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Commons Chamber

Volume 983: debated on Tuesday 29 April 1980

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 29 April 1980

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

GREATER MANCHESTER PASSENGER TRANSPORT BILL [ Lords]

GREATER LONDON COUNCIL (MONEY) (No. 2) BILL

Read a Second time and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Oral Answers To Questions

Question No. 1, Dr. Mawhinney. Question No. 2, Mr. Dormand—[Interruption.] Order. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) explained that he would not be here for question No. 1. However, I called his name. The lord mayor of his borough is being buried today, and his duty is to be there.

Social Services

Northern Region Health Authority

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what additional funds are being made available to the Northern regional health authority for 1980–81; and if he will make a statement.

£ 118 million, of which £2½ million is real growth in revenue over last year.

Is the Minister aware that the region has suffered a cut of £9·5 million in real terms? Is he further aware that the allowance of 14 per cent. for wage and price increases is totally inadequate and unrealistic, and that it will almost certainly mean that the present level of services cannot be maintained? Does not he accept that the fact that only 0·6 per cent. is being allowed for growth is another example of the Government's vendetta against the Northern region?

We set such importance on the cash limits and ceilings because we believe that 14 per cent. is a realistic figure. I accept that the Northern regional health authority is below target when compared with many other parts of the country. We have, therefore, set the increase in revenue for this year's allocations at 0·6 per cent., real growth.

By what means does the Minister hope to keep pay settlements within the 14 per cent. level on which the Budget must be based? Is he aware that such resources will permit only a limited amount of development in the Northern region?

We are satisfied that the planned level of service for 1980–81 can be realised within the cash limit of 14 per cent.—as announced by the Chief Secretary—provided that health authorities continue their efforts to achieve economies and savings.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that a growth rate of 1 per cent. is needed if the Northern region is to stand still and cope with the increasing numbers of elderly people? Is not a growth rate of 0·6 per cent. an appalling performance, compared with the growth rates of 3 per cent. 4 per cent. and 2¾ per cent. which occurred during the last three years of the previous Labour Government?

The right hon. Gentleman ignores the considerable savings that are being made in the Health Service right across the country. A far more realistic view is now being taken. The 1980–81 cash limit reflects the full, planned volume, plus the ½ per cent. growth intended by our predecessors.

Fuel Costs (Low Income Households)

3.

asked the Secretary of of State for the Social Services if he will make a statement on the implementation of his proposals for help with fuel costs to those on low incomes, but not in receipt of supplementary benefit or family income supplement.

The package of measures announced by my right hon. Friend on 27 March directs substantial weekly help to the most vulnerable groups, that is, to those on the lowest incomes who are likely to incur large fuel bills. In current economic circumstances, the Government cannot contemplate going further than that.

Is the hon. Lady aware that there is much disappointment among those on low incomes, because they will not receive any assistance towards paying their fuel bills? Does not she agree that the explanation for this is that they are not receiving supplementary benefits or FIS? Do the Government intend—at a time of never-ending increases in the prices of gas, electricity and other fuels—to give no assistance to those who are not in receipt of supplementary benefit or FIS?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the increased package of over £200 million for the year 1980–81 is based on supplementary benefit and FIS. Some people may be better off on supplementary benefit than on their current housing allowance. There is an automatic award of supplementary benefit heating additions for those aged 70, and others. I understand the problem and anxiety, but in the present circumstances that is all that the Government can do.

Will my hon. Friend discuss with her colleagues as a matter of urgency the possibility of including those who are in receipt of rent and rate rebates and who will not get the advantage of these increased fuel allowances? Will my hon. Friend accept that it is not a fair proposal as there is little to choose in many cases between those on rent and rate rebates and those on supplementary benefit?

There are about 3 million beneficiaries of housing allowance, including those on rent and rate rebates. To extend even £1 a week additional help to all 3 million would cost over £150 million. I understand what my hon. Friend is saying. However, advice in local offices will be readily available to those who have formerly been on housing benefits but might be better off on supplementary benefit. We shall do all that we can to see that help is available to those in greatest need.

Is the Minister aware that many of these older and poorer people are having to turn to paraffin for heating and, in some instances, lighting? Is it possible for all local authorities to have a supply of paraffin, available at wholesale rates? This would not cost the Government anything. Local authorities would then be able to supply these people, who are having great difficulties in buying even paraffin, and it would be a terrific saving for them.

The hon. Gentleman will find that those who are in the greatest need are receiving substantial help of £50 per year towards their heating. The question of supplying paraffin at wholesale prices is not for me, but I believe that it would have serious attendant risks.

If my hon. Friend can do nothing about the problem of those receiving increased fuel allowances, will she at least assure us that the matter will be looked at in the coming financial year?

Is she aware that I attended the annual general meeting of the British Association of Retired Persons this morning, which is a thoroughly responsible and constructive organisation representing the elderly? Will my hon. Friend accept that that organisation feels strongly about this matter? Can my hon. Friend assure us that the Government will consider at an early date extending the allowance to those on rent and rate rebates?

I give my hon. Friend that assurance. As he will know, in the review of the supplementary benefits system the second aspect is the question of housing allowances. We shall further consider the real needs of these people in looking at those housing allowances. The Government are not unaware of the pressures or requirements to get the most help to those in greatest need.

Will the hon. Lady confirm that the future housing allowance system will cover fuel costs? When will the results be announced of that further review? Will she also confirm that the Government intend to have a national scheme to deal with fuel poverty? Is the hon. Lady aware that the extra money could be obtained from the additional revenues that the Government have imposed on the gas industry?

In our review of housing benefits under the review of the supplementary benefits scheme we shall consider the type and amount of housing, as that affects the fuel needs of the elderly. The review is primarily of housing benefits, but fuel needs must come into it. I cannot give an exact date when the review will be complete, but I hope that it will be by the end of the year. We are spending over £200 million on the coming year's fuel help scheme, and we intend to see that it gets to those in the greatest need.

Medium Secure Units (Trent Region)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many medium secure units for the mentally sick are now functioning in the Trent regional health authority area; how many such units are now being erected or are in the planning stage; and how many places there will be in each unit.

There are no permanent medium secure units in the Trent region at present. Building is due to start shortly on a 60-bed unit at Towers hospital, Leicester, to serve the southern part of the region. The regional health authority recently suspended planning on a 45-bed unit at Balderton hospital while alternative suggestions for secure provision to serve the northern part of the region are investigated further.

Is the Minister aware of the fears that the proposals will not cater for the mentally sick and handicapped? Will he bear in mind that many people believe that there is room for smaller hospitals inside and in co-ordination with larger general hospitals? Will the hon. Gentleman accept that there is the greatest need for consideration of this issue over a wide area? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that the attitude of the Sheffield area health authority over Middlewood hospital is creating problems for the other three area health authorities in South Yorkshire? Will he please call all the authorities together to discuss the matter?

I can give the hon. Gentleman some reassurance. The regional health authority is looking at alternative sites for these secure units to serve the northern part of the region and also at the possibility of an assessment centre with links with the smaller units at several hospitals throughout the region. I should like to ponder on the hon. Gentleman's other points, and perhaps write to him.

Is the Minister aware that the Trent regional health authority is receiving £3,300,000 from the Government as a special revenue allocation for the regional secure psychiatric unit, yet, on his own latest figures, has spent only £6,300? Will he accept that that is a disgraceful state of affairs, when these units were recommended as a matter of urgent national priority as long ago as 1974? What action is he taking with the Trent regional health authority and the other regional health authorities to see that those units are established?

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's comment that it is a disgraceful state of affairs. It was always recognised that, until the permanent units were established, the authorities would not be able to spend the money on interim secure arrangements. They have been allowed to use that money for other purposes, particularly to develop psychiatric services.

Of the 14 regional health authorities, 11 have submitted proposals to my Department. I hope that the units planned will be in action by the mid-1980s.

Invalidity Benefit

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the number of claimants for invalidity benefit at the most recent convenient date.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what would be the cost of raising invalidity pension by the same percentage as retirement pension.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received from disablement organisations concerning the level of up-rating of invalidity benefits.

In mid-1978, the latest date for which statistics are available, 557,200 people were receiving invalidity benefit. The extra cost of raising invalidity pension by the same percentage as retirement pension would be £50 million in a full year.

I have received a letter from the Disablement Income Group expressing disastisfaction with the proposal to apply the 5 per cent. abatement to invalidity benefit.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the majority of those claimants are severely disabled people, who can generally expect to be out of work for several years? As their annual income from invalidity pension is well below the tax threshold, what possible justification is there for saving a beggarly £50 million by docking their benefit by 5 per cent. in lieu of taxation?

I must correct the hon. Gentleman. Only a minority of invalidity beneficiaries would not be subject to taxation, and not the majority. It is also fair to point out that, even with the lowest rate of invalidity allowance and after the 5 per cent. abatement, an invalidity pensioner will still have a higher benefit than a retirement pensioner, whose pension is, at after all, taxed, whereas at present the invalidity pension and allowance are not.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Government, having accepted the principle of increasing the retirement pension to attempt to keep pace with the cost of living, have not extended the same principle to this vulnerable section of the population, which must come within the category of those in greatest need, referred to by the Under-Secretary of State a few minutes ago?

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's point, but the invalidity pension has not been taxed, although it is common ground on both sides of the House that it should be, whereas the retirement pension is taxed—

I accept the correction. The pension is taxable.

Perhaps I can give the right hon. Gentleman this assurance. Unlike the other benefits affected by the 5 per cent. abatement this November, invalidity benefit is a long-term benefit. I also give the House this assurance about invalidity benefit. When it comes to tax, subject to the availability of resources, we shall put it back to what it would have been had it stayed in step with the retirement pension this November.

My right hon. Friend has answered the point that I wanted to make. I had intended to ask for an assurance—which he has given—that he will seek to restore the link with retirement pensions. Does he accept that most disabled people are concerned about the breaking of the link with the retirement pension?

I understand my hon. Friend's point, and I am grateful to him for the representations that he has made. I hope that the assurance that I have just given to the House, that subject to the availability of resources we shall restore the level of the invalidity pension—when it comes into taxation—to the level of the retirement pension will go a long way to reassure those who have expressed anxiety about the Government's proposals.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this proposal is shabby and shoddy? Is he further aware that I hope that the Minister will implement the assurance that he has given, because under this Government invalidity pensioners suffer by comparison with other pensioners. I fail to see how a Minister with responsibility for the disabled can serve in a Government whose Secretary of State treats invalidity pensioners in this way. Does he realise that we shall watch for the implementation of his assurance?

I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will watch carefully the question of the implementation of the assurance that I have given. It has been given after careful thought, and, of course, it has to be subject to the avail ability of resources, as I made clear. I cannot accept the remainder of the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms. Many countries are facing the difficulty of maintaining the level of and the increase in their social security budgets. We have made limited reductions, which still leave our social security budget growing at 2 per cent. a year on average over the next few years. I cannot accept that this is mean-minded or mean-spirited.

While I accept what my right hon. Friend has said, is he aware that I am disappointed that he said that people who enjoy invalidity benefits are in a minority? It makes no difference whether they are in a minority or a majority. Those people most require aid and we should therefore consider their requirements. While it is fair to say that people who receive retirement pensions have an additional benefit, may I ask the Minister to reconsider the proposals?

I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety, and I assure him that these matters are being vigorously debated in Standing Committee B. The Government have accepted, in line with their predecessors, that this, and a number of other benefits which have not hitherto been taxable, should be taxable, and that some time after 1982 it will be brought into taxation. The Government also take the view that it is right that there should be this interim scheme in lieu of taxation. Even if the Government confine themselves to the invalidity benefit, the amount of expenditure that will be saved by the 5 per cent. abatement is significantly less than the amount of additional revenue that would be raised if the benefit were brought into proper taxation this year.

With inflation running at well over 20 per cent., with very much more in the pipeline, does the Secretary of State have any confidence in the figures that he prophesied—and which will be the basis for the uprating—of 16½ per cent. on the retail price index by November? If that is the case, will he still punish invalidity pensioners, as he is now proposing to do?

