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Commons Chamber

Volume 983: debated on Monday 28 April 1980

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House Of Commons

Monday 28 April 1980

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Oral Answers To Questions

I remind the House that long supplementary questions reduce the number of questions that can be called.

Industry

Inmos

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he intends to make a further statement on Inmos.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the future of Inmos.

I have nothing to add to my reply on 24 March to the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Evans).

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this project is uncertain, to say the least? Does he accept that the real problem is that British industry, generally, is miles behind many of our industrial competitors in the application of chips and chip technology, and that the real need is to concentrate on and plough money into the application area rather than into the production of chips, where we cannot compete?

I agree with some of the implications of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, but I am not sure what conclusion should be drawn in this case.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the inordinate delay in coming to a decision, one way or the other, from the beginning of this year until now? Is the reason that the Prime Minister resists the proposition that the Government should intervene further in the matter? In view of the enormous intervention by the Japanese Government and the United States Government, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it is important to come to a decision soon?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is important that a decision by the Government's resolving the issue should be reached as soon as possible, but the issues are very complicated, and have become more so.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was some question of GEC buying this company and thereby relieving the taxpayer of any further injections of funds? Can my right hon. Friend report to the House on that matter?

It has been announced in the press that GEC is interested in some possibility of a connection with this company, but the negotations are obviously confidential.

Will the Secretary of State say how much State money has been invested in this project? What has happened to the offers to the development areas with high unemployment that were supposed to be benefiting from it?

The question is really for the National Enterprise Board. I believe that about £25 million has either been invested or committed.

Does the Secretary of State believe that we should have a manufacturing capacity in silicon chip technology, or does he believe that we should import it?

The decision is for those who want to manufacture silicon chips in this country. There is taxpayers' money available, under widely understood schemes, of which they can avail themselves if they come within the criteria, but the decision is essentially for them.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if a further £25 million is given to this project he will be taking a view about whether there should be various forms of silicon chip marketing and production in this country? He will be going into the market place and ceasing to be a politican.

My hon. Friend is, as usual, right or nearly right. But an inheritance is involved. There is the National Enterprise Board, which the Government have continued with the purpose of making judgments on a limited but important range of business decisions. It has recommended that a second tranche of this initiative, started by our predecessors, should be given.

I remind the House that the eight open questions on the Order Paper today were tabled before I made my statement last week, so I will call them.

Manufacturing Industry

3. Mr.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what annual rate of change he expects for 1980–81 and 1981–82 in productivity, output and jobs in manufacturing industry.

Unknowable: the assumptions made for the Financial Statement and Budget Report were published in them. The outcome will depend on world trade, the effectiveness of management, the co-operation and understanding of their own interests of wage earners—in short, upon our competitiveness.

Does not that reply seek to conceal the substantial decline expected in manufacturing industry, in output and in employment? If these forecast falls are judged a success of policy, what would convince the right hon. Gentleman that he is failing? What part is the right hon. Gentleman playing in the discussions with the TUC and the CBI on the future use of North Sea oil revenues for the benefit of industry, and what view does he take upon that important matter?

No, the Government are not shirking the publication of some assumptions on which the Budget was based, but the hon. Member goes beyond assumptions and asks for my personal opinion. The margins of error in this area of forecasting are so wide that my personal opinion is not relevant. I do not have a personal opinion on these difficult matters. We have a dopted certain assumptions for the purpose of the Budget. They have been published. There are regular discussions with the CBI and the TUC and others; and next week, at the NEDC, the subject to which the hon. Gentleman refers will inevitably come up.

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that the disastrous loss of jobs in the textile industry has moved into the textile machinery manufacturing industry and that firms such as Muschamps in Oldham and the even more famous Stone-Platts firm, which has been in Oldham for almost 150 years, are to close at the end of this year? Does he intend to stand by and allow that sort of thing to continue?

I know that there are difficulties in a number of parts of the textile machinery industry, but the hon. Member's assumption that the Government can do something about what is essentially the combined effect of management effectiveness and work force cooperation is misplaced.

In view of the likelihood that people in manufacturing industry, particularly middle management, will have to change their jobs more frequently in coming years, will my right hon. Friend require the Occupational Pensions Board to make recommendations as to the way in which people changing jobs in mid-career can fully protect their pension rights in private schemes?

My hon. Friend and I have been dancing a minuet around this difficult subject for nearly 20 years. I shall certainly speak to the relevant Minister about what he has said.

Does the right hon. Gentleman maintain that the Government have no part whatever to play in any of these matters—that the high exchange rate, the historically highest interest rate in our history and the rigid reduction in investment imposed by the Government have no effect upon industry? If so, is he not aware that practically every reliable economist today, along with the CBI and the TUC, deeply disagrees with him?

An alternative policy which interfered with the exchange rate, which sought to hold down interest rates and which subsidised investment further would make matters worse. The basic fact is that large numbers of individuals are misguidedly pricing themselves and their fellow workers out of jobs.

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I am afraid that I was provoked. Is the Secretary of State saying that things could be worse than they are at the moment? If so, he does not know what is happening to British industry in practically every sector.

Yes, things certainly could be worse than they are at present. The adoption of the policies implicit in the statements of the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friends would make inflation, and therefore unemployment and interest rates, much worse.

Small Businesses

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what study his Department has made of the recent report by the Small Businesses Administration in the United States entitled " Government Competition: A Threat To Small Businesses."

This report, prepared by a task group established by the office of the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the United States Small Business Administration, was published in the United States last month. A copy was obtained by the Department last week and is currently being studied by officials.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. When that report is examined, I believe that it will be found to be an indictment of the activities of the American Government in squeezing smaller businesses. Will my right hon. Friend authorise a similar investigation in this country to see whether our small businesses are suffering in exactly the same way?

We are already conscious of what is called the " crowding out " effect on small and other businesses of excessive Government spending, borrowing, taxing and regulating. We do not need convincing of that.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the biggest threat to small business in this country is the high rate of interest that it is required to pay? Will he study the speech that I made in the House in November last year, when I drew the Government's attention to the need for a regional development bank, under which the rates of interest payable in the regions would be less than in other parts of the country, depending on the level of unemployment?

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, but there would be no guarantee that such lower interest rates would not leak into other activities. It is a nice question whether inflation or interest rates are the worst enemy of small businesses at the moment. Certainly our policy is intended to reduce those burdens on small businesses so that they can flourish.

Small Firms Counselling Service

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the annual cost of the small firms counselling service.

The cost of the counselling service in 1978–79, the last period for which figures are available, was estimated to be about £600,000.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the cost-effectiveness of the service? If so, what areas is the service investigating, what are the guidelines that apply in investigating them and how are counsellors selected or nominated to provide this service?

An early independent evaluation of the counselling in the Southwest shows that, in a sample of 65 clients, about 150 jobs were either generated or saved. Now that counselling is well established throughout the country, we intend to commission a further evaluation by independent consultants. I am also introducing a continuous in-house system of monitoring by following up individual cases. As for the help that counsellors can give, their particular value is that many small businesses, and particularly new businesses, lack a whole raft of management techniques, and the assistance of experienced business men can save many small firms which might otherwise go to the wall.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that small businesses generally are grateful for the management expertise which this service provides? However, there is a problem on which I should be grateful for his comments. I have come across examples—I am sure that many other hon. Members have seen the same thing—of small business men who are unaware of the services offered in this direction. Will he consider methods of improving the general knowledge of these services?

The hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to an important matter. We are anxious that these services should be more widely known. We have recently introduced a national Freefone number. Those in trouble or with problems can simply dial 100 and ask for Freefone 2444. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the opportunity to advertise that.

Is my hon. Friend aware that these services are provided by banks and management consultants, who give much better value for money than a counselling service organised on public funds?

Perhaps my hon. Friend is not aware of how large a proportion of the work done by the counselling service is concerned with people who are thinking of starting a business. It would be rare to find good value for someone who has not even got a business going in the payment of fees to a management consultant.

Northern Region

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he is satisfied with the progress being made in attracting industry to the Northern region; and if he will make a statement.

I am confident that the Government's regional and other policies will succeed in promoting industry and employment in the North as elsewhere.

Is the Minister aware that in spite of all the fine promises during the election campaign last year the rate of unemployment in the Northern region, at 9·5 per cent., is the highest in the country? In those circumstances, will his right hon. Friend reverse his monstrous decision to slash the grant to the North of England Development Council? Is he aware that that was the biggest cut of its kind? When will the Government take the problems of the North seriously?

The hon. Gentleman makes a serious point about unemployment in the Northern region. However, if he is fair he will draw the attention of his constituents to the position as it developed during the final years of the previous Administration. Nevertheless, there is a problem, and that is why, particularly, we have concentrated more development aid potential on the North.

I think that the hon. Gentleman will know that after 1982 about 90 per cent. of the Northern region will still be anassisted area. That will be the highest concentration of any region in England and will be of immense benefit. I think that the hon. Gentleman has received a letter about the North of England Development Council from my noble friend Lord Trenchard, explaining the circumstances of the Government's attitude. The grant, of course, will continue for at least three years, subject to some agreement on arrangements between the Government and the local authorities.

