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Commons Chamber

Volume 973: debated on Thursday 8 November 1979

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House Of Commons

Thursday 8 November 1979

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

DUMBARTON DISTRICT COUNCIL ORDER CONFIRMATION BILL

GREATER GLASGOW PASSENGER TRANSPORT ORDER CONFIRMATION BILL

KILMARNOCK AND LOUDOUN DISTRICT COUNCIL ORDER CONFIRMATION BILL

SCOTS EPISCOPAL FUND ORDER CONFIRMATION BILL

STIRLING DISTRICT COUNCIL ORDER CONFIRMATION BILL

Orders for consideration read.

To be considered upon Thursday 15 November.

Oral Answers To Questions

National Finance

Cash Limits

1.

TABLE 1
CENTRAL GOVERNMENT ASSIMILATED BLOCKS (4)

Class and Vote number (1)

Accounting Department

Description of expenditure

Percentage of wages and salaries in cash limit (3)

I1Ministry of DefencePay etc. of armed forces and civilians, stores, supplies and miscellaneous services75
I2Ministry of DefenceDefence procurement5
I4Department of the Environment (Property Services Agency)Defence accommodation services10
I5Ministry of DefenceDefence dockyard services55
II1*Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeOverseas representation: diplomatic and consular services65
II2Department of the Environment (Property Services Agency)Overseas representation: accommotion services0
II3Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeBritish Broadcasting Corporation external services55
II4Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeBritish Council35
II5Foreign and Commonwealth OfficeForeign and Commonwealth services0

for the total wage and salary component included under each public expenditure cash limit.

I will arrange for a table to be published in the Official Report.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government will at no stage put forward proposals to increase the cash limits to accommodate wage settlements in excess of the payroll assumptions set out in those limits?

If the right hon. gentleman is setting a cash limit including pay, will he count that as a pay norm?

No. The statement last week on the public spending White Paper indicated that the figure would refer to cost increases rather than to specific wage increases.

Is it not the case that in large areas of the public sector a cash limit on wages is, in effect, an incomes policy? If the Government are running a public sector incomes policy under the guise of cash limits, they should say so clearly.

Nothing about the Government's cash limits policy bears any comparison with the statutory control of wages undertaken by the previous Government.

Following is the table:

Class and Vote number (1)

Accounting Department

Description of expenditure

Percentage of wages and salaries in cash limit (3)

II8Cabinet OfficeSecret serviceN/A
II10Ministry of Overseas DevelopmentOverseas aid0
II11*Ministry of Overseas DevelopmentOverseas aid administration65
III5Ministry of Agriculture. Fisheries and FoodOther agricultural and food services0
III7*Intervention Board for Agricultural ProduceCentral administration30
III8Ministry of Agriculture. Fisheries and FoodSupport for the fishing industry0
III9Forestry CommissionForestry5
III10*Ministry of Agriculture. Fisheries and FoodDepartmental administration85
IV2Department of IndustryMiscellaneous support services0
IV4Department of TradePay, general administrative expenses, export promotion and trade, co-operation, tourism, regulation of trading practices and other support services50
IV7Department of IndustryScientific and technological assistance15
IV8Department of EnergyIndustrial support0
IV9Department of EnergyScientific and technological assisance, nuclear energy65
IV11*Export Credits Guarantee DepartmentCentral services90
IV13Department of Trade: Consumer AffairsPay, general administrative expenses and consumer protection35
IV14*Friendly Societies RegistryPay and general administrative expenses(2)
IV15*Office of Fair TradingPay and general administrative expenses80
IV16Department of EmploymentLabour market services0
IV18*Department of EmploymentAdvisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service50
IV19Department of EmploymentManpower Services Commission25
IV22*Department of EmploymentDepartmental administration(2)
IV23*Department of IndustryCentral and miscellaneous services(2)
IV24*Department of EnergyAdministration and miscellaneous services(2)
IV25Department of EmploymentHealth and Safety Commission50
VI3Department of TransportRoads etc., England0
VI4Department of TransportTransport services0
VI6Department of TradeShipping and civil aviation services15
VII7*Department of TransportCentral and miscellaneous services(2)
VIII4Department of the EnvironmentCentral environmental services etc.10
VIII6Department of the EnvironmentRoyal palaces, royal parks, historic buildings and ancient monuments20
VIII7*Department of the EnvironmentCentral administration and environmental research70
IX1*Lord Chancellor's DepartmentAdministration of justice: England and Wales(2)
IX13*Treasury SolicitorPay and general administrative expenses90
X4Department of Education and ScienceUniversities etc.60
X6Department of Education and ScienceEducational Services0
X9Department of Education and ScienceLibraries, England40
X11*Department of Education and ScienceCentral administration services90
X12Department of Education and ScienceAgricultural Research Council45
X13Department of Education and ScienceMedical Research Council50
X14Department of Education and ScienceNatural Environment Research Council55
X15Department of Education and ScienceScience Research Council10

Class and Vote number (1)

Accounting Department

Description of expenditure

Percentage of wages and salaries in cash limit (3)

X16Department of Education and ScienceSocial Science Research Council15
X17Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History)British Museum (Natural History)90
X18Department of Education and ScienceOther science etc.0
X19Trustees of the British MuseumBritish Museum70
X20Department of Education and ScienceScience Museum65
X21Department of Education and ScienceVictoria and Albert Museum55
X22Trustees of the Imperial War MuseumImperial War Museum75
X23Trustees of the National GalleryNational Gallery30
X24Trustees of the National Maritime MuseumNational Maritime Museum70
X25Trustees of the National Portrait GalleryNational Portrait Gallery50
X26Trustees of the Tate GalleryTate Gallery50
X27Trustees of the Wallace CollectionWallace Collection90
X30Department of Education and ScienceArts Council and other grants5
XI1Department of Health and Social SecurityHealth and personal social services, England75
XII4*Department of Health and Social SecurityAdministration and miscellaneous services(2)
XIII3*Privy Council OfficePay and general administrative expenses90
XIII4*TreasuryPay and general administrative expenses80
XIII5*Customs and ExcisePay, general administrative expenses and capital expenditure90
XIII6*Board of Inland RevenuePay and general administrative expenses90
XIII7*Department of TransportDriver and vehicle licensing55
XIII9*Exchequer and Audit DepartmentPay and general administrative expenses(2)
XIII10*National Debt OfficePay and general administrative expenses(2)
XIII11*Public Works Loan CommissionPay and general administrative expenses(2)
XIII12*Department for National SavingsPay and general administrative expenses60
XIII15Civil Service DepartmentCentral management of the Civil Service70
XIII16*Public Record OfficePay and general administrative expenses(2)
XIII18*Office of Population Censuses and SurveysPay and general administrative expenses(2)
XIII20*Land RegistryPay and general administrative expenses75
XIII22*Charity CommissionPay and general administrative expenses90
XIII23*Ordnance SurveyPay, general administrative expenses and capital expenditure(2)
XIII24*Cabinet OfficePay and general administrative expenses90
XIII28*Parliamentary Commissioner and Health Service CommissionersPay and general administrative expenses90
XIII29*Public TrusteePay and general administrative expenses(2)
XIV1Department of the Environment (Property Services Agency)Office and general accommodation services5
XIV2*Department of the Environment (Property Services Agency)Administration and miscellaneous services60
XIV3Stationery OfficeStationery and printing35
XIV4Civil Service DepartmentComputers and telecommunications10
XIV5Central Office of InformationPublicity and departmental administration20

Class and Vote number (1)

Accounting Department

Description of expenditure

Percentage of wages and salaries in cash limit (3)