The right hon. Gentleman has faced these difficult decisions, and he knows perfectly well that it would be entirely inappropriate for me now to attempt to forecast what we might do if the events which he forecasts transpire by November. We shall have to deal with that position if and when it arises. The estimate on which the uprating has been based—a 16½ per cent. increase between the two uprating dates—is the best estimate we have, and we must stick to it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his remarks about 1982 will do nothing to diminish the suf- fering of some of the most hard-pressed people in Britain over the next two years? Is he not concerned, even ashamed, that the Disablement Income Group has described his policy not only as appalling but as cruelly unfair? It is the stock answer of this Government that the British people are now getting what they voted for 12 months ago. Where, in their manifesto did it say that the Conservative Government would cut the standard of living of people who, through sickness and disability, have had their working lives cut short?

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman and many other hon. Members are anxious about the Government's proposals. He will know that the pressures of the public sector borrowing requirement—[Interruption.] If we do not restore a better balance in our economy and reduce the amounts that the Government have to borrow, there is no hope whatsoever of our being able to restore the prosperity on which the welfare of those people about whom the right hon. Gentleman is concerned depends.

Art And Music Therapists (Pay)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he plans to take concerning the 1979 salary increases for art and music therapists, following the Clegg commission's refusal to recommend appropriate salary levels for them.

These salary levels are at present determined by the Department by relating them to the salaries negotiated for occupational therapists by the professional and technical A Whitley Council. Now that the council has agreed on a settlement of the Clegg award to occupational therapists, new salary levels for art and music therapists will be fixed, with effect from 1 April and they will be announced as soon as possible.

I thank the Minister for that reply. However, is he aware that this relatively small group of professional workers, who make an important contribution to therapeutic treatment, are the only public service employees who have no real negotiating machinery? Their wages are fixed unilaterally by their employers. Is it not time that this nineteenth century Dickensian anomaly was got rid of, and that we moved into the twentieth century?

I am sympathetic to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman on this matter. Discussions are taking place with that sort of goal in mind. I should like art and music therapists to be formally allocated to a Whitley Council, so that their pay and conditions can be properly negotiated between NHS management and the staff organisations concerned.

With regard to the findings of the Clegg Commission, comparing these therapists with speech therapists, will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not pursue the suggestion that the terms and conditions of service of speech therapists should be reduced, and that their hours of working should be increased? We need a clear assurance from the Government that they will not pursue that recommendation.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has followed what has happened recently. The grades of art and music therapists are related to the occupational therapists and technical instructor grades.

Abortion Act 1967

7

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the working of the Abortion Act 1967.

I have no evidence of the existence today of the sort of abuses that were examined by the Lane committee. But I accept that there is no room for complacency, and if my hon. Friend has a particular matter in mind, I shall be pleased to consider it.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the upper age limit at which abortions can be carried out under the 1967 Act, and does he think that that limit pays proper attention to advances in medical science? Is he aware that at Southmead hospital in Bristol doctors are having great success in bringing 26 weeks old foetuses, to normal and independent existence? In those circumstances is there not a grave danger that we are asking doctors and nurses to participate in the killing of children aged between 24 and 28 weeks?

I believe that the medical profession is responding to the clinical changes that are taking place. Late abortions will be fewer, and increasingly confined to cases where there are the strongest medical reasons.

Will the hon. Gentleman give a more unequivocal reply regarding the Lane committee report? Is he aware that most hon. Members and most members of the medical profession are satisfied that the Lane committee report was the effective answer to the 1967 Act, and that the subsequent changes have been adequate? The less we tinker about with this basic, important legislation, the better it will be for mothers and children in this country.

I am keeping a very careful watch on the situation. In recent months, for example, I have withdrawn approval from one clinic, refused two applications from other clinics, and closed one advisory bureau because I considered all of these unsatisfactory. I have also taken action to ensure the withdrawal of misleading advertising by advisory bureaux, and I have made sure that every abuse that has come to our notice has been fully investigated.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that amendment Bills have been introduced into this House by private Members year after year, and all have failed, not on their merits, but for lack of parliamentary time? If he does not wish to legislate himself on this controversial subject, which I can well understand, will he at least arrange through the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip that there are adequate time facilities in the next Session so that we can resolve this problem once and for all?

This is a matter for my right hon. Friend, the Leader of the House. My hon. Friend is correct. There have been six Private Members Bills since 1970, and additionally there have been two Ten-Minute Bills which were both defeated. The House had an opportunity to consider this matter in a Ten-Minute Bill only a few days ago.

Is the Minister aware that there is a great deal of concern about the Government's attitude to the Pregnancy Advisory Service? Will he give an undertaking that he will not impede the provision of legitimate advice to people who ask for it?

I gladly give that undertaking. We wish to see proper counselling carried out and the needs of mothers, who are very anxious about their pregnancies, properly considered. We do not wish to see abuses, by various manoeuvres and procedures, of the intentions of the Abortion Act.

Physiotherapists

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many physiotherapists are employed in the National Health Service; and whether he is satisfied with morale, numbers and recruitment in the physiotherapy service.

Some 10,900 physiotherapists are employed in the National Health Service in Great Britain, of whom about half work on a part-time basis. Numbers have grown steadily in recent years and continuing growth is expected for the future. I regret that the disappointment of staff with certain of the findings of the Clegg report led to industrial action, but I am glad to say that an agreement was reached on 23 April by the two sides of the professional and technical A Whitley Council and normal working has been resumed.

Does the Minister realise that at the back of that industrial action was the feeling of many members of that profession and the other remedial professions that the Clegg Commission does not understand how much responsibility and conscientiousness is involved in those professions? These people believe that the Commission does not recognise that their efforts should be rewarded without their having to head for the administrative grades in the National Health Service to get that reward.

I understand the disappointment expressed by many members of this valuable profession when the Clegg report was published. No doubt in the discussions on the 1980 settlement some of these issues will be raised in the Whitley Council. The basic rates of pay now agreed involve increases averaging more than 27 per cent., with the general range of increases varying between 19 per cent. and 35 per cent.

Is the Minister aware that physiotherapists and the paramedical professions have a very important role in rehabilitation? Is he aware that there is a growing need for rehabilitation, and will he not agree that a declining number of paramedical skilled staff will harm severely the development of rehabilitation for the elderly as well as the young?

I would not dissent from those remarks but it is worth remembering that recruitment to these professions has been increasing in the past few years.

Child Abuse

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he has taken to promote or to encourage co-operation and co-ordination between local authorities in connection with child abuse and battering.

While this is essentially a matter for local authorities and other agencies, the importance of collaboration has been emphasised in departmental guidance in the past, and some further guidance is in preparation.

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to yesterday's report of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children indicating that the problems of child abuse and battering are increasing and are likely to increase still further? In the light of that does he not feel that his answer is thoroughly inadequate in that it in no way ensures that help will be given, either to the NSPCC so that it may have the resources it needs to do its job properly, or to local authorities who desperately need help to deal with this tragic problem which has shown itself in the city of Leicester, for example, in the Carly Taylor case?

I hope to address the annual general meeting of the NSPCC on Thursday when I would like to respond to some of the points that the society has made in its annual report. However, I find it difficult to accept that there is a clear correlation between the wealth of a country and the way in which parents treat their children. I believe that the underlying reasons affecting cruelty towards children go far deeper and are far more complex than that. On a more positive note, I welcome the growing number of parents who are seeking the assistance of the NSPCC and the statutory services before their children are battered. I hope that we can develop the preventive nature of this work.

Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity, when addressing the NSPCC, to point out that its news release about its annual report was misleading? Is he aware that if only one family in 20 apparently abuses a child because of poverty, 19 out of 20 children are abused by families who are apparently not in poverty? Should we not all be on the look-out for families who are abusing their children? Will my hon. Friend consider bringing the NSPCC up to the level of the societies engaged in the protection of animals and birds, so that it becomes a Royal society rather than just a national society?

I note what my hon. Friend has said. While economic pressures on families may lie at the root of some instances of abuse, the NSPCC would be the first to recognise that there are many other factors, such as the immaturity of parents, their lack of preparedness for the responsibilities of parenthood and, alas, the increasing incidence of alcoholism.

Is the Minister aware that two draft circulars have been issued on the child abuse register? The first was issued by the last Government in December 1978, yet local authorities have still not received the final draft of this circular. Is it not scandalous that there is no unity of practice or of records throughout the country because of a lack of advice in circulars from central Government? Are not the Government aware of the great anxiety about the social services in all parts of the country, because of cuts in local authority expenditure which have reduced child care services?

We propose to issue the circular shortly. It deals with the operation of the child abuse registers. We shall seek to increase the uniformity of practice between one authority and another. We are also looking at the manuals of procedure prepared by the area review com- mittees in order to highlight the good features as a guide to those who are thinking of revising their own manuals.

Budget (Elderly Persons)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received from pensioner organisations about the effect of the Budget on the elderly.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received from pensioner organisations about the effect of the Budget on pensioners.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received from pensioner organisations about the effect of the Budget on the elderly.

I am aware of only a very few such representations, and these have been concerned with our proposals relating to the uprating of benefits, the freezing of the retirement pensioners' earnings rule, the limitation of unemployment benefit for occupational pensioners and the date for this year's uprating.

Will the Minister accept from me that pensioners throughout the country are angry and disappointed that the old rate of pension will be paid for 54 weeks instead of 52? This means that a single pensioner will be cheated out of £7·70 and a married couple out of £12·30. Is he aware that the amount saved by the Government by this shabby measure will be double that which was given away in the heating allowance? Is he not ashamed of this example of sharp practice by his Government?

No. The choice of expenditure reductions in order to contain the growth of the social security budget, which is still growing, meant some difficult choices and this one certainly was difficult. However, we need apologise to no one for bringing the growth of the social security budget under some control.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is widespread disappointment that the earnings limit was not increased in the Budget? Will he confirm that it is the Government's intention to phase out the earnings rule during the lifetime of this Parliament?

It is our intention to phase it out as soon as circumstances allow. We certainly hope that the freezing of the earnings limit will be for one year only.

Will not the Minister concede that, because of the shortfall in the current year that the Government have failed to make up, because of the delay of two weeks in paying this year's pension, and because the increase is nowhere near keeping up with the current level of inflation, however much the Secretary of State goes around arrogantly saying "We are doing our best for the pensioners", no one, least of all the pensioners, believes a word?

That sort of language is quite inappropriate to a situation in which the rate of retirement pension will be increased by nearly £4 a week for a single pensioner and by over £6 a week for a married couple in November. I find that many pensioners understand the need for economic restraint being practised by the Government. They understand that good housekeeping applies as much to national housekeeping accounts as to family accounts.

Will not my right hon. Friend agree that the elderly are far more worried about the forthcoming actions of the TUC and the threat of world war than they are about the Budget?

The pensioners are worried most of all about the extent to which inflation over many years has eaten into the value of their pensions. It is a duty that I believe is incumbent on all hon. Members to urge restraint on the trade union movement in the present situation.

Are not the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues aware that their proposals to increase pensions in November, based upon a 16½ per cent. forecast inflation rate, means, effectively, that there will be a cut, in real terms, in the increase of about £1·50? Ought not the forecast basis to be increased to at least 20 per cent.? Do the Government intend to act now, not in November, to make proper calculations, based upon the real rate of inflation, instead of the phoney figures that they are now using?

No, Sir. A careful calculation was made by the Treasury before the Budget speech. Its calculation was 16½ per cent. As my right hon. Friend said, in response to an earlier question, it is not appropriate for anyone on either side of the House to speculate on whether that will be exactly the right figure.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have received many bitter letters from old-age pensioners who believe that the Government are guilty of sleight of hand in the matter and that they are forcing the pensioners to pay for their own Christmas bonus?

I am interested that the hon. Member has received several letters. I have had exactly one. I meet a great many pensioners in my constituency. They say to me that it is about time that we had a Government who practise economic disciplines. Their words to me are "Don't be diverted by the criticism. Keep on with the good work".

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I give notice that I intend to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.

Hospitals (Closures And Other Changes)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the present statutory arrangements for ministerial and public consideration of proposals for hospital closures or for significant changes in the scale or nature of hospital facilities.