If the Minister means what he says about the Northern region, why have the Government decided to end the cost escalation scheme for British Shipbuilders, which plays such a crucial part in employment throughout the Northern region? There is no evidence of any opposition from the EEC. France is continuing such a scheme for its merchant fleet. British Shipbuilders has been singled out for a further reduction in assistance. Why was not the Minister more candid about that decision in the debate a few days ago?

I do not think that I was lacking in candour during that debate. The point is that the amount of assistance to the British shipbuilding industry is considerable, as was noted in that debate. The intervention fund is being used to its maximum and the home credit fund is continuing to be used strongly. Therefore, the largest part of assistance is still available to help a situation which is, thank Heaven, improving marginally.

If the Minister is not lacking in candour, he has certainly been badly briefed. Is he aware that last week 2,300 redundancies were announced in the Northern region? That is not a phenomenon. It is becoming a regular weekly event. Despite what the Minister might say about what happened during the previous Labour Administration's term of office, the period since last May has been disastrous for employment in the North.

I thought that I had been extremely candid in recognising the seriousness of the problems. Of course they are there. However, they will not be wished away. Some assistance through the regional development grant will develop employment in the region. That will help, particularly, the establishment of new businesses. I am glad to say that in that respect there are encouraging signs in the starting up of small businesses. The position is not entirely bad. The hon. Gentleman will know, I am sure, that new jobs have been created in recent years, thanks to the incentives that are available. The future growth prospects of the region depend upon those new businesses.

Genetic Engineering

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether the National Enterprise Board will be permitted to invest in the field of genetic engineering.

My right hon. Friend will consider any proposals by the board which require his consent. None has yet been put to him.

Does the Minister recall that on 19 July last year his right hon. Friend said that it would be sensible to use the NEB to familiarise industry with new technology? Does he agree that biotechnology is one of the most important of the new technologies now developing? Is he aware that unless there is a massive injection of public funds through the NEB this country will miss out on that revolution, as it has on so many in the past?

I certainly recall the comments of my right hon. Friend on that occasion, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is an important area. I have had the chance to see some of the new technology in the United States. However, problems of this kind are a matter for the NEB.

Public Purchasing Policy

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the status of the current review of public purchasing policy.

As announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 28 February we intend to use the policy on public sector purchasing and research and development to help improve industry's performance.

Does that review include consideration of how small firms might be helped by public purchasing policy?

Yes, I can confirm that in the review we are looking at small businesses, along with other businesses. I emphasise that this is a continuing review. It is not something that terminates. It goes on.

Will the Minister also consider the role of public sector ordering in dealing with unemployment in areas where the rate is very high? Will he consider, in particular, the possibility of advance orders for ships in the public sector, particularly for the Robb Caledon shipyard in my constituency, which is in danger of closure unless help is given by the Government?

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. I can only say to him that at present all concerned are fully aware of the implications behind this question. Speaking specifically of defence, I have had the opportunity of travelling around the country with my hon. Friends the Defence Ministers and looking at a range of issues. Wherever help can be given, it will of course, be provided.

Despite the adherence to absolute non-intervention—which in the modern world is sometimes difficult— will my hon. Friend take up again the question of the Inland Revenue placing with the British computer industry, rather than with overseas industry, the order for what will, I believe, be the largest-ever single computer order when new systems come to be ordered in a year or two?

No decision has yet been taken on that matter, but I certainly take note of what my hon. Friend has said.

I was interested to hear the Minister say that he had had a look around the country with his Defence Department colleagues. Did his visit take him to the Vickers Elswick plant, where in two weeks' time 350 redundancies are to take effect. In this context the Minister has complete control of public purchasing and he could avert these redundancies—the first of 1,600 if he so wishes.

I have not had an opportunity to visit Vickers, though I hope that an opportunity to do so will present itself. In the meantime, as the hon. Gentleman is well aware, part of the problem there arises directly from the Iranian situation. Some of the problems have arisen in an unexpected and unfortunate way for British industry.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind, however, the problems that he can create for Government Departments when they refuse to take the best buy by not taking into account the aspects of delivery, quality, reliability of spare parts and the standing of the firm? These aspects are of the greatest importance and if my hon. Friend moves from those it will be a direct subsidy, which may well be to the detriment of British industry rather than to its benefit.

My hon. Friend has put the matter into perspective. These facts must be borne in mind. What I have said in no way rules out what he has put forward, and I agree with him.

Tuc

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he proposes next to meet leaders of the Trades Union Congress.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects next to meet trade union leaders.

I shall meet representatives of the TUC at the National Economic Development Council on 7 May.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the TUC that the Budget strategy appears to doom Northern Britain to industrial decline and growing unemployment? With these mistaken policies, what hope can the right hon. Gentleman offer to the population of Flint—some 17,000 strong—which is currently enduring the harrowing male unemployment level of 38 per cent.? Surely the right hon. Gentleman's monetarist policies must be reversed.

No, I do not agree with the alternative policies adumbrated by the TUC. The purpose of meeting its representatives on the NEDC is so that there can be a continuing dialogue. The hon. Gentleman must now be sadly aware that had the previous Labour Government allowed redundancies to occur earlier in the Shotton area those who then lost their jobs would have been able, more immediately than now, to find alternative employment. At that time the world recession had not occurred. The hon. Gentleman is aware that there are good prospects in his area for new jobs as businesses show increasing interest in the area.

Will my right hon. Friend make arrangements to estimate the cost of the national day of tomfoolery organised by the TUC for 14 May, and inform the nation of the total amount of wealth lost and what that represents in terms of jobs lost as a result of that action?

My hon. Friend is right to point out the damage that will be done to our competitiveness by the so-called day of action and by all the other obstructions to competiveness that flow from the shop floor and the trade union side.

Will the right hon. Gentleman seek to justify to the representatives and the leaders of the TUC in the Northern region the cutbacks in regional development grants and all the other cuts that are being made in employment support when unemployment there is rising to proportions unknown in postwar years? Will he look again at the question of regional development grants and restore the cuts that were made this year?

No. The regional development grants were withdrawn from areas where unemployment was below the national average and where the economic structure created no especial need for subsidy from the taxpayer. The extra money for which the hon. Gentleman is asking would have to be paid by the taxpayer through additional borrowing or by an increase in taxes. The taxpayer's purchasing power would be reduced and other jobs would be lost elsewhere.

My right hon. Friend has had the opportunity to read the words of the General Secretary of the TUC explaining why the day of inaction has been called. Does he now agree that instead of the grounds being merely weak, as we had previously assumed, they are non-existent?

Was not the Secretary of State's stumbling, rather pathetic defence of his economic philosophy the biggest condemnation of the Government's approach to the economy? Does he agree that company liquidations increased by 66 per cent. in the last quarter over the preceding quarter? Would it not make much more sense to work in cooperation with the trade union movement?

The trade union movement in this country, with exceptions, is encouraging a further loss of jobs through obstruction to competitiveness, including by such manifestations of misunderstanding as the day of so-called action.

Enterprise Zones

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what initiatives he intends to take to attract industry to the enerprise zones.

The Government announced on 26 March a range of measures which we propose to apply in enterprise zones and which we believe will encourage economic activity. The measures include 100 per cent. capital allowances for industrial and commercial building; the abolition of general rates for industrial and commercial property; and the simplification of planning procedures. Details are available in the Library of the House.

Are not local authorities queueing up to take advantage of this adventurous and exciting opportunity created by the Government's positive intervention through the taxation system? Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential, once the local authorities concerned have been designated, that industry should take advantage of the opportunities so presented? What steps is my hon. Friend taking, and what steps will he take, to make sure that big and small companies are made aware of those opportunities?

The scheme has been well received and the indications are that industry is taking a great interest in the matter. My hon. Friend's question has helped to further that process. The consultations that are taking place with local authorities will help to continue the process of alerting industry.

Will the Government compensate local authorities for the loss of rates revenue?

Will my hon. Friend comment on early-day motion 590, in my name and those of a number of my hon. Friends, which seeks to request that the clearing banks provide finance for firms in enterprise zones on attractive terms to support the boldness and initiative shown by the Government in the creation of such zones?

I appreciate a number of the sentiments contained in the motion, and I am sure that the banks concerned will note my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Has the Minister read the original proposals for this idea by Peter Hall? Does he agree that they were weird ideas, and may we have an assurance that if the Government are going into these strange, mini-Hong Kong schemes, they will not pursue the proposals that Peter Hall put forward, even though Mr. Hall was once a member of the Fabian Society?

As the hon. Gentleman admits, the source of these suggestions is not unknown to him. I think that I detect on the Opposition Benches a growing reservation of positions as hon. Members become aware that this might become a popular development.

Will my hon. Friend consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to determine whether, under the derelict site procedures, we could attract into metropolitan areas which might also be suitable for enterprise zone grants from the European Community regional fund?

I shall certainly ensure that that interesting and helpful contribution is made known to my right hon. Friend.

Can the Minister not understand that the Government's continuing to advance the view that some kind of regional Hong Kong sweat shops can be a genuine solution to a deindustrialised economy is starting to sound like a sick joke? When will he come clean on the myth which he is trying to establish and confirm that there is no evidence on either side of the Atlantic that the net number of jobs created by small firms can in any way replace the much larger number of jobs lost by the closure of big firms?