XIV8*Government Actuary's DepartmentPay and general administrative expenses(2)
XIV9Civil Service DepartmentCivil Service catering services(2)
XIV10*Paymaster General's OfficePay and general administrative expenses70
XV2Northern Ireland OfficeLaw, order and protective services15
XV3*Northern Ireland Court ServicesAdministration of justice: Northern Ireland80
XV4*Northern Ireland OfficeCentral and miscellaneous services55
XVII1Department of the EnvironmentRate support grant and supplementary grants to local authorities0
XVII10*Crown Estate OfficePay and administrative expenses90
XVII14Department of TransportTransport supplementary grants: England and Wales0

TABLE 2
CENTRAL GOVERNMENT UNASSIMILATED BLOCKS(4)

Accounting department

Cash block (1)

Description of expenditure

Percentage of wages and salaries in cash limit (3)

Home OfficeHO1*Pay and general administrative expenditure80
Home OfficeHO2Law, order and protective services0
SCOTLAND
Scottish OfficeSO1*Pay and general administrative expenses75
Scottish OfficeSO2Rate support grant for local authorities in Scotland0
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for ScotlandDAFS1Agricultural services and fisheries support5
Scottish Courts AdministrationSCA1*Pay and general administrative expenses85
Scottish Development DepartmentSDD1Motorways, trunk roads and other environmental services5
Scottish Economic Planning DepartmentSEPD1Regional and industrial development5
SEPD2Manpower Services Commission0
Scottish Education DepartmentSED1Education, libraries and arts5
SED2Social work0
National Library of ScotlandSED3National Library of Scotland70
National Galleries of ScotlandSED4National Galleries of Scotland45
National Museum of Antiquities of ScotlandSED5National Museum of Antiquities Scotland60
Scottish Home and Health DepartmentSHHD1Health65
SHHD2*Law, order and protective services (central support and other services)55
Department of the Registers of ScotlandDRS1*Pay and general administrative expenses(2)
Registrar General's Office, ScotlandRGO(S)1*Pay and general administrative expenses(2)
Scottish Record OfficeSRO1*Pay and general administrative expenses(2)
Queen's and Lord Treasurer's RemembrancerQLTR1*Pay and general administrative expenses95

Accounting department

Cash block (1)

Description of expenditure

Percentage of wages and salaries in cash limit (3)

WALES
Welsh OfficeWO1*Pay and genera administrative expenses0
WO2Health and personal social services, roads, education, libraries, arts, other environmental services and agriculture55
WO3Regional and industrial development0
WO4Manpower Services Commission0

Notes:

(1) Central responsibility for expenditure control is exercised by the Treasury and the Civil Service Department, depending on the nature of the expenditure concerned. Blocks controlled by the Civil Service Department are indicated by an asterisk.
(2) In certain cash limits, indicated by this footnote, the total of wages and salaries expenditure exceeds the cash limit, which is based on expenditure net of receipts.
(3) Percentages are given rounded to the nearest 5 per cent.
(4) Tables 1 and 2 both relate to cash limits on central Government voted expenditure. The cash limits on the capital expenditure of local authorities and other bodies contain little pay. The limits on nationalised industries relate to their external financial requirement.

National Savings Certificates

2.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will seek to change the present ineligibility of males between the ages of 60 and 65 years to hold retirement issue National Savings Certificates.

The terms and conditions of all National Savings media are regularly reviewed, and the age qualification and any other proposals received for this issue of certificates will be considered in due course.

I am grateful for that reply. Will my hon. Friend look at this proposal as a matter of urgency? Will he recognise that the proposal meets three criteria supported by the Government? These are, first, that we all want to encourage savings; secondly, that the proposal would not initially cost a penny; and, thirdly, that in an age of sex discrimination, it recognises that men have equal rights with women.

I shall be glad to look seriously at the proposal, as my hon. Friend suggests. However, I believe that when this instrument was introduced, the previous Administration felt that it might be simpler if post offices, where most of the certificates are brought, were to apply the same age limits as for old-age pensioners.

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the simplest option is to move towards sex equality and allow men to retire at 60? Will he take note of the latest figures produced by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services? They show that the cost of reducing by one year the pensionable age for men would be only about £200 million.

I am glad to tell the hon. Gentleman that sex equality is not one of the Treasury's many responsibilities.

I declare an interest in this case. I am not particularly keen on legal sex equality, but I cannot see why I am not allowed to lend to the Government in the same way as my wife is.

My hon. Friend is welcome to lend to the Government, and there are many instruments available to enable him to do so. However, when this scheme was introduced by the previous Administration it was felt that it would be easier, in order to reduce misunderstandings about the qualifying age, to have the same age limits as those applying to the old-age pension. I shall be happy to look at the matter again.

Will the hon. Gentleman assure us that he will consider the matter seriously and urgently? With inflation rising rapidly towards 20 per cent., and clearly out of control, does he agree that his Government have an additional obligation to protect the savings of the elderly?

I do wish that the right hon. Gentleman, who has been a Treasury Minister in his time, would not take such pleasure in exaggerating the rate of inflation.

Currency (Purchasing Power)

3.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer by how much the purchasing power of the half pence coin has depreciated since February 1971; how much the penny is now worth in relation to the penny coin in February 1971; and if he will now demonetise the halfpenny and two-and-a-halfpenny coins.

The purchasing power of the ½p coin has fallen by two-thirds since 1971. It follows from this that the purchasing power of the 1p coin now is two-thirds that of the ½p in 1971. I have no plans to demonetise the ½p coin, which is still in strong demand. On the other hand, the old sixpence has effectively dropped out of use and the question of its demonetisation is now under review.

Will my hon. Friend accept that the ½p coin has been reduced to the role of a supermarket gimmick, which is an irritation both to the housewife and the shopkeeper? Has not the time come when we should face the fact that the housewife would be better served by a discount on a special offer at 49p, for example, rather than one at 49½p?

This is a matter of judgment, but there is a continued demand by the banks for this coin, which does not really support what my hon. Friend suggests. I understand that during this financial year the Mint expects to strike more than 200 million ½p coins in response to the demand from the banks.

Would not the housewives of the country be better served if the Government reversed their policies of increasing inflation so that the value of our money remained static?

The Government's policies are precisely directed to bringing down inflation.

Does my hon. Friend realise that to one hon. Member at least his answer is extremely disappointing? Will he confirm that the ½p coin is now worth little more than a farthing was in 1961 when it was abolished? That was 10 years before decimalisation. Will he also confirm that production costs of the coin now exceed its face value? If savings are to be made, why not in this area? Would not my hon. Friend wish to go down in history as the Minister who abolished the absurdity of a vulgar fraction in our currency and removed us from a league of countries with fractional coins, which includes Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Irish Republic?

My hon. Friend is wrong on at least two counts. The cost of striking the ½p coin is less than so there is still a profit in it. Secondly, the one cent coin that is still in currency in the United States is worth less than the ½p here. However, I am glad to hear my hon. Friend's assurance that I will go down in history.

Will the Minister arrange for some professionals to work out the purchasing power of half of the pound note that the Prime Minister spoke about during the election campaign. Will he make a statement to the House on this matter?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was at that time making the real point that under the previous Administration the value of the pound had halved. In fact, it had gone down to less than half. This points to the mockery of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches attacking the Government. We are getting inflation down, although many difficulties are involved in tackling the problems that we inherited from the previous Government.

Is it not the case that the Government increased the cost of living by 4½ per cent. at a stroke in their last Budget and that the increase in the mortgage rate, which is now inevitable in January, as the Prime Minister has admitted, and the increases in fares, fuel charges, rents and rates guarantee that we shall have more than 20 per cent. inflation in the new year?

Financial Targets

4.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what further consideration he has now been able to give to the establishment of medium-term borrowing and monetary targets; and with what results.