I am satisfied that, following the issue of further guidance by the Department last December, arrangements for consultation over the closure or change of use of hospitals are now working well.

Is my hon. Friend aware, particularly following the events of last year, of the fear that temporary closures can become permanent closures and that partial closures or ward closures can alter the character of a hospital without there being statutory rights for the local people or the Minister to intervene? Is he satisfied that the circular he has issued confers statutory rights on local people to be consulted or on the Minister to call in a particular decision in the event of a change of that kind?

Yes. I am satisfied that the new circular is working well. I am keeping a careful watch on the situation. I assure my hon. Friend that no closures will be agreed by the Department unless proper consultation has taken place.

Will the Minister take the opportunity to reinforce the work of the community health councils which make representations direct on these matters on behalf of patients and those in the community? I believe that the councils are at risk at the moment.

Yes. We recognise that the community health councils play an important part when consultations take place over possible closures. We are waiting to hear views, following consultations on "Patients First", as to the future of the community health councils.

Children In Care

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many children there are in residential care, including all community homes, in 1979 compared with the total of those in residential care in 1968 and those in approved schools in 1968.

I regret that the figures for 1979 are not yet available, but on 31 March 1978, 47,100 children in the care of English and Welsh local authorities were in residential care, including 32,400 in community homes. On 31 March 1968, 31,700 children in local authority care in England and Wales were in children's homes, special boarding schools and hostels, and on 30 June 1968, there were 7,400 children in approved schools, including classifying schools.

Does not the Minister agree that these figures show that since the passing of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, social service departments and their social workers have placed as many children in residential care as were previously placed in residential care by magistrates under previous legislation and that there is no need to repeal the 1969 Act provisions giving powers back to magistrates to issue residential care orders?

No, Sir. It would be wrong to draw that conclusion. It is misleading to compare 1968, before the 1969 Act, with 1978. Over the past four years, there has been a decline in the number of children in care who are in residential institutions.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 April.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including one with Pastor Georgi Vins. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.

Will the Prime Minister find time today to answer questions that were not answered by Ministers in the defence debate yesterday? Can she confirm reports that the Diego Garcia base was used by America in the rescue attempt in Iran and say whether she has yet given assurances to President Carter that this country would not support any military intervention there?

With regard to the latter part of the hon. Lady's question, we have not given specific assurances, but the European Council of Ministers and Ministers from the Government Dispatch Box have made clear that they do not believe that military intervention will help to secure the release of the hostages. Equally, they believe that a rescue operation can be distinguished from military intervention.

With regard to the hon. Lady's first point, I do not wish to get myself into a position where I have to confirm or deny movements through allied bases.

Will my right hon. Friend find time to consider carefully the widely reported statements of Mr s. Kate Losinska of the CPSA about infiltration by extremists into the Civil Service unions? Will she ask her noble Friend the Lord President of the Council to institute an urgent inquiry into security within the Civil Service?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend but it would be difficult to do exactly what he requires. I assure him that we shall keep a close watch on the point that has been made.

Will the Prime Minister today ask the chairman of the BBC what fee was paid to Richard Nixon for his interview last night on "Panorama"? Does not she agree that, at a time when the BBC intends to disband the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra it is a disgrace for it to pay any fee, however small, to such a despicable and discredited character?

The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question is "No, Sir". It would not be right for me to make inquiries of the BBC about specific fees that it pays. With regard to the BBC's decisions on public spending, I may hold extremely strong views that some of them have not necessarily been made in the right places. I believe that direct representation would come better from people who feel strongly about these matters rather than from Government.

Will my right hon. Friend take some time today to look again at the original terms of reference of the Standing Commission on pay comparability? Is she aware that those terms of reference include no explicit reference to inflation and the need to counter it? Will she therefore look again at the matter to see whether future references can include such a reference or, better still, will she abolish the Commission?

My recollection is that the original terms of reference were not so much to make specific recommendations on pay claims as to look into the feasibility of a comparability study. I assure my hon. Friend that we are looking into the whole future of this particular comparability committee.

Control Of Dogs (Departmental Co-Ordination)

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister if she is satisfied with the co-ordination between the Northern Ireland Office, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Department of the Environment, and the Home Office over the implementation of the inter-departmental report on the control of dogs.

Does the Prime Minister agree that it is appalling that, in a country of supposed dog lovers over 100 dogs a day have to be destroyed because they are straying in the streets? Is it not high time that the recommendations of the inter-departmental working party on the control of dogs were implemented?

I saw the report of the hon. Gentleman's effective Adjournment debate. Of course, we are extremely sorry that there are so many stray dogs which are not properly looked after and have to be destroyed. It is a long time since the inter-departmental working committee reported in 1976. However, I can give no assurance that legislation will be introduced in the near future.

Is the Prime Minister aware that 50 people a year and possibly more—mainly children—suffer severe eye damage as a result of toxicaracanis, a worm passed on from dogs? Would my right hon. Friend like to speculate on the public outcry if the same amount of human damage was caused by nuclear power? Does she believe that she should take strong action?

I am aware of the risk, but I do not think that we can obviate it through legislation. It is of considerable concern that people do not look after their dogs and that so many strays have to be destroyed each year. I much regret it.

Does the Prime Minister agree that this necessary measure should be applied to the United Kingdom simultaneously, particularly since it involves an increase in the licence fee? Does she agree that the recommendations should be implemented as speedily as possible?

A number of hon. Members will feel that action should have been taken before. I have made inquiries about the Northern Ireland position. I understand that legislation has often been different in Northern Ireland and has gone ahead at a different rate. I am told that action is more urgent there than in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Framlingham

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister whether she has any plans to visit Framlingham.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that she would receive a great welcome in Framlingham but that at present such a visit would go largely unreported because of the refusal of the NGA to ballot its members on the present industrial action? Is she aware that that refusal came about because, according to Mr. Wade, it is too expensive to run a ballot? Is not that another indication that the employment legislation going through the House is necessary, will be welcomed by moderate people, and should be supported by the Opposition?

If that is so, certainly the Employment Bill will remedy the position because under it the Government may pay to hold a postal ballot. I understand that two of the other unions held a ballot and that the people involved demonstrated that they did not wish to strike. It is a pity that the Employment Bill is not already through the House so that others could take advantage of its provisions. I would add that I should like to visit my hon. Friend's constituency, even if it were not reported.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 April.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to study the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which tells us that the Polish Government are paying £50,000 for 24 ships, which will cost the British taxpayer £152 million under a deal negotiated by the Leader of the Opposition when in Government? Will she confirm that it is no part of her policy to conclude such preposterous commercial deals with Communist countries?

I agree that that was a waste of public expenditure. The losses on that deal were very great indeed, for 24 ships. We do not know the extent of the losses yet because not all the ships have been delivered. I understand fully the need to try to get some work for the shipyards so that they can have an orderly rundown, but we should not do deals of that kind, which are a bad bargain for Britain.

Will the Prime Minister direct her mind once again to Iran? Does she realise that the piece of electoral military adventurism engaged in by America in Iran has worsened the whole world situation, and yet she described that adventurism as "courageous"? Does she realise that, had the American troops gone near the embassy, there would have been a major shoot-out leading to a large number of dead and that the coffins of the martyrs, so called, would have been carried through the streets? Does she accept that the world situation would have been made worse than at any time since the Second World War? Will she withdraw her support for such military adventurism in the interests of world peace?

May I ask the hon. Gentleman to realise that 50 hostages have been held in Iran in flagrant breach of every single international law? It would be as well if we all directed our efforts to using peaceful means to release them.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the whole country will welcome the fact that the Foreign Secretary is to make an early visit to Washington? Will she reflect that Britain has the longest history of good relations with many of the Gulf States of any other country and that therefore our help and guidance can be of the greatest importance in maintaining stability and peace in that area at this time?

I endorse warmly what my hon. Friend has said. Britain could not have a better emissary to those parts of the world than our present Foreign Secretary.

Will the right hon. Lady ponder today that Mr. Brzezinski, in a television interview last night, reiterated the dangers of disintegration in Iran when no such thing is yet happening? Is it not obvious that he is hoping, or helping, to bring that about as an excuse for military intervention? Will she make it clear that we in this country shall not be party to such lunatic intentions on the part of such a dangerously powerful madman?

I think that there may well be a danger of secession of some of the Iranian peoples. I believe that it would be contrary to the interests of the West if that happened. I hope that Iran will retain her unity, but that is a matter for internal affairs in Iran. I have already made clear my views about military action.

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 April.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the opinion poll published yesterday which shows that 63 per cent. of Labour voters are opposed to the TUC's day of action on 14 May? Does she agree that on this issue, as on so many others, she is much more in touch with the people than the Leader of the Opposition, whose silence on this issue is deafening?

I hope that the vast majority of people will join in condemning the plans for such a day of action, which has nothing whatsoever to do with a trade dispute and which will only help Britain's competitors.

Will the Prime Minister take time today to consider more carefully than she has in the past the effect of her various Departments' policies on young families? Will she ask herself whether such families are being asked to bear too great a part of the sacrifices which she is demanding? The right hon. Lady recently said that our standard of living had gone up 6 per cent. Has the standard of living of young families gone up by 6 per cent.?

With regard to the Government's policy on families I believe that it is most important to leave families with a greater proportion of their own income—their own earnings—to spend in their own way. The standard of living of a family must come not from the Government but from the action of the breadwinner.

With regard to specific measures, I believe that it will be of great help to families when more of them can purchase council houses because that will fulfil an ambition for many people. I also believe that it will be of great help to families that the family income supplement is going up by one-third. I believe that family benefit rising by £4·75 will help them to fulfil their very many obligations.

Following that answer, will the Prime Minister tell us—since she wishes council tenants to purchase their houses—why it is that the GLC has stopped lending money to would-be council house purchasers? Will she tell us why it is that there have been fewer council houses sold during the last six months than there were in the last six months of the Labour Administration?

If the Prime Minister really believes that young families have more money in their pockets because they pay less tax why is it that the total level of taxation paid by the average family today is higher than it was 12 months ago?

Had the right hon. Gentleman been in power today the level of taxation would have been a great deal higher. In the first two Budgets of the Labour Government the level of income tax was increased, as was indirect tax. If the right hon. Gentleman takes the view which I deduce from his comments, I trust that he will repudiate—[HON. MEMBERS "Answer".] the comment of his right hon. Friend that the Labour Party would continue to oppose the sale of council houses.

European Council (Luxembourg Meeting)

With permission, I will make a statement on the meeting of the European Council in Luxembourg on 27 and 28 April, which I attended with my noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.

The meeting took place against the background of a sombre international situation of which all of us in Luxembourg were acutely conscious. The first part of our discussion was therefore directed to the problems of Afghanistan and Iran. On both of these we were in total agreement. We reaffirmed the absolute necessity for every Government in the world, whatever their political attitude, to respect the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law. This requires in Afghanistan that Soviet forces should withdraw, and in Iran that the American hostages should be released, without further delay. So long as these two illegal situations remain, the world will continue to live in the shadow of potentially grave developments.

I am sure it was right, therefore, for the European Council to repeat the earlier suggestion that the Nine had made for a political solution to the problem of Afghanistan. This would permit that country to resume its traditional neutrality and non-alignment. Equally, it was right for the Council to reaffirm the decision on Iran taken last week by the Foreign Ministers of the Nine while at the same time assuring the Secretary-General of the United Nations of our full support for his efforts to find a political solution to that problem.

The second part of our meeting involved discussion of Britain's net contribution to the Community budget and a number of other Community questions that had been associated with it. For this reason my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture attended a meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers on Sunday. That meeting continued the Ministers' previous discussions on the proposed agricultural prices for 1980–81 and other agricultural questions. They reported to us that, with some reservations, the other eight member States were ready to approve an average increase in prices of about 5 per cent., including 4 per cent. on milk and sugar, an increase in the co-responsibility levy for milk, and a range of other measures. There were also fresh proposals on a common organisation for sheepmeat, which the others were ready to approve.

