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Commons Chamber

Volume 978: debated on Wednesday 6 February 1980

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 6 February 1980

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Standing Orders (Private Business)

That the Amendments to Standing Orders relating to Private Business hereinafter stated in Schedule (A) be made and that the new Standing Order relating to Private Business hereinafter stated in Schedule (B) be made.

Schedule (A)

( Amendments to Standing Orders)

Standing Order 1, line 77, leave out '1889' and insert '1978'.
Standing Order 1, line 105, after '59', insert 'and 152'.
Standing Order 5, line 31, at end insert 'and (e) where it is proposed by the bill to stop up or divert any specified public foot-path or bridleway, a general description of that foot-path or bridleway'
Standing Order 39, line 10, leave out 'the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection'.
Standing Order 39, line 36, leave out 'Parliament Street' and insert 'Whitehall'.
Standing Order 39, line 38, leave out 'in'.
Standing Order 51, line 6, after 'foot-path', insert 'or bridleway,'.
Standing Order 146, leave out lines 1 to 10.
Standing Order 209, line 4, after 'clock' insert 'or, on a Friday, between half-past nine o'clock and three o'clock).'.

Schedule (B)

( New Standing Order)

'Posting of notices in case of stopping up, etc., of public foot-paths or bridleways.
12A.. In the case of a Bill whereby it is proposed to stop up or divert any specified public foot-path or bridleway, not later than the twentieth day of November notice of the proposal shall be displayed in a prominent position at the ends of the part of the foot-path or bridleway proposed to be stopped up or diverted'.

I should tell the House that the only substantial alterations made by the amendments are to bring the permitted hours for the deposit of documents in the Private Bill Office into line with the new hours of the sitting of the House on a Friday and to ensure that, when there are Bills by which it is proposed to stop up or divert foot-paths, people are properly informed by notices in newspapers and on the foot-paths themselves.

I thank the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) for bringing the latter problem to my attention. The rest of the amendments make minor changes to Standing Orders since the last amendments in 1975.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers To Questions

Oral Answers To Questions

I do not want to sound too optimistic, but I appeal for brief supplementary questions.

Scotland

Health Education Unit

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he proposes to make any changes in the activities of the Scottish health education unit.

It has been decided that the functions of the Scottish council for health education and the Scottish health education unit should be combined in one new organisation within the common services agency. The detailed implications of this change are being discussed with interested bodies.

:I thank my hon. Friend for that most helpful reply. Is he not aware that there is considerable public concern about the way in which this unit has subjected the Scottish people to an endless barrage of propaganda on all sorts of weird and wonderful subjects? As the most likely result of this tedious do-goodery will be that enraged taxpayers will get apoplexy, will the Minister assure the House that in future this unit's activities will be subjected to both common sense and cost efficiency?

I am aware of the worries that my hon. Friend has mentioned. I am, therefore, looking carefully at a new management structure for the combined body and methods of monitoring its future activities.

Has the Minister said that he has decided to merge the units? If so, why is he only now discussing the detailed implications? Why not have the discussions before deciding what to do?

I have already had discussions about the merging of these two units, which is agreed on both sides.

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the film "Are We Being Conned?" leaves much to be desired? It is very misleading and very biased in parts and should not have been presented as it has been.

I took the trouble to see the film my hon. Friend mentioned. All views on films of an educational nature are subjective. However, I agree that in certain respects this film may have cast aspersions on the advertising profession. But my hon. Friend's points have been noted and will be considered carefully in the future.

Will the Minister ignore the nit-picking from the Government Benches and recognise that the Scottish people expect the Scottish health education unit to continue and increase the advertising against the dangers of alcohol and smoking to compete with some of the heavy advertising we get from both those industries encouraging their use?

I accept the ideas behind the hon. Gentleman's question—but I should mention that Scotland, which has the worst health record of any country in Western Europe, at present spends 0· per cent. of its total health expenditure on health education.

Trades Union Congress

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he intends next to meet with the general council of the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

My right hon. Friend and I have met representatives of the Scottish Trades Union Congress several times since taking office and have made it clear that we are prepared to meet them at any time they wish.

In view of the recent statement by the general secretary of the STUC that he believes that his telephone has been tapped, will the Minister, when he next meets the STUC, give that body an assurance that not only has the telephone of the general secretary not been tapped but that the telephones of other members of the STUC have not been tapped illegally by security services personnel or anyone else? If the Minister cannot give the STUC that assurance, will he inform the House this afternoon what possible reasons there can be for tapping the telephones of hard-working, honest people who do their best for this country? Will he also state—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] Will he also—[Interruption.]

Order. I do not want to tap the line of the hon. Gentleman, but his supplementary question was a bit long.

I have to inform the hon. Gentleman that that is a matter for my right hon. Friends and not for me.

In the light of the steel strike, what discussions has my hon. Friend had with the STUC about secondary and flying pickets against premises of companies engaged in the oil business? Is he aware that threats to these premises by secondary picketing now threaten very grave delays to important oil contracts? What estimate has he made of the latest situation?

My right hon. Friend and I have not discussed this particular matter with the STUC, but we have noted the points that my hon. Friend has made and, of course, we are monitoring in Scotland the full effects of the steel strike and, clearly, the damaging consequences that it is having for employment prospects in Scotland.

When he next meets the general secretary of the STUC, will the hon. Gentleman forget about secondary picketing and deal with a matter which has caused a great deal of concern in Scotland—the unemployment situation? Will he himself, as the so-called Minister responsible for industry, tell us what he intends to do, bearing in mind all his utterances when he was in opposition?

My right hon. Friend and I are doing a very great deal to try to alleviate Scotland's unemployment problems. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you would not like me to take up the time of the House now by listing the measures we are taking. We are fully aware of the very serious problem that we inherited from the Labour Government, and we are doing everything possible to try to make things easier for those who, unfortunately, find themselves unemployed at present.

When meeting the STUC next, will the Minister take on board the pressing comments made by the CBI in Scotland about the state of the economy? After the meeting with the STUC, will he go back to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and tell him plainly that he is engaged on a disastrous course which will increase unemployment in Scotland to well above the 200,000 mark which we have now reached?

I can only repudiate the hon. Gentleman's very tortuous question and the points that he tries to make.

When my hon. Friend meets the STUC, will he draw to its attention the decision in the High Court yesterday that the political levy may now be paid to the Conservative Party as well as to the Labour Party, thus enabling those many thousands of trade unionists who voted Conservative now to contribute?

Like my hon. Friend, I shall be delighted if those trade unionists who vote Conservative in very great numbers, and in increasing numbers, now find that they are able to contribute to the Conservative Party's finances.

If the Minister is so concerned about what he describes as the damaging effects that the steel strike is having in Scotland, why does he think that the Secretary of State for Industry and the Prime Minister deliberately provoked the strike?

That is an extremely childish comment, coming from a member of the previous Government, who managed to double unemployment in Scotland during their term.

Skillcentre (Inverclyde)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will pay a visit shortly to the skillcentre in Inverclyde.

The right hon. Gentleman did have some plans to do so. Is the Minister aware that the suggestion that this skillcentre should close is one of the silliest and meanest of all the silly and mean decisions made by the present Government? Is he not aware of the high unemployment figure there? The whole community recognises the importance of a retraining programme. Closure would mean about 1,400 young people in the area remaining without jobs and without proper training. Will the Minister reconsider the whole nonsense of the Government's attitude towards skillcentres in Scotland and in Britain?

The future of the Port Glasgow centre is under consideration by the Manpower Services Commission. The intention is not to reduce the number of training places in the area but to ensure that the location of each centre corresponds to the demand for training places. The hon. Gentleman should know that only one-third of the places at Port Glasgow are filled by people who reside in the Inverclyde area. He should also know that the MSC is not planning to reduce the number of places overall in the area but to try to make the locations of the training centres more suitable for the demand that is there.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Does he agree that it would make a lot more sense to concentrate scarce resources at the excellent centre at Hillington and possibly provide subsidiary facilities at Barrhead?

Certainly the MSC is looking at the whole Glasgow area. I cannot say anything about Barrhead in particular, but I can say that the BSC is planning to build a new centre in Rutherglen.

Is the Minister aware that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Foulkes) and myself visited the skillcentre at Irvine on Monday, and, although it is not on the list of skillcentres to be closed, we were told that the proposed new building had been delayed? Will the hon Gentleman give a guarantee that he will ensure that the MSC gives the go-ahead to the new building at Irvine, in view of the fact that it will help not only the Members of Parliament for Kilmarnock, South Ayrshire and Central Ayrshire but also the Secretary of State for Scotland?

:Since training and retraining are, however, recognised to be at the heart of the unemployment problem in Scotland, and as unemployment is now over 200,000, and rising rapidly, how can it possibly make sense to close, for example, the skillcentre at Port Glasgow, which is in an area with a long and very serious unemployment problem? Surely this kind of nonsense ought to be reconsidered and these decisions ought to be rescinded?

The right hon Gentleman knows all about high unemployment figures. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] However, concerning the skillcentre at Port Glasgow, I assure him that the number of places available in the Glasgow area generally is not being decreased, but the MSC feels that it could make a better disposition of the resources available to it. That must be in the interests of people seeking training places in the area.