The hon. Gentleman will always produce a carping, green-eyed view on any new initiative that he has not put forward. He is, typically, trying to talk in terms of sweat shops, but there are substantial safeguards about environmental pollution and other matters. The hon. Gentleman should judge this proposal as it develops, as I believe the whole House wishes to do.

Lucas Aerospace

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will in future contracts with Lucas Aerospace include a provision that there shall be no victimisation of employees who have taken part in the firm's conversion plans.

No; these are matters to be settled between management and the recognised representatives of the work force within the established legal framework.

Is the Minister aware that his Department is still party to the agreement with the company, its 12 plants and the unions to examine alternative product proposals aimed at maintaining the jobs there? Is he aware that one of the men principally involved in that agreement, Ernie Scarbrow, who is chairman of the shop stewards, is under threat of dismissal through having been too active in seeing that that agreement is carried out?

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but I find it difficult to accept the matters in the way that he has put them. Certainly the Department has carried out fully its part of the tripartite agreement of February 1979.

Does not the Minister understand that Ernie Scarbrow has been disciplined for the same alleged crime as Derek Robinson, in that he was merely trying to communicate with the membership that he represents? Do the Government still believe that trade union leaders and convenors have a right to communicate with their membership?

The hon. Gentleman perpetually seeks to come in on these matters, and he has reminded the House of his connection with the Red Robbo case. I do not think that that is a good precedent upon which he should argue this matter. These are matters between management and the established trade union channels.

Black Country Districts

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will take steps to promote industry in the Black Country districts of the West Midlands in view of recent closures and redundancies.

The Government's policies are designed to encourage industrial expansion and employment throughout the country.

Is the Minister aware of the deep concern that continues to exist at the never-ending redundancies in the Black Country? Will his Department show some understanding and recognition of the industrial and employment problems that exist in this part of the West Midlands?

The best hope for prosperity in the Black Country, as elsewhere, lies in the measures that the Government are taking to defeat inflation, put the economy on a sound footing and remove the shackles from private enterprise.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Black Country is one of the candidate areas for inclusion as an enterprise zone? In view of the apparent schizophrenia on the Opposition Benches. may we know at some time whether the Labour Members of Parliament for those areas which are candidates want the scheme or not?

I am not sure whether that question is addressed to me. However, I recently visited Wolverhampton, and I listened with great care to what the people there had to say about their problems. I was fascinated when the Socialist chairman of the planning committee said that he supported the concept of his area being advanced as a potential enterprise zone as the scheme seeks to undo the damage of years of Socialism.

Small Businesses (Paper Work)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what reductions in forms, and generally unnecessary paper work, his Department has achieved in order to reduce the burden on small businesses.

The Department has already made savings of over 16,000 statistical forms which would have gone to firms this year.

I am encouraged by that answer, but is my hon. Friend aware that the accumulation of forms that small traders have to deal with remains a severe deterrent? One woman shopkeeper said to me last week " I cannot bear the thought of filling in another VAT form ". Will my hon. Friend continue to act to cut the number of forms and to cut red tape?

I readily accept my hon. Friend's invitation. He will be pleased to learn that decisions taken by all Ministers since the Government took office a year ago have resulted in over 1 million statistical forms being saved. I shall publish details in the Official Report. That is in addition to the saving of 280,000 forms per annum resulting from a review of regular statistical inquiries initiated by the previous Administration and confirmed by this Government. It is still necessary for the Government to collect many kinds of statistical information. However, I believe that our decisions are widely welcomed in the small business sector.

I welcome what has been achieved so far, but is my hon. Friend aware that I hope that he has not put his scythe away and will continue to assess the need for the various forms?

I assure my Friend that it will be a continuing process. I shall be glad to hear from him if he has examples of forms that he considers to be unnecessary.

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that, no matter what the Government try to do for small businesses, their policies are failing? Why will the Government not take the actions that we desire? Is he aware that in the Mexborough district, which covers the Dearne, Conisbrough and Denaby, no jobs have been created since it was made a development area? Does he agree that the Government need do more?

It is for the Government to create the conditions, and for employers and workers in the area to join in enterprises to produce goods that the consumer wants, at a price that he is prepared to pay. The hon. Gentleman suggests that Government policies are failing. However, it takes longer than the hon. Gentleman expects, and even longer than I expected, for changes in policy to produce results.

Does the hon. Gentleman expect us to believe that the Government are creating the conditions for enterprise, with inflation at 20 per cent., the MLR at 17 per cent., VAT a: 15 per cent. and over-valued sterling?

That was not a supplementary question related to the main question, whatever else it was.

Following is the information:

REDUCTIONS IN STATISTICAL FORMS AS A RESULT OF DECISIONS TAKEN BY THE PRESENT ADMINISTRATION (i)

Inquiries stopped

No. of forms saved

Quarterly export prospects survey300 a year
Annual survey of film distributors100 a year
Monthly manufacturers' stocks7,800 a year
Export prices survey (monthly or quarterly)5,000 a year
Shops inquiry 1981150,000 in 1981
Census of employment for1979 and 1980600,000 in each of the 2 years

Reduction in forms sent out

Annual survey of retailing5,000 a year
Annual survey of other distributive and service trades11,000 a year
Annual census of construction2,200 a year
1979 purchases inquiry by manufacturers1,200 in 1980

(i) All the inquiries are carried out by the Departments of Industry and Trade except for the census of employment, which is a Department of Employment responsibility.

Post Office

21.

asked the Secretary of State for industry when he expects next to meet the chairman of the Post Office.

If the dispute in the Post Office is not resolved and telephone bills are once again not paid, what contingency plans are there to avoid the serious impact not only on the Post Office's finances but on the Government's economic policy? What action is being taken to reduce the power of relatively few people to cause disproportionate disruption in industry and commerce?

We hope that there will not be a repetition of last year's dispute. However, if bills are not paid on time, extra cost is imposed on the Post Office and the money has to be recovered from somewhere, either through subsidy raised from taxpayers or by an increase in charges.

The second part of my hon. Friend's question is about problems created by small groups of dissidents who may wish to disrupt the activities of the Post Office. That is a matter for the management. On more than one occasion my right hon. Friend said that if the service to the public is not improved, or if for some internal reason it becomes worse, we shall have to look seriously at the monopoly.

Has my hon. Friend seen this morning's article in the Financial Times, on the management of nationalised industries, which floats the idea that those nationalised industries that are making substantial profits should be relieved of cash limits so that the management can make its own commercial decisions, and, if necessary, raise the money from the market?

Yes, I saw the article and found it most interesting. My hon. Friend will also have seen reference to the group set up under Mr. Ryrie's chairmanship, which will be looking into these matters.

How can the hon. Gentleman tell his hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) that the derogation of the Post Office monopoly will assist in the problem that he mentioned? Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the problem is caused not by the Post Office unions, or by small sections of them, but by the Government's tight cash limits? Will he further accept that 60,000 people on the waiting list for telephones for more than six months demonstrates that investment is the problem, not the unions?

I know, and what I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree is that the service provided by the Post Office has fluctuated widely over the past year and has still not regained the position that it should. We therefore have every right to see whether the service can be provided by others.

Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he has concluded his review of the financial objectives for Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd. set by the National Enteprise Board; and if he will make a statement.

I shall publish in the Official Report a statement about the company's present financial position and the Government's intentions towards funding the company in 1980.

Has my hon. Friend studied the alarming report published last week by the Public Accounts Committee, which suggests that the RB211 may be heading for viability only towards the end of this century? Will it still be in production then? Are we convinced that the target set by the NEB of a 10 per cent. return for 1981 is within the realms of practical possibility?

The company's report and accounts will be published shortly, and my hon. Friend will be able to draw his own conclusions. A written statement will appear in the Official Report, but I tell my hon. Friend that the company's business is expanding strongly, based largely on the RB211. However, with the weakness of the dollar, there will be added cash needs for the company during 1980. The question is how far the company can raise that cash from the private money market.

Is the Minister aware that his tribute to the RB211 will be welcomed after his hon. Friend's belittlement of it? Will he accept that the problem for Rolls-Royce is not the earning capacity of the engine—and that capacity has been borne out again today by the £50 million order—but the high exchange rate, which is making it difficult for British industry to sell, particularly in the American market?

I have already said that a reason for increased cash needs during the present year is the weakness of the dollar and the high pound. In its onward trading position the company must take properly into account the strength of the pound. Because of the high technical quality of its products, such as the RB211, it should be able to command better prices for them.

Following is the information:

I have considered the Company's five-year forecast for 1980–84 submitted earlier this year and accept it as the basis for short-term financial planning. As a result of the rapid expansion of the company's business and the weakness of the dollar, the company has an additional cash requirement of £180 million in 1980. However, I am satisfied that the company's policies of exploiting the technical successes of the RB211 engine, and aiming for greater commercial profitability, provide a firm basis for long-term viability. The Government accept the company's need to fund the requirement to carry forward its programmes.
As part of the funding, and subject to parliamentary approval, I intend to issue new equity equivalent to certain loans from the Department to be repaid in 1980 and modify the terms of the levy which the Government charge the company to recover the development finance for the RB211 engine. The modification will be confined to the RB211 engines on order at the end of 1979, and will be varied to reflect the effect of the exchange rate on sales income. The levy would be suspended at current exchange rates. For the balance, given the current constraints on public expenditure, and while I recognise that some further injection of Government finance may be necessary, I have asked the company to examine how much it can secure from the private sector.
The longer-term funding requirement duty for the establishment of a new financial duty for the company will be considered in the light of the chairman's report to me on the plans for improving the financial prospect of the company, which I expect to receive in the summer.