I am considering whether there would be advantage in formulating more precisely the Government's longer-term monetary objectives which I set out in my reply of 19 July to my hon. Friend.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that the publication of objectives showing a steady decline over the years ahead in monetary targets, and a commensurate decline in the public sector borrowing requirement, might well be a considerable reinforcement of the Government's central camgaign to beat inflation? Can he assure the House that it remains his intention that in the next financial year the PSBR will have a lower target in money terms than it had this year?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of arguments that are certainly valuable and important. The PSBR for next year will be announced at the appropriate time. I assure my hon. Friend that it will be consistent with the Government's policy of securing a reduction in the rate of growth of the money supply.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied with the present method of measuring and controlling the money supply? Is he yet in a position to express a view about suggestions that have been made for moving to a monetary-based system of control?

My hon. Friend will appreciate that all those who are concerned with the management and measurement of the money supply are constantly aware of the imperfections of the instruments of measurement and seek to improve them. One of the suggestions for improvement that is under consideration is the one to which he has referred.

Is it not the case that the PSBR next year is bound to be higher than this year unless there is a substantial increase in taxes in the next Budget? That being the case, is it not necessary, according to Conservative philosophy, for money supply targets to be higher next year than this so that there is no inconsistency between the Government's borrowing and monetary policies?

The right hon. Gentleman must wait and hear what is announced in due course. If his diagnosis is already to the effect that next year's PSBR will have to be substantially increased, I hope that I can look forward to his enthusiastic support in our plans for the reduction of public spending next year.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the publication of these targets is necessary to reassure the public that the first objective of the Government is to control inflation, particularly as recent figures show that the money supply, as widely defined, and including commercial bills, is growing at about 16 per cent. a year?

My hon. Friend draws attention to a significant argument in favour of what has been suggested. However, it is not the only argument to be taken into account. My hon. Friend can rest assured that the Government are determined to bring and keep the money supply under control. The latest figures suggest that it may take longer than we anticipated to bring down the massive rate of growth of the rate of money supply that we inherited from the previous Government.

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer conscious of the fact that we are once again approaching the "Grand Old Duke of York" syndrome? In effect, the money markets are such that the money supply is increasing not by 16 per cent. but by 17 per cent., including accommodation credits, and that we are on the verge of round-tripping, which will further increase the money supply. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that by next week, if he intends to finance his PSBR this year, he will, in effect, have to raise the minimum lending rate? When will he do something about the gilt-edged market in order to bring some sense into the situation in which we are confronted with new crises every six months?

It is unwise to speculate on future changes in the rate of interest. That depends on a number of factors. The hon. Member knows that the figures for any one month are bound to be erratic. He will understand that by far and away the most important contribution that can be made to bring all these factors under control is an effective reduction in the size of the public sector as a proportion of gross domestic product.

Is the Chancellor aware that if, as a result of a consideration of medium monetary objectives, he were to adopt the practice of fixed advance public monetary targets he would be adding to the commitments in his party manifesto and creating an unsustainable burden for his office?

I always listen attentively to advice from the hon. Gentleman—but not too attentively.

International Monetary Fund (Substitution Account)

5.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his policy towards the United States' proposal within the International Monetary Fund for a new substitution account or fund, and if he will make a statement.

If the practical problems involved in setting it up can be overcome, a substitution account of the kind proposed by the managing director of the IMF could in principle make a limited but useful contribution to the stabilisation of exchange rates. Detailed proposals have, however, yet to be formulated and considered.

Does that mean that Her Majesty's Government support this arrangement in principle? Does the Chancellor agree that we need an internationally acceptable currency reserve system that does not depend upon the vagaries of the economy of any one country?

As I told the conference of the IMF in Belgrade, provided that the practical problems involved in setting up a substitution account of this kind are solved it could, in principle, make a limited but useful contribution to the stabilisation of exchange rates.

The limit of the contribution depends entirely upon the size of the account. Does the Chancellor agree that if the Government were to press as many other Governments have done, for an account that starts at at least £10 billion SDR and rises rapidly to £50 billion, that would make quite a substantial contribution?

The answer to the question is that it depends upon the size of the account, although, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, there are many other factors to be considered.

Capital Gains Tax

6.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received to extend relief from capital gains tax to private houses owned by landlords of licensed premises and others who are required, as a condition of their employment, to reside at their place of work.

An employee required to live at his place of work who owns a house which he intends in due course to occupy is entitled to relief from capital gains tax if he sells that house. Landlords of licensed premises employed by breweries are covered by this rule. I have received one representation asking for it to be extended to self-employed landlords.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is unfair that someone who is debarred by the terms of his employment from ever occupying the house that he needs for his retirement should find himself subject, at some later stage, to capital gains tax? Will my right hon. Friend review the situation?

There are real problems of definition in respect of the self-employed, but I give an undertaking that the matter will be reviewed.

In the light of the continued reduction in the availability of private rented accommodation, particularly for single people, will my right hon. Friend consider exempting from capital gains tax those residential landlords who let part of their premises?

That is extending the issue somewhat, and any Chancellor will wish to protect his revenue base in the next Budget.

Exchange Controls

7.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the net effect of industrial investment in Scotland as a result of his decision to abolish exchange controls.

25.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the effect of the abolition of exchange controls on investment in United Kingdom manufacturing industry.

The removal of controls is likely to benefit industrial investment at home. Overseas investment helps our exports and strengthens our international trading position. The effects cannot, however, be quantified.

If the Chancellor is so confident that the effect will be beneficial, and if the reverse turns out to be the case—with a consequent net outflow of capital investment—will he guarantee that the outflow of private capital investment will be replaced by public investment? If he will not give that guarantee, will he explain why?

I do not give that guarantee because the experience of recent years does not suggest that the answer to our problems lies in an expansion of public investment. Much public investment has been used to little avail in terms of real return. The answer to our problems lies in the creation of conditions that are hospitable for successful and effective private investment. The Government are doing that.

If the Chancellor is so confident about the effects on investment of the abolition of exchange controls, will he explain two things? First, will he explain the projection by his Department on 29 October—leaked in the Financial Times—that over the next four years production in metal using and vehicle producing industries will decline by over 20 per cent? Secondly, will be explain why, since his announcement of the abolition of exchange conrols the Financial Times index has gone down by over 60 points? Is he aware that it is suggested in most of the financial journals that companies fear that money that should be used on investment in this country will be diverted abroad?

The hon. Gentleman's diagnosis on the last matter is entirely at fault. I do not know about the forecast that he has quoted, but if he believes that any forecast that points to a decline in the production of motor vehicles, or anything else, in this country in the years ahead is attributable to an announcement about the relaxation of exchange controls made only a few days ago, he will believe anything.

The hon. Gentleman must surely understand that the reduction experienced in the production of motor vehicles in this country was due not to Government gestures of that sort but to the continuing inability of some sections of the motor industry to achieve sensible patterns of industrial relations to enable them to compete with imported vehicles.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that there has never been a shred of evidence that industrial investment in Scotland has been seriously inhibited by a shortage of finance? Does he agree that the problem has been a lack of profitable opportunities?

Is it not serious that the problem of exchange controls is not quantifiable? Does the Chancellor agree that that is hardly surprising, since British banks and their subsidiaries can now lend abroad without the Bank of England knowing? Is not this a serious state of affairs?

It is a serious state of affairs only to those who seek to govern the country by attempting to gain knowledge of everything that happens. That is not possible. The hon. Member would do well to remember that the catastrophic economic conditions experienced under the previous Government developed as a result of their policies and had nothing whatever to do with the existence, or otherwise, of exchange controls.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend comment on a statement made by Sir John Methven, updating Professor Reddaway's report, that, with few exceptions, investment overseas will always encourage British industry and is likely to increase production and jobs?

I agree with that. The analyses that have been made of the likely impact of investment overseas have shown that the main reasons for decisions to invest overseas were related to the creation and expansion of overseas markets. In most cases such investment has been seen to stimulate our exports.

Is it not true that a side effect of the abandonment of exchange controls by the Government is the difficulty in controlling the money supply and the resulting pressure of interest rates created by that abandonment? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that if MLR rises next week, as is likely, one of the reasons for that will be the abandonment of exchange controls?