On our budget problem there was broad agreement on the methods by which the Community would both reduce our contribution and increase the benefits to us from Community expenditure. We were able to make considerable progress on amounts, but less on the duration of the arrangements. A number of proposals were made, including one that would have reduced our net contribution to £325 million, but for 1980 only. We were not able to agree on later years. In spite of intensive efforts to reach a satisfactory compromise, it proved impossible, in the time at our disposal, to find an acceptable combination of both amount and duration.

We then discussed the other agricultural matters that our partners wanted to settle at the same time. These discussions revealed a number of difficulties for Britain. I made it clear that the proposals on CAP prices would have budgetary and other consequences for us that my right hon. Friend and I did not feel justified in accepting. Those on sheepmeat contained features that would have been seriously disadvantageous and that we could not accept.

The Council also reviewed the progress of discussions on a common fisheries policy. We all want to continue to make progress, but it is clear that much more work needs to be done on this subject. I told my colleagues that to be acceptable to us any solution must safeguard the vital interests of our fishing industry.

We discussed the energy situation in the Community and the problems caused by the tenfold rise in international oil prices over the last eight years. We invited the Energy Council, first, to examine what new measures may be necessary on oil supplies and, secondly, to review the current policies of member States on the replacement of oil by other fuels, on the development of nuclear power, and on conservation. The Council intends to revert to these matters at its next meeting in Venice.

I regret that it proved impossible to make more progress on the Community's internal problems, but since our partners have brought these several issues together I believe that it is understood that they cannot be dealt with unless at the same time the budget problem is solved.

Meanwhile, the President of the Council intends to be active in the next few weeks in seeking a satisfactory outcome. He will receive our full co-operation. We both believe that such an outcome can be achieved.

I think that we were all glad to hear what the right hon. Lady had to say on the international situation and that the Governments generally invited respect for the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of innernational law. She specifically referred to the vital need for Soviet troops to withdraw from Afghanistan and for the American hostages to be released without delay. Both of these are absolutely essential.

But I take it from what the Prime Minister says that a third signal was intended to be conveyed, namely, that the Nine are opposed to military steps to bring about the release of the hostages and that they would therefore be opposed, for example, to such possibilities as the mining of the Straits of Hormuz.

I suggest to the right hon. Lady that those are the kinds of military operations that it is as essential to avoid as anything that has gone before. I do not take the view taken by some that it was wrong, in all the circumstances, to attempt to prise loose people who are held illegally——

I am speaking for myself and I shall continue to do so, but I have a feeling that I am also speaking for a lot of people in the country.

Surely what is needed now, in view of the failure of the operations over the last six months to secure the release of the hostages, is a new beginning.

The present attempts have failed. Therefore, I welcome what the right hon. Lady says about assuring the Secretary General of the United Nations of the full support of the Government and, indeed, of the House for his efforts to find a political solution. I am in no doubt that to try to secure the release of the hostages under the glare of television cameras day after day is impossible. We shall not do it in that way, and we shall not do it by military means. I hope that quiet diplomacy, whether by the Secretary-General or by anyone else who is qualified to do so, can take over and that the media will give this subject something of a rest, so that diplomacy can play its full part in securing the release of the hostages, because Iran has no right to hold them in any circumstances. However, so long as they are held in the full glare of publicity, there will be every attempt to make the most of it.

As to Afghanistan, has the right hon. Lady any indication that Afghanistan itself is ready to resume its traditional neutrality and non-alignment? That would be a satisfactory way out, as in the case of Austria, but Austria and countries such as Austria have indicated their willingness. Is there any indication whether or not Afghanistan is ready to leave the Soviet orbit? [Interruption.] Well, we are all agreed that the Soviet Union must withdraw, and we are trying to find ways and means of ensuring that she will withdraw. Surely a precondition is that the people of Afghanistan, if they have any opportunity of expressing their views, should be able to indicate that they want to revert to a traditional, non-aligned position. I am asking the Prime Minister whether there is any indication of that likelihood.

As to the budget, the right hon. Lady was absolutely right not to agree to a reduction for one year only, although it was £800 million, which is quite a lot of money. Was she given any details of the proposal that, according to the newspapers, Chancellor Schmidt is reputed to have made: that for the later years there would be a restructuring of the budget mechanism? Was any indication given of what we could have expected to get in the later years had we accepted the £800 million or thereabouts for 1980?

As the right hon. Lady has been quite clear about this, we again ask whether she is aware that our trump card is the price freeze. I repeat very strongly that we shall support her in not giving way on the agricultural price freeze until the budgetary issue is settled. If she follows that course, and if she helps the President of the Council to try to seek a satisfactory outcome, I believe that in the end we shall secure justice. Clearly, the present situation is not tolerable.

I think that the Prime Minister has had a frustrating visit. While it has carried the procedures somewhat further, I think she would agree, at the end of this frustrating period, that it was wrong of her to raise expectations as she did. She gave the impression that this issue could be settled by last December; that when it was not settled by December, it would be settled in February; and that when it was not settled by February, it would be settled in April. It is a much longer process than some of the right hon. Lady's followers seem to think. I think that she has now discovered that. We hope that in the end she will succeed. We believe that she must, because she has the united support of the House of Commons on this matter.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about the international part of the communiqué. On Iran, I confirm that, taking his definition of "military action", which I think was the same as I indicated earlier—namely, things such as blocking or mining the Straits—we would be against it. We did not discuss specific forms of military action. I make it quite clear that we would be against the things that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, or what I believe would be a common definition of "military action".

As to the right hon. Gentleman's comments on Afghanistan, we have not been able to get specific indications from the people of Afghanistan, and I do not see any way of doing so so long as the present regime is still held there with Soviet Union support.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for pointing out that with regard to the budget we managed to secure a promise of an £800 million refund in one year, which I regard as a very significant achievement. When we came to discuss the second year, we got into difficulties. It was clear that we would get a substantial refund in the second year, although the Community was not prepared to define it in a satisfactory way, or to continue it. I felt that we could not go on having this argument yet again at regular intervals, and that it would be better to wait until we could achieve a settlement under which we could also agree on the duration.

I believe that the agricultural price settlement is a major card. As I tried to indicate towards the end of my statement, we shall not get agreement on the agricultural price settlement, or any other major matter, unless our budget problem is satisfactorily solved.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that wholehearted agreement on every issue by friends is not always the most helpful thing that they can do? I fully understand American exasperation over the hostages and the patience that the Americans have shown for many months, but surely erratic foreign policy in a crucial area is unsatisfactory. Is not joint consultation with the aim of formulating a united strategy essential in Western interests?

There was a very clear indication from each member of the European Council that we must stay absolutely solid in our support of the United States. There was total unanimity on that point, as well as a great appreciation that the more consultation we can have, both with one another and across the Atlantic, the better it will be for all of us. We spend some time in trying to improve that consultation.

With regard to Britain's net contribution to the budget, is the Prime Minister aware that despite what the Leader of the Opposition said, many people believe that the abrasive fashion in which she has conducted these negotiations has been damaging to Britain's real and best interests? She said that a reduction of £850 million was significant. Does not she agree that it was also a notable concession, particularly for the Germans and the French, who are facing imminent elections? In the circumstances, would it not have been wise to accept that offer, provided, as was indicated by the Leader of the Opposition, she could have achieved future budgetary restructuring on the basis of the GNP of a country—not just our country, but any country? Surely it is not the object of British diplomacy to isolate Great Britain.

Whatever the description of the methods, our partners were persuaded to offer the very significant reduction to which the hon. Gentleman referred. Whatever the methods, it was pretty successful in that respect. The difficulty arose on the question of the duration and the other things that they wanted along with that reduction. As I have already made clear, we could not accept some of those things, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman would not have urged us to accept them, either.

In differing from the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnson), may I ask my right hon. Friend to accept my congratulations on her firm stance and on having spoken so effectively for Britain during the course of the conference? Can she further confirm that she will pursue with unabated vigour and enthusiasm the radical restructuring of the CAP and the Community budget, which is vital to a satisfactory solution of this problem?

I agree that both of those are vital to a solution, especially the restructuring of the common agricultural policy. However, it was interesting that the proposals for a price settlement that came before us, far from restructuring either the common agricultural policy or the budget, would have amounted to an increase of 1,000 million units of account to the budget and would have increased the proportion of the budget going to expenditure on agriculture. That did not seem an earnest of good faith for the Council of Ministers, which was saying that the budget itself must be restructured to have a lesser proportion going to agriculture.

With regard to a restructuring of the budget, there has to be a review of the Dublin mechanism by 1982. It seems sensible—this was suggested by both the President of France and Chancellor Schmidt—that there should be a restructuring, that we should have that review. There have been so many attempts at restructuring and reviews that it was not enough to place our faith in a promise of a review. We wanted a longer duration of the agreement that was being offered.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that a nation that is preponderantly and increasingly opposed to United Kingdom membership of the European Economic Community was proud and relieved that our Prime Minister declined to fall into the trap of prejudicing our agriculture and fisheries in- terests to attain a purely temporary alleviation on the budget?

That was something that was very much in my mind—namely, that I was being offered one year with a possibility of a second year for permanent principles to determine the permanent regimes on sheepmeat and future of the fisheries policy. To offer something permanent in return for something temporary is never a good bargain.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that in seeking a resolution of this most difficult budget problem it is important to avoid the mistakes of the renegotiation that was so closely associated with the Leader of the Opposition? We must find a solution that is both fair and durable and avoid the squabble that goes on year by year and month by month. There are many other vital issues on which the concentration of the Heads of Government must be fixed.

That has been our objective. I think that the solution that we were offered for the first year, had it persisted, would have been acceptable. It would still have left us as the second largest net contributor to the Community. However, it would have given us large refunds. We were trying to get an element of dynamism into that refund. I wholly agree with my hon. Friend that we must secure a settlement that is likely to endure as long as the problem itself, or have absolute guarantees that there will be a review and that if we accept an interim settlement we shall not suddenly have to return to very much larger contributions.

Were the discussions about further consultation with America wishful thinking, or were genuine arrangements entered into with America for consultation about America's military action? As the Prime Minister will appreciate, American military nuclear hardware is scattered over Europe. It is vital that we should be consulted, as the Government are claiming that we are, over its potential use.

As for solving the budget issue, do the Government have any contingency plans for withdrawing from the Common Market, or in the final analysis can we be walked all over? Will we be bound to accept a deal that is unacceptable to the country, because the nation is getting tired of our membership?

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's first point on consultation, there are quite frequent contacts between Ministers both within Europe and across the Atlantic. It is not as though we never see one another. The Foreign Secretary will be going very shortly, and there are regular contacts through our ambassadors. I should not like the hon. Gentleman to think that there are not regular contacts or that there is no regular method of consultation. We would just like to step it up at a higher level. We have not yet agreed on a regular method of doing that. Secondly, there are no plans for withdrawing from the EEC.

Will the right hon. Lady take it from me that the people who sent me to the House utterly deplore the fact that these meetings are held on a Sunday, which illustrates the fact that we are being sucked into a Continental system of doing things contrary to British traditions? Will she also take it from me that those who sent me to this place totally support her in her stand to get justice for Britain, if it is possible to get justice in an EEC charade?

May I make it clear that on this occasion many of us would have preferred to have a rather quieter Sunday than we turned out to have? I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said in support of the action that we took.

Is it not clear from this latest EEC deadlock that there is little chance of the United Kingdom getting a lasting and fair deal from inside this grotesque organisation?

No, I wholly disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. The fact is that we got nearer to it this time than ever before. We got a lot nearer at Dublin and a lot nearer this time. I believe that ultimately we shall be able to accept a favourable outcome. I should also point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the unanimity on international matters was both striking and extremely valuable at this difficult time.

In view of the unanimity that the Prime Minister so skilfully achieved among our partners on the question of Afghanistan, will the Government now please renew their efforts to dissuade our athletes from participating in the fiasco of the Moscow Games?

I think that when one or two more nations have made their views clear—I believe that there is mounting opposition on the part of Governments and legislative assemblies to going to Moscow, and certainly when I saw Pastor Georgi Vins this morning everything that he told me reiterated that it would be very unwise for people to go to Moscow because they would appear to be endorsing the policies of the Soviet Government—we shall make a further approach to Sir Denis Follows to ask him to reconsider his decision in time to reply to the formal invitation.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the resignation of Secretary of State Vance gives real grounds for believing that there are people advising the President who might push him towards military action—either a second rescue or something more direct? Is it not wise for old friends to give the sort of advice now to the United States that President Eisenhower gave to Sir Anthony Eden at the time of Suez, and tell it that it would be ill-advised to engage in military action of any sort, including an attempt to release the hostages, which might end in further tragedy, if not something worse, for world peace?

