

    With the best of good will towards my hon. Friend, I must say that I feel we have enough industrial strikes affecting the supply of documents to the House without any assistance from him.

    Will the Leader of the House ensure that debates on the report of the Select Committee on Procedure take place before the Government publish their findings on that report? This is essentially a matter for the House of Commons, and all hon. Members want to express their views. As some of the recommendations are fundamental and controversial, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it may be necessary for such a debate to stretch over more than one day?

    I am not sure about the length of time that should be allocated, but I fully concur with what the hon. Gentleman said during the first part of his remarks—indeed, I think I said as much last week.

    In view of the Bingham report, it is not even more urgent that the House should pay serious attention to its own procedures, with capacity to scrutinise the activitives or non-activities of the Executive, and will my right hon. Friend make this the top priority in formulating the business of the House before Christmas?

    I repeat to my hon. Friend what I have already said to the House as a whole. I do not deny that this is a report of major importance, and obviously the House will want a full opportunity to discuss it. As my hon. Friend has just indicated, the best way may be for the House to discuss it before the Government reach any conclusions. I believe that that is the right way to proceed.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the House has a chance to debate the findings of the Select Committee's report on the National Land Fund before any decision is taken to reject it?

    We have to watch these matters closely. If it were the practice that all reports had to be discussed before Governments gave their views, I believe that we would make the procedures of the House extraordinarily cumbersome in many respects. I do not believe that it would be for the convenience of the House. There are special occasions when reports such as the procedure report should be subject to a debate before the Government have presented their view, but I do not believe that it is normally the best practice to have debates on reports on which the Government have not expressed any opinion.

    Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on early-day motion no. 33 relating to the coal industry in Wales—or, if not specifically on the coal industry, may we have a general energy debate?

    [ That this House, mindful of the essential part which the coal industry plays in the energy requirements of the United Kingdom, deplores the proposal to close further pits in South Wales other than those exhausted; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government with all its powers to sustain and protect the industry as a vital part of its energy policy.]

    I accept the importance of the subject raised by my hon. Friend, and I am certainly aware of the considerable concern in South Wales on the subject, although I see that my hon. Friend is raising this subject himself in an Adjournment debate next week.

    Since there is a growth in the number of criminals who are prepared to use guns to shoot down people in order to escape arrest—I suggest that there has been a considerable increase in the number of murders recently—will the Lord President give time for an early debate on the whole question of capital punishment?

    I do not believe that that is the best way for the House to proceed. The House of Commons made its view clear during the previous debate and decision on the matter. I do not believe that there is a requirement for another such debate.

    Will my right hon. Friend bring forward a motion next week, which is a rather busy week, to give the House an opportunity to remove from all Select Committees those hon. Members who are Ministers, because they are clearly in no position to do the job that this House expects them to do?

    I do not agree with what my hon. Friend said about the composition of Select Committees. Indeed, in the case which occurred this week the member of that Select Committee is just as able to perform his functions on it during the coming week as he has in the past week. I do not, therefore, believe that any such question arises.


    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the House, in answer to my earlier question, referred to misapprehensions. I have been out of the Chamber to check with the local office of the European Commission and I am again informed by that office that the Council of European Finance Ministers will meet on 20th November—not after, but before the debate. As I understand it, that is the occasion when the crucial decisions will be taken.

    Further to that point of order. My hon. Friend most uncharacteristically has again misapprehended the situation. There is no proposal that there should be a decision at that meeting. Therefore, the undertaking that I gave to the House is absolutely clear. The debate will take place in this House before there is any decision.

    Question Of Privilege

    I have to inform the House that I have received a letter from the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) on a question concerning the privileges of this House. In accordance with the procedure for dealing with such matters which was brought into effect on 6th February this year, the hon. Member has made a submission to me in writing which I have duly considered.

    The hon. Gentleman informs me that use has been made in the case of Regina v. Aubrey, Berry and Campbell, now proceeding at the Central Criminal Court, of passages in the Official Report of our debates and of other proceedings of the House without the prior leave of the House being obtained. In the light of this information, I give precedence over the Orders of the Day tomorrow to a motion relating to the hon. Gentleman's complaint. No debate can arise now.

    Small Firms (Employment Subsidy)

    As the House is aware, the Government have introduced during the last two or three years a range of measures for promoting employment and training which have had as their object a reduction in the high level of unemployment. In the current financial year, the expenditure on these measures is likely to be between £450 million and £500 million, and they are making a substantial contribution to bringing down the level of unemployment. Most of these measures run to 31st March 1979, and we are at present considering what needs to be done in the year which will commence on 1st April 1979. Meanwhile, we have decided to extend further from 1st January 1979 the scope of the small firms employment subsidy.