The right hon. Gentleman should not speculate on interest rate movements. Surely he appreciates that there are many other factors, of far greater significance, affecting this matter. They include, for example, the sharp upward movement in interest rates in the United States.

Fiscal Policy

8.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he deems it necessary to equate national expenditure with national income.

Any attempt by the nation to spend above its income is likely to lead either to a worsening current balance of payments and higher overseas debts or to a lower exchange rate and faster inflation. Neither is a viable course in the long run.

Has not my hon. Friend merely identified the situation that pertained when the Government took office, namely, that the previous Government were spending more money than the nation was earning? Does he agree that most people dislike the taste of the medicine as it goes down but know perfectly well that what the Government are doing is the only means of reversing the economic course upon which the previous Government set the nation?

Does the Minister recall that under the previous Administration some of us below the Gangway advocated that the PSBR should be equated, in percentage terms, to the gross national product, taking into account inflation? We argued that the rise in PSBR should be calculated on that basis. Since PSBR will rise again this year, and thus fail to pacify Tories both in Parliament and in the country, may we have a categorical assurance that the Chancellor and his fellow Ministers will not use the argument about calculating PSBR as a percentage of the GNP?

The hon. Gentleman was a persistent critic of the previous Government. I know of his keen interest in the public sector borrowing requirement. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, we shall make an announcement about the PSBR for the forthcoming year at the appropriate time.

Economic Growth

9.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is satisfied with the progress of the economy.

I shall not be satisfied with the progress of the economy until our industrial performance has improved, the rate of inflation has been brought down and sustainable long-term growth has been resumed.

Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer agree that the economic outlook is grim? Inflation has risen by 6 per cent. since the general election, the Government forecast that there will be 300,000 more unemployed by the end of the next financial year, the interest rate is likely to rise and the CBI predicts an economic recession. Is it not time that the Government made up their mind, took their courage in both hands and put the country first, by changing their policies?

I admire the enthusiastic fortitude of the hon. Gentleman urging us to change our policies. He might have noted that the CBI, when commenting on the difficult economic circumstances that lie ahead, made it clear that it looks for no change in policy. It recognises that our policies are necessary to correct the economic decline caused by the previous Administration. It is remarkable that in all the flannel from the Opposition and the demands for the Government to change their policies we have no evidence that the Opposition have a constructive alternative to offer.

In order to reduce the percentage of gross national product taken up by the public sector, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider putting a ceiling on inflation-proof pensions in the public sector? Does he agree that they are likely to accelerate in the next decade?

My hon. Friend assumes that inflation will continue to accelerate in the next decade. I do not accept that. I recognise that attention should be given to the recommendations made by the Expenditure Committee on the way in which and the basis on which the cost of inflation-proof pensions should be paid for by those involved.

Since it is many months since the Chancellor's incentive Budget, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman yet detect any sign of national revival as a result of his incentive policies?

If the right hon. Gentleman were to travel round the country, as I do, he would find many firms, workers, employers and many who have returned to the country since the Budget—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who has returned?"]—who see a great deal more sense now in taking decisions to invest, expand and take risks than they did under the previous Government.

The CBI has indicated its satisfaction with the Government's policies. Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied with the response from industry in terms of investment, following his incentive Budget?

It is not appropriate for me to criticise, attack or pass judgment on the scale of response. My hon. Friend must realise that decisions to invest, on the future of businesses and on movements in the pattern of the economy take place over a long period. I am satisfied that there is a great deal more optimism about the future of the economy now than there was before the last election.

Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer agree that the CBI is not putting its money where its mouth is? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the CBI's last survey of investment intentions showed a collapse in investment, following a collapse of confidence? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not listen to his friends in the CBI, will he examine the stock market and watch it giving the thumbs down to his policies?

The right hon. Gentleman is far too enthusiastic in passing judgment on the economy over which he presided until recently. He must recognise that the effective judgment of the CBI on our policies lies in its continued support for the total rightness of those policies in the absence of any alternative being proffered by the Opposition.

Gross National Product

10.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the annual average of growth in the gross national product between 1974–5 and 1978–79.

Does not that miserable figure demonstrate clearly the enormity of the task to which my right hon. and hon. Friends have set their hands? Does my right hon. Friend understand that the evidence is overwhelming from all parts of the country that the wealth creators, large and small, are solidly behind the Government's present economic policies?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments. I am sure that the figures demonstrate that last year's public spending White Paper predicated a rate of growth and a rate of increase in public spending that was in no way validated by the experience of the economy under the previous Labour Government.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the outlook for the gross national product in the first two years of this Government's administration is about minus 1 per cent. or possibly minus 2 per cent.? Does he accept that the Government's inflationary policies are driving the country into a deeper and worse recession than is faced by any other country in Europe?

The White Paper published last week states that the immediate prospects for output are poor. That comment would not have been made without careful deliberation. Behind us is a record of facile and easy promises made by the Labour Government. If the country emerges reasonably unscathed from the economic recession, it will be because profitable activities are encouraged and not harassed.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the previous Government virtually ruined the economy during their five years in office? In view of the need urgently to catch up with other countries, what rate of growth does my right hon. Friend wish to see once the current medicine has begun to work?

I have no particular views about the desirable rate of growth. That is something that industry will tell us, rather than us telling industry.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that not only is the immediate prospect of growth poor, but that there is no evidence that over the next four years the growth rate will, on average, be in excess of the 1·5 per cent. that he has mentioned? Will the right hon. Gentleman now reply to the serious question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) about investment intentions?

I do not want to speculate on the average rate of economic growth during the lifetime of this Parliament. However, I know that, on the whole, politically motivated investment has a poorer record than has business motivated investment.

Value Added Tax (Listed Buildings)

11.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will seek to exempt building works on listed buildings from value added tax?

Is that not a pity, since all changes to listed buildings must be in the form of repairs because no new construction is allowed and VAT bears heavily upon them? Many of those repairs are paid for out of public subscriptions, and more money has to be raised to cover VAT. Is my hon. Friend aware that much of the money is provided by Government grants? Would it not be better to exempt listed buildings from VAT and allow people to raise more money to protect our historic homes?

We are not out of sympathy with the need to help our national heritage, but this is not the right way to do it. If relief were to be given it would give rise to demands for comparable relief on other types of repair work. The tax at stake for zero rating all building repair and maintenance work is as much as £300 million in a full year.

Were not the problems involved made much worse by the increase of VAT to 15 per cent. in the last Budget? Does the Financial Secretary agree that that was a disastrous decision? Will be re-examine the VAT rate, reduce it, and so bring down the rate of inflation?

The right hon. Gentleman has a curiously simpliste view for one who purports to understand monetary policy and the causes of inflation. Does he really believe that the rate of VAT determines the rate of inflation? If so, how does he explain why, when his right hon. Friend reduced the rate of VAT from 10 to 8 per cent., in the following 12 months we suffered the highest rate of inflation—about 35 per cent.—that the country had ever had the misfortune to experience?

Expenditure

13.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his latest estimate of the savings arising from cuts in public expenditure.

I refer the hon. Member to the White Paper on the Government's expenditure plans for 1980–81, Cmnd. 7746. published on 1 November.

Any savings in expenditure affect the poor and result in handouts to the wealthy—especially in switching expenditure from education to defence and from health to law and order. Will the Minister tell us the human misery effect in real terms that the cuts will have on the sick, the disabled, the elderly and schoolchildren?

As the premise was a travesty of the facts, I cannot answer the second part of the question.

When my right hon. Friend sees some benefits from the savings in public expenditure, will he consider the impact on families of the increased price of school meals and school transport, as there has been a transfer in money and wealth from families to other sections of the community? When the next Budget comes, will my right hon. Friend ask his right hon. and learned Friend to consider increasing child benefits?