We deeply regret the resignation of Secretary Vance, although that was wholly a matter for him and the President of the United States. I should like to say that he was a wonderful person to work with——

As a matter of fact, I was expressing exactly what I felt and feel. I wish to pay a great tribute to his co-operation and to his work. We shall miss him.

I turn to the other part of the right hon. Gentleman's question. Of course, we owe our judgment to our friends. Of course we do. We do not withhold it in any way. We made our views clear on military action at the Council of Ministers.

Order. I propose to call four more hon. Members from either side of the Chamber before we move on.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that even if she has isolated us from some of our friends in Europe she has united the nation, which at this time is a very good thing? Does she agree that the best way of preserving peace in the world and ensuring that military intervention in Iran or elsewhere is not considered is for the European countries and America to stick rigidly together? Will she confirm again that we shall back America in any reasonable and rational non-military action that it cares to take against Iran?

I wholly agree with the views expressed by my hon. Friend, which were echoed all round the Council of Ministers during the past few days. We are trying to do everything that we can to support America in order to secure the release of the hostages. Our ambassadors are now back in Tehran. I hope that very shortly they will be able to make a joint approach, once again, to President Bani-Sadr to let our views be known. It is easy to condemn actions to try to release the hostages. It is very difficult to put forward proposals that would actually secure their release. Therefore, we could go on only with diplomatic, political and economic action. I assure my hon. Friend that we shall do that jointly.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is support by the Opposition and the country for the firm line that she took at Luxembourg? Is it not now becoming clear to her that Britain's economy and her institutions are quite incompatible with those of the EEC? Although I do not expect the Prime Minister to do a U-turn and agree to withdraw, is it not now time for this country to use its position, when the European resources are coming to an end, to press for a fundamental reorganisation of the finance and institutions of the Community?

I indicated that there must be a reform of the CAP. Many of my predecessors and my right hon. Friends have said the same thing from this Dispatch Box. It is not an easy matter to achieve reform. The opportunity will arise if we stick to the limits on the budget contributions of 1 per cent. value added tax. That limit will come soon. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's assertion that it is contrary to the interests of this country to be in the EEC. It is wholly in the interests of this country to be in, and remain in, the EEC. On trade arrangements, we negotiate as part of the biggest trading bloc in the world. By virtue of being in the EEC we secure many investments in this country from overseas—investments that would not come to us unless we were also part of the EEC. About 42 per cent. of our exports go to the EEC, which is a very considerable factor.

To cheer up the right hon. Members for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), and reduce the hysteria of certain newspapers against the Market, will my right hon. Friend confirm that the negotiations are progressing absolutely in the right direction, with constructive results, and that she remains confident at this stage that the £800 million at least remains on the table, for next time round, and that there is every prospect of a successful solution at the Venice summit?

I stress that we came nearer to a solution on the budget problem than ever before and that President Cossiga will be making strenuous efforts during the next six weeks by going round to Heads of Government to try, finally, to secure agreement. There will be no further agreement on other major matters within the Community unless and until our own problem is settled.

Does not this two-way co-operation with the United States have a reverse obligation? How is it that her Defence Secretary was able to tell the House yesterday that he did not know whether the Diego Garcia base had been used when the exchange of notes of 30 December 1966 made it quite clear that the territory would remain under United Kingdom sovereignty? Is not there an issue for all of us in the House when United Kingdom territory is used for matters of surpassing importance, about which the Defence Secretary and, presumably, the Prime Minister know nothing?

I confirm what the hon. Gentleman said. Of course, friendship is two-way. We owe the United States our judgment and, of course, on most matters it wold naturally consult us. However, if it comes to organising a rescue operation, any country that was thinking of it would be very ill-advised to reveal it, even in confidence, to a large number of other nations.

As the Prime Minister is being accused of having been abrasive at the Common Market Heads of Government meeting, does she realise that our people applaud her for demonstrating toughness at Luxembourg and regret very much that this tough line was not adopted in years gone by? Will she make it perfectly clear to the other members of the Common Market that withdrawal from the Common Market is an option that remains open to this country, and that we cannot be expected to finance surpluses in other Common Market countries, whose Governments should pay for surpluses that their own farmers produce?

It is my job to put Britain's interests in the Council of Ministers and to go on putting them, no matter how long and how difficult it is to secure the required settlement. That I shall do. It is very difficult. The British people deeply resent the fact that they are asked to contribute such large sums to surpluses. First, it is unfair that they should have to contribute such large sums. Secondly, they disagree with the policy of building up huge surpluses. If we were to have a lamb surplus built up as well, that would be wholly the wrong direction in which to go. I repeat that we have no intention of coming out of the Community.

Has consideration been given to the international and European surplus of wheat? Is not it surprising that the price of American grain in Britain is, and will be, very much higher than it is, and will be, in the Soviet Union? Does the right hon. Lady approve of the tariffs that create that rather silly situation, and the 7s 6d loaf that now exists?

The Council of Ministers did not have a specific debate on the problem of wheat. I am not sure whether that took place in the Council of Agriculture Ministers. Of course, one would wish particular prices to be lower, but there must be a view that, in a way, is the basis of the common agricultural policy. Those who work in agriculture are entitled to a reasonable return for their efforts, just as much as those who work in any other kind of industry.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on standing up for British national interests with a strength and determination that this country has not experienced for many years past? In seeking a long-term solution to the budget problem, does she agree that it is now absolutely clear that the French, in particular, will never contemplate any fundamental reform of the common agricultural policy? That being so, might it not become imperative to renegotiate the fundamentals of our membership of the European Economic Community?

I do not think that we should go into a renegotiation, ourselves, in any way. When we come up to the ceiling of the budget contributions from us all—the ceiling being 1 per cent. value added tax—there will be an opportunity to restructure the common agricultural policy. Provided that we all remain absolutely firm that we will not contribute more than 1 per cent., we should be able to bring about a restructuring. However, it will not be easy. I can only stress that.

Is not it clear that domestic pressures from farmers in the United Kingdom, as well as in Europe, make it undesirable to use a holding back from an agreement on farm prices as the only weapon in the negotiations with the EEC over the budget contributions? Would not it be far better for the Prime Minister now to seek approval from this House for legislation, so that we can withold our VAT contribution now, should negotiations, or the failure of negotiations, render that necessary? Will the Prime Minister say in what circumstances she would seek to withold our VAT contributions?

I do not think that the agricultural price review is the only weapon. There are other major items that are before the various Councils of Ministers. For example, there is no overall budget for the Community this year. It is unlikely to have one negotiated unless we get our budget problems settled as well. The price review is not the only item, but I beleieve that it is the most urgent one. As the CAP takes such a large proportion of the Budget it is, in a way, the biggest item.

I said that in the last resort we should certainly have to consider withholding VAT. However, the next meeting is only six weeks ahead. I believe that President Cossiga will make strenuous efforts to complete a settlement, because we did get very near to one. I hope that we shall be able to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Business Of The House

Ordered,

That, at this day's sitting, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 3

Division No. 268]

AYES

4.10 pm

Adley, RobertEden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLang, Ian
Aitken, JonathanEggar, TimothyLangford-Holt, Sir John
Alexander, RichardEmery, PeterLawrence, Ivan
Amery, Rt Hon JulianEyre, ReginaldLee, John
Ancram, MichaelFairbairn, NicholasLe Marchant, Spencer
Aspinwall, JackFairgrieve, RussellLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Faith, Mrs SheilaLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Fell, AnthonyLloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFenner, Mrs PeggyLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Beith, A. J.Finsberg, GeoffreyMcCrindle, Robert
Bell, Sir RonaldFisher, Sir NigelMcCusker, H.
Berry, Hon AnthonyFletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Macfarlane, Neil
Best, KeithFletcher-Cooke, CharlesMacGregor, John
Bonsor, Sir NicholasFookes, Miss JanetMacKay, John (Argyll)
Boscawen, Hon RobertForman, NigelMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)McQuarrie, Albert
Bowden, AndrewFraser, Peter (South Angus)Madel, David
Braine, Sir BernardFreud, ClementMajor, John
Bright, GrahamFry, PeterMarland, Paul
Brinton, TimGardiner, George (Reigate)Marlow, Tony
Brittan, LeonGilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMarten, Neil (Banbury)
Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherGlyn, Dr AlanMawby, Ray
Brooke, Hon PeterGoodlad, AlastairMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Browne, John (Winchester)Gow, IanMeyer, Sir Anthony
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnGower, Sir RaymondMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)
Bryan, Sir PaulGrant, Anthony (Harrow C)Mills, lain (Meriden)
Buchanan-Smith, Hon AlickGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Miscampbell, Norman
Bulmer, EsmondGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Moate, Roger
Butcher, JohnGrist, IanMolyneaux, James
Canavan, DennisGummer, John SelwynMontgomery, Fergus
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHayhoe, BarneyMudd, David
Chapman, SydneyHeddle, JohnMurphy, Christopher
Churchill, W. S.Heffer, Eric S.Myles, David
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Henderson, BarryNeedham, Richard
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)Hicks, RobertNelson, Anthony
Cockeram, EricHogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Neubert, Michael
Colvin, MichaelHolland, Philip (Carlton)Newton, Tony
Cope, JohnHordern, PeterOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally
Corrie, JohnHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Page, Rt Hon sir R. Graham
Costain, A. P.Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Cranborne, ViscountJenkin, Rt Hon PatrickPattie, Geoffrey
Crouch, DavidJohnson Smith, GeoffreyPawsey, James
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesJohnston, Russell (Inverness)Penhaligon, David
Dover, DenshoreJopling, Rt Hon MichaelPercival, Sir Ian
Dunlop, JohnKellett-Bowman, Mrs ElainePeyton, Rt Hon John
Durant, TonyKerr, RussellPink, R. Bonner
Dykes, HughKitson, Sir TimothyPollock, Alexander

(Exempted business), if proceedings on the Motion relating to Census have not been disposed of by half-past Eleven o'clock, or one and a half hours after they have been entered upon, whichever is the later, any Amendments which have been selected by Mr. Speaker may thereupon be moved, the Questions thereon shall be put forthwith, and Mr. Speaker shall then proceed to put forthwith the Question upon the said Motion.—[Mr. Cope.]

Northern Ireland

Fair Employment Agency

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 72A (Northern Ireland Committee),

That the matter of the Third Annual Report of the Fair Employment Agency, being a matter relating exclusively to Northern Ireland, be referred to the Northern Ireland Committee for their consideration.—[Mr. Cope.]

The House divided: Ayes 210, Noes 5.

Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)Speed, Keithvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Prentice, Rt Hon RegSpeller TonyViggers, Peter
Price, David (Eastleigh)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)Waddington, David
Proctor, K. HarveySpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Rathbone, TimSproat, lainWaldegrave, Hon William
Rhodes James, RobertSquire, RobinWalker, Rt Hon. Peter (Worcester)
Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonStanbrook, IvorWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Ridsdale, JulianStanley, JohnWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Roberts, Wyn (Conway)Steen, AnthonyWall, Patrick
Roper, JohnStewart, Ian (Hitchin)Waller, Gary
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)Ward, John
Rost, PeterStradling Thomas, J.Warren, Kenneth
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon NormanTapsell, PeterWells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Scott, NicholasTaylor, Teddy (Southend East)Wheeler, John
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretWickenden, Keith
Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)Wiggin, Jerry
Shelton, William (Streatham)Thompson, DonaldWinterton, Nicholas
Shepherd Colin (Hereford)Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shersby, MichaelThornton, Malcolm
Silvester, FredTownend, John (Bridlington)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Sims, RogerTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)Mr. Carol Mather and
Skeet, T. H. H.Trippier, DavidMr. John Wakeham.
Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)

NOES

Cryer, BobMcQuade, JohnTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Kilfedder, James A.Rooker, J. W.Rev. Ian Paisley and
Kilroy-Silk, RobertMr. Peter Robinson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Scotch Whisky (Export Control)

4.21 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to control the export of Scotch whisky.
The Scotch whisky industry is one of the most important industries in Scotland. It is directly responsible for the provision of over 25,000 jobs. It makes a significant contribution to our balance of payments. Last year, for example, whisky exports amounted to over £700 million in value. The industry also produces an unrivalled international market leader, at least it has done until now.