:On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of the answer that I have received, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity of raising the matter on the Adjournment.

Police Interviews (Tape Recording)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the progress of the trial use of tape recorders in police stations in Scotland.

The experiment has begun. Police officers are being trained on the equipment provided. Necessary building alterations to police stations have almost been completed, and guidelines have been drawn up for the conduct and monitoring of the experiment. The recording of actual interrogations of suspects will commence shortly.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. However, in view of the importance that the Thompson committee gave to the linking of proposed police powers of detention with the tape-recording of any proceedings within police stations, before this House considers the criminal justice Bill will some sort of report be laid before Parliament so that hon. Members can assess how important it is to have these matters tape-recorded?

We shall certainly try to give such information as it becomes available on the success of the experiment. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the implementation of tape-recording, if the experiment proves successful, will not require legislation. Therefore, it is not absolutely essential that it be included in the Bill.

Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will not implement the increased police powers of detention, and the interrogation that would follow from them, until tape-recording in police stations is available? Will he recall that in connection with that, the present Solicitor-General for Scotland, then acting on the Opposition Front Bench on the previous Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, gave some favourable notice to the suggestion that that part of the new Bill, if and when it becomes law, should not be implemented until tape-recording is available?

We are also anxious to see whether these tape-recording experiments will work, but I cannot give that particular assurance to the hon. Gentleman. The question of detention and the question of tape-recording are two separate issues. We shall consider each on its own merits. We hope that both will be implemented if the experiment proves to be a success.

Fish Processing Factories (Aberdeenshire)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he proposes to visit the fish processing factories in East Aberdeenshire.

My noble Friend the Minister of State has visited factories in the area in recent months and I intend to do so myself during my forthcoming visit to the North-East.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he endeavour to visit the area within the next month, bearing in mind the fact that at Peterhead last Saturday over 600 people connected with the fishing industry attended a crisis meeting because their livelihoods were at stake? It is absolutely essential that my right hon. Friend should see the situation at the very earliest possible moment.

I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said and for the account that he gave me of that important meeting. I shall, of course, try to visit these places as quickly as I can, and I shall keep in touch with my hon. Friend about possible dates.

Fishing Industry

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects next to meet representatives of the fishing industry.

I meet representatives of the industry frequently and will continue to do so, as the need arises. I certainly expect to meet them before the next Council of Fisheries Ministers.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the fishing industry is going through the worst crisis that anyone engaged in the industry can remember? Does he further accept that one major factor in the crisis is that, while the British fleet is cripplingly restricted in the fish it can catch and where it can catch them, foreign fish are flooding the country both on the quayside and in the inland markets? What consideration is he giving to the bringing in of import controls on subsidised foreign fish?

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is grave concern throughout the industry. I have promised the industry that I will do all I can to find out if there is any evidence of foreign supplies being dumped in our markets. I have the support of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade in that matter. I assure my hon. Friend that we are keeping the matter under close watch and we shall do what we can to help the industry.

Let me give the Secretary of State some evidence. Does he know that 180 boxes of prime white fish were unsold at Lerwick yesterday? It is suggested that that was due to imports and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look into that matter.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that information, and I shall certainly follow it up.

Does not the Secretary of State recognise that the time for looking for evidence and information has long since passed? If the Government do not take urgent action, the inshore industry will be decimated in much the same way as much of the distant fleet has been in recent years. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that there will, before the end of the month, be a statement on Government action?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows from his experience that the collection of information is essential if we are to take action against foreign subsidies or dumping. He will also know that the most important thing for the fishing industry is to have a common fisheries policy which is acceptable to the industry. We are putting all possible skill and energy into providing that as soon as possible. In the meantime, I have promised the industry that I will look at all the suggestions that it has made. I make that promise to the hon. Gentleman as well.

In view of the general crisis facing the Scottish industry and, in particular, the problems of the shellfish sector, will my right hon. Friend tell the House whether he has given any consideration to the possibility of imposing a quota on scampi fishing?

One difficult matter, as my hon. Friend knows well, is that as fishing opportunities become fewer the existing fleet crowds into the restricted space and it becomes more difficult for all species of fishing. We will have that aspect uppermost in our minds in negotiating a common fisheries policy agreement.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us when consultations will begin with the fishing industry and all the interests in it on the new body which is to supersede the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industries Board? Although it has been announced that there is to be a merger of the two bodies, the fishermen allege that no consultations have taken place with them, either on the role of the new agency, its membership or how it should be funded.

The fishermen can be assured that no decisions will be taken on the matter until consultations have taken place with them. I hope to get those consultations under way within the next month or two.

Unemployment (Berwickshire And East Lothian)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the latest unemployment figures for Berwickshire and East Lothian.

On 10 January, 905 people were registered as unemployed in East Lothian and 211 in Berwickshire—excluding the Gordon district for which separate figures are not available. Those figures are a welcome decrease over the level in January 1979, when the figures were 941 and 277 respectively.

In view of the fact that all parts of my constituency still have unemployment rates that are significantly higher than the United Kingdom average—particularly in view of the fact that the Tranent area has an unemployment rate in excess of 20 per cent.—will the Minister tell us how bad matters have to be before he will reconsider the decision to scrap our development area status? Will the Minister take urgent steps to ensure that Fleets industrial site will be developed without unnecessary delay?

The hon. Gentleman is aware that, although the unemployment figures are higher than we should have liked, they range between 5 per cent. and 6·8 per cent. in the areas to which I have referred, compared with the Scottish rate of 8·9 per cent. That is the sort of evidence that decides whether or not an area should receive development area status.

Forth Road Bridge (Toll Charges)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the deteriorating unemployment situation in Scotland generally, he will now remove toll charges from the Forth Road bridge.

I have no evidence that tolls on the Forth Road bridge have a detrimental effect on employment either in Fife or in Scotland generally. The cost of abolishing the tolls and writing off the debts would have to be borne by reductions in the road building programme elsewhere and I do not propose to introduce legislation to do that.

If that is not the cause of the terrible unemployment, there must be other causes. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that I, at least, have been consistent on the matter, no matter on which side of the House I have sat? Does he think that it is an absurd anomaly that one can drive from Brighton right up to Dundee and the only bit of road for which one has to pay is the bit across the Firth of Forth—[Interruption.] I refer only to the problem of Fife. Dundee Members should deal with their own problems. Does not the hon. Gentleman believe that it is time that the absurdity was ended, even if the effects of the charges are minimal as regards unemployment in Fife?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that major estuarial crossings throughout the United Fingdom have tolls. Indeed, the local authorities agreed on that basis when the bridges were first built. I have asked the Forth joint board what effect on transport would be produced by the abolition of tolls. It suggested that there would be an increase of about 1 per cent. only in traffic. That suggests that the effect is minimal, as I have indicated.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is also consistency on this side of the House? Conservative Members have long believed that the tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges should be abolished. Does he hold out any hope of the possibility that that will yet be considered at a later stage when there has not been a doubling of the national debt immediately beforehand?

The tolls were first introduced on the basis that there was a statutory obligation on the joint boards to pay for the total cost of the bridges. If that can be completed within the statutory period, the matter might be reconsidered at that stage. Until the outstand-debt has been paid off—in the case of the Forth bridge, that should be 1994—it is unlikely that any action will be taken.

Does the Minister accept that his party when in Opposition gave an undertaking to abolish the toll, which was welcomed by the present Secretary of State for Scotland? Does he also concede that the total charges on the user have increased enormously? That is the salient point. The Exchequer has no need for revenue from these tolls which are, in effect, extremely costly to take up and detrimental to industrial expansion in my constituency.

The hon. Gentleman is correct that in 1974 at the general election we said that we would abolish the tolls. He will recall that we lost that general election. The hon. Gentleman will also recollect that in 1979 we made no such pledge and we won that election. He can draw whatever conclusions he wishes from that statement.

Housing (Waiting Lists And Transfer Requests)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make investigations to find out for each housing authority in Scotland the number of people on the housing waiting list and the number of transfer requests.

No, Sir. Waiting lists can never be a satisfactory method of estimating housing need. The practice of local authorities in preparing and revising their lists varies widely, and I do not feel that an investigation would be of significant value.

Is the Minister aware that the district councils covering parts of my constituency have over 3,000 on their waiting lists and at least as many again on the transfer lists? Will the Minister at least do his homework and find out the facts instead of forcing local authorities to sell off houses with legislation that is based not on fact but on irresponsible doctrinaire blind prejudice?

If the hon. Gentleman did his homework he would be aware that Stirling district council, which is within his own constituency, is voluntarily selling council houses. Clearly, it has not come to the same conclusion as the hon. Gentleman.

Will my hon. Friend tell the House whether the present system of housing allocation and transfer has helped or hindered the mobility of labour that we need so badly if we are to revive the Scottish economy? Will he also confirm that the proposed legislation before the House will not help that?

I agree with my hon. Friend that certain aspects of the present rules have inhibited mobility. The Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Bill therefore proposes to abolish the residential qualification. That has been widely welcomed by all those concerned with furthering employment and mobility in Scotland.