My hon. Friend has asked a formidable question. However, I do not believe that he would suppose that I could seek to forecast my right hon. and learned Friend's Budget for next year.

Will the Chief Secretary clarify the unemployment effects of his public expenditure White Paper, to which he referred last week? He told us that the average number unemployed next year would be 1,650,000, excluding school leavers. Will he confirm, as his forecast shows, that if he includes school leavers the figure will be over 2 million by the end of next year?

The unemployment forecast to which the right hon. Gentleman refers was a working assumption. Any student of the exchanges between the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) will appreciate the distinction between those two terms. As far as there is an impact on levels of employment in the prospective year, it is to be derived not from the public spending White Paper, which predicates stabilised public spending, but from the recession which operates throughout the Western world.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the most rapid increase in public expenditure revealed by the recent White Paper is in respect of interest rate charges? Has he noted that interest rates in the United States are now at a higher level than when General Lee threatened Washington during the American Civil War and that this is undoubtedly a symptom of an international interest rate war which has largely replaced the international tariff rate wars of previous eras? Is my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor contemplating an initiative with OECD countries to prevent any further advance down this road, which must lead to a world depression?

My right hon. and learned Friend is in constant contact with other Chancellors through the medium of OECD and other international institutions. I am sure that he takes my hon. Friend's point to heart.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that just as alarming to the ordinary person is not merely the reduction in expenditure but the increase in charges in the White Paper, which will put up the cost of living considerably, the increases of VAT in the Budget, and the increases in nationalised industry prices still to come? What will be the increase in the retail price index following the White Paper? Does that include or exclude the increases in rates and rents that we now expect?

The increase in the retail price index next year, arising from the items specifically listed in the White Paper, will be approximately 1 per cent.

Avgas

14.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has any plans to alter the duty on AVGAS.

The taxation of hydrocarbon oil is kept under review, but my right hon. and learned Friend has no present plans to alter the taxation of AVGAS relative to other hydrocarbon oil.

How does my hon. Friend account for his answer when the duty on AVTUR JET A1 gas is 3·5p per imperial gallon, while the duty on AVGAS is 36·77p per imperial gallon? How does he account for the unfairness between the two rates of duty and the comparatively high rate of duty on AVGAS?

My hon. Friend has made an interesting point. However, he must realise that there could be equalisation in the opposite direction. It would be possible to increase the duty on AVTUR.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister what are her official engagements for 8 November.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with President Kaunda of Zambia. This evening I shall preside at a dinner for President Kaunda.

Why the indecent haste to rush through the Rhodesian legislation today and repeal sanctions next week? Does not the Prime Minister realise that she is taking the risk of jeopardising a peaceful settlement simply to appease the Right-wing racialists on her own Benches?

I thought that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal dealt with the statement and all the questions superbly yesterday. I have nothing new that I can usefully add.

Will my right hon. Friend take time during her busy day to contact the governors of the BBC to express extreme concern about the way in which the "Panorama" team seems to have encouraged the IRA to break the law in Northern. Ireland?

We got in touch with the BBC the moment we saw this report in the newspapers this morning. Since then the BBC has issued a statement saying that what happened would appear to be a clear breach on the part of the "Panorama" team of standing instructions about filming in Ireland. [Interruption.] I am reading the statement. The governors have asked the acting Director-General to complete his inquiries quickly and report back to the board on action to be taken.

My hon. Friend will know that this is not the first time that we have had occasion to raise similar matters with the BBC. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I think that it is time that the BBC put its house in order.

Following the evidence of this treasonable activity on the part of the BBC "Panorama" team in setting up what was a joint operation with the IRA, may we have an assurance that the names of those concerned will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions?

I think that this is a matter for the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions. I think it right that I should leave these matters in their capable hands.

Will the right hon. Lady—as I am sure she understands—convey the feeling of the whole House that it is not the duty of the media in this country to stage-manage news but to report it, and that affairs of this kind, in which the BBC, or anybody else, sets out deliberately to manufacture news to prove a point, are distasteful to and considered reprehensible by every one of us?

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I should like to make it clear that the BBC said that there was no question of this programme being transmitted.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 8 November.

Will my right hon. Friend find time in the course of a busy day to telephone her European NATO colleagues and urge them to resist the blandishments of President Brezhnev in his attempts to make unilateral reductions in nuclear arms? Does she agree that the West must stand united in the face of the deliberate and continuing military buildup on the part of the Warsaw Pact countries?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that the first duty of the Western Governments is to provide for their own security. If we wish to negotiate on disarmament we should do so from a position of strength and not of weakness.

It is noteworthy that President Brezhnev's remarks were made at a massive military parade in East Berlin, at a time when the Russians have far more modern theatre nuclear weapons than we have. Therefore, we must bring our own up to strength and up to full modernisation.

During the course of the day, will the Prime Minister consider the humane action of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in attempting to secure the release of the American hostages in Tehran? Does the right hon. Lady support that action? Will she also note the constructive part that that organisation is now playing in world affairs? Is it not time that the Government recognised the PLO?

The hon. Gentleman knows that we are doing everything that we can to assist our friends the Americans in the grievous situation in which they find themselves. Because of that situation, I think that the less said that might do anything to aggravate it the better.

Having regard to the prevalence of the crime of mugging, extending, according to reports, to British Legion poppy sellers, will my right hon. Friend spare time today to discuss with her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary ways of speeding up measures to enforce law and order?

I saw a report in the press to that effect. If that is happening, it is about the most reprehensible and disgraceful action that anyone could possibly imagine. We have given great priority to law and order, and we shall do all that we can to protect poppy sellers.

As the Prime Minister is in favour of public expenditure cuts, will she consider cutting unemployment benefit, by providing public investment to create jobs in the North-West?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have to get more genuine jobs going, and those come from fostering small businesses in the private sector. We cannot go on staying in yesterday's jobs or putting more into nonproductive jobs when we wish people to put more of their effort into productive jobs with real prospects for the future.

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister if she will state her official engagements for 8 November.

Amidst her many preoccupations today, will the Prime Minister pause to think that they would all be wasted in the event of a Third World War? Therefore, will she ask our representatives at NATO to negotiate on Mr. Brezhnev's offer on disarmament? If she argues that we can negotiate only through superior military strength, and if the Russians adopt the same attitude, it becomes a logical impossibility for one side to be stronger than the other, and hence the arms race will end in disaster.

Our best insurance policy against a Third World War is to have regard to our own defences. I think that it was an American President who said "We should never fear to negotiate, but we should never negotiate from fear".

Will the Prime Minister find time today to consider replacing the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman has been dithering since his appointment six months ago, he must be held responsible for the failure to provide security for the Ulster people and he is about to embark on a conference without considering the views of the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member will have anticipated my reply, which of course is "No, Sir". I hope that he will look with interest at the White Paper on future proposals for Northern Ireland when it comes out in about the third week in November.

Will the Prime Minister spare a little time in her busy day to speak to the Secretary of State for Defence and urge him to make a decision on the order for 77 Chieftain tanks for Vickers at Elswick which negotiated the tender? Is she aware that it is five and a half months since my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cowans) and I first entered into correspondence with her asking for an urgent decision on this issue? Is she further aware that the Vickers plant at Elswick is to go on short time on Monday—probably a two-day week—due to her dilatory action?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has been very active in this matter and has raised it before. He knows that it is under consideration and that the answer partly depends on the further orders for tanks that we hope to receive.

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 8 November.

The Prime Minister will be aware that the residual sanctions that will remain in force against Zimbabwe-Rhodesia after the coming week will permit a degree of discretion to the Government in their enforcement. Will she give instructions to her Ministers to interpret or to apply those remaining sanctions with discretion and flexibility, if only to ensure that British firms are enabled to make the appropriate preparations to establish sales forces in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, ready for the resumption of legality?