Development Area Status (Neath-Resolven)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether, in view of the continuing rise in unemployment in the Neath-Resolven travel-to-work area, as shown in the April figures, he will now announce his reversal of his decision to take the areas special development status away.

The assisted area gradings of all those areas affected by the British Steel Corporation's proposals are being reviewed. A decision will be taken as quickly as possible after BSC has given a final decision on the future of its steel making plants, following its consultation with the unions.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the unemployment rate in that travel-to-work area is now 9·3 per cent? Is he further aware that when the area had the status conferred upon it in 1968 the level of unemployment was 5 per cent? It is only since the announcement of his right hon. Friend that the area was to be downgraded that the unemployment rate has crept up. What will he do about it?

As soon as the result of BSC's consultations with the unions is made known, we shall review the matter. If that should not result in a steel closure, or if some other change of policy should follow from it, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the relative change in the area of Neath compared with other parts of the country will itself be perfectly good evidence for us to consider a review.

Indictable Offences (Trial Delays)

30.

asked the Attorney-General what steps are being taken to reduce the length of time between committal and trial for indictable offences.

These intervals are excessive mainly in London and the South-East. The Lord Chancellor has increased the number of judges, and the number of Crown courtrooms. More courtrooms are being provided. In addition more than 50 judges from other circuits have agreed to sit for a time in the South-East during this year, to help with the backlog. That is much appreciated, and it is hoped that it will play a significant part.

I recognise my hon. and learned Friend's concern about this matter. Has the idea of courts sitting in two shifts, thus utilising more than four and a half hours in the average working day been considered? As to the supply of judges, is my hon. and learned Friend aware that many recorders are willing to sit for more than the statutory limit of 30 days in the year if called upon to do so?

The question of double shifts has been considered, and I am informed that so far it has been felt that it is merely a matter of practicability rather than principle. Not only would it need more judges, but more staff to man the courts. One must also consider the availability, not to mention the convenience, of all who are concerned, including the parties, those whom they wish to represent them, solicitors, witnesses, prison staff who bring the prisoners to court, and so on. So far, it has been felt that the combination of those factors has made it impractical.

As to my hon. Friend's other point, he is wrong in thinking that there is a statutory maximum. There is neither a statutory maximum nor a maximum fixed in practice, but my noble and learned Friend feels that is is wrong for recorders to sit for more than about 50 days.

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the delay amounts to a public scandal and a blot on the administration of justice? How big is the present backlog in courts on the South-Eastern circuit? What is the average delay between committal and trial? Will he and his noble Friend bear in mind the principle that justice delayed is justice denied?

I am not sure whether it was my noble and learned Friend who coined that phrase, but, whether or not he did, he has quoted it as often as anyone, and he feels it just as strongly as anyone can. It is for that reason that he is determined not to leave unused any opportunity to speed things up, because he accepts what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, namely, that the present delays are unacceptable. As to the periods, I have two tables which I should be happy to put at the disposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman afterwards, if he wishes.

Director Of Public Prosecutions

31.

asked the Attorney-General when he expects next to meet the Director of Public Prosecutions.

When he returns from the Commonwealth Law Ministers' conference in Barbados.

Will the Solicitor-General inquire of the DPP why it was that crucial evidence in the Lindo case was not made available to the defence until six months after the police and the Director of Appeals knew about it, and four months after the DPP himself was told? As in this case an innocent man stayed in gaol for a year, does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there must be a review whereby cases of that kind go immediately to the DPP, and whereby the defence is given all possible access to relevant facts?

My right hon. and learned Friend shares the sentiments underlying that question just as much as I do. It is a firm and honoured principle in the practice of the law that if information comes to hand that is of use to the defence, it should be made available to it. However, there are two parts to the question. One is the system to ensure that it happens, and the other is the question of precisely how much information should be given. The circumstances of the Lindo case disclosed a need for new rules. The Registrar of the Court of Criminal Appeal has instituted new procedures in his own court. Details of those were given in an answer to the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) on 23 April.

When the Attorney-General meets the DPP, will he inquire how the DPP is getting on with deciding whether to prefer new charges in the Confait case? The hon. and learned Gentleman will remember that three of my constituents were convicted of that murder in 1972 and were acquitted in 1975 by the appeal court after a reference. If the DPP decides not to prefer any charges, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman refer any information that he has to Sir Henry Fisher, who made prejudicial comments about them, so that, if he wishes, he can revise his findings and at the end of the day at least provide some equity in terms of compensation, which has hitherto been denied to my constituents?

Order. We are still only on the second question to the Attorney-General, and we shall not get much further at this rate.

As to an inquiry, I think that I should confine my answer to the first part of that question. Certainly the Attorney-General and I are very interested in the outcome of the inquiry and we shall keep fully up to date with it.

In view of the uncertainty prevailing in the courts with regard to jury vetting, will the hon. and learned Gentleman give an instruction to the DPP that there should be no further cases of jury vetting before he makes a full statement to the House? In particular, will he set out the constitutional authority for jury vetting? Would it not be better to wipe the slate clean and rely on debarring from jury service only those whom Parliament, in the Juries Act, decreed should be debarred?

It would be inappropriate for me to try to answer those important questions in the brief time available. In addition, I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend, who has been dealing with these matters personally, would like to deal with them himself. I shall draw to his attention what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said.

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman make it clear to the DPP that when persons are being held in custody awaiting trial, documents held by the DPP, particularly those in relation to so-called confessions, should in all circumstances be made available to the defence lawyers and not held back in the way that they are being in certain cases in Wales at the present time?

The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that there is a variety of different situations in which this question might arise. One is on appeal, in which the DPP would not necessarily have any information upon which to act. A second relates to cases with which he is directly concerned, in which case he must, of course, act quickly. The other relates to cases which in the first instance are under the control of other authorities. Here again, all that the DPP can do is to give guidance to them and do his best to see that it is carried out.

Shoplifting (Elderly Persons)

32.

asked the Attorney-General what recent representations he has received concerning shoplifting and the elderly: and if he will make a statement.

That is a slightly surprising answer, in view of press reports that were to be received from the Association for the Prevention of Thefts in Shops. However, in view of the continuing concern that the increase in self-service trading is the prime cause of shoplifting, and in the light of the stores' unwillingness to implement many of the Home Office proposals, will my hon. and learned Friend seriously consider requiring the stores themselves to undertake prosecutions in shoplifting cases?

The present position is that by far the majority of prosecutions for shoplifting are conducted as private prosecutions by the stores. I suggest that that is very satisfactory for many of the reasons that my hon. Friend has mentioned, but it would not be possible to direct that all prosecutions should be undertaken in that way.

Bristol Disturbances (Chief Constable's Report)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the serious disturbances that occurred in Bristol on 2 April 1980.

I have considered the full and clear report which I have had from the chief constable of the Avon and Somerset constabulary, and I have placed in the Vote Office a memorandum containing an account of the disturbances, of the difficulties that faced the police, and of how they sought to deal with them.

In the light of the memorandum, there will not, I believe, be dispute about the facts. What began as a normal operation into possible criminal offences turned sharply and unexpectedly into serious public disorder. The memorandum also sets out the chief constable's conclusions and recommendations for future arrangements in his force area. A number of important lessons have been learnt from this event. The chief constable has acknowledged frankly that there were points at which decisions might, with hindsight, have been taken differently, but he remains of the opinion that the decision to regroup his officers away from the area of St. Paul's was, in the face of great violence and extensive injuries to the police, a necessary step. In the light of his report, I understand the reasons for that decision, as, I am sure, will the House.

There can be no excuse for the lawlessness that then followed, but we must ensure that, however quickly or fiercely public disorder may occur, the police are able swiftly to restore the peace and enforce the law. We must, therefore, concern ourselves with the more general lessons that must be learnt from these events, not only for the efficiency of policing but for good community relations. There are three ways in which I believe that we can best move forward.

First, in this country we rightly wish the police to maintain order through traditional methods, but, if that is so, police forces must be able to call rapidly on sufficient trained officers. I am, therefore, asking senior officials in my Department and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, in conjunction with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis and the Association of Chief Police Officers in England and Wales, to examine thoroughly and urgently the arrangements for handling spontaneous public disorder. I shall publish the results of that review.

But we must not look simply at the policing aspects of these events. We must look much more widely in our search for solutions to the underlying problem. Second, therefore, the Government particularly welcome the decision of the Select Committee on home affairs to look into racial disadvantage and, as a part of that work, to study the St. Paul's area of Bristol. We shall do all that we can to help the Select Committee in this work.

But action at local level is also essential. I welcome the decision of the Avon county council and the Bristol city council to come together to examine how best they can further help in strengthening good community relations in the area. Experts from all the Government Departments concerned will play a full part in this examination.