There is considerable concern within certain sections of the industry and within the trade union movement about the rapid growth of exports of whisky in bulk rather than in bottle. This has had a damaging effect and has further potential damaging effects on the industry and on employment prospects within the industry. The trend in bulk exports of blended whisky is that in 1972 bulk exports amounted to 15·8 million proof gallons, increasing to 21·8 million proof gallons in 1978.

It has been pointed out by many people within the trade union movement and elsewhere that this increasing trend means in effect the export of thousands of jobs from Scotland at a time when Scottish unemployment is at the intolerable level of over 200,000. Recently the Scottish Council for Development and Industry produced a document which estimated that possibly as many as 6,000 extra jobs could be created and an extra £99 million per year could be produced in overseas earnings if bulk exports were stopped completely and there was maximum replacement of these bulk exports by bottled exports.

These extra jobs would be, for example, in the glass manufacturing, bottling, capping, sealing, labelling and packaging industries. I think, for example of the "Cork and Seal" factory owned by UG Closures and Plastics in my constituency which employs about 700 people. Recently there have been some redundances there. In the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. O'Neill), there are threatened redundancies affecting about 200 workers in United Glass in Alloa.

Part of the problem has been the fiscal measures adopted by certain countries. For example, until recently the United States of America operated a Wine Gallon Assessment Act which meant, in effect, that the water content of an exported bottle of whisky was taxed as well as the spirit content, but following the GATT negotiations of last year the United States agreed to repeal the Wine Gallon Assessment Act. It is too early to say whether this will lead to a significant reduction in bulk exports to the United States. I noticed that there was a slight reduction in 1979 compared with 1978, but it is still at an unacceptably high figure of 12·3 million proof gallons of bulk blended whisky exports.

However, it is in respect of malt exports that most damage is feared. Here, too, the trend has worsened, and there has been an even greater percentage increase in bulk exports. For example, in 1971, the amount of bulk malt exported from Scotland was 3·3 million proof gallons, increasing to 9·6 million proof gallons by 1978. There has been a more than a tenfold increase over the past decade or so in bulk malt exports to Japan. In 1970 the figure was 631,000 proof gallons and by 1979 that figure had increased to 6·4 million proof gallons. It is still increasing. Contrary to some reports, 1979 showed an increase over 1978.

The question arises, what on earth are the Japanese doing with all this whisky? I do not mind the Japanese wanting a good dram, the same as anyone else, but it would be naive to imagine that the Japanese are importing all this bulk malt just to celebrate the Japanese New Year. What is happening is that Japanese companies such as Suntory are mixing bulk Scotch malt with their own inferior local spirits, calling the adulterated mixture whisky and using this so-called whisky to threaten the position of genuine Scotch whisky on the international market. This has gone on to such an extent that the Japanese are openly boasting that the highest selling single brand of whisky in the world does not originate in Scotland but is Japanese and is called "Old Suntory".

If companies which are indulging in this trade continue in the way they are doing, it will kill the Scotch whisky industry. The culprit companies seem to be more concerned with making a fast buck out of the trade rather than thinking of the long-term future of the industry.

Some of the companies involved in the export of bulk malt are overseas companies or companies with an overseas connection, such as Seagram, Hiram Walker, and Whyte and Mackay, which is connected with Lonrho. There are also some United Kingdom companies which should know better which are involved in the export of bulk malt to Japan such as Stanley P. Morrison and Long John International. The five companies I have named are responsible for 80 per cent. of the bulk malt exports to Japan. Other more reputable companies do not indulge in this trade of bulk malt exports—for example, DCL, Teachers, and Langs, which has a small distillery in my constituency producing malt whisky called Glengoyne.

It is perhaps time that the whisky-drinking public started to be selective in the brands they take and operated a boycott against the companies I have named which are involved in the export of bulk malt which is undermining the industry. Of course, the consumer at the end of the day will suffer as well as the workers in the industry.

In December 1978 the distillery sector working group of the National Economic Development Council strongly urged companies engaged in malt exports to have regard to the long-term interests of the industry. It appears that voluntary restraint is not enough and that is why I am attempting to introduce this legislation. I have been informed that such legislation may be contrary to article 34 of the Treaty of Rome and EEC Regulation 2603/69, as amended. So what?

After yesterday's abortive summit meeting and the statement made this afternoon by the Prime Minister, it is about time we started taking unilateral action to save our industries under threat from Common Market membership. It is interesting to note that the French, who are also members of the Common Market, are not so shy about using protective measures to protect the cognac industry. There is a National Cognac Bureau, which is responsible for quality control and also for controlling bulk exports which can go only to approved merchants.

I accept that there may be considerable difficulties about an immediate and complete ban on all bulk exports of Scotch whisky. A reasonable target to aim at would be the 1971 level. I also propose the setting up of a Scotch whisky board consisting not just of representatives of the Government and the industry itself but of trade union representatives to bring in an element of industrial democracy. It would be the job of the board to monitor bulk exports with a view to reducing their level and replacing them with bottled exports.

I also propose to tighten the legal definition of Scotch whisky. The present statutory definition states that whisky must be matured in wooden casks for a period of at least three years and, in order to be called Scotch, the whisky must be distilled in Scotland.

I propose two further measures: first, that the Scotch must also be matured in Scotland and bottled in Scotland or bottled elsewhere under conditions approved by the Scotch whisky board; second, that blended Scotch should contain a maximum of 60 per cent. Scotch malt. The reason for that is to stop some unscrupulous person from getting round any future regulations about the export of bulk malt. Unless we tighten the definition of a blend, someone could take a mixture of 99 per cent. malt and 1 per cent. grain and call it a blended whisky, thereby getting round any future regulations on the export of bulk malt.

Such legislation, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would be in the interests of the Scotch whisky industry, of the workers employed in the industry, and of the consumers. It is only fair that if people ask for a dram of Scotch they should get what they ask for, whatever part of the world they happen to be in. I therefore ask the House to approve the introduction of my Bill.

Question put and agreed to

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Dennis Canavan, Mr. Martin J. O'Neill, Mr. Michael Martin, Mr. David Marshall, Mr. Neil Carmichael, Mr. William McKelvey, Mr. Ernie Ross, Mr. James Dempsey, Mr. George Foulkes, Mr. James Hamilton, Mr. William Hamilton and Mr. Robin F. Cook.

Scotch Whisky (Export Control)

Mr. Dennis Canavan accordingly presented a Bill to control the export of Scotch whisky: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 4 July and to be printed. [Bill 200].

Orders Of The Day

Defence Estimates 1980

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [28 April]:

That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980, contained in Cmnd. 7826—[Mr. Pym.]

Which amendment was to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"reaffirms its commitment to the proper defence of Britain through membership of NATO, and pays tribute to the men and women who serve in the armed forces and to their civilian counterparts, but declines to approve the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980 (Cmnd. 7826) in that it fails to set out clear priorities for Britain's defence during the 1980s; commits Her Majesty's Government to increases in defence expenditure far in excess of forecasts for the growth of the economy; and offers no new initiatives towards multilateral mutual disarmament in the nuclear and conventional fields "—[Mr. Rodgers.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

4.34 pm

Some 28 years ago, as a newly promoted midshipman, I received my divisional officer's handbook from the Admiralty. The frontispiece was a picture of a young seaman on the flight deck of a carrier with the simple caption "The Greatest Single Factor". All my experience in the Navy over 32 years and in politics has underlined the wisdom of that caption.

The space and importance given to personnel matters in both volumes of the Defence Statement shows the high priority we attach to getting the right quality and quantity of men and women in our Services and the vital civilian back-up support for them. In opening the debate this afternoon, I shall be to a large extent concentrating on the manpower side of our defences.

Last May, we discovered on taking office that in all the Services there was a haemorrhage of alarming proportions of highly trained middle-rank officers and NCOs who were exercising their right to leave in advance of the normal term of their engagement. At the same time, recruiting was in no way buoyant and alarming gaps in highly trained manpower were having direct operational consequences.

Thus, only a few weeks later, I had to announce the premature disposal of six ships from the operational fleet to the stand-by squadron due to manpower shortages. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that, in infantry battalions where undermanning was particularly severe, one company would be reduced to cadre strength, At the same time, the Minister with responsibility for the Royal Air Force found that the Service was desperately short of trained pilots.

The actions taken by the previous Administration to deal with this mounting crisis had been largely ineffectual. Although I do not doubt that defence Ministers at that time were deeply concerned at the accelerating decline in Service strength, there was little sign that that concern was shared in other parts of the Labour Government. I must tell the House that we are still not out of that wood, although the situation today is incomparably better than it was a year ago.

Thus, virtually the first thing we did on taking office was to restore the Services' pay to full comparability with that of their civilian counterparts and undertake to maintain it thereafter at these levels.

The effect upon the Services has been dramatic. While I would be the last to claim that pay was the cure to all our recruiting and voluntary retirement problems, what I do claim is that solving the pay problem was an essential precondition to getting our defence policy right overall.

In addition to pay, improvements to conditions of service—I shall say more about this in a minute—and trying to reduce turbulence and over-stretch is another important aspect of a forces career that has been largely ignored.

In recent years, many of our Service men and women have felt themselves entirely taken for granted. They have been called upon to drive ambulances or fire engines when their fellow citizens will not. They have been fatal statistics in Northern Ireland, part of NATO's shield in Germany or Norway, and kept the peace in Belize, Hong Kong or the Falkland Islands and have been subjected over a number of years to thinly veiled campaigns of "knocking" from certain quarters.

Putting it bluntly, I do not believe that in the last half of the 1970s they had the wholehearted backing either of the Government or of the public which they were entitled to expect. It was no surprise then that many with a heavy heart left to seek new careers. That has changed. Certainly the present Government are not only wholeheartedly behind them but are matching words with actions. Because of the lead given by the Government and the world situation, the public now have a much greater awareness of the vital need for well-trained, well-paid, highly professional forces.

The fruits of all this effort are beginning to become apparent. We expect to recruit nigh on 50,000 men and women in the year just ended, making it one of the best recruiting years since the ending of conscription. This compares with 43,360 in the year 1978–79, a substantial improvement.

Not only has our recruiting performance improved but the level of outflow has also been reduced. In the first 11 months of 1979–80, it was 8 per cent. down on the same period in 1978–79. In particular, applications for premature voluntary release have fallen by some 34 per cent. compared with the previous year, and the monthly rate is now approaching the level of the early 1970s.

However, encouraging though these figures are, it is vital that these improvements are sustained in the coming years if the Armed Forces are to achieve their required strengths. We have to increase the trained strength by some 20,000 men within the next few years and this is a formidable challenge, particularly in the light of a declining manpower pool in the 1980s.

Because of the daunting task of recruitment facing us in the 1980s, it is vital that our recruiting organisation is as efficient as possible. All three Services are currently examining aspects of their recruiting efforts, including those covered in an earlier review under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), where action is now well in hand. In particular, we are finalising the detailed appraisal of our current network of 240 careers information offices—CIOs—to see how many can be amalgamated between two or three Services.

At the same time, we keep our terms of engagement under constant scrutiny to make sure that they are relevant and in tune with the times. Thus, as the House will be aware, in order to help recruitment we have introduced additional new shorter commissions of three and a half years for seamen officers in the Royal Navy and of four years for Royal Marine officers. These new commissions will provide an adequate return for training, but at the same time they will be attractive to young men, who increasingly wish nowadays to try a number of jobs before selecting a career. The response so far has been very encouraging. The first Royal Navy intake to Dartmouth will take place tomorrow and the new Royal Marine commission will see its first entrants in September.