The remaining sanctions, which are the vast majority which do not come under the 1965 Act, stay until they are positively revoked. We would expect them to be revoked the moment a British Governor sets foot in Rhodesia. Beyond that I will, of course, draw the mechanism to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

I should like to revert to the Prime Minister's meeting with President Kaunda today. Having already had the advantage of a conversation with him, I shall not be surprised if he raises a point similar to that raised by the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner). In these circumstances, and as President Kaunda will be here today and tomorrow, will the right hon. Lady consider, at this very late stage, that as the business proposed for Monday, which has not yet been announced, is not vital it could be of great use to the House if we were to take the Second Reading of the Bill today and the Committee and remaining stages on Monday? If she accepts that suggestion I shall use what influence I have, whatever it may be, or however small it may be, with my hon. Friends to ensure that the Government get the Bill, perhaps late on Monday night or Tuesday morning. That would give us the opportunity for discussions with President Kaunda and for reflection.

We are always prepared to consider things through the usual channels. However, as the right hon. Gentleman indicated, our fear is that his influence might fall just a bit short of securing the full guarantee. If we can have that guarantee—[Interruption.] We should have to get the Bill away from the House on Monday, to be in their Lordships' House on Tuesday. If the right hon. Gentleman feels that he can ensure that, I suggest that we consider it through the usual channels.

I give that undertaking on behalf of my hon. Friends if the Committee stage is put back to Monday, although we shall have to go very late in view of the number of amendments that have been tabled. Indeed, we shall go very late tonight and tomorrow if we take them today. I am not bargaining. I am trying to put forward a sensible suggestion. I am commenting on the fact that there are a number of amendments which, if I read the House aright, will take us a long time to deal with tonight or tomorrow. We all know that the length of hon. Members' speeches can depend upon whether there is an understanding. I can enter into an understanding, if the right hon. Lady will, to deliver the Bill to the House in time for her to get her sanctions, even though we are opposed to them. The right hon. Lady has a majority in the House. We shall argue the case, but we shall get the Bill through in time for her to take whatever action is necessary on that matter if she will fall in with the proposal that I have made.

I suggest that it be further considered through the usual channels.

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 8 November.

I accept the necessity for control of Government expenditure, but will my right hon. Friend spend a few moments today talking to the Secretary of State for Social Services about the new heating allowances? It is not intended that those who receive rent and rate rebates should receive these allowances. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that would be unfair because many hon. Members have advised pensioners in their areas to take rent and rate rebate allowances rather than apply for supplementary benefit, with which they would get the heating allowance, and thereby get a little more money?

I am aware of that factor, but I hope that the people affected in that way will consider whether it is to their advantage to take their supplementary benefit allowances rather than rent and rebate allowances. The generous heating allowances under the new scheme can be as much as £50 per person. Pensioners might find that it is better for them to go for supplementary benefit than for rent and rate rebates.

Questions To The Prime Minister

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, relating to Prime Minister's Question Time. I wonder whether you have any helpful suggestions how this tide of almost insatiable curiosity about my right hon. Friend's daily doings should be stemmed. I am sure that we all agree that my right hon. Friend does many interesting things almost every day, but to have no less than 18 people asking, as they have today, what she is doing seems to me to make an undue farce of our proceedings.

Order. The House knows that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The open question is quite a change. It happened during the previous Parliament and is happening during this one. It is almost an abuse of our procedures, but the House reacted strongly when I protested. I wish that the Procedure Committee would look at the whole question.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before the announcement of next week's business, may I, on behalf of most of my colleagues who are supporting the amendments on the Southern Rhodesia Bill, say that we associate ourselves fully with what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said. We hope that that will cause a change in the business announcement that will be made.

Business Of The House

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Protection of Trading Interests Bill.

Proceedings on the Isle of Man Bill.

TUESDAY 13 NOVEMBER—Supply [5th Allotted Day]. Debate entitled "The failure of the Government to support the woollen and textile industries," until about 7 o'clock.

Motion on cuts in the British Broadcasting Corporation's external services.

WEDNESDAY 14 NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the European Communities (Greek Accession) Bill and of the Shipbuilding Bill.

THURSDAY 15 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill (Lords) and of the Papua New Guinea, Western Samoa and Nauru (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

FRIDAY 16 NOVEMBER—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the British Aerospace Bill.

In view of the exchanges that have just taken place I know that the Leader of the House will be considering the prospect of an amendment to Monday's business and I will urge him further on that, so that the "usual channels" can have their usual discussions. However, we hope that he will be able to come to the House very early in the course of the debate today so as to facilitate progress and also give us an answer on this matter.

Secondly, referring to the business for next week, the Opposition will put down a motion on the failure of the Government to support the woollen and textile industries. As for cuts in the external services of the British Broadcasting Corporation, we shall have no difficulty accepting, and tabling as a motion, the motion that already stands on the Order Paper.

I take it that that is a provisional announcement. With regard to the very reasonable offer made to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, as she made clear it will be discussed through the usual channels. In the interests of the whole House, I hope that it will be possible to make a statement later today.

Is my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House aware of a view expressed by a number of Members during the last two weeks? During next week, will he consider acting on a reference to the Procedure Committee so that we can take steps to try to limit the length of supplementary questions at Question Time? Might we not revert to the practice of only one question being allowed to each Member, instead of two or three questions? Will my right hon. Friend refer that to the Procedure Committee?

In answer to my hon. Friend's supplementary questions, I think that that is a matter for Mr. Speaker.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great interest throughout the House in the report of the Royal Commission on the National Health Service? Can he give an undertaking that the House will have an opportunity to debate that matter before the Christmas Recess?

I cannot give the hon. Lady an undertaking in categoric terms. I am certainly aware of the importance of that report, and I will consider the matter.

Will the Leader of the House provide an early opportunity to discuss the findings of the committee of inquiry into the death of Darryn Clarke, published one hour ago? In view of the serious implication that starving social services departments of funds can lead to the death of young children such as Darryn Clarke, it is a matter of vital importance that the House should have the earliest opportunity to discuss the findings of that committee. Can the Leader of the House give us that undertaking?

In these controversial matters it is always wise not to jump to conclusions, as the hon. Member has done. I have not read the report. It has only just been published. I shall look at it and consider what the hon. Gentleman said.

Has the Leader of the House yet been persuaded by his right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Defence that we should have a debate on the SALT treaty before it is ratified by the Senate? There are many who think that the contents of that agreement are a very eloquent testimony to Russian skill and determination in negotiations.

I shall certainly consider the important representations made by my right hon. Friend.

Does the Leader of the House recall that he made a commitment to me two weeks ago that he would consult the Lord Chancellor and the Law Officers about making a statement on the iniquitous practice of invading the privacy of jurors by vetting them before they are empanelled? Can he say when that statement will be made?

I said that I would consult the Lord Chancellor. In fact, my right hon, and learned Friend the Attorney-General and my hon, and learned Friend the Solicitor-General are considering the matter and I will let the hon. Gentleman know the result of those deliberations in due course.

May we have a prompt debate on the Government's public expenditure White Paper?

There will certainly be a debate on the public expenditure White Paper before Christmas.

When may we expect a debate on the affairs of the North-West? If time cannot be found for a debate in the Chamber, do arrangements still exist for debates in the Regional Affairs Committee? If they do, we have only then to agree on the team to take part. Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that the last time we debated the North-West in the Regional Affairs Committee we had an omnibus agenda? I would prefer in our next debate to restrict it to one simple subject, such as the consequences of the Government's expenditure cuts for the North-West.

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a categorical assurance. These matters have been raised in Adjournment debates, I shall certainly look at the matter.

Order. I appeal to hon. Members to make their questions as brief as possible. If they do I hope to be able to call everyone rising to speak.