    Under the scheme a subsidy of £20 a week for six months is paid for each additional full-time worker taken on in a manufacturing firm with fewer than 200 employees.

    There has been an encouraging response to the present scheme, which was extended from the special development areas to the assisted areas generally and inner city partnership areas on 1st July 1978. Since 1st July, about 5,000 firms have applied to join, and we would have expected some 10,000 new jobs to be created in a full year.

    From 1st January 1979, the present scheme will be extended to small manufacturing firms throughout Great Britain. Furthermore, the subsidy will be available to small non-manufacturing firms in the special development areas, development areas and inner city partnership areas. The new scheme will be open for applications to 31st March 1980. The changes have been notified to the EEC Commission. I estimate that these changes will more than treble the number of new jobs created by the scheme.

    If the right hon. Gentleman can estimate the number of jobs that will be created by the scheme, can he give an estimate of the number of jobs that will be lost as a result of the increase in the minimum lending rate to 12½ per cent.? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are becoming a subsidised society, constantly propping up small firms by subsidies? If he made sensible changes to the Employment Protection Act, he could get the employment without any additional subsidies.

    Is the Secretary of State aware that in so far as we believe that these schemes have any part to play in solving our unemployment problem—and we believe it is a small part—we are glad that the scheme has been extended to the country as a whole, which seems sensible? Generally speaking, we believe that the Government show an incompetence in the running of the economy which is matched only by the kind of scheme produced today.

    That is not the warmest welcome I have heard the hon. Gentleman give to a measure designed to assist in solving the unemployment problem.

    We can measure our ability to estimate the effect of this extension, compared with the effect of MLR, because we ran a pilot scheme in special development areas prior to July, which I understood had the approval of the House. I acknowledge that it will play only a small part, but it is only one of a great many measures which, added together, are having a considerable impact on levels of employment. As to our being a country which is dependent upon the help of subsidies, I would have thought that the benefit that we are reaping—with more people being employed as a result of those subsidies—would be welcomed in all parts of the House.

    Does my right hon. Friend accept that despite the rather grumpy remarks from the Opposition Front Bench there will be a warm welcome in special development areas for the extension to the non-manufacturing sector, which has been the Cinderella in the past? I hope that it will set a trend of more assistance in the form of grants for the service industries, which are important in areas such as Scotland.

    I welcome my hon. Friend's comments. We have received an increasing number of representations of the view that to pay a subsidy to small manufacturing firms but to deny it to firms servicing those manufacturing firms is not the best way to aid the development of small firms in the special development areas.

    I give a warm welcome to the Minister's statement. Does he accept that perhaps all the jobs being subsidised under the scheme are jobs which would have occurred anyway, without the subsidy—not all of them but some of them—and therefore that it is not strictly true to say that every job being subsidised is a job created as a consequence of the scheme?

    Does the Minister also accept that while some of us do not accept that the Employment Protection Act has had the major effect on employment that the official Opposition Front Bench make out, we agree that there is a vast amount of form filling—particularly for the statistics office at Cardiff—which small companies are called upon to complete? Many of us who have to complete those forms take the view that they are an utter waste of time.

    The problem of form filling by small firms runs much wider than the Employment Protection Act, as the hon. Gentleman appreciates. It is a matter to which the Government are giving attention.

    I do not claim that every subsidy paid under the small firms employment subsidy scheme represents an additional job but when, as an experiment, we ran a small firms employment subsidy in special development areas for manufacturing firms employing fewer than 50 people, and compared what was happening in those areas with others as comparable as it was possible to find, we found that 40 per cent. more jobs came about in the small manufacturing firms in the areas in receipt of the subsidy.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that he should not be discouraged by the nit-picking attitude of the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), because if this country had adopted his policies another 1 million could have been added to the unemployed? The important thing for my right hon. Friend to understand is that what will help to make his proposals a real success will be his ensuring that local organisations such as employers' organisations and trades councils are brought into a full understanding of, and discussion on, how the scheme should operate. It is at this level that its success can be assured.

    I agree with my hon. Friend that an understanding of this and many other employment schemes by local organisations is essential to the success of the schemes. Having introduced so many schemes during the past few years, I find that it is often six or 12 months before their availability is realised by the people whom they are intended to assist.

    Does the Secretary of State accept that by extending this scheme throughout Great Britain, he is eroding regional policy by failing to give the development areas special incentives? Will he qualify further the example of non-manufacturing firms? Will that description apply to agricultural partnerships, to professional offices and to retailing?