I am convinced that this threefold approach is the best way to respond positively and constructively to these events.

I welcome the threefold approach that is to be made to the riots in Bristol on 2 April. The chief constable's report needs further study. In the circumstances, and at a first look, I am inclined to accept the decision to regroup, though I dislike, from my past experience, " no-go " areas, in whatever sense of the term.

With regard to the police study to examine thoroughly and urgently the arrangements for handling public disorder, I welcome the fact that the report is to be published, because the conclusions will be of general application. In my view, while back-up is vital, control should always be in the hands of those who know the local area. In the context of Bristol, will they look at the procedures for ensuring that there is always a close relationship between the police and local community leaders?

With regard to the Select Committee investigation into racial disadvantage, I hope that it will consider the question of a replacement of section 11 of the 1966 Act. Labour's Bill to replace this was not welcomed by the the then Opposition, just a year ago. Perhaps in government they will be more positive on this matter, because section 11 is now out of date, and it may even be that some of the moneys spent are being spent ultra vires.

With regard to the local investigation by Avon county council and Bristol city council, I hope that their report will also be published and that the Commission for Racial Equality, the Home Office and the Department of the Environment involvement will be such that it, too, will be of use in other parts of the country.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He raises three points. From his experience, he makes a major point about " no-go " areas. So do I from my own experience. I am not prepared, and in no circumstances will be prepared, to contemplate " no-go " areas in any part of this country or of the United Kingdom. It is very important to say that, to be heard to say it, and for it to be realised that that will not happen in the future.

Secondly, on the procedure of the police study, it is important to examine the police's procedure and their relationship with local community leaders. It is important that the chief inspector—I think I am right in saying—of the police, who was responsible for community relations in that area had established a very considerable position with the local community. It is very sad, in the circumstances, that his great efforts did not meet with greater success; but they should be recognised.

As for any reports from the Select Committe, that must be a matter for the Committee. I hope that the local authorities' investigation will be very wide and will include all the bodies that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that Bristol Members are grateful for the speed and efficiency with which he and his colleagues in the Department have responded, including the sending of the Minister of State to the scene within 24 hours, and maintaining close communications with us?

Will my right hon. Friend accept that most of us consider it right to have avoided the setting up of a great circus of a public inquiry, which would have wasted time and would probably not have clarified anything very much? Will my right hon. Friend accept that we are grateful for the promise of publication of the results of the investigation into policing methods, but will he also assure the House that the very welcome local inquiry that has been set up by the local authorities will have at its disposal the full resources of his Department and, if necessary, of other Departments of State, so that it can complete its inquiry in the best possible way?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. On the day after these serious events took place I thought it right that my hon. Friend the Minister of State should go immediately to Bristol. I am grateful to him for having done so. His investigation on the spot did much to help us in subsequent investigations. I am keen to learn lessons for the future. If we are to do that, we should involve all those who are especially concerned— for example, the police, the race relations representatives, the people of Bristol, and their elected representatives. That is why I think it right to proceed in the way that I have described. I can give a positive assurance that the local inquiry will have the full resources of any Government Departments that are involved.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great pressure for a public inquiry, especially from those who want to bring out fully the fact that unemployment, urban deprivation and the operation of laws such as the " sus " law lie behind some of the difficulties? Is he able to give an assurance that he will extend full co-operation to any local inquiries that might be instituted by the ethnic communities, the trades councils or any other organisation, so that the people themselves can speak for themselves? Does he agree that in the long run it is not really fair to ask the police to try to deal with problems that are fundamentally political and economic in character? For example, if the expansion of the special patrol group were to be recommended to deal with this problem. that would not constitute a proper answer.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman underlines the approach that I am taking. I realise that there are pressures for a full and comprehensive public inquiry. However, I believe that to proceed in a threefold way will help to meet some of the points that the right hon. Gentleman made. I am most anxious that the Select Committee should have the chance to examine some of the matters that he mentioned, based on the authority of the House. I hope that we shall be able to do everything possible to give assistance to that end.

I accept at once that the police have an important role to play. I also accept that we cannot place too much stress and reliance on them. There are other underlying causes that we have to recognise and meet, and I think that we can do that through the Select Committee and, more importantly, through the conference of the local authorities involved. The authorities have been elected to take responsibility within their areas. I am anxious to hear their views. They will be given careful consideration by the Government. I appreciate all that the right hon. Gentleman said.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and congratulate him on the wisdom of going for the threefold inquiry that he has described. I welcome the fact that Bristol city council and Avon county council are prepared to work together, thereby burying, perhaps, the party political hatchet. I hope that that can prevail eleswhere and that we shall get an all-party approach to the problem.

May I remind my right hon. Friend that such disturbances as we had in St. Paul's have a spin-oft effect? Is he aware that on the very night after the St. Paul's disturbances there was a similar occurrence in the Southmead area of my constituency? Will the inquiries that he has instigated encompass the whole of the city, and, therefore, take in the disturbances to which I referred, which took place in Bristol, North-West?

I note what my hon. Friend says and am grateful to him for his comments. It will be open to the Select Committee to consider any aspects of disadvantage that come within its investigation. I mentioned the St. Paul's area because that is where the problem lay. If the Select Committee wishes to consider a wider prespective, that will be for it to decide. There are wide lessons to be learnt for the police. They include not only this disturbance but others that have occurred elsewhere.

As the Member of Parliament for much of the area affected, may I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement and ask him two questions? Will be give an undertaking, as far as he can give one, that all those who wish or are required to give evidence to any of the inquiries will be able to do so without fear or favour? Secondly, is he aware that the desire of those in the district concerned, which I know very well, is for the area to return to normality as soon as possible? Therefore, will he make available to the traders who lost stock and property during the riots some form of credit, at low interest rates, so that they may build up their stocks and return to normal trading?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I realise his close personal involvement with the area concerned over a great many years. Obviously I hope that those who give evidence will be able to do so without fear or favour. I hope that that will be respected. Neither the hon. Gentleman nor I can guarantee that, but we can say that we very much hope that that will be the position. As for the traders, in the first instance there must be claims under the Riot (Damages) Act 1866. I understand that these will be directed to the police authority in the first instance. I note what the hon. Gentleman says on that score. If there is anything that can be done to help in that regard, I shall consider it.

Will my right hon. Friend join with me in expressing admiration for the 50 policemen who stuck it out for two and a half hours against a violent group of hundreds of youths? The police stuck it out until 49 of them had been injured—22 seriously—and until six police cars had been burnt out and 15 others seriously damaged. Was it not right at that stage for the chief constable to withdraw his injured men and to seek reinforcements from neighbouring forces? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only fault that can be seen is that the machinery for calling in reinforcements from neighbouring forces is far too slow?

I do not wish to comment at this stage—nor would the House think it wise for me to do so—on matters that will be the subject of further investigations. My right hon. Friend referred to the loyalty, courage and dedication of the police officers. Their actions were in the highest traditions of police service. Whatever criticisms people may have of the police in various areas, there can be no doubt that individual police officers perform their duties with dedication to the service of this country. That should be recognised and I hope that it will be accepted. The other matters that my right hon. Friend raised will have to be considered carefully by the inquiry, which I hope will be extensive. I hope that it will give us lessons for the future rather than rake over the problems of the past.

In the memorandum that the right hon. Gentleman has placed in the Vote Office the local chief constable observes that the problem of policing multi-racial areas requires great understanding and sensitivity. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that in all our cities he will stop the further closure of small local neighbourhood police stations and press even harder for the return of more policemen to the beat so that the police will not be alienated from the communities that they serve?

I think that it would be improper for me to comment on the decisions of local chief constables, who take their decisions in the light of operational responsibility. It must be said that the substantial increase in the number of recruits coming into the service in the past year is bound to have a considerable and good effect in bringing more policemen, or bobbies, on the beat.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a thorough and careful approach, which I am sure will be welcomed within the service? I congratulate him especially as he has avoided pitfalls by recognising that public inquiries can do more harm than good and by not endorsing the view that these matters arise solely from social and economic problems and that the only solution is to throw money at them. May I congratulate him on his sensible approach?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We have now to see what the investigations produce. It is important that we consider carefully the lessons to be learnt from what must be accepted as an unfortunate occurrence in Britain's history.

Order. I propose to call those hon. Members who have been rising. I hope that they will be brief, as there is another statement to be made.

At the risk of disturbing some of the equanimity of these exchanges, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that some of us are not not too happy about the tone of his statement? There may be other lessons that need to be learnt. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that extensive studies have already been made into social and economic problems and those of national and local government administration and policy in our urban areas? Those studies have been carried out in a whole range of cities. Although we look forward to receiving the reports to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, action should now be taken to restore resources and to improve action in inner Bristol and at least 20 other inner city areas where the same problems may well occur.

The right hon. Gentleman has considerable experience in these matters and he will be the first to know that a great deal of public money has been put into the St. Paul's area of Bristol. It has not been put solely into the area for which he was responsible. A great deal of money has been put into that area, and it is worth recognising that fact.