As the Minister does not propose to find out how many people are waiting on transfer lists, how can he presume to order local authorities to sell off every house that a tenant applies to buy? Does not that illustrate once again the unanswerable case for giving local authorities discretion over the number and type of houses that they put on the market?

As the hon. Gentleman is a former chairman of a housing committee, he should be the first to be aware that a housing waiting list is not necessarily an indication of housing need. Many people who are on the waiting list are simply seeking a transfer to accommodation in an area that they prefer, or to a house more suitable for their requirements. To suggest that all those on a waiting list are homeless, or in urgent need of re-housing is, as I am sure that hon. Members will agree, a totally false assertion.

Will my hon. Friend spare no effort to get it into the heads of the Opposition that the present Housing Bill will not affect waiting lists? The houses to be sold are already, by definition, occupied by council tenants. Will he make it clear to the Opposition that the Bill will free local authorities to concentrate their energies and resources upon those with the greatest housing need?

I agree with my hon. Friend. I can give explanations to the Opposition, but I cannot give them comprehension.

Is it not amazing that, at a time when we are embarking upon a radical alteration to housing policies in Scotland, the Minister has told us that in key areas it is not worth the time of his Department to find out important statistics? Will he tell his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) that the statistics that the Minister gave me this week show that there is no argument to suggest that private home ownership increases mobility in council house or private house tenure?

If the hon Gentleman is interested in all-Scottish figures, he should know that there are more houses than households seeking accommodation in Scotland. The problems involve particular areas. The hon. Gentleman must know that the waiting lists provided by local authorities are subject to totally different criteria in different areas. Therefore, any national figures are of limited value.

Curriculum (Consultative Committee)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when last he met the Consultative Committee on the Curriculum.

My right hon. Friend has not yet met the committee, but I hope to do so in the near future.

Does the Minister agree that in 1975 we still had part-time education in the West of Scotland, and that by 1979 the Government had inherited the best pupil-teacher ratio ever known? Is he further aware that the main reason for an increase in teachers at a time of a falling birth rate is to help less able pupils in deprived areas, and to give help to youngsters going into industry? Is it not highly irresponsible that the Minister has called for a cutback of over 2,000 teachers in Scotland before consulting his own advisory body?

I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the Government's intentions. He has referred to the excess over agreed standards, including flexibility factors, of teachers in Scotland. That excess particularly affects primary school teachers. The hon. Gentleman, the former Minister responsible for education in Scotland, will be pleased to know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have planned an even better pupil-teacher ratio in Scotland next year. As the hon. Gentleman might have wished to say, we are carrying on the good work in pupil-teacher ratios that he was so proud of.

When my hon. Friend meets the consultative committee, will he discuss the problems of distortion in core curricula of secondary schools, which is caused by the shortage of mathematics and science teachers? Is it not time that local authorities considered making extra payments to teachers of those subjects?

I agree that this is a very serious problem in Scotland. We could relieve that problem if we paid specialist teachers, such as those for maths and physics, more. However, it is unlikely that the teachers' associations in Scotland, among others, would agree to distinguish between shortage subjects and other subjects.

As regards the curricula relating to third and fourth years of secondary schools, can the Minister tell us what has happened to the Munn and Dunning reports? Will he also tell us the results of subsequent experiments? How will local authorities be able to implement any improvements in the curricula for third and fourth years if the number of teachers is substantially reduced as a result of the Government's restraint on public expenditure?

My right hon. Friend made it clear in his first speech to the House as Secretary of State that we would actively follow up the Munn and Dunning pilot studies with a view to introducing a core syllabus at foundation level. Over 60 schools are involved in the experiment. We consider the experiment to be critical for Scottish education and we shall continue to pursue it.

Is my hon. Friend not concerned that the shortage of teachers in key subjects, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) referred, is further evidence that the educational system is antipathetic to preparing people to work in practical jobs and careers after leaving school?

Young people often leave school unsure of the value of their experience. I therefore accept my hon. Friend's point. It is important for the syllabus to include recognition of life in industry and commerce generally. It should prepare young people for working life.

As regards the number of teachers employed in Scottish schools, does the Minister accept that there is provision in the rate support grant, negotiated this year, to reduce the number of teachers in Scottish schools by 2,600? Will he answer either "Yes" or "No" to that question? Teachers, parents and pupils are concerned about the damage that he is doing to education in Scotland.

Obviously, one can budget for fewer teachers when the school population is declining. That is what we did in the rate support grant. However, the pupil-teacher ratio will improve in the coming year as a direct result of the rate support grant settlement.

Education (Tayside)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied with the provision of education in Tayside.

Educational provision in Tayside compares satisfactorily with provision in the rest of Scotland.

Does the Minister realise that that answer confirms that his standards for education are, perhaps, just as low as his standards as regards the provision of jobs in Scotland? Does he remember the Adjournment debate last week and his failure to answer my question about the intention of Tayside regional council to phase out 30 posts, supported under Circular 991? Those teaching posts are in areas of deprivation. Does the Minister approve of Tayside regional council's action? If not, what proposals will he make to ensure that the funding of those teachers continues?

The staff complement of schools essentially concerns the regional authority. The most recent pupil-teacher ratios in Tayside compare very favourably with other areas of Scotland. That is our main guide for the provision of education in Scotland.

Does my hon. Friend recognise that the pilot scheme for schools in Tayside, promoted with the co-operation of teachers, further education lecturers and industry and which will lead to a mathematics course for those considering craft apprenticeships, is of considerable value, given the present skill bottleneck? Will he urge other education authorities to adopt a similar scheme?

Yes. This is an important scheme. I understand that about 16 schools are involved in Tayside. The regional authority has shown great initiative. I hope that other authorities will take advantage of the experience in Tayside and that they will follow this good example.

When the Minister visits Tayside on Friday, will he discuss with the Tayside regional authority its intentions as regards provisions for primary schools in the West End of Dundee? Will he indicate to the Tayside regional authority the outright opposition of all school councils and parents concerned, to its intentions?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that reorganisation in school provision requires the approval of my right hon. Friend. Until such a scheme is submitted to us, it is not wise for us to comment.

Glue Sniffing

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the recent large increase in the numbers of young people known to practise glue sniffing in the east end of Glasgow, if he will take steps designed to solve the problem.

The number of known new cases in that area of Glasgow fluctuates from month to month, but overall the number reported for the first time has declined in the past year. I remain of the view that the problem can be dealt with only by a comprehensive and continuing programme of community health education. In that regard, my Department has issued advice to directors of social work, directors of education, chief administrative medical officers and chief constables.

Will the Minister accept that his answer is unbelievably complacent in view of recent events, which in some cases have involved serious damage to property and even loss of life? Will he assure us that, in spite of public expenditure cuts, more resources will be made available to help combat this serious and growing problem?

In no way are the Government complacent over the problem. Had that been so, we should not have taken the trouble to get in touch with the bodies that I mentioned. Our firm view is that legislation will be counter-productive.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the problem extends far beyond the East End of Glasgow? In spite of his previous answer, is my hon. Friend prepared to undertake to the House that the Government will at least consider legislative measures in the new Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill?

There are other areas in Scotland besides Glasgow where the habit prevails, but it is more prevalent in Glasgow. Legislation has been considered, but all opinion is that it would be counter-productive.

Is the Minister aware of reports that the number attending clinics in the East End of Glasgow has risen from 600 to 900, which is a 50 per cent. increase? That is indicative of the seriousness of the problem. Is he further aware that in the other four areas no figures are kept? Will he consider a much more comprehensive plan of action, in addition to merely providing health education?

I can only repeat that we have been in touch with a number of bodies and individuals and that we are taking the problem seriously. There are 225 new cases in Glasgow out of a total of 46,000 schoolchildren. The Government give high priority to combating the habit. We shall do everything in our power to overcome the evil, but all the advice that we receive is that legislation would be counter-productive.

Lothian Regional Council

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he plans next to meet the convener of the Lothian regional council.

I met the convener of Lothian regional council and three of his colleagues on 4 February, when I urged them to reduce spending and avoid excessive rate increases in 1980–81, in line with the Government's wider economic and fiscal policies. I have no present plans for a further meeting.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the contemptuous reactions of Labour councillors following that meeting? Does he accept that that rogue elephant of a council will not desist from its legitimised robbery of the ratepayers of Edinburgh in the proposed massive and unjustified rate increases? As a matter of urgency, will he seek new powers to stop that, if necessary by suspending the council?

I sympathise with my hon. Friend and his constituents in view of reports that indicate extremely severe rate increases for the Lothian region. I explained to the councillors why they should act like all other local authorities in Scotland and do their best to contain expenditure. I hope that the council will listen to what I have said.

Is it not time that the Secretary of State ended that political charade and admitted that, of the highest rate increase so far suggested in the Lothian region of 25p, 20p is a direct consequence of the Government's inflationary policies? Furthermore, will he make it clear that he informed the Lothian regional council that the only action he could take against it is to cut Government support, which will result in further rate increases?