    To take the last point first, certainly "non-manufacturing" for this purpose covers agriculture as it covers the construction industry. These are both areas in which there are many small firms. That is why I expect that in areas where this wider definition will be used it will have a much wider impact. But, by the same test, I do not consider the hon. Member to be justified in saying that it will put these areas at a disadvantage, because it is in special development areas, development areas, and inner city partnership areas that the scheme will apply to non-manufacturing firms, not to the remainder of the country.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that any help to non-manufacturing firms is particularly welcome? Has he noticed that small firms, officially, have strongly opposed the devolution proposals? Can he say what good small firms can expect from an Assembly in Edinburgh?

    I bow to the views of my hon. Friend, who has posed the question of the particular merits or demerits of devolution as applied to small firms. All I can say is that when considering Wales and Scotland for the application of the small firm employment subsidy, I took the view that development and special development areas in both countries should have maximum benefit from the scheme.

    Is the Secretary of State aware that a survey published recently by his Department showed that 24 per cent. of small firms would have taken on more employees had it not been for the employment protection legislation? Is he aware that this indicates that about 300,000 jobs have been lost as a result, and can he indicate whether the subsidy announced today will create more or fewer jobs than that number?

    I am not aware that the survey undertaken by my Department indicates anything like what the hon. Gentleman suggests. I have read that report, as I have read the wider survey. Certainly the scheme that I have announced today is of the order that I have indicated. If the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members go around the country suggesting to small employers that they should not take on additional labour because we are operating a measure that protects employees in all firms equally, whether they be the employees of large or small firms, they will do considerable damage to employment prospects.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that his proposal will be much welcomed on Merseyside, particularly in the construction industry? It is bound to help construction workers considerably. Will he emphasise the point that it maintains regional policy, contrary to what was said by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson)?

    Certainly it gives preference to the development areas and special development areas of the regions. That is not to say, if we find that this extension to services is a particularly good way of increasing employment, that we shall not have to consider a wider application of our proposal. I agree with my hon. Friend that its application to the construction industry will be most helpful, and I hope that, particularly on Merseyside, not only will it result in additional people being employed in an industry in which there is terribly high unemployment, but that some firms will expand sooner than they would have done otherwise.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for a Back Bencher to pass to a Minister a copy of the circular—produced by his own Department—the existence of which he has just denied?

    I welcome measures which will create new jobs, and I should like to ask the Minister whether he will examine previous measures which were introduced relating to the construction and engineering industries training boards, the only result of which was that those boards locked up tens of millions of pounds in cash which is not being used to create jobs. Indeed, in the case of one training board, the return on its investments is now more than £1 million a year. Surely, that is not the way the Secretary of State would want to create jobs.

    Certainly I do not imagine that industrial training boards locking up money is a way of creating jobs. In my view, the overall effect of our support for industrial training boards, particularly in the engineering industry, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, has been to sustain and increase the intake of apprentices since 1974—something which, as far as I know, has never previously happened in a recession.

    Order. I propose to call those Members who have been rising to their feet, but I hope that they will co-operate by asking brief questions.

    May I come back to the question of the circular which was put out by the Secretary of State's Department? Is it not quite wrong for a Minister to deny a piece of paper which has come from his Department, and which clearly states that according to the Gallup poll that his Department carried out 24 per cent. of employers would have taken on more labour had it not been for the Employment Protection Act? It deliberately hits at the rights of Back Benchers for a Minister deliberately to deny the existence of a piece of paper that has originated from his Department.

    I do not deny the existence of the piece of paper. I do not deny what employers say. They say many things, particularly when they are urged to participate in a campaign against the Employment Protection Act. But if the official Opposition believe that it is better to do away with the Employment Protection Act than to assist small firms in employing people, I profoundly disagree.

    Will my right hon. Friend ensure that this new scheme, like the last, enables the Conservative Central Office to take part in it? Is he aware that the Conservative Central Office had £11,000 from the job creation scheme in 1978 to employ six people to go round Kensington and Chelsea counting the shop windows? May we have a guarantee that, despite its objection in principle, Conservative Central Office will take the money if it has half a chance?

    It is certainly true that the Conservative Central Office put up a proposal for a job creation programme which was approved by the MSC, but I do not believe that at the moment it qualifies as a small firm. I hope that that situation will soon arise.

    What estimate has the Secretary of State made of the number of jobs that might be forthcoming in the small business sector if small businesses in this country operated against a background rather closer, in terms of taxation and industrial relations, to that enjoyed in Germany and France?

    In Germany there is a higher proportion of total employment in small firms than in this country. I do not know that that is entirely due to the practice that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but I think that it is a reason why he should join with me in seeking to ensure that this scheme succeeds in building up the size of our small firms.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that neither Germany nor France has constructive measures such as that which he has just announced? Will he make it clear to the Commissioners when he is talking to them that we shall not accept Commissioner Vouel taking a negative view of the only methods that have been suggested anywhere in the Community which will help to create new jobs?