Inorder that discussion may be as informed as possible, will my right hon. Friend make a statement at the earliest opportunity, answering three questions? What is the legal status of a police officer who has been called in from an outside area and who is not a constable of the locality involved? Secondly, which police authority is responsible for the actions of those who are called in to assist in an area for which it is not normally responsible? Thirdly, when outside forces give such assistance, is the financial cost borne by the lending police authority or by the borrowing authority?

All those are questions to which I do not know the answer. I shall be pleased to investigate them all. No doubt many of those questions will arise in the investigation that the police officers and my Department will conduct.

Having regard to the important lessons that may be learnt by many inner city areas, not least inner London, will the right hon. Gentleman have urgent talks with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment about the decline in the resources being made available to areas such as my own, where similar problems may arise? Secondly, has he addressed his mind further to the question that I asked him on a previous occasion when he made a statement? I asked then whether he would consider extending the time scale for making applications for compensation under the Riot (Damages) Act. In the final analysis the right hon. Gentleman has the right to extend the inadequate time scale. That would give great encouragement to those who have just filed claims.

I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's second point as sympathetically as possible. He has made an important point from his considerable knowledge and experience, and I respond to it. As for his first question, it is important to recognise that considerable sums of money have already been allocated to that area. That is a very important factor.

Is it not true that the main reason why the local police failed to deal adequately with the disturbances was that pitifully few reserves were available at the critical moment? Should we not give greater consideration—in advance of any expert inquiry—into the strength and establishment of our police forces in all urban areas? Should we not also consider the possibility of mobile reserves on the pattern of the special patrol group?

These matters will have to be carefully considered by the police investigation. The considerable increase in police recruitment and the fact that many forces are up to establishment are important factors in meeting my hon. Friend's point. I hope that all hon. Members will await the result of the police investigation.

Does the Home Secretary accept that one source of the problems that arise between the police and the immigrant community is that the police are reluctantly forced to act as guardians on marches that are held by National Front thugs? Such events can be seen on television, and occurred last week in my constituency. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Thursday's Green Paper represents a welcome development, as it introduces other criteria, such as cost, disruption and affront to the community, in addition to the breakdown of public order? What progress does he expect as a result of that Green Paper, and when does he expect legislation to be introduced?

I should very much like to discuss and debate many of those issues. However, in the interest of the House these questions should be discussed on another occasion, as they do not arise from the statement.

Were not these terrible events in Bristol a fearful condemnation of the demographic policy and drift of the past 25 years? What does my right hon. Friend have in mind to deal with that aspect? As for the mechanics of maintaining public order, does he know of anything better than cold water for cooling these episodes? Why is it not used?

I have suggested how such issues might be considered. I do not think that it would be right if I responded to my hon. and learned Friend in general terms. As I said in my statement, we are proud of our traditional methods of community policing. My hon. and learned Friend's suggestion would lead to a painful and difficult departure from those methods. I doubt whether it would be wise to make such a departure.

Does the Home Secretary accept that for many years people have said that we should tackle urgently the problems of alienated young blacks in our society? Beyond hoping that the Select Committee will come up with something, the Home Secretary said nothing positive about a problem that has faced him and his predecessors for many years. Is not the time for talking over? Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is time that the Government took urgent action so that young blacks who are unemployed and who suffer educational disadvantages can be helped to become members of our society?

These are important matters. However, a Select Committee is engaging in exactly such an investigation, and in the interests of the House we should let it do its work. Of course, the Government will respond to its suggestions.

Will my right hon. Friend explain to my constituents and to those who live in areas of a similar racial and social composition to that of St. Paul's what specific action—as opposed to discussion—is anticipated within the next year to ensure that there will be no repetition of events in their areas?

First, we seek to ensure good community relations. Secondly, we need good policing and increased recruitment. The Government have certainly provided that. If the communities involved adopt a sensible attitude, that will prove to be the way forward. All three must march together.

Tenerife Air Crash

With permission Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on the Tenerife air crash.

The House will be aware that on Friday last a Boeing 727 operated by Dan-Air Services Ltd. from Manchester to Tenerife crashed about 10 miles from its destination and all the 146 passengers and crew on board were killed. I am sure that all sides of the House will wish to join me in expressing Parliament's great distress at this tragic accident and our greatest sympathy to the relations and friends of all those who were killed.

The accident occurred after the crew had reported when the aircraft was at 6,000 ft over a radio beacon at Los Rodeos airport on the northern end of Tenerife island, 19 minutes after 1 o'clock in the afternoon, GMT. It was then cleared by air traffic control to descend to 5,000 ft and carry out an approach procedure to the runway, but this message was not acknowledged by the aircraft and it is believed to have crashed very shortly afterwards. The accident site is about 10 miles south-west of the airport and just over 5,000 ft above sea level. The aircraft had completely disintegrated.

The Spanish authorities have begun an investigation into the circumstances and causes of the accident and a team of investigators from the accidents investigation branch of my Department arrived at 6.30 on Saturday morning and have been participating in the Spanish investigation in accordance with established international practice. The flight data and cockpit voice recorder have been recovered from the aircraft and will be carefully examined and read out in the next few days. Similarly, the recording of the radio communications will also be subject to detailed analysis. I will give more information to the House as soon as it is available. There remains much work of investigation to be done and it is expected that it will be some time before the final report of the investigation will be completed. By international agreement, a copy of the report will be passed to the State of registry of the aircraft that is, this country.

The House will wish to know that the Spanish authorities have treated this tragedy with the greatest sympathy and consideration and memorial services are being held in Tenerife today. British consular officials and members of the Dan-Air Company are doing everything in their power to assist the official services in Tenerife with their work.

I thank the Secretary of State for making an early statement. On behalf of the Opposition, I express our sympathy with the families and relatives of those who lost their lives in this appalling tragedy. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that both the House and the public will wish the inquiry to be searching, and include consideration of the safety of the aircraft and of the air traffic control system and landing procedures at the airport?

Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that there appear to have been some premature and very confusing statements about the cause of the accident, some apparently by the airline concerned as to where the aircraft was heading at the time of the accident, and others about pilot error, which must be far too premature? Will he ensure that the inquiry will cover all these matters?

I note that the Secretary of State said that the final report could not be expected for several months. That will take us to near the end of the holiday season. As a large number of British citizens are likely to travel to this airport, will the right hon. Gentleman examine the possibility of the report being completed at an earlier date, or of some interim report being made available so that some conclusions might be drawn in order to ensure that paramount consideration— the safety of the air passengers?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the report needs to be of a searching character. There were, understandably, a number of rather confusing statements made in various quarters when news of the accident first came through. That is not entirely surprising.

It is true that the formal report will take some time to prepare and to be made available, but I undertake that we will keep the House informed by a statement as soon as we have additional information which is of great interest and concern to both sides of the House.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend expresses the sympathy of every hon. Member over this terrible tragedy. Has he noticed the reports that have emanated from the Spanish authorities putting the blame on the pilot? As this man was an extremely experienced pilot, and as he is not here to defend himself, will my right hon. Friend agree that it would be a great deal better if people waited until after the full investigation before starting recriminations?

I agree that this was a very experienced crew. The pilot knew the airfield very well and had had more than 14,000 hours' flying experience. None of us questions the competence of the crew. I certainly agree that it would be much better to await further facts before making any further statements.

As a Manchester Member whose constituency adjoins Manchester airport, may I extend my deep condolences to the relatives of all who lost their lives in the disaster?

The Secretary of State said that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders would be read out in the next few days. How soon afterwards will we be told what those read-outs reveal? If, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it is a matter of some months before the final report of the investigation is completed, may we have an interim report after the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are read out?

Finally, may I thank the Secretary of State for his prompt action in sending a team of investigators to the island and in taking the earliest possible opportunity to make a statement to the House?

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. The flight data and cockpit voice recorders have both been recovered. The flight data recorder will be read out for the first time fairly shortly and I will make sure that in so far as I can provide relevant and soundly-based information to the House I shall do so, Obviously, I do not wish to commit myself to any time scale, but there is no reason to conceal anything from the House or the country as soon as we have factually-based information which we can put forward.

May I join my right hon. Friend in expressing my deepest sympathy to the families of the passengers and crew were lost in this tragic accident, no fewer than five of whom were my constituents?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the pitiful inadequacy of non-directional beacons, especially in the mountainous terrain and in poor weather? Will he make most strenuous and urgent representations to the Spanish civil aviation authorities to the effect that it is quite inexcusable that on an airport that is used by countless hundreds of thousands of British holiday-makers each year there should have been no airport surveillance radar, either at the airport or on Mount Teide itself? Will he further undertake to publish a safety league table in due course covering all scheduled and charter airlines operating in and from this country?

There were radio navigation aids at the airport, including a main VHF beacon, and three medium—frequency beacons of low power, together with an instrument landing system. There is surveillance radar at Las Palmas covering the whole island, but there is no local radar at the northern airfield. This is not dissimilar to the situation in many airports throughout the world which take scheduled passengers. In that respect, I do not think that my hon. Friend's criticism of the Spanish authorities is correct or valid. I shall look into the matter, but I do not think that a safety league table would really be of any help to the House or the country.

I thank the Secretary of State for the speed with which he has made a statement about this tragic event. I express my condolences to those who have been so tragically bereaved, particularly the families of my constituents who were involved in this tragic accident.