Finally, to update the House on figures, the total strength of United Kingdom Service personnel on 1 March was 320,682. This compares with a low of 314,000 last June and updates the rather pessimistic impression given by the estimates in the 1 April columns in table 4.1 of Vol. 2 of the Statement on Defence Estimates, which the Select Committee commented on in paragraph 21 of its report.

In my opening remarks I mentioned manpower, which, of course, includes womanpower. The women's Services provide a valuable contribution to our defence effort, and our policy is to offer women the widest possible range of job opportunities on an equal basis with men, subject to the limitations that arise from their exclusion from combat duties. We keep a constant watch on this to make sure that no unnecessary constraints are placed on making the best use of the women's Services.

Much is already happening, as detailed in the White Paper. The Royal Navy is planning to employ WRNS officers in a wider range of specialisations and to assign WRNS ratings to shore wireless and electronic maintenance posts. In the Army, members of the WRAC are considered for posts wherever they can perform a task as well as men, subject to maintaining a fair career and postings structure for both sexes. The Royal Air Force already employs women in a wide range of jobs and plans to use them more in future.

However, as the White Paper says, if we are to make the fullest use of women, we must reconsider our traditional practice of not allowing them to carry arms. The Government appreciate that this is a sensitive issue involving far-reaching changes, and in reaching a decision we wish to take full account of views expressed in the House and elsewhere. The proposals put forward in the White Paper are a basis for discussion, and it is too early to say when a decision will be taken. However, I wish to make quite clear that we are only considering arming for limited defensive purposes and that we have no intention of employing women in primarily combat roles. Although I welcome the debate and the interest of the media, this is not, of course, new. The subject was mentioned briefly in the 1979 White Paper and, important though it is, we should not get it out of perspective.

As we gradually extend the job opportunities that are open to members of the women's Services and the demands made upon them, it is only right that we should also look at their conditions of service in general. Although—because of the special nature of military service—the Armed Forces are specifically excluded from the Sex Discrimination Act, we nevertheless try to comply with the spirit of the Act where this is compatible with Service requirements. Consequently, whenever possible, we try to give equal treatment to male and female personnel, and last year we decided that the general entitlements of Service women should be brought into line with those of men, except where Service requirements continue to justify the difference. This means that Service women are now entitled to married quarters and a wide range of associated allowances—such as the separation allowance—in the same way as men. The major outstanding difference in entitlements between male and female personnel is that Service men receive a higher "X" factor in the military salary—10 per cent. instead of 5 per cent.—reflecting the different obligations and terms of service undertaken by men and women in the Armed Forces, most significantly the restriction of women to non-combat jobs.

The House no doubt expects me to say something on the subject of Armed Forces' pay. I can now tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has this afternoon given a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) confirming that the ninth report of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body has been received and that the Government have accepted the review body's recommendations in full. The report will be published as a Command Paper as soon as possible, but, in the meantime, a limited number of copies are now available in the Library and Vote Office.

The main features of the report are as follows. First, there will be an increase in the military salary of broadly 17 to 20 per cent. for officers and 15 to 17 per cent. for other ranks, together with increases in length of service increments. This will bring the pay of the average private soldier, for example, up to about £86 a week instead of £74 and that of a major, on appointment, up to £10,008 compared to the present level of £8,444.

Secondly, there will be corresponding increases in the main forms of additional pay to maintain their value, with a relative improvement in the higher rate of flying pay to encourage the retention of experienced aircrew. Thirdly, the report mentions the updating of Northern Ireland pay, increases in the number of other minor forms of additional pay, and updating of, and liberalisation of the qualifying conditions for, separation allowance. Fourthly, there will be an increase of 13p per day—about 11 per cent.—in the food charge. Fifthly, it contains a new formula for calculating accommodation charges. This produces minor increases, ranging from just over 1 per cent. to just over 5 per cent. in the present charges, which have remained unchanged since 1977.

The review body has also recommended a significant improvement in the pay of part-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, together with a restructuring of the training bounty, in order to bring the UDR broadly into line with the bounty arrangements announced last year for the Territorial Army.

As I have already indicated, the Government have accepted the review body's recommendations in full, with an effective date of implementation of 1 April 1980. The average increase is 16·8 per cent., which is not extravagant when compared to some of the settlements that have been made in the private and public sectors. The recommendations are based on reliable comparisons with outside employment, and their acceptance by the Government is in accordance with the commitment that we gave last year to maintain the pay of the Armed Forces at the level of their civilian comparators. I believe that the Armed Forces will welcome this report and the confirmation that we have honoured our commitment to them. No doubt, if hon. Members have any particular points of detail that they wish to raise during the course of the debate on the subject of the Armed Forces' pay award, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force will attempt to deal with them during his closing speech.

I should now like to mention briefly the question of charges for premature voluntary release, or PVR. Service men in the Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force who are released prematurely from their engagement are required to pay a charge, which is intended in part to reflect the fact that they have received enhanced rates of pay in return for committing themselves to serve on a longer engagement but have failed to complete that commitment, and in part to recover some of the cost of their training. The Royal Navy does not have PVR charges because of its different "transfer to notice" arrangements.

The charges have remained unchanged since 1975. In its report, the Armed Forces Pay Review Body has commented that the cost to Service men of discharge by purchase is very low compared with the cumulative advantage accruing from committal pay. We have therefore decided to increase PVR charges. For example, a trained Service man seeking premature release, who has completed nearly four years of a six-year engagement, will in future have to pay £325, compared with £225 at present. Similarly, a Service man seeking release after serving four years only of a nine-year engagement will have to pay £700 instead of £300. The new charges will apply to all Service men who seek premature voluntary release after the date of the formal Ministry of Defence letter of authority. There will be corresponding increases in PVR charges for Service women.

In the case of recruits aged between 17½ and 18 years who exercise their right to claim discharge within three months of their engagement, the new charge of seven days' gross pay will be introduced from 1 July, subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament of the appropriate amending instruments. I hope that that will go some way to solve the problem of wastage during recruit training, which was mentioned yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall).

Apart from pay, there are a number of other major factors affecting the hopes, aspirations and quality of life of our Service men and women that are an important consideration when people decide whether to make a career in the Armed Forces.

Service men share with other members of the community aspirations towards home ownership, but that is often difficult to reconcile with the requirement that they should remain highly mobile throughout their careers. Some limited assistance towards house purchase has been available in all three Services for those about to retire, and for many years the Royal Navy has had a long-service advance of pay scheme that has proved to be an important aid to retention. We are looking at ways to extend the help that we can give to Service personnel wishing to buy their own homes, while at the same time making it easier for them to accept the regular moving and travelling that the job entails.

I hope that we shall soon be able to announce a new scheme for the Army and the Royal Air force and some further improvements to the Royal Navy's existing long-service advance of pay scheme.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the problem arises not only during the Service man's period of service but when he leaves the Service? If a Service man cannot get a council house—and in many cases he cannot—it is then that he needs assistance with rehousing.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that on a number of occasions during the previous Administration and in this Administration the Department of Environment has been in touch with councils that are arbiters in these matters.

If I may go on, we hope to extend this scheme in the near future to the Army and the Royal Air Force. In the Royal Navy, the majority of officers and men are now buying their own houses.

There is another scheme that will perhaps appeal to the hon. Gentleman. Partly as a consequence of the growing trend towards home ownership on the part of Service men, but also as a result of unit movements, we now have in some areas a large number of empty married quarters that are surplus to requirements. In line with the Government's overall housing policy, we are hoping to introduce a scheme soon to give Service men the opportunity to buy these surplus quarters on preferential terms, similar to the discounts in the Housing Bill, depending on the time previously spent in public accommodation.

Our aim in examining these measures is an indication of the Government's continuing resolve to keep the conditions of service of the Armed Forces in step with parallel developments in civilian life.

A particular feature of Service life—and this is especially true of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines—is the significant amount of private travelling that has to be undertaken in the United Kingdom for various non-duty purposes. Because we encourage Service men to have a permanent home in, say, Plymouth or Portsmouth, travelling for a couple of days' leave from their duty in Chatham or Rosyth can be a very expensive business. That has been a legitimate complaint that I personally have encountered many times this past year.

The House will recall that many years ago there was a Service discount of 15 per cent. or so on rail tickets, but that has long since lapsed. We believe that the time is now right to provide some kind of help with this problem.

I am pleased to announce that we have reached agreement with British Rail on the forces railcard scheme, which would be introduced on 1 July. The scheme will provide all members of the regular forces and their eligible dependants with a railcard at no cost to themselves, which will allow a 50 per cent. reduction on standard rail fares subject only to certain restrictions on peak travel. As with all railcard projects, the scheme will run initially for an experimental period—in this case until 31 December 1982. Bearing in mind the amount of private travelling that Service men have to do, that should constitute a real improvement in their conditions of service, and we believe that it will provide worthwhile extra business and revenue for British Rail. As an example, a Service man travelling from Portsmouth to Edinburgh would save £9·50 compared with a weekend return or £25 on an ordinary return.

I turn now to the question of our reserve Forces, who have such an important role to play in the successful execution of defence policy, which several hon. Members recognised yesterday. Their role is to supplement and reinforce the Regular forces in emergency—at home, overseas and at sea.

When we came to office last year, we found that manpower trends in the volunteer reserves were disturbing, with particularly high levels of turnover. We therefore lost no time in implementing the recommendations of the Shapland report as a positive demonstration of our commitment to the Territorial Army. I am delighted to report to the House that the results have been most encouraging, with an increase since last July of nearly 4,000 in the strength of the TA.

Although smaller than the TA, the Royal Naval Reserve, the Women's Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Marines Reserve, the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force are no less vital.

I should like to emphasise the debt that the nation owes to all those associated with the volunteer reserves. By that I mean not only the volunteers themselves but also their wives and families, whose support is essential, and, of course, their employers—and I speak as an ex-reservist of some years' standing. The co-operation of employers, and, indeed, trade unions, is vital if members of the volunteer reserves are to be allowed time off work to undertake their essential training.

I am glad to say that very many employers adopt an enlightened attitude in that respect. The Government are particularly anxious that all employers should understand the importance of the volunteer reserves and encourage their employees to enlist. Only last month my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister issued an appeal to employers along those lines, which has been echoed and endorsed by Opposition Front Bench Members. I am glad to repeat that appeal today.

In addition to its Service men, the Ministry of Defence is also a major employer of civilians. The two are complementary to each other and, as chapter 6 of the defence White Paper makes clear, civilians make an essential contribution to our defence effort. That is not just an empty compliment or a meaningless phrase. As the House will be well aware, civilians carry out many roles which would otherwise have to be carried out by Service men and which provide essential support functions.

To draw just two examples from the Service for which I am responsible, te Royal dockyards, which repair, refit and modernise the Royal Navy's ships, and the Royal Naval Supply and Transport Service, which supplies the Navy both ashore and afloat, are manned almost exclusively by civilians.

The wide range of tasks that they carry out means that MoD civilians are generally far removed from the popular idea of civil servants. Anyone who doubts that should visit a nuclear submarine in mid-refit to see the complexity of the task and the very difficult conditions that skilled craftsmen have to work in. The table in chapter 6 demonstrates most clearly the wide range of skills, crafts and specialisms that they encompass—and, incidentally, shows the very small proportion represented by the administrative and the executive grades.

In that context, I am pleased to hear that an offer of some 18 per cent. has been made to the professional and technical staff. I firmly believe that, on the facts, that is a generous offer, and I hope that agreement will soon be reached.

However, because we are such a large employer of civilians—some three-quarters of the industrial Civil Service and some 20 per cent. of the non-industrial—it is inevitable that Government action taken to constrain cash limits for civilian pay and to reduce the number of civil servants should apply to MoD civilians; and it is fight that it should.

From what I have said, right hon. and hon. Members will be in no doubt that I have the highest regard for our civilian staff. However, in any organisation employing over 250,000 people it is always possible to improve efficiency, to do things in a more cost-effective way and to question whether certain things should be done at all—and that applies not only to civilians but also to Service men. We are determined to improve the Department's performance in that respect.

In addition, we also have to ask, should this or that job be done by civil servants, or should and can it be done by private industry? As I shall show in a minute, we have already made a start in that direction with cleaning and catering; it is clearly not essential to have a civil servant to clear our offices or to cook our meals. However, we need to be sure that if we change the defence budget does not pay more overall and that the service is up to standard.