    I shall certainly make clear to Commissioner Vouel the extent to which such measures have been successful in creating jobs. Whether I shall succeed in convincing him that all the measures we have run should be allowed to continue remains to be seen.

    If the Secretary of State does not agree with the survey published by his Department, will he publish separately his own opinion of the effect on small firms' employment of the Employment Protection Act?

    I certainly agree that my Department should publish the results of this survey. I was able to provide the House only with a survey which covered larger firms. When we first discussed the effect of the Employment Protection Act I could not provide a survey. I have taken steps to ensure that such a survey can be provided for the House. It is published and is available. I issued it in the hope that among those who would read it would be hon. Members with an interest in the issue, and I am glad to see that some hon. Gentlemen have already done so.

    I do not suggest that one should take every answer provided by an employer to questions put in that survey as representing a basis on which to calculate employment effects.

    My right hon. Friend's announcement today will be welcomed by the small business men operating the inner city partnership areas in Birmingham and other cities. Will he undertake to do what he can to encourage those small groups of ethnic minority business men who are now trying to put small businesses together, particularly in the big cities, to take note of the measures announced today, and to do whatever he can to encourage them to augment their small businesses in this way?

    I certainly appreciate that among those who are keenest to found small businesses in this country are some members of the ethnic minorities. I therefore hope that they, as everyone else who can benefit from this scheme, can be made aware of it as quickly as possible.

    Does the Minister agree that if a company believes that it can make more profit and increase production by taking someone on, it does not need any spur so to do? Does he further agree that the small subsidy to encourage the company to do so is infinitesimal and will have no real effect upon the employment situation? Does it not, however, show, as the Minister said, the parlous condition to which our industry has descended under this Government?

    I believe that in calculating whether it is right in certain circumstances to expand a small firm the management must take into account, among a range of other factors, the initial labour costs, including those incurred over the six-months period. This scheme gives the employer a considerable advantage in dealing with high initial labour costs when he seeks to increase the size of his small firm.

    May I, too, express appreciation that the scheme is to be extended? What proportion of the subsidy has been directed towards the North-West region, and how many jobs have been created as a consequence?

    Since 1st July, when the scheme was expanded to its present coverage, more than one-quarter of all the applications in Great Britain have come from firms in the North-West—a total of 1,442 of the 5,038 applications. About 6,000 jobs in the North-West are covered by the small firms employment subsidy.

    Is it true that the increase in jobs created by this scheme will be dramatically and tragically offset by the redundancies that small businesses will experience in the next few days as a result of the dramatic increase in MLR? Is it not ironic that on the day that the right hon. Gentleman has announced measures to try to help small businesses and create jobs there has also been this panic measure by the Bank of England?

    Will my right hon. Friend accept that the welcome from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Sever) is echoed by representatives of the inner city areas of London, where we have been pressing for some time that the opportunities for the expansion of small firms and worker co-operatives lie in the distributive and service sector? Will my right hon. Friend consider increasing the flexibility of the scheme, particularly in terms of the amount and period of the subsidy, for the special problems that these non-manufacturing firms meet in the inner city?

    I gave careful consideration to the possibility of extending the period, rather than the scope, of the scheme, but I believe that it is better to apply the scheme to a wider range of firms over a six-month period in which they will face the heaviest initial costs of establishing additional jobs rather than to a smaller number of firms—which I am sure would not be the wish of my hon. Friend—and paying them for a longer period.

    Is it not absolute bunk to talk of employment problems in areas such as Wandsworth when it is well known that there is a grave shortage of workers for the public transport services in London? Given that the country's main problems are overmanning and inefficient use of labour, does it really make sense to spend money on subsidising overmanning rather than on spending the money, if it is available, on genuine public sector work in the Health Service, defence, or on tax reductions to encourage investment?

    There are not serious problems of overmanning in any of the firms that are likely to apply for the subsidy. If we have an overmanning problem. I cannot see that it is particularly located in small firms. As to the application of the scheme in certain inner city partnership areas, I have found that in very large cities one can have pockets of unemployment which represent as serious a social problem as exists on the wider scale in some of the development areas.

    Will my right hon. Friend draw to the attention of his colleagues in the Cabinet the fact that they could reduce unemployment by at least 4,000 tomorrow if they had a fairer system of sharing out quango jobs—one man or woman, one quango?

    What is the Secretary of State's estimate of the cost of the extension of this scheme? Is it not a fact that if one is anxious to try to increase the number of people in employment, far greater job security could be provided by applying that money to reducing national insurance contributions, as the companies that would take up the employment would be more able to justify their extra employment on commercial grounds?