Will my right hon. Friend consider saving the time of the House by indicating that the Government will accept the motion on the BBC's external services, which the Leader of the Opposition has said he will put up for debate? That motion will certainly receive a great deal of support from the Conservative Benches.

I will certainly consider what my right hon, and learned Friend said. The whole problem may be solved when the facts are fully known. This year the provision for the BBC external services is £40·3 million—

Order. I have no doubt that the information is interesting, but it had better await a later time.

I am only trying, Mr. Speaker, to help the House. I certainly bow to your ruling, but when the facts are fully known the demand for the debate from both sides of the House will die away.

Will the Leader of the House ensure that for the debate on Tuesday, which will take place in Opposition time—which perhaps is a measure of the Government's lack of concern for the textile industry—representatives are here from both the Department of Industry and the Department of Trade? If they are, one cannot be played off against the other. In addition, attitudes that are of vital concern to the woollen textile industry about both the industry and the multi-fibre arrangement can be brought into the debate, and Ministers will be able to answer to the fullest extent possible.

I believe that it is ordinary constitutional practice for a Supply day to be used in order to raise these matters. The arrangement has nothing to do with the Government's concern for our future. I shall certainly consider the hon. Member's request about speakers.

Can my right hon. Friend comment on the working and possible impact of the new Select Committees on the work of this House? For example, if the Select Committee on social services should choose as one of its first subjects to examine the Merrison report on the National Health Service, may we be assured that that would not preclude a debate on the subject on the Floor of the House?

I am glad that, as the Order Paper shows, the Committee of Selection has proposed names for all the Select Committees. I shall be tabling a motion to this effect next week. I think that we should wait until the Committees are in existence before deciding on the sort of points that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

In his reflections on the reasonable proposition advanced by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for changing Monday's business, will the right hon. Gentleman, as well as taking account of the needs and wishes of the House, bear in mind that by transferring the remaining stages to Monday an atmosphere may well be created that will help the Foreign Secretary at Lancaster House?

I am very well aware of the important considerations that have been raised. Of course, I always react reasonably when reasonable statements are made—for instance, by the Leader of the Opposition. I feel a great deal of sympathy for him. He must be the only leader of the Labour Party to be in limbo and purgatory at the same time.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is ample support from the Government side of the House for both the points made by the Leader of the Opposition?

My right hon. Friend referred to the British Aerospace Bill. May I refer him to early-day motion No. 164 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Benyon) and myself and 80 of our hon. Friends which seeks to enshrine the principle of allowing private enterprise to purchase parts of State corporations, particularly where those corporations are unwilling or unable to maintain the manufacture of certain parts?

[That this House welcomes any private sector investment in British motor car manufacturing; and trusts that Her Majesty's Government will not permit, under the guise of non intervention in management, the Board of British Leyland to close M.G. Abingdon by preventing the sale of M.G. to private-sector competitors of the state-subsidised Triumph T. R. sports cars.]

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is possible to arrange a debate on this matter as soon as possible?

I shall certainly consider that. I have seen the motion on the Order Paper. British Leyland is prepared to consider any sensible proposal about the future of MG. Of course, it is up to BL to decide which course of action is in its best commercial interest, unhampered by Government intervention.

Since General Suharto will be visiting this country next week, and since discussions will be taking place on many important issues—no doubt including the invasion of East Timor by Indonesian forces, which has led to tremendous suffering and many deaths among the indigenous population—may we expect a statement on the talks? That would enable hon. Members who are deeply concerned about these issues to discover exactly what is happening.

I shall pass the hon. Gentleman's concern to my right hon, and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Order. If the five hon. Members who have been rising will put brief questions I shall be able to call them all.

When will the Leader of the House give instructions for the restoration and repair of the Palace of Westminster to begin and for the so-called temporary railings in Westminster Hall to be removed? If it is not to be soon, may we have a debate about it?

Does the Leader of the House realise that there is greater unity behind my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on the Rhodesian question than exists on the Government Benches? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of us believe that the enabling Bill has been brought forward to patch up the differences on the Conservative side? In view of my right hon. Friend's constructive suggestion, will the right hon. Gentleman consider an application to Mr. Speaker for a brief adjournment of the House during which discussions could be held through the usual channels before we reach the Second Reading? We should then know what the situation was, and that would have a bearing on the debate.

I appreciate the hon. Member's desire to help, but I think that discussions through the usual channels are now taking place. I hope that they will have a constructive result without the need for an adjournment.

Does the Leader of the House agree that more than just the convenience of the House and of Members is at stake in the discussions that are taking place about how we deal with the Rhodesia legislation? Does he accept that the situation is such that we could risk civil war in Rhodesia? Is he aware that if the legislation is passed precipitately and the Government implement a settlement that does not have the support of the Patriotic Front, they will be culpable, in bringing about the possibility of civil war?

I do not want to follow the hon. Gentleman into the more controversial parts of that question. However, it would be in the best interests of everyone in Rhodesia if the strong views that are held in the House can be expressed within a reasonable compass of time, and if the ordinary procedures of the House can be followed.

Will the Leader of the House undertake to provide time before Christmas for a debate on the effects of Government expenditure cuts on the British Council?

The British Council and the expenditure on it can be discussed within the general debate on the White Paper.

Order. It appears that my arithmetic a little earlier was wrong. It was my mistake. I realise that three other hon. Members have been seeking to catch my eye, and I will call them.

Does the Leader of the House appreciate that it is important that the House should know what the Government intend to do, in response to my right hon. Friend's request, before we begin to discuss the business motion that is likely to be moved in the next 10 to 15 minutes?

I appreciate that that would be an ideal course of action, but there are complex issues that have to be discussed and the details have to be worked out through the usual channels. I do not think that it is likely that we can meet that deadline, but as soon as possible I hope to be able to tell the House if there is anything constructive to say.

Could the Leader of the House find an early opportunity to provide time for a debate on the report of the Royal Commission on legal services?

I shall consider that request for a debate, together with the request that I had earlier from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short). There is another Commission report that we have to consider. I shall try to find time for them, but it cannot all be done in a hurry.

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the disastrous situation in Cambodia and the implications of our continued recognition of the obnoxious Pol Pot regime?

I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early day motion No. 144, signed by a large number of Members of all parties in the House, calling for that question to be reconsidered, so that the House may have the opportunity of expressing its view on this issue.

[That this House, deeply concerned at the effects of famine in Cambodia, welcomes the aid programme of Her Majesty's Government; calls for it to be continued throughout the present crisis; and urges the reconsideration of the recognition of the Pol Pot régime.]

I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's request. What is taking place in Cambodia is an affront to the conscience of mankind. The recognition of the Pol Pot regime is a question that is being considered by the Government and a statement will be made on that in the near future. Meanwhile, I shall give full consideration to the hon. Gentleman's request.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It will be within the memory of the whole House that when I inquired whether he would refer to the Procedure Committee for consideration the matter of raising several different questions under one supplementary question, my right hon. Friend replied that this was a matter for Mr. Speaker. Is it not the case that the Leader of the House is quite within order to refer a matter of this nature to the Procedure Committee? I appreciate that it is not appointed until a matter is referred to it.

Is it not correct that only a few days ago, Mr. Speaker, you indicated to the House that the position of the Chair would be strengthened if the views of the House could be ascertained on this matter and if the Procedure Committee considered the point?

I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. The House knows that from time to time I appeal to hon. Members to ask but one supplementary question when they are called. As I explained to the House only a few weeks ago, it was indeed the custom until about 15 years ago that if an hon, Member asked two supplementary questions he was chopped down and not called again for a long time. The invisible disciplines were exerted.

The hon. Gentleman is quite right in what he says. Any hon. Member can propose that the Procedure Committee should look at the matter. I do not wish to push the burden on to the Leader of the House. I realise that if I have the good will of the House—but only if I have the good will of the House—I can stop hon. Members who, when I call them to ask a supplementary question, ask two or more questions. But I expect to have the full support of the House when I do so.