The hon. Gentleman is aware that the discussions were about saving expenditure. When his right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) was Secretary of State he also tried to impress on Lothian regional council the need to keep down expenditure, but met with no success. I tried to point out to the council that other local authorities in Scotland, whatever their political views, are doing their best to reduce expenditure, but it appears from reports that Lothian region has no such intention. I drew that fact, and the likely severe effects on ratepayers if it did not keep down expenditure, to the council's attention.

Will my right hon. Friend take note that Moray district council has announced that it will increase rates by only 1p in the £?

I can only congratulate my hon. Friend on what appears to be the good housekeeping of his district council. I believe that, on average, electors in Scotland will find that, if they live in the area of a Conservative-controlled authority, they will have much lower rate increases than in a Labour-controlled area.

When the Secretary of State for Scotland next meets the convener of Lothian region, will he explain to him why the Government have decided to export unemployment particularly to the Lothians? His hon. Friend quoted that policy to me as a consideration in deciding to close the Scottish plant breeding station in my constituency.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern, but the decision was taken for entirely management reasons, in view of the operations involved. I have explained that carefully to hon. Members.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Lothian regional council and other councils should first seek to save expenditure in their staffing levels? Will he accept that they would do well to follow the fine example set by Dumfries and Galloway regional council.

I am sure that Lothian regional council will be grateful for my hon. Friend's advice. I hope that it will heed that advice as well as my own.

Will the Secretary of State accept that the convener of Lothian region is not a rogue elephant but has long and distinguished service in local government, and feels an understandable sense of outrage about the effect of this Government's policies on the services that he has built up? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that that sense of outrage will be widely felt in local government if he uses his powers over capital allocations in an arbitrary fashion to punish Lothian region because he does not like its politics?

On 4 February I made it clear to Lothian region that the last thing I wish to do is take action against any local authority. I promised COSLA that I should take no action without first consulting that body. I very much hope not to have to take action. However, we have to bear in mind the terrible effect of very large rate increases on ratepayers. Councils have a responsibility to think of that, as well as of services.

Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that, apart from Lothian, all local authorities in Scotland are making every effort to contain expenditure increases? If so, how does he explain that there will still be massive rate increases in those areas next year? Does he accept that the increases are an inevitable result of Government policies, particularly over the rate support grant?

This is not the case. We have no information that there will be massive rate increases in all areas. Some areas, particularly those with Conservative-controlled authorities, do not expect there to be large increases. The right hon. Gentleman and I know better than most hon. Members that the key is to save money on services. Most authorities in Scotland accept that it is possible to do that. We are merely asking Lothian to do the same as other authorities, which is not unreasonable.

Robroyston Hospital, Glasgow

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on the sale of land by his Department at Robroyston hospital in Glasgow.

Robroyston hospital and the land surrounding it was sold in1977, with entry in May 1978, after extensive advertisement. The price was £410,000, and the only offer was received from the purchaser. An internal inquiry has not disclosed any irregularity in the procedures followed by my Department. I propose, however, to arrange for the Department's actions in this case to be the subject of an independent review, which will also examine whether and how the Departmental procedures might be improved. I will inform the House about the arrangements for this review as soon as possible.

Will the Secretary of State accept that that independent review is most welcome? However, is it possible to extend the review's powers to examine local authorities that are involved? Is the Secretary of State aware that there is a great deal of disquiet throughout Scotland over the land deal?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome of the inquiry, which will do best to start with the procedures of the Department. If it throws up any other information no doubt that could be investigated appropriately. If the local authorities require any investigations, it is for them to decide.

Order. I propose to allow one minute extra, and I shall add it on at 3.30 pm, in order to call one more hon. Member from either side on this question.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there was something grossly negligent about the way the Scottish Office handled the matter under the previous Labour Administration? Is it not almost incredible that the Scottish Office sold this land at a cheap rate without having consulted the regional council and without, apparently, consulting the Scottish Development Department about the likely prospect of re-zoning, which would, and did, massively increase the value of the land? Was not that a serious piece of maladministration by the Scottish Office?

I appreciate my hon. Friend's concern about the matter. I am bound to say that the inquiries that I have made so far do not indicate that there was anything amiss in the Departments' procedures. The inquiry that I have now suggested will surely make it clear whether there was anything amiss.

May I say to the Secretary of State, as I was the Minister responsible at the time, that I note that his internal inquiry has not brought out any irregularity? May I say also that I very much welcome the independent review?

Scottish Law Commission

40.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when he expects next to meet the Scottish Law Commission.

Neither I nor my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Advocate at present has any plans to meet the Scottish Law Commission, but meetings are held when and as necessary.

Will the Solicitor-General remind the Law Commission that we have been waiting for almost 10 years for a report of its inquiry into the conduct of warrant sales under the law of diligence?

Will the Government therefore support my Bill to ban warrant sales at least until such time as the Law Commission produces a Bill with acceptable alternative proposals?

No, Sir. In 1977, for example, out of 91,666 debt decrees granted, only 285—under 0·3 per cent.—resulted in warrant sales.

Will my hon. and learned Friend ask the Law Commission to consider the anomaly that local authorities can impound property belonging to other individuals on sites such as caravan sites, when rates have not been paid?

I shall certainly consider the matter. If the hon. Gentleman cares to write to me on the subject, I shall consider it in greater detail.

Is the Solicitor-General aware that those of us who, unlike himself, are not familiar with the law, feel that the present system of warrant sales mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling-shire (Mr. Canavan) is fair to neither debtor nor creditor? We cannot understand why it is that the Law Commission is taking such a long time—even allowing for the fact that it is a complex matter—to bring about a satisfactory system for debtors and creditors.

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's difficulty. The law of diligence is much wider than warrant sales in themselves, and we cannot deal with them separately. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he can, in 10 years, revise the whole of the law of diligence better than the Law Commission and the working parties whose members give their diligent application without any cost to public funds, I do not believe that he will be successful.

Will the Solicitor-General consult the Law Commission about legislation on solvent abuse? Despite what was said in an earlier reply, will the Solicitor-General remember that he and two of his colleagues sitting on the Front Bench now voted for an amendment to make the supply of solvents to minors a criminal offence in the last Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, and carried the support of the entire Tory side of the Committee? Why was it such a good idea then, and why is it such a bad idea now?

I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will remember that I was convinced by the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), and voted for it, whereas the hon. Gentleman voted against it, as did other Opposition Members. It hardly lies in their mouths to seek to teach us.

Let me say this, which is important. Solvent abuse is an increasing danger, not only for minors. It is a matter that causes a great deal of criminal activity among minors and others, and is a great danger to the public. We must treat it as a matter of enormous urgency and consider what can be done to prevent it.

Sheriffs Principal

41.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland if he has any plans to meet the sheriffs principal.

I have informal meetings with the sheriffs principal from time to time. I am meeting Sheriff Principal Charles Johnston at Airdrie on 18 February.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his reply. Will he, when he next meets the Sheriff Principal, consider with him the number of cases that have appeared before sheriffs in which jurors and witnesses have been called and then the accused has pleaded guilty?

This is a really difficult problem. I understand that in Edinburgh almost 80 per cent. of accused persons plead at the second diet when represented by solicitors or counsel. In Aberdeen the figure is about 50 per cent.

It is a monstrous imposition on witnesses on jurors. I hope that the legal profession will find a solution and will not abandon its duty in this matter.

Will the Solicitor-General say what proportion of the 80 per cent. and 50 per cent. that he has mentioned are legally aided? Does the Solicitor-General accept that one of the major causes of concern is the number of clients pleading guilty at the second diet, especially in legally aided cases?

That is my concern. A large amount of legal aid and public funds is spent because witnesses and jurors are called and the client then pleads guilty at the last moment. I consider that that is a grave abuse. It is something that I wish to prevent. However, we must all remember that it is difficult to persuade a man to be executed before the day of judgment.

Lord Justice General

42.

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland when he intends next to meet the Lord Justice General.

I shall be meeting the Lord Justice General on Tuesday 12 February. He will be in London for his introduction into the House of Lords on the following day, which I am sure everybody will welcome.

When my hon. and learned Friend meets the Lord Justice General in London, will he raise with him the problem of the cost of waiting days in the High Court in Scotland, which is a considerable burden to the legal aid fund?

Will he consider the introduction in the High Court of Scotland of fixed diets so that public funds on this important matter are largely saved?

I share my hon. Friend's concern about the amount of public funds disbursed on waiting days. I understand that counsel receive two-thirds of a day's fee for waiting days. At present, in the High Court when cases are set down there is always a reserve case. It is believed that that saves more money than it costs. I wish to see a great reduction in the expenditure on waiting days.

When the Solicitor-General meets the Lord Justice General, on what clearly will be a very merry occasion, will he explore with him the situation which will arise in Scotland when we have the combination of the powers of detention under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and the new measures on picketing under the United Kingdom Employment Bill? Does he realise that the detention of witnesses under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill will bring grave repercussions on an entire picket line? Will he look at this question seriously?

First, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman listened. The Lord Justice General is being introduced on 13 February, so 12 February will be a sober day. The 13February will be a merry day. I do not know what his propositions are on 14 February.