Bearing in mind the history of the air tragedies and disasters which have taken place at Los Rodeos airport, would the right hon. Gentleman be justified in discouraging charter companies from using this airport, at least until we see the interim report?

Los Rodeos remains an approved airport and has a very long runway which, when used in the proper circumstances, is as safe as any other. The accident site lies between the two airports and not within the approach pattern to the northern airport. Of course, I am aware of the major accident that occurred on the ground at that airport a few years ago, but it is an approved airport and, if properly approached, there is no reason why there should be any danger at all.

Order. I propose to call the four hon. Members on the Government Benches and the two hon. Members on the Opposition Benches who have been rising in their places since the beginning of supplementary questions.

I endorse my right hon. Friend's expression of sympathy for the relatives of all those involved in the tragedy, and welcome his rejection of the rather superficial suggestion of the publication of some safety league table, which most of us recognise would be irrelevant.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that there will be full scope for the participation of British experts at all stages in the technical investigation? Can he tell us what scope there is in Spanish procedures for British participation in the formal inquiry itself?

British experts are, of course, present now, and they are assisting the Spanish authorities with their investigation. I am sure that my hon. Friend, having had responsibility for such matters on earlier occasions, appreciates that the prime responsibility rests with the country in whose jurisdiction the accident occurred. However, there are well established international rules which set out the means by which other countries involved may participate. Indeed, the country that manufactured the aircraft also has a part to play in the investigations, in accordance with the rules. The Spanish authorities will, I know, follow international rules in this regard.

May I, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, associate myself with the messages of sympathy that have been expressed about the disaster? It has been reported in the press that the black box has been removed and has been sent to Madrid. May we assume that the Minister's officials will be present in Madrid to hear the recording? Is it not also a fact that Los Rodeos airport will be used rather less in the future? Apparently, it has been reported that this was the last flight to use that airport and that in future the southern aerodrome will be used more extensively. Will the Secretary of State confirm that?

The flight data recorder will be read in Madrid, and officials from my Department will be present. A decision will be made tomorrow about whether the cockpit voice recorder will be read in Madrid or be sent direct to my accidents investigation branch in Farnborough, to be read first in the United Kingdom.

As the House will know, there is a new airfield on the southern side of Tenerife which no doubt will be used increasingly. However, I understand that it is still intended that Los Rodeos, the northern airfield, will remain in full use. As I have said, it is an approved airport.

I echo that last point, but is it not a fact that the new airport on the south side of Tenerife is reputed to be safer by international standards than Los Rodeos? Can the Secretary of State give any indication, therefore, of the date after which most of the charter flights from this country will be likely to use the new airport, because it appears that most of the difficulties that have occurred in the past in Tenerife have occurred at the older airport?

I do not think that I am sufficiently qualified to make judgments on the quality of one airport compared with another. We can only ensure that airports that are used by British scheduled aircraft and by British passengers are approved airports under the existing rules. I cannot say whether the southern airfield is better than the northern airfield, although I have read reports that it is. However, that is surmise, and I cannot confirm it or otherwise.

The Secretary of State pointed out, legitimately, that the facilities at Los Rodes are not very different from those of many other airports in the world. I had the unpleasant experience some years ago of being caught there in bad weather. Extremely delicate, difficult micro-climates result from Mount Teide rising from the sea in unusual geological conditions. Is it not unsatisfactory that here, of all places, there should be primitive equipment such as VHF beacons, and is there not a case for special equipment, in view of the fact that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Mr. Smith) pointed out, a huge number of British holidaymakers now visit Tenerife?

As I indicated in my statement, as far as we can judge, the aircraft was not on its approach to the airport. I do not think it is entirely true to say that the VHF beacon is primitive. It is a system which is in use in many parts of the world.

I cannot recall the earlier point made by the hon. Gentleman, for which I apologise.

Given the special nature of the climatic conditions and the microclimates at this airport, is there not a case for special provision?

The accident took place when the weather in the area was variable, with a south-easterly wind of 14 knots and a visibility of 6 km in drizzle. I understand that the airport has an elevation of just over 2,000 ft above sea level. Consequently, as cloud drifts over the high ground the visibility tends to change quickly and sometimes one end of the runway is obscured while the other end is clear.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are many airports in the world where difficult conditions exist. I do not deny that it is said by pilots that this airport is difficult in some respects.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, and for the proper caution that he has shown in discussing the various implications of the accident. I hope to show equally proper caution in my question. Do not the records of my right hon. Friend's Department show that this is the third major air disaster affecting aircraft of this airline to be recorded since 1977? Do not his records also show that this is a far worse record than that of any other British airline, and, so far as can be seen, of any other comparable Western European airline? Does not this raise the implication that there should perhaps be a wider investigation into the operations of this airline?

There have been two fatal accidents in which this airline has been involved in the last five years—one at Sumburgh and the other at Lusaka. There have been five other minor technical accidents. The safety standards of an airline are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority, through the issue of an air operator's certificate. Those are the standard procedures, and I see no reason to change them.

I heartily endorse the words of my right hon. Friend and other right hon. and hon. Members this afternoon about the tragic accident. Does my right hon. Friend agree that had this aeroplane been carrying a ground proximity warning system the accident may well have been averted? Does he not also agree that for the sake of a couple of thousand pounds—which is all that these instruments cost—it is high time that moves were made to make compulsory the carrying of such instruments on civil airlines, both nationally and internationally?

This aircraft was carrying a ground proximity warning system, and there were no known defects in it when it departed from Manchester.

Ground proximity warning systems were made mandatory in 1977 in this country for British aircraft.

May I ask the Secretary of State whether the Spanish authorities have indicated that they are agreeable to the publication of an interim report, as is the clear desire of the House? If they have not so indicated, will the Secretary of State encourage them to do so?

In view of the conflicting reports, is the Secretary of State able to say, without prejudice to any question of liability, whether the aircraft had been diverted from the north to the new airport? That matter is evidently causing considerable concern.

There have been reports that a number of people—I can only describe them as ghouls—have been busy collecting pieces of the aircraft as mementoes, which can only impair the quality of the forensic investigation that has to be undertaken. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the Spanish police authorities have now taken appropriate action to avoid a repetition of that?

Is the Secretary of State aware that deep concern has been expressed for many years by BALPA and the International Federation of Airline Pilots about the antiquated nature of air traffic control systems, not simply in Spain, but throughout Europe and elsewhere? Will he, therefore, use the best endeavours of his Department to ensure that this matter is more thoroughly and urgently investigated, and that action is taken wherever possible to make sure that deficiencies are put right?

I did not say that I would be able to publish an interim report. I indicated that I would certainly do my best to provide, as soon as possible, whatever information I could. That is not quite the same as an interim report, which is something to be cleared with the Spanish authorities. Certainly I shall encourage the Spanish authorities to allow us to provide here as much information as possible as soon as reasonably possible.

On the question about the diversion of the aircraft, the recording of radio communications contains no instruction to the aircraft from air traffic control to divert. Nor does it include any statement by the pilot that he intended to divert. Certainly no instructions were given.

I have noted what the hon. Gentleman said about the position on the ground. It is a matter for the Spanish police authorities and I will look into the hon. Gentleman's comments.

The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that air traffic control systems all over the world probably need to be brought up to date. I share his concern in that respect. We can do no more than bring ours up to date and encourage everyone else to take similar action. Of course, we shall do our best to play a leading part in that regard.

Birkenhead (Unemployment)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

" the unemployment situation in Birkenhead "
I wrote to you on Friday, Mr. Speaker, indicating that I would seek to move the Adjournment of the House to discuss the long-term future of shipbuilding on the Mersey, which has been put in doubt following the cancellation on Friday of Cammell Laird's only merchant ship building order.

My constituents have only once known what it is like to have full employment. As Britain's war effort got under way, Birkenhead went back to work, or perhaps I should more accurately say that some of my constituents went to work for the first time. During the war, Birkenhead did not fail this country. On average, we built two ships every three months.

Now Birkenhead needs the country's help. Hon. Members will know that the unemployment rate for Liverpool is twice the national average. For the country as a whole, we now have one in four of the unemployed classified as long-term unemployed, that is, being without work for more than a year. That rate is equal to the long-term unemployment rate of the peak year of the 1930s.

My constituency has a long-term unemployment rate of 34 per cent. About 8,000 people are waiting for work and there are only 300 vacancies. If shipbuilding is allowed to collapse, as I fear it might following the cancellation of the order on Friday, unemployment will rise still further.

Unemployment should not rise further, because a year ago the Government came to the House and sought agreement for a shipbuilding plan. That plan, which was agreed, had two parts. The first was that we should continue to run down the size of our shipbuilding industry. That has been, and is being, done. In Birkenhead, for every five men who were employed in shipbuilding a year ago, only four remain. The men have fulfilled their part of the bargain to the letter and spirit of the agreement.

The second part of the plan was that British Shipbuilders would seek merchant shipbuilding orders, as it has been trying to do, and that we would bring forward public orders. In Birkenhead, we hoped to get orders—[Interruption.]

Order. The reaction of the House has been caused by the fact that the hon. Member should not make the speech that he would make if his application were granted but should merely stress why it ought to be granted.