Perhaps I may intervene in order to assist my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery). I do not think that I had fully understood his point. I thought that he was referring to the practice, but he was referring to the theory. That is where I come in, and I will consider it, but I do not wish in any way, Mr. Speaker, to encroach on your prerogatives.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I be quite clear that you are not proposing, now, to undertake the practice of curtailing supplementary questions, and that you are saying that you would do this only when the will of the House was clear, presumably after a debate by the House, otherwise the will of the House could not easily be expressed—

Order. I believe that I know the will of the House. It is only when hon. Members are on their feet that they forget the will of the House. I would not accuse the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) of ever asking more than one supplementary question, but it is quite conceivable that I am wrong on that issue.

Now that a considerable number of hon. Members are present, I will state that on Monday at Question Time I shall intervene when an hon. Member has asked one supplementary question and ask him to resume his seat so that the Minister may answer that question. I look to the House for its support.

Miss Betty Harvie Anderson

I must inform the House that I have written on its behalf to Dr. Skrimshire, the husband of one who is better known to us as Betty Harvie Anderson, whose death was announced today. She was the only woman to act as Deputy Speaker in this House and was held in high affection and esteem by hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber. Her devotion to this House was reflected in her distinguished service as Deputy Speaker. As hon. Members will appreciate, it is a difficult job. We salute the memory of a truly right hon, servant of this House.

Bill Presented

British Aerospace

Mr. Secretary Joseph, supported by Mr. Secretary Pym, Mr. Secretary Younger, Mr. Secretary Edwards, Mr. Secretary Nott, Mr. John Biffen, Mr. Adam Butler and Mr. Michael Marshall, presented a Bill to provide for the vesting of all the property, rights, liabilities and obligations of British Aerospace in a company nominated by the Secretary of State and the subsequent dissolution of British Aerospace; and to make provision with respect to the finances of that company: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 9 November and to be printed [Bill 74].

Standing Orders

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not absolutely certain whether it is Mr. Speaker or the Leader of the House who orders that Standing Orders be reprinted up-to-date. It says on the face of the Standing Orders

"Ordered by The House of Commons"
but I do not remember ever hearing a motion that it be done. As the present issue is as obsolete as 17 May 1979 and additional orders now have all the motions for setting up the new Select Committees, would it be possible to arrange for an up-to-date set of Standing Orders to be printed and made available to Members?

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I shall find out whether the Leader of the House, myself, or someone else is responsible. I think I have now found the answer—if I can read it. The order is made by a formal entry in the Vote. I shall see that it is done.

Business Of The House

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That if the Southern Rhodesia Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House, further proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed and that as soon as the proceedings on any Resolution come to by the House on Southern Rhodesia [Money] have been concluded, this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill, and that the Southern Rhodesia Bill may be proceeded with at this day's sitting, though opposed, until any flout.—[ Mr. Waddington.]

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you indicate whether you will be calling my amendment?

The motion is that the Southern Rhodesia Bill should be debated and that the debate should be continued until any hour, in the expectation that the Bill can be completed at one sitting.

This is a Bill of profound significance for the future of Southern Africa, and it is not too emotional or high-flown to say that lives depend upon a wise judgment about the course of the Bill and the time that we take to study it. The Opposition are incensed by the presentation of the Bill at this stage of the negotiations at Lancaster House. We are not opposed to the production of an enabling Bill to allow the Government to carry out the terms of an agreement that has been reached by all three parties to the consultations at Lancaster House, but it is essential before an enabling Bill is passed that there should be such an agreement.

If there is not such an agreement, the effect of the Bill that we are called upon to discuss is that the Government will have the power legally to take control of Southern Rhodesia again, to conduct the business of government in Southern Rhodesia up to the election, to have elected within Southern Rhodesia a Government who, by the time scale envisaged by Her Majesty's Government, are intended to be a Government headed by Bishop Muzorewa, and to confer legality upon that Government by recognising them there and then.

The Government's argument in presenting the Bill is that they do not have the power legally to confer independence because they do not have the independence Bill and the constitution in it. In fact, they will have had legal authority to take Rhodesia up to the brink of independence, to have a Government elected on their terms by their conception of what is a fair election, to recognise them, and, if they are recognised, to try to pass them off as the fully independent Government of Rhodesia, who could in those circumstances call in South Africa and accept the help of a foreign Government in fighting the guerilla forces. If that were to be the scenario, there is no one in the House who would want it. The only reason why there is not the same ferment of revolt by Conservative Members as by Labour Members is that so far the Government have been able to persuade Conservative liberal critics that they are getting near to an agreement at Lancaster House.

If there were an agreement and the Government brought forward the enabling Bill, they could have the Bill in a couple of hours. In those circumstances, no one in the House would want to oppose it. If all the parties at Lancaster House had agreed on the terms of a new constitution and they had all agreed that an enabling Bill was necessary, no one would want to put a barrier in the way of stopping the war and ending the loss of life.

In those circumstances, what is the rush to prepare the Bill now and to produce it today when no agreement has been reached at Lancaster House? Some of my right hon, and hon. Friends take the view that all that this is about is the embarrassment that the Government may feel on having to introduce a sanctions order before next Thursday, and the revolt that may follow on the Conservative Benches. I have no doubt that that is in the mind of the Government, too.

If that were all it were, they know that they could get the sanctions order. They know that there is a majority for the order in the House. It would cause them some embarrassment to have a large revolt, but it would not be so embarrassing if they were ultimately to get an agreement a few days later and were able to say "I told you so.".

I believe that the real reasoning of the Government in producing the enabling Bill before they have an agreement at Lancaster House is that they suspect that they will not get an agreement. I believe that they are hoping to have legal authority to push through an agreement bilaterally with the Muzorewa regime when they do not have the assent of the Patriotic Front. They would have the legal authority of the House to do that because they had already obtained an enabling Bill.

If that is in the Government's mind, nothing more disreputable has been put before the House. In addition, there could be nothing more dangerous for the future of Southern Africa. The reality of power in Southern Rhodesia is that the Patriotic Front has military control of a considerable section of the country. It has the capacity to continue fighting as long as it wishes. Only if the Patriotic Front gives its assent to an agreement will the war stop. If the Patriotic Front is not in agreement, whatever we do in the House will not bring the war to a close one day earlier.

If we were to give the Government the authority to bless the Muzorewa regime and to bring about an appearance of legality that extended the war, the blood would be on our hands as well as on the hands of those who are taking part in the fighting. I do not believe that the House wants that to happen. I do not believe that the House recognises that that should happen.

In discussing the motion, the issue is whether there is such urgency as to make it necessary for the Government to have the Bill this week. If we leave the Bill until there is an agreement, the Government can have it within a day. They have talked for nine weeks on the independence negotiations and another day will not hurt very much. I want the war to end as soon as possible; so does Bishop Muzorewa, so does the Patriotic Front and so does everyone who has the best interests of Rhodesia at heart. I do not want to prolong the Bill by appearing to bless an independent Muzorewa regime that does not have the assent of the Patriotic Front. We must remember that the Patriotic Front can dictate whether the war continues.

Conservative Members, with their preoccupation with sanctions and their own constituency interests, should recognise that there is a real danger if the Bill proceeds today.

I hope that even at this late stage the Government will reconsider. We have made them a reasonable offer. I should prefer not to have the Bill until an agreement is reached. However, if the Government accept our offer, we can delay the passage of the Bill until Tuesday night. By that time President Kaunda will have had discussions with the Prime Minister. By that time President Nyerere could have indicated his view. There could be discussions with the other frontline States about what should happen if there is to be a breakdown in talks. By Tuesday night we will know probably better than we know now what the ultimate outcome of the talks at Lancaster House is to be. If that were possible, I am sure that the House would be in a better position to decide whether the Bill should proceed.</