As regards picket lines and the detention of witnesses, if the hon. Gentleman reads what was said by my noble and learned Friend in the House of Lords on what the hon. Gentleman calls the detention of witnesses, I think that his conscience, which I know is always heavy, will be relieved.

When my hon. and learned Friend next meets the Lord Justice General, will he take the opportunity of discussing with him the wisdom of extending the oath of faithful administration to those engaged in the administration of justice in Scotland who at present are under no obligation to take it?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend for raising that matter. We should understand that all of us owe an oath of fidelity to carry out our service to the community. I think that it would be a very good thing if clerks of courts and others took the same oath as those who serve justice.

Does the Solicitor-General honestly believe that the mere taking of an oath makes an administrator a better administrator?

No. But some of us actually keep our word under oath.

Rhodesia

:With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on Rhodesia.

The elections are now only three weeks away. Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe have returned to the country. The political campaign is under way.

Election broadcasts have begun. Each party has been allotted, equal time.

Election supervisors froth the United Kingdom are positioned throughout the country to oversee preparations for the elections. Arrangements have been made to return ballot papers to this country after the poll to set at rest fears that the secrecy of the vote will not be preserved.

The Commonwealth observer team has been in Rhodesia since 24 January and official observers from individual European and Commonwealth countries will arrive shortly.

Arrangements are being made through the usual channels for a small group of parliamentary observers to witness the elections.

Violent incidents continue to cause deep concern, although the numbers of incidents and of casualties remain far below those prevailing before the ceasefire came into force. The two attacks on buses last Sunday were particularly horrifying and distressing examples.

Today, we have heard of attacks on the house of Mr. Robert Mugabe and of one of his party officials. I know that hon. Members will join me in deploring all such attacks.

The great majority of the incidents investigated formally by the Ceasefire Commission have been attributed to Mr. Mugabe's ZANLA forces, several thousand of whom remain outside the assembly places in breach of the agreements.

Patriotic Front military commanders are present at all meetings of the Ceasefire Commission and have accepted these findings. Action has been taken to discipline elements in the auxiliaries who have acted in breach of the agreements.

The principal threat to fair elections comes from large-scale intimidation of the rural population. In certain parts of the country it has been made impossible for even Mr. Nkomo or Bishop Muzorewa to hold meetings. People have been told that if they, do not vote according to the wishes of a party, the war will continue or they will be killed. This is a matter of great concern.

The parties signed a solemn undertaking at Lancaster House to campaign peacefully and without intimidation. The Governor has invited them to renew that commitment. It is vital that people should be able to make up their own minds about their political future without fear of the consequences.

The Governor has also taken the power to impose limited penalties against any—any—party or its candidates which fails to honour its undertakings.

The return of refugees from neighbouring countries has begun under arrangements co-ordinated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It is hoped that all those in Botswana will return before the elections, as well as a high proportion of those in Zambia.

The return of the refugees from Mozambique is also proceeding, though more slowly because of the unsettled condition in the east of the country.

At our insistence, the political detainees held by ZANU in Mozambique have, like all political detainees in Rhodesia, been released.

Road and rail links with neighbouring countries are being reopened. Diplomatic representatives from nine countries are present in Salisbury with six more to follow shortly. An important and positive development has been the introduction of joint patrols by Patriotic Front forces and the police in the vicinity of assembly areas.

Nevertheless, the Governor's task the remaining weeks will be, no easier than it has been up till now But what has been achieved so far by way of giving effect to the Lancaster House agreements represents a much greater advance than many people dared to hope for.

I am sure that the House will join me in paying tribute to the Governor for the determination and fairness that he has shown in dealing with the sensitive problems and conflicting pressures that I have described.

Against this background of solid achievement, the Government regret that the tone of last week's debate on Rhodesia in the United Nations Security Council was absurdly one-sided and selective. Such polemics can only increase tension and make the implementation of the settlement more difficult.

Machinery already exists in Salisbury for the investigation and redress of grievances, and, as the Security Council has frequently told us, that responsibility is ours.

The Government felt it inappropriate to associate themselves in any way with a resolution that purported to reinterpret the agreements reached with the parties at Lancaster House. The United Kingdom did not, therefore, participate in the vote.

I am sure that the whole House will wish to condemn the attacks last night on Mr. Mugabe and one of his leading supporters in Salisbury. It illustrates once again the real dangers to which all African politicians in Rhodesia are exposed today. It also indicates that the dangers that threaten arise from many different quarters and are not to be identified with any one faction or allegiance in that country. It further illustrates the paramount need to make the ceasefire effective and to combat terrorism.

We welcome the progress that has been made and a number of the matters that are recorded in the Lord Privy Seal's statement, but we understand that there are still great difficulties to be overcome in the next three weeks.

We note that the Governor has taken important powers in the new ordinance to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The use of some of those powers may be unavoidable. However, I suggest that any decision to disqualify a political party, whether nationally or in any of the eight electoral regions of Rhodesia, would be a decision of the utmost gravity and would put in doubt in a dangerous way the validity of the whole electoral process. I certainly hope that every opportunity will be given to the House to comment upon any proposed decision of that kind before it was taken.

We understand the difficulties of the Governor and his small staff. They are inevitably relying upon an Administration who, by history and tradition, have a view of the future which is not necessarily the view of hon. Members on either side of the House. We understand all the limitations, but it is important that the Governor should not only be impartial but be seen to be impartial in all the things that he does.

I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it is not sensible for him to be so dismissive of the recent discussion in the Security Council. When all is said and done, all that it was calling for at the end of the day was that we should all observe the Lancaster House agreement to the full. I cannot have it said that there are 15 members of the Security Council, all of whom have some deep-dyed animosity and suspicion directed against this country. That is not so.

I should like to put three brief questions. The right hon. Gentleman referred—this is an important matter—to action taken not only against ZANLA guerrillas who have not legitimised themselves by reporting to their assembly points but against the auxiliaries—a genuine and real problem. The right hon. Gentleman says that some action has been taken. What action? This is important in relation to the building up of confidence.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the return of refugees. This, again, is an important matter. My information is that there have been extraordinarily protracted procedural delays at the borders, particularly with Botswana. Can the right hon. Gentleman throw any light on this matter and suggest how the problems can be overcome?

I am aware that the political detainees have been released, but the right hon. Gentleman will agree that there are over 2,000 court martial offenders who have not yet been released. There may be difficulties, but there are, surely, ways of accelerating this process. At the very least, in my view, the ICRC should be admitted to them. That would be a reassuring measure in itself. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider releasing them at least to the assembly points? If they are people who have previously belonged to one or other of the Patriotic Front forces, why cannot they be released to the assembly points where the others are gathered?

On the crucial question of the prevention of intimidation and the proper enforcement of the ceasefire, will the Government look again, and get the Governor to look again, at the text of the Lancaster House agreement, with its clear and specific emphasis on the role of the separate armed forces, and how each of them, in the first instance, is to enforce the law? I should like to feel, and I should like him to assure the House, that the right hon. Gentleman is calling upon the different armed forces to enforce the peace and to deal with breaches of the ceasefire in their areas. Will he give the assurance that only if they are unable to do that will he call in those forces who are prepared to obey the Governor's remit?

I thoroughly agree with the early part of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks but I regret slightly the somewhat grudging tenor of his later remarks. I should like to take what he said in order.

Of course, we agree that to disqualify a political party would be an act of utmost gravity. That is why the Governor has promulgated the ordinance today that gives him far less draconian and far more moderate powers. For instance, he can prohibit meetings by the party concerned in certain areas where it has breached the agreement, or suspend a candidate from all or part of the campaign, and so on. I agree that the exercise of any of those powers, in itself, would be undesirable, but it is far less undesirable than the systematic intimidation that is at present going on. If there are to be full, fair and free elections, there must be a great diminution of, and an end to, this intimidation. Therefore, the Governor has to take these powers and has to be unflinching in his operation of them.

I regret what the right hon. Gentleman said about the impartiality of the Governor. Of course, he is impartial—

By all men of good will, he is seen to be impartial. He has undertaken this task as a matter of great public service and he is discharging it exactly as one would expect, according to the highest possible standards.

What the right hon. Gentleman said about the United Nations is wrong. A great many allegations have been made that the right hon. Gentleman would not countenance if he read what has been said. He would deplore them more strongly, if anything, than I have done. There are 14 other members. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that all the Western members gave an explanation of their votes that showed clearly what they thought. Their view of what was going on was far nearer mine than that of the right hon. Gentleman.

The achievements in respect of refugees have been considerable. Nearly 10,000 have already been moved from Botswana. It is hoped that the operation will be completed by 21 February. There are fewer than 2,000 martial law detainees still detained. It would have been fairer if the right hon. Gentleman had said—as I told him earlier—that originally there were over 5,000 martial law detainees. Considerable progress has been made. We hope that further progress will be made, but the right hon. Gentleman and the House will appreciate that there is a considerable security problem. The Governor is reviewing the matter and hopes to let out more, but I cannot promise that all will be let out by the time the election comes forward.