There should be a debate now, because we have lost the hoped-for order for fleet oilers and on Friday we lost our merchant shipbuilding order. I seek the Adjournment of the House so that we may discuss what may be happening to Birkenhead. I want to express much more fully the anxiety of my constituents about the prospect of unemployment rising still further and I wish to argue that the Government could, and should, do something to prevent more than the present 8,000 unemployed in my constituency being without work.

The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

" the unemployment situation in Birkenhead ".
As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9, I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the Order, but to give no reasons for my decision.

The hon. Member will be aware that I decide not whether this matter is to be debated but merely whether it should be given priority over the business set down for today and tomorrow. I have given careful consideration to the representations that the hon. Member has made, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

Iran

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

" the possibility of further United States military intervention in Iran and the danger to world peace ".
The matter is specific because it relates to the situation in Iran and arises from what has already occurred by way of military force. The matter is of considerable importance, because further military action has not been ruled out by the United States authorities. Any such action could have the more fearful consequences, as well as having a great bearing on the maintenance, or otherwise, of world peace.

The urgency of the matter is, I submit, self-evident. The crisis over Iran could escalate again at any time and it is essential that the House should have an opportunity of debating the matter and, in such a debate, to express its view on the situation.

I would hope that in such a debate the House could hear the views of those of us who believe that military action should not be taken and that economic sanctions should not be enforced, but that continued efforts should be made through diplomacy —and only diplomacy—to secure the release of the hostages. For those reasons, I believe that the debate should be held as quickly as possible.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) gave me notice before noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

" the possibility of further United States military intervention in Iran and the danger to world peace ".
The hon. Member has brought to our attention an important matter. I listened carefully to the arguments that he advanced. As the House knows, it has instructed me to give no reasons for my decision when I rule on such an application.

I have to rule that the hon. Member's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

Welsh Affairs

Ordered,

That the matter of the Effect of the Budget on Wales, being a matter relating exclusively to Wales, be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for their consideration.—[ Mr. Cope.]

Defence Estimates 1980

4.30 pm

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Francis Pym): I beg to move, That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980, contained in Cmnd. 7826.

I have selected the amendment in the names of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and his right hon. and hon. Friends.

I open by drawing attention to one sentence that I have written in the statement on the Defence Estimates:

" The decade ahead will be a testing one for the Western democracies in many ways ".
I do not think that any hon. Member here today could accuse me of having made that point lightly, or as pure rhetoric, or seriously disagree that the world has darkened still further since those words were written.

This is the first defence debate in this Parliament, and the events of recent weeks and days add a peculiar poignancy to its timing and importance. We are facing not only a testing decade but testing months and testing days for the security of our country and the Western world as a whole. It is our responsibility to recognise that fact and to see the world as it actually is, and not as we might have preferred it to be; there is no safety in self-deception. It is also our responsibility—with resolution and with all the foresight and ingenuity we can muster— to find ways of meeting the potential threats to our own and Western interests so that we can steer our country safely through the difficult times that lie ahead. These tasks face us at a time when Britain and Europe have other pressing problems and preoccupations—inflation, rising energy costs and a poor outlook for world trade—all related to the economic events of the free world.

In our case, our strategy for economic recovery involves severe restrictions on public spending, but—in contrast to the previous Government—we are prepared to put defence at the top of our priorities, not because we like it but because the realities of the international situation make it necessary. As the White Paper emphasises at every turn, we shall make the most thoughtful and effective use we can of every resource at our disposal, whether it be money or material or the excellent qualities of the men and women in our Services.

The Labour Party, when in government, decided to support the NATO aim of a 3 per cent. increase in defence spending. From their amendment, which we expect them to move later, it appears that the Opposition are now going back on that. But I hope that by the end of the debate they will remain true to their previous decision, which we believe was right. Incidentally, may I say how pleased we are that my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) is making such a good recovery after his recent illness?

The repercussions of events in Iran, the taking of the United States hostages and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan have placed a strain on the North Atlantic Alliance, both on the relations between its European members and on their relations with the Government of the United States. I see nothing wrong in stating that fact, because strategic and political crises of such a magnitude will of course place strains on all Governments who have to deal with them. In so far as the challenges are new in kind, the strains also will be of an unfamiliar kind and will require new solutions, to be found perhaps by new methods. But it is the business of an alliance, and of individual allies, not only to be able to accept the strains and pressures but to overcome them successfully.

The prescription for meeting this challenge is, to my mind, clear. With our allies and friends in Europe and beyond we must preserve our solidarity and cohesion —our basic sense of interdependence— within Europe, across the Atlantic, and all round the world. It is, in the end, upon that cohesion and co-operation that the security of the free world depends. We must work with the methods that interdependence requires. That means full discussions together, not shying away from the difficulties, and sharing our viewpoints and judgments. We must decide upon courses of action that emphasise and enhance our common purpose. The effect of a common front is not only to consolidate the Alliance itself but to present the most effective deterrent. None of this can be taken for granted; it has to be worked for. It will not be easy to find a solution to the Iranian problem that meets the United States' very proper concern for the safety and freedom of its citizens—and who could not feel a profound sympathy for the hostages and the American people—and at the same time avoids any further destabilisation and conflict in the Gulf. Indeed, that region is one of the most important regions of all in the world, and our primary objective must be to restore stability there. We shall have to draw on all our experience if we are to respond adequately and successfully to the risks and dangers that obviously exist.

Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up a matter of fact? I refer to the statement in The Times today that the British base or the American-British base at Diego Garcia was used in the American effort that resulted in the desert calamity. Was it or was it not used? If we are to have full discussions together, to borrow the right hon. Gentleman's phrase, was there any discussion on this kind of use?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there was no discussion. But, as I think my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal told the House on Friday, there wore indications of the possibility of some action. The facts, of course, are still emerging. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall continue with my speech because there is a great deal that I want to say in a debate covering the whole range of this subject. I do not know the answer to his question. I cannot go beyond what my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal said on Friday.

We shall have to draw on all our experience if we are to respond adequately to these risks. It will not be easy— perhaps not even possible—to persuade the Soviet Union that its aggression and enforced rule in Afghanistan is unacceptable to world opinion. How are we to deter it from using its massive military strength for other similar acts of agression elsewhere? I shall be saying more later about our perception of the Soviet global threat and how we can help to meet it. But the harder the task, the harder we have to work to tackle it. The greater the strains, the stronger the alliance will be when it successfully over comes them—as I personally am convinced it will.

Britain's reaction to the major crises of today has reflected this resolve and this confidence. We have played a notable part in reasserting the partnership with the United States and the principles of co-operation on which the Western Alliance is founded; we have promoted constructive solutions at every turn; we have taken our share of the measures— not always popular, and never without cost—that are needed to give practical expression to our principles. That is the way this Government match up to their responsibilities, and it is the way we shall go on working.

Military force will not provide us with any short cuts or any easy way to a more stable world order. It should not be—and it certainly is not—our first recourse. Indeed, it is the very last recourse—to be avoided at almost any cost.

The effectiveness of military force depends profoundly on our appreciation of political and social forces, both in those countries whose security we are seeking to maintain and in the West as a whole, for it is those political and social forces that determine decisively the outcome of the use of military force or its threatened use.

We have to retain the will and the imagination to understand the perceptions of countries whose ideology and traditions differ from ours, even to an extent at which they become hostile to us. We have to do so without in any way compromising our own beliefs and values, or becoming untrue to the heritage of parliamentary democracy and freedom to which we are the heirs. That is the way to strengthen the resolve of our friends and ourselves to work for a better world. The maintenance of adequate defences and the proper use of military power are a regrettable but inescapable precondition of successful political action.

If I turn now to a more detailed discussion of that, it is not because I am in any sense—as some have recently been tempted to pretend—some kind of warmonger. I believe most profoundly and passionately in the paradox that we have to possess military forces to avoid their employment; we have to possess the most horrific weapons precisely so as not to use them. The ultimate objective of Her Majesty's Government—and of every hon. Member—is less defence and fewer arms, not more. We believe in a fruitful dialogue with all other countries to achieve this end. We hope profoundly that the process of detente, of negotiations about arms control and of talks about the reduction in the size of forces and armaments, will continue.

We are playing our full part and making every endeavour here. Whatever the setbacks, our effort in this matter will be unremitting. But we also know that we must be realistic about it—that the facts will not disappear if, ostrich-like, we choose to bury our heads in the sand. There is no room for wishful thinking. If we bury our heads in the sand we are, surely, condemning the citizens of this country and the citizens of many other countries to a fearful future.

I should like to go back to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) about Iran. The Lord Privy Seal said the other day that the Government knew that it was one of the options, or one of the possible options. The right hon. Gentleman did not know what was to happen, but what was the response of the Government to the Americans over that option? Did they say anything about it? Did they shrug their shoulders? Did they advise the Americans not to go ahead with that attempt? What was their attitude? That is crucial in relation to the point made by my hon. Friend.

There was no consultation or discussion. As my right hon. Friend made clear on Friday, there was only an indication, of which I was unaware, of some possibility. I cannot add to that statement. I have no knowledge to add to it.

The defence White Paper starts, as any sound defence policy must start——

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I have a lot to say on the whole area of defence and I have indicated——

Mr. Deputy Speaker
(Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)