The auxiliaries are, of course, monitored by the monitoring force. When accusations have been made against them, these are investigated. Disciplinary action has been taken, and will continue to be taken, against them if they transgress what they should be doing, but the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in many parts they are doing things, such as reopening schools, and so forth, that cannot possibly be open to any form of criticism. If they go too far and engage in intimidation they must be dealt with, like anyone else.

I preface my remarks by welcoming the progress that has been made since the Lord Privy Seal last made a statement. Does he recall that a few weeks ago he was very irritated in this House at those of us who questioned the implementation of the Lancaster House agreement in terms of the removal of South African troops? Will he, therefore, not turn his current irritation against the Security Council? There must be something deeply wrong when we find ourselves at variance with the United States on the vote. I hope that all this will be put behind us now that the South African troops are removed, and that we shall concentrate on the future rather than blame the Security Council.

According to reports that I have received—I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman can confirm them—one of the difficulties in the country is the growing scale of independent banditry among groups of people not properly under the control of Mr. Mugabe or Bishop Muzorewa. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the monitoring forces are satisfied that they are able to monitor the auxiliaries when they, unlike the guerrillas, are not even required to be, or supposed to be, in particular assembly points?

Will the right hon. Gentleman give a reassurance that it is intended that the Commonwealth monitoring force will remain until after polling day and until the newly elected Government have been formed and properly installed?

The date of the monitoring forces' withdrawal has not yet been decided. The auxiliaries are monitored. Plainly, however, there have been incidents where they have been at fault. Otherwise, they would not have been disciplined. They will continue to be monitored.

The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that there are some bandits about. I do not think that anyone believes that they are the main cause of the trouble.

I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman said in welcoming the progress that has been made. As to his remarks about the United Nations, I can only repeat what I said to the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore). If the right hon. Gentleman reads the debate he will see that he is lining himself up with sentiments with which he could not possibly agree. It is for the American Government to explain their vote. I should, however, point out that both the American and the French representatives made strong statements of support for the Governor's efforts and endorsed our view that the resolution could not be treated as a reinterpretation of the Lancaster House agreement.

:Can my right hon. Friend confirm that between 4,000 and 5,000 of Mr. Mugabe's guerrillas are still operating inside the country and that a similar number of Mr. Nkomo's guerrillas are under arms on the Zambian side of the frontier? Is he aware, following upon the disqualification question raised by the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore), that there is a growing feeling inside Rhodesia, among blacks as much as, if not more than, whites, that the Government are embarking upon a public relations exercise over the elections to get us off the hook? Will he refute that calumny and make clear that we shall support the Governor in every way possible to ensure that the letter and the spirit of the Lancaster House agreement are observed?

I said that there were several thousand ZANLA guerrillas about. It is impossible to make an exact estimate of their numbers, but I have no reason to believe that my right hon. Friend's estimate is particularly inaccurate. As to the ZIPRA forces, I do not know the answer. They have co-operated very well in the ceasefire and with the Governor, and we have no complaints against them.

I did not know that it had been put out that we were engaged in a public relations exercise. It is hardly worth refuting the calumny. I certainly welcome the opportunity that my right hon. Friend has given to say that we shall carry out the Lancaster House agreement to the full, and that we shall ensure that there are free and fair elections in Rhodesia.

Does the Lord Privy Seal not agree that when the entire Security Council takes a different view from Britain about what is going on in Rhodesia it creates some uncertainty for us about his assurance that nobody is in any doubt about the Governor's impartiality? Would it not reinforce that impartiality if we were to end martial law, let out the martial law prisoners, who are detained only because they were involved in the fighting, and keep the auxiliaries in barracks, just as the Patriotic Front forces are kept in their assembly areas?

No one could accuse the hon. Gentleman of inconsistency in these matters. I think that he would certainly have fitted very well into the United Nations debate. However, if only he would read that debate even he would be shaken by what was said, and he would also realise that to say that 14 members of the United Nations were agreed against us is sheer rubbish.

It would be impracticable to free all the martial law detainees. More than half have already been freed. It is right that the auxiliaries should be closely monitored, and they are, but the idea of returning them to barracks is not practicable.

At a time when the cool courage of the British and Commonwealth troops is being praised on all sides, will my right hon. Friend give the most careful consideration to arguments in favour of withdrawing those forces before the final election result is known, since many feel that otherwise they will be in a perilous position?

As I have already said, we have not yet decided on the exact date of withdrawal of the monitoring force. I am glad to hear what my hon. Friend said about it. It is universally agreed that its behaviour has been marvellous. Very small detachments brought in large numbers of guerrillas, and those detachments behaved with considerable courage and great skill and impartiality. I know that the whole House will want to pay tribute to them.

Towards the beginning of his statement the Lord Privy Seal referred to observers from individual European countries. What is their locus and their function?

Their locus is that they are representatives of European countries. They will be observing the elections.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that only the most biased person would question the independence and impartiality of the Governor? In order to deal with matters of intimidation, has not legal action been taken in respect of a considerable number of instances and court sentences passed on those found guilty?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The House should realise that not just Bishop Muzorewa or the internal parties are complaining about intimidation. Mr. Nkomo and his party have also complained. Labour Members should bear that in mind.

What contingency plans have been formulated to meet the possibility, if not the inevitability, that any election result that does not advantage Mr Mugabe's party will not be regarded as valid?

I do not think that contingency plans are needed for that. Clearly, however, certain people have made up their minds already. Their definition of a free and fair election is that Mr. Mugabe should win.

Last year, in spite of the hostility of the Patriotic Front, an illegal regime managed to hold what many independent observers regarded as free and fair elections. Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the resources now exist on a similar scale to ensure that free and fair elections will be held under the present regime?

I think that the resources are there. They will be very similar, because the same people are involved. However, there have been some worrying incidents, which is why the Governor has taken additional powers today under the new ordinance.

Will the right hon. Gentleman be very careful of his language in this fragile matter? What can he mean by saying that Bishop Muzorewa and the "internal parties" are concerned and that Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe are also concerned? Both men represent internal parties and have every right to take part in the elections. It is this kind of slight that is continually renewing the problem, especially when severe restrictions are placed on the return of refugees. Males are individually examined and told that they cannot come in because they are guerrillas. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore confirm that every refugee from Rhodesia is entitled to return to that country as quickly as possible in order to participate in the election?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's motives are good, but his first point is frivolous. He must know perfectly well that when I refer to the "internal parties" I mean those that were internal before the Lancaster House agreement. That is what they are called, and that is well known. It is a point too obvious to stress that Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo are allowed to take part in the election. If that were not so they would not have been allowed to return to the country. The hon. Gentleman does not need to labour matters of that sort.

On the question of refugees, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has read the Lancaster House agreement. Refugees are allowed to return, although it was made clear that it would be impossible for all of them to return before the election. It was also made clear that guerrillas or former guerrillas would not be allowed to return under the guise of refugees.

Order. I propose to call those hon. Members who have been rising and the Opposition Front Bench spokesman at the end as usual.

Is it not true that the overwhelming proponderance of acts of intimidation so far, including the murders at Rusape last weekend have been the direct responsibility of ZANU/ZANLA? If that is so, is it not the duty of the Government to make that absolutely plain, not only in Rhodesia but in this country and the rest of the world.

It is true that of 70 incidents adjudicated on by the Ceasefire Commission, 54 have been ascribed to ZANLA or ZANLA-dominated areas.

To meet the United Nations criticism, would the Lord Privy Seal consider inviting United Nations observers to join the other observers? I welcome the withdrawal of South African troops from Bietbridge, but can the right hon. Gentleman give a categorical assurance that there are no South African troops or mercenaries operating in the country? I want to maintain impartiality, but why is the aged Catholic Bishop Lamont being asked to leave Rhodesia?

The bishop has been allowed in. There are no South African units in Rhodesia, but, as we said throughout the Lancaster House conference and since we would not carry out a purge either of the Rhodesian forces or the Patriotic Front forces. There are South Africans in the Rhodesian forces just as there are Mozambiquans among the Patriotic Front.

As for the United Nations observers, there are already 100 observers of one sort or another in Rhodesia. The behaviour of the United Nations in the debate last week has not reinforced its claim.

:Will my right hon. Friend continue the resistance that he has shown to the pressure being placed upon him by some Labour Members to cast serious aspersions on the important role that the South Africans have played in the defence of Western interests in Southern Africa, including Rhodesia, since, if things go seriously wrong, the South Africans alone will have the power to retrieve the situation?

We have been grateful to the South Africans for providing certain materials for the elections. I hope that the South African Government and all neighbouring Governments will continue to co-operate with us.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that the nature of the questions from his fellow Tories and the nature of his answers clearly indicate that the Government are being dragged, kicking and screaming, towards democracy in Rhodesia? Does he not realise, when talking about intimidation, that Mr. Mugabe's relatives and Mr. Mugabe himself have been attacked? Mr. Mugabe was kept out of Rhodesia by the British Government and their biased Governor—who has been condemned at the United Nations—and he and the Patriotic Front have not had sufficient time to campaign. Why are such questions emerging from the Tory Party and why are such answers being given when the Patriotic Front would have returned ultimately despite the South African racialist troops who were operating in that sensitive situation until they were kicked out by the Security Council?

There is a great deal of soap-box nonsense about the question of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery). It is quite wrong to say that the Governor is biased. When they look back on the United Nations' debate even Opposition Members, who do not have very high standards in these matters, will not relish the company that they were keeping.

Does my right hon. Friend believe that it would be a fine thing if the Opposition in this House was as impartial as the Governor? Does he agree that in promoting thin, second election the Government have taken on a heavy responsibility for ensuring that it is at least as fair and free as the first one? Will he and the Governor not hesitate to use any powers that are necessary to ensure that intimidation does not succeed?

I can give that assurance to hon. Friend. I apologise to the hon. Member for Hillsborough, who asked about Mr. Mugabe. Of course I have deplored the attacks on him. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not here when I made it clear in my statement that we did deplore it, as we deplore all attacks of that kind. It is worth bearing in mind that part of the reason for the delay in Mr. Mugabe's return to Rhodesia was that he was locking up 71 politicians in Mozambique. We thought that those politicians should be allowed to return to Rhodesia to fight the elections. I hope that the hon. Gentleman approves of that.

With regard to those bounders in the Security Council who made unwarranted allegations so effectively that they swayed everyone else to vote against us, does the Lord Privy Seal extend his criticism in these matters to any of the 104 members of the General Assembly who voted against the Soviet Union?

The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) can always be relied upon to put in a plug for the Soviet Union. It should be realised that there are many reasons for casting votes in the United Nations as the members of the Opposition Front Bench are well aware. A vote cannot always be taken at its face value as those same Front Benchers know.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied and confident that the losers in the coming election, whoever they might be, will accept defeat in peace? Is he also satisfied that the forces of law and order that will then operate under the authority of the winners of the election, whoever they might be, will be able to maintain peace in that lovely country?

All these matters were agreed at the Lancaster House conference. They are enshrined in the agreement and we must all hope that all the parties to that agreement will keep their word.

In his statement the right hon. Gentleman spoke of systematic intimidation in Southern Rhodesia and said that he deplored it. In view of the moderate and conciliatory speeches being made by both leaders of the Patriotic Front would the right hon. Gentleman like to deplore the systematic intimidation being carried out by the leader of the Rhodesian Front in his continuing dialogue with South Africa and the threat that that dialogue poses to the result in any election in Zimbabwe?

I do not know what the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) is talking about. I am not aware of the dialogue to which he refers but I and the Government deplore all intimidation, wherever it comes from. The majority of that intimidation is coming from one quarter but all intimidation is thoroughly to be deplored.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the reply he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was completely unsatisfactory? Will he now tell me what is the locus and what are the functions of the independent European countries in Rhodesia?

The locus of those countries is much the same as that of countries from other continents. I do not see why the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart), or the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) are particularly worried about Western European countries. The United States and other countries have been invited to send observers. Their locus is that they are independent countries and as I have said their functions are to observe.

If I may say so, the Lord Privy Seal has been uncharacteristically dyspeptic and ill-tempered throughout the course of our exchanges. His mood has not been helped by the contributions made from the Government side. We all accept the tribute paid by the right hon. Gentleman to the monitoring force that has played, and is playing, an absolutely crucial role in the ceasefire arrangements. However, is it not the case that Rhodesia is still bedevilled—as the incident referred to and the attempt on Mr. Mugabe's life demonstrate—by bandit groups? I take the phrase from the Leader of the Liberal Party. Those groups are not necessarily part of the main forces of either of the major guerrilla groups. There are elements of the guerrilla groups that have not reported and they are also dangerous.

I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that there is also a danger from at least elements of the auxiliary forces, who, as he knows, are not under the same kind of supervision as other forces in Rhodesia. My question, linked to the tribute already paid to the Commonwealth monitoring force, is whether is is possible to get a modest but necessary reinforcement of the Commonwealth monitoring force into Rhodesia during the next few weeks.

I believe that an additional force of between 600 and 800 Commonwealth military observers could make a substantial difference to the situation. Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the return of Bishop Lamont will be unconditional? The bishop is a man who is held in high esteem in Rhodesia, and it would be a great pity if limitations or constraints were imposed on his stay there. I know that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to give as fair a record as possible. Will he therefore say how many charges have been brought against auxiliaries who have been accused of acts of misconduct and ill discipline?

I welcome what the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) said about the monitoring force and its conduct of events. If any of the auxiliaries behave badly they will be dealt with. I will draw the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman to the attention of the Governor, who, I know, is well aware of all relevant matters. If the Governor requested reinforcements we would seek to get such reinforcements from the Commonwealth. He has not done so. I have no further information about Bishop Lamont. When I have more information I will give it to the right hon. Gentleman.

Telephone Tapping

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker I ask you to give this matter consideration and rule upon it later, if necessary.

You may recall that on 31 January I asked the Home Secretary about one warrant being used for a multiplicity of telephone tappings The Home Secretary's reply was
"I shall take refuge…in saying that it would not be in the national interest for me to make any further comments."—[Official Report, 31 January 1980; Vol. 977, c. 1545.]
The effect of that, Mr. Speaker, following a Select Committee report of 1972, as I understand it, is to prevent any further questions of a detailed nature for a period of three months.

However, on 1 February, in response to a letter from an hon. Member, the Prime Minister wrote a letter elaborating in some slight detail the position relating to telephone tapping by VAT inspectors and other investigative agencies. The letter, which has been widely reported in the press, concluded by saying that law-abiding citizens had no need to fear any of these actions.

I attempted to place further questions, particularly about the number of warrants and the number of tappings, because those questions were not answered but were referred to in the letter that followed the comments of the Home Secretary. I also tried to place questions about the disposal of the tape recordings, but that was also declared to be within the three-month rule.

I think that you, Mr. Speaker, would regard it as undesirable—as I do—if a practice grew up whereby the Government answered questions and provided information by going around Parliament and writing direct to hon. Members. This is particularly so where the Government write to their own Back Benchers. I make no imputation on this occasion, because I am sure that it was done in good faith. Quite obviously, however, if information is diverted around Parliament, it is not placed on the record and it is left to the discretion of the Government and the Back Bencher involved whether it is published. In fact, information could be withheld or presented in a false way, which is not possible to such an extent in answers to questions, which are subject to scrutiny.

Will you, Mr. Speaker, examine the situation in which letters are published relating to matters that are subject to the three-month rule? Will you consider whether questions can be asked about the letter, provided it is published, and will you consider whether you could treat the interpretation of that letter as generously as possible, bearing in mind that this House should retain some sort of democratic scrutiny of the Executive, particularly as we move towards 1984?

I am obliged to the hon. Member for the way in which he submitted his point of order. He is aware that I had no prior notice and therefore he will not be surprised that I want a little time to read carefully what he said and to study the implications. I undertake to give the House a ruling in the near future.

Beverage Containers

4.13 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require all beverage containers to bear a minimum refund and to provide for the prohibition of the use of metal containers with pull tabs.
The world is facing an energy crisis. Everyone is aware of rising energy costs and the terrible world recession. We might argue that part of the cause of the energy crisis is the political instability in the Middle East. But that is a mere bland, superficial analysis. The reason behind the rise in energy costs is the scarcity of supplies. The modern industrial world is very wasteful of energy and of many other resources.

If we look around we see that there are many spheres where waste is so obvious that we almost come to accept it, especially in packaging where in many cases we have taken a step backwards. This is particularly so when we consider the supply of beverages such as beer, cider and soft drinks. Twenty years ago the vast majority of such goods were supplied to the United Kingdom market in the form of returnable glass bottles. Now, however, the use of that most ideal packaging method is being phased out and we are seeing more and more metal cans and non-returnable bottles. This adds up to a considerable depletion of resources, considerable visual pollution, a vast amount of energy consumption and added danger to life and limb.

The aim of my Bill is to correct that situation by requiring that all beers, ciders and soft drinks should be sold in returnable containers with a refundable deposit. This would not prohibit cans, merely those with ringpulls. I have singled these out because they are difficult to recycle, because of the metal mix of which they are made, and because the detached tabs constitute a danger to humans and animals. In fact, all non-returnable containers are a danger. The non-deposit bottle is less likely to be deposited in a safe place, is more likely to be broken and as a result may cut animals and humans. The National Farmers Union is continually worried about the problems of non-returnable packages in all forms.

Glass is the ideal container because it has the advantage of re-use as well as recycling. We have only to look at the milk bottle to see how it has borne the test of time in this country. The dairy industry today still advocates the use of the milk bottle. We should encourage, by legislation, similar use of glass returnable containers in the areas that I have suggested. By doing so we would immediately reduce the litter problem and that of refuse disposal, bearing in mind that 10 per cent. of all domestic refuse is made up of glass or metal containers. At the same time, we would save energy in the cost of production, save on resources and protect environmentally sensitive areas.

Glass is made of two predominant products—basically sand, which comes from the North Downs and part of Norfolk, and limestone which is mined in two national parks, the Yorkshire Dales and the Peak District. Therefore, I am arguing for a package which would save energy and be environmentally desirable.

However, this problem is not confined to Britain. It is international. It has been tackled with more vigour in other countries. In the United States a number of States have legislation along these lines—Maine, Vermont and Michigan, for example. In the EEC, Denmark only last month introduced a ban on the sale of beers and soft drinks in anything other than returnable bottles.

I cite as the best example that of Oregon, simply because the legislation there has been on the statute book for the longest time. As a result of the Bottle Bill there, the number of jobs increased, prices stabilised, there was an improvement in hygiene, a reduction in litter and resources were saved.

What I am asking for today will be inevitable in the long run. The time is now coming when we must follow certain other countries and give a lead to those that are lagging behind. I realise that I am moving into a sensitive field. The vested interests of big business will undoubtedly favour the staus quo. They have done so in other countries. But this House has never been intimidated by any outside interest. I am sure that on this occasion it will not be so intimidated.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Dr. David Clark, Mr. David Alton, Mr. Andrew F. Bennett, Mr. Patrick Cormack, Mr. Tam Dalyell, Mr. Selwyn Gummer, Mr. Peter Hardy, Mr. George Park, Mr. John Home Robertson, Mr. David Stoddart, and Mr. James Wellbeloved.

Beverage Containers

Dr. David Clark accordingly presented a Bill to require all beverage containers to bear a minimum refund and to provide for the prohibition of the use of metal containers with pull tabs: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 7 March and to be printed. [Bill 142.]

Industry Money (No 2)

Queen's Recommendation having been signified

Resolved,

That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further provision in relation to the National Enterprise Board, the Scottish Development Agency, the Welsh Development Agency and the English Industrial Estates Corporation, and to amend the Industry Act 1972 and the Industry Act 1975, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State—
  • (a) in respect of the acquisition of securities of, the making of loans to, and the guaranteeing of obligations (arising out of loans or otherwise) of any company in which he or his nominee acquires from the National Enterprise Board shares carrying in the aggregate more than half the voting rights exercisable at general meetings of the company, and
  • (b) in making provision for the giving of advice to persons carrying on or proposing to carry on a business.—[Mr. Newton.]
  • Industry Bill

    Not amended ( in the Standing Committee), considered.

    Motion made, and Question proposed,

    That the Industry Bill be considered in the following order:—Amendments relating to Clauses Nos. 1 to 18; new Schedules; Amendments relating to Schedule No. 1; new Clauses; Amedments relating to Schedule No. 2; Amendments to the Title.—[Mr. David Mitchell.]

    4.22 pm

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed that clause 1 and clause 4 cover different subjects. Would it be in order to debate them separately, or, if not, would it be in order to vote separately on clauses 1 and 4?

    I think that the hon. Gentleman meant to say amendments Nos. 1 and 4. He referred to clauses 1 and 4. It will be possible to have separate votes on those amendments, but they should be discussed with the first group. However, we are now dealing with the order in which the Bill should be considered. I hope that all hon. Members understand the motion on the Order Paper.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a similar point to that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley). You have grouped together amendments Nos. 21 and 22 in the names of Labour Members with my amendment No. 24. Since the purpose of amendments Nos. 21 and 22 apparently is to increase public expenditure and the purpose of amendment No. 24 is to reduce it, would it be possible, if necessary, for the amendments to be the subject of separate Divisions?

    I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that separate Divisions will be possible, but it will be in the interests of the House to have one debate.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause 1

    FUNCTIONS OF THE BOARD AND AGENCIES

    I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, leave out from beginning of line 7 to end of line 25 on page 2.

    No. 4, in page 1, line 14, at end insert—

    '(g) ensuring that, where an individual manufacturing plant is scheduled for closure or for change of use from manufacturing purposes, such plant should be offered for sale, to any buyer who is able to satisfy the Board of his intention and ability to continue the existing purposes.'

    No. 5, in page 2, line 18, at end insert—

    '(j) to intervene where necessary to prevent the loss of industrial undertakings in Wales as a result of decisions taken by companies outside Wales;'.

    Government amendments Nos. 6, 7, 29 and 31.

    In a sense, amendment No. 1 is the nub of the Bill. It would effectively remove the whole of the first clause. It is that clause in which the philosophy of the Government may be observed.

    The clause does four things. First, it prohibits the National Enterprise Board and the agencies from promoting any industrial reorganisation. Secondly, it also prohibits the introduction and the promotion of industrial democracy by the National Enterprise Board in any concern in which it might be interested. Thirdly, it forces the National Enterprise Board and the agencies to dispose of assets which they may hold to the private sector. Fourthly, it stops the National Enterprise Board from exercising its previous function, given to it by the Industry Act 1975, of extending public ownership into profitable areas of manufacturing industry. As I said, this is really the philosophical nub of the Bill.

    When one looks at the speeches of the Secretary of State on Second Reading and of his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in Committee, one finds that very little justification is given for the omission of these various items, except that they are contrary to the philosophy of the Government. What, then, is the philosophy of the Secretary of State? He has told us many times that it is
    "non-intervention in day-to-day management, and creation of an economic climate where industry can prosper."
    The Government have been in office for nine months, a sufficient period of gestation to see exactly how the economic climate is being made to prosper. One of their first measures was to abolish exchange controls, so that money which could be used for investment here is now free to go abroad, and is doing so at an alarming rate.

    After nine months of the previous Government's taking office in February 1974, did the right hon. Gentleman accept responsibility for everything that was happening to the British economy?

    The Government of the day were the Government of the day. I am dealing with the present Government's philosophy and attitude.

    I am answering the question. The hon. Gentleman asked me whether I would accept responsibility. I said that the Government of the day accept responsibility, or that they should accept responsibility.

    Perhaps I did not make my question clear. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he and the last Government accepted responsibility for everything in the economy as from nine months after February 1974.

    The Government of the day accepted responsibility for their actions, and the present Government should accept responsibility for their actions. If the hon. Gentleman will listen to me, I am about to remind him of those actions. I had started to do so when he interrupted. I reminded him—perhaps he did not know or perhaps he was not told—that one of the main actions of the Government was to abolish exchange control. I added that the effect of that was to cause large sums of money to leave the country. The hon. Gentleman should read the Financial Times occasionally. He must increase his reading beyond his own column in the Sunday Telegraph.

    The right hon. Gentleman should read both the Financial Times and the Sunday Telegraph. He might discover that, far from money flowing out of the country, it has been flowing in on a massive scale—completely the reverse of what he has been saying.

    Both could be true. Money could come into the country in the form of shareholdings, but money could leave the country. I quoted from the Financial Times, which reported on the first two months of the operation. The interesting point about that report—the hon. Gentleman can no doubt write a good article on it in next Sunday's Sunday Telegraph—is that it showed that the amount of investment that had left Britain was greater than the £1,000 million that the Prime Minister is presently trying to cut down on or get squared off in her discussions with our partners in the EEC. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman reads back to the Financial Times of October or November, and he will see that I am right.

    My second point is about the artificially high rate for the £ sterling, a basis which inevitably has its effect upon our exports. It is true that it makes imports cheaper, but in a hard competitive export market it has had the effect of hurting our exports.

    My third point is the increase in minimum lending rate to 17 per cent. The effect of that is that small businesses in particular will be borrowing money at 20 per cent., 21 per cent. or sometimes even 22 per cent. Conservative Members are supposed to be concerned about small businesses. The high interest rate, which we were told five or six months ago would be temporary, now begins to look far too permanent for the health of most businesses. To cap it all, we have the first national steel strike for 53 years.

    That is the result of nine months of Conservative Government and the Secretary of State's philosophy. Whenever we tackle the right hon. Gentleman, he says "We are leaving the economic climate alone and we are leaving day-to-day management to the industries concerned." He parades for our inspection a bleeding heart on behalf of what he calls the long-suffering taxpayer.

    4.30 pm

    I am not sure what the right hon. Gentleman means when he refers to the long-suffering taxpayer. In a sense, every man, woman and child in this country is a taxpayer, since everything that is consumed, with the exception of food, bears some form of tax. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean the whole community—he does not say that—those paying income tax or perhaps those paying higher rates? There must be some distinction in his mind.

    If the right hon. Gentleman means the standard rate taxpayer, I have to point out that if unemployment increases, especially through the right hon. Gentleman's policies, he is not assisting the long-suffering taxpayer but reducing the number of taxpayers. I suppose that that is one way of getting them out of their misery, but it is not the virile national economy that the Under-Secretary advocated so keenly in Committee.

    Of course, the right hon. Gentleman's action should have been foreseen. In his memoirs, Sir Winston Churchill said that when he assumed office in 1940 he realised that all his past life had been only a preparation for that moment. The same may be true of the Secretary of State for Industry in his own sphere. As Minister of Housing and Local Government, the right hon. Gentleman reorganised housing and the result was the tower blocks that we can see all over the country. They are the curse of urban dwellers and the right hon. Gentleman admits that he is ashamed that he built them.

    Yes, but the hon. Gentleman knows that they were built with his right hon. Friend's encouragement. The hon. Gentleman became a Member a short time after I was elected. Part of my maiden speech dealt with the tower blocks, and the hon. Gentleman will remember the then Government's expensive site subsidy which was designed to produce tower blocks.

    When the right hon. Gentleman held office in the 1970–74 Conservative Government