I would not, however, wish to give the impression that that will all be easy or painless. The Ministry of Defence has a record for cutting back civilian numbers that stands comparison with any other Department. Between 1964 and 1979, numbers went down by 150,000. Since April 1979 they have been reduced by a further 3 per cent.—nearly 7,000—or, including the Royal ordnance factories and locally engaged civilians, by 9,500. With in three years, by 1 April 1982, Ministry of Defence United Kingdom-based numbers—excluding people who are locally employed and the Royal ordnance factories—will have been reduced by nearly 20,000, or 9 per cent. This number will include the 3 per cent. cut made last year, the 7,500 cuts promised as part of the Lord President's announcement last December, and the cuts to be made in the present financial year. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be dissatisfied if the various activities, which I shall describe in a moment, do not enable us to do better than this.

Is this a real search for economies or simply an exercise to enable us to say that we now employ fewer civil servants? If that is the case, why not put Securicor guards outside the Palace?

If the hon. Gentleman will wait a moment, he will see that it is an attempt to make real economies.

By improving efficiency and not doing work which can be better done elsewhere, we can undoubtedly produce a more cost-effective organisation.

The White Paper describes the reviews into major areas of the Department's activities—bill paying, cleaning and catering, quality assurance, research and development establishments, the Royal dockyards and supply management. These areas together employ some 40 per cent. of the Department's civilian manpower. They are hardly "candle ends" as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) described them yesterday.

The cleaning and catering study reviewed the case for putting more of this work out to contract. We are now systematically examining the balance of advantage between using contract and directly employed labour, in the first instance in the 80 establishments employing 25 or more cleaners—a total of around 4,000 posts—and we are putting the work out to tender. We have promised staff interests that they will be consulted before final decisions are taken, but it is our intention that where contract labour is shown to be cheaper and there are no other overriding difficulties contract cleaning should be adopted. Depending on the results of the first stage, we shall probably extend the study to smaller establishments. We have similarly begun a review of 50 static establishments without a contingency commitment to find out what scope there might be for adopting contract catering.

The bill-paying study will examine the extent to which it might be possible to economise on staff by rationalising procedures and raising checking levels. The numbers involved are not great—some 400—but we hope to achieve some modest staff savings. But, because the staff involved work in Liverpool, we are naturally very concerned to see what we can do to switch work from elsewhere to Mersey-side in order to minimise the number of lost jobs there.

As the House will know, we have published within the last month a consultative document on the quality assurance study, chaired by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force. The report essentially confirms that it is for industry to ensure that quality is being achieved and for the Department to assure itself that industry is being successful. The Department has been working on these lines for many years. Compared with the 11,000 or so people employed on quality assurance in 1973, there are now only about 8,000. But we are confident that rigorous application of this principle will enable us to go further in reducing the staff engaged on quality assurance. We have now issued consultative documents to staff interests and others concerned on these studies.

As regards the remaining three studies, we are considering reports on the research and development establishments study, chaired by my noble Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, and the supply management study, chaired by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army. The dockyard study, chaired by myself, is only just reaching completion. As I told the House on 15 April, I hope to be able to submit it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State within days. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) got it slightly wrong yesterday. He was probably misled by a statement in the White Paper. I hope that he is not under a misapprehension. However, I can assure him and my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink), who raised the matter yesterday, that the study has addressed all the problems facing the Royal dockyards they mentioned yesterday. Consultative documents will be published as soon as possible, and they will be widely disseminated and, I hope, discussed, although, of course, I cannot guarantee the discussion.

We are also contributing to the series of reviews being carried out under the guidance of Sir Derek Rayner, in which one or two specially appointed members of the Department examine an area of activity under wide-ranging terms of reference and are free to make observations and recommendations direct to his permanent secretary and to Ministers.

I think that the hon. Gentleman is being unfair to himself in respect of ensuing discussion. Surely he can indicate clearly to the House that he will be willing to discuss the matter with hon Members, trade unions and other staff associations that are directly concerned.

I give that assurance willingly. Of course, I would be more than happy to discuss the matter with hon. Members, particularly those who represent dockyard constituencies. There is much to discuss in the report, but, as I said, I cannot guarantee a discussion.

As part of the first round of studies last year, the arrangements for the supply of food for the Armed Forces were reviewed. Following this study, we are considering the introduction of an integrated management structure, with the responsibility for overall policy and management of the food supply for all three Services being taken by one officer. We also hope to reduce food stockholdings, with consequential savings, and we are exploring the possibility of achieving a greater involvement by NAAFI in the provision of food in the United Kingdom.

We are undertaking five more Rayner studies during the current year—on children's secondary education overseas, on the claims commission, on economy in new building works for the Armed Forces, on inspection and audit and on assisted travel schemes. We are participating in a Government-wide review of statistical services, superintended by Sir Derek Rayner, and we shall also be looking at—again as part of a general review under his guidance—all the overheads involved in the operation of the Department.

These are perhaps the more major and glamorous reviews, but they are not the only ones. In a major executive Department like the Ministry of Defence there is a constant process of review aimed at improving efficiency and cutting out waste, which rarely hits the headlines. I should like to mention just two such projects. The first is a review of postal and mail services. A small team of experts has been systematically going round establishments identifying means of meeting their postal requirements in the most economical way. In the last six months, they have clocked up economies worth perhaps £400,000 a year. This is only a start.

Secondly, trials are now under way of a new system of statistical stocktaking based on random sampling in our major stores depots. The new procedures are based on proposals made by our own management services people. We hope and expect that by the time the system is fully introduced we shall have arrangements which will satisfy the Services that the stores they want are there when the records say they are, and that they will satisfy Parliament that we are keeping proper control of public money and saving several hundred staff.

These are only two of the many reviews and studies that are taking place constantly in the Ministry of Defence. But it is by this process of rigorous self-examination that we can improve efficiency. I can assure the House that neither my right hon. Friend nor any of us in any way complacent about this and that value for money has never been more important at all levels for both the civilian and Service sides of the Ministry.

Much has been and is being done to streamline the administrative tail and sharpen the front line teeth. But I do not wish the House to underestimate the very considerable work load on the support services, which are largely civilian manned. May I give one example? I am sure that the hon. Member for Dunfermline will agree with me on this. The manpower effort in refitting a nuclear submarine is the same as that required for refitting a 50,000-ton strike carrier such as "Eagle" or "Ark Royal". That is all done by civil servants. We currently have 16 nuclear submarines in service, with more building. That is an enormous load by any yardstick.

I see no sign of the supporting role diminishing. We have to find new and more efficient ways to carry out that role, and I pay tribute to the men and women who serve the Services and who, like the Services themselves, are too often taken for granted.

As regards Service manpower, I hope that the House and the country will be reassured by the action taken by the Government in the last year to reverse a dangerous decline and restore the Service man and woman to a respected and well-rewarded place in society. The significant steps I have announced today on pay, housing and travel speak louder than any words of mine.

At a time of great international trouble and tension, any British Goverment's first priority should be to ensure that they are making a maximum contribution to the Alliance in terms of top-quality, well-trained and equipped, highly professional Service men and women, available in sufficient numbers and backed up by a dedicated reserve and civilian support. As the White Paper shows, this Government arc now fully discharging that obligation, and I commend it to the House.

5.10 pm

I hope that the Minister will understand if I do not comment in detail on what he has said about personnel and manpower matters, although I shall return later to Ministry of Defence management. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), who will wind up the debate this evening, will deal with personnel and management matters. We shall wish to study the details of the written answer given this afternoon and also the ninth report of the Armed Forces Review Body before making detailed comments.

There is one important figure relating to personnel and management in the White Paper. It was referred to yesterday by my hon. Frend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright), and by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross). The figure, which was referred to also by the Select Committee on Defence, and which concerns us all as we look at the problems of the Armed Forces in the 1980s, is for the increasing share of the total number of school leavers who will be required in the Armed Forces if we are to maintain numbers during the decade. The figure that is given in paragraph 6 11 of the White Paper shows that at present one school leaver in 12 goes into the Armed Forces. By the end of the decade that figure will have reached one in nine.

That has considerable implications, both for recruiting policy and for pay. I am sorry that the Minister was unable to say anything about that. It strengthens the case for making greater use of our reserve forces, and I welcome what the Minister said about them today. It is important that all employers should understand the important role that reservists play and should make arrangements for them to be released for service in the reserve. I urge the Minister to examine particularly the role of public sector employers in this respect. There has been some evidence that they have not always been as helpful as they might have been in making people available for service in the reserve.

I welcome some aspects of this year's White Paper. In particular I welcome volume II which provides us with five-year runs for a number of important statistics. That is an important advance. As one who pressed the Ministry of Defence for this in the old Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee, I am particularly pleased that this has been introduced this year. However, I regret that the functional analyses which were originally provided in the White Paper produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) in 1966–67, and which have more recently provided a graphical analysis not only of spending by the Services but of the distribution of Service and civilian manpower, have disappeared in their full form from the White Paper. I am sure that, as well as the simplified diagram at figure 20 on page 85, it would be a great advantage if we had the full tables provided, although the information appears in summary form in the second volume.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force made it clear in the corresponding debate last year that we should have more information in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates". Certainly he has done a great deal to improve the statement. He has made it a good deal more glossy, not only on the exterior but in its coloured diagrams. But we still have a long way to go before we have a satisfactory White Paper. When one begins to examine this White Paper in detail, one sees that it is not very different in several important respects from those of previous years. It is still too much a statement of what we do and only rarely does it become an explanation of why we do it. There is still a great deal of room for improvement.

In particular, the equipment chapter—chapter 7—is only three paragraphs longer than the equivalent chapter in the last year's defence White Paper produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). Indeed, some of the paragraphs are merely paraphrases of what was said in that White Paper. The three additional paragraphs are on the dockyards, and these were elsewhere in last year's White Paper. I recognise that some improvement has been made by the inclusion of certain figures in paragraphs 730–732. This sort of information is valuable, although the level of generality in which it appears is not particularly helpful. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) suggested yesterday that the figures were not altogether accurate.

I draw the attention of those responsible for the White Paper to the much more detailed information in the paper submitted by the American Department of Defence on its programme of research, development and acquisition to Congress each year. This is effectively the equivalent of chapter 7 of our White Paper, and it goes through the list weapon by by weapon indicating not merely the precise dates on which each one will come into operation but the costs in the coming fiscal year, both for research and development and, where appropriate, for procurement.

Is the hon. Member aware that an additional feature of that publication is that, alongside the weapons systems, it gives an analysis of their comparable capability with Soviet weapons systems? Judgments about weapons systems should not be absolute, but relative.

There are many ways in which Congress is provided with rather more information than we are. One of the important factors in the White Paper is that in chapter 7 there is some examination of the threat, area by area, and then the weapons systems are set against that. But that and other things could be usefully expanded. If this information can be made available in the United States without significantly hampering security, I do not see why it cannot be done in this country. I hope that the Under-Secretary with responsibility for the RAF, who was so keen on this matter last year, will bear that in mind when he considers, with his colleagues, next year's White Paper. If Ministers are anxious to ensure a more informed debate, they will consider developing chapter 7 next year to give more information and to link it directly with the figures in the Estimates themselves.

One thing became absolutely clear in yesterday's debate—the 1980s will be difficult years. This is a decade during which we shall need to act with great care to maintain the safety and security of our people. We on this Bench are convinced that over the past 30 years our security has been maintained primarily through membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. In years to come our security will be better served by continuing to play our part as full members of that Alliance.

The whole post-war history of our defence policy has been one of our gradual withdrawal from world wide roles that we occupied at the end of the war and concentration of our defence tasks on the requirements of NATO, on the Continent of Europe—primarily on the central front—in the Eastern Atlantic and the Channel, and in the defence of the United Kingdom. I believe that those decisions have been right and that if we have to make choices in future our principal criterion should be the best contribution that we can make to the defence of NATO.

One of the reasons why the 1980s will be difficult is that both the super-Powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, are having to accept that there are constraints and limits on what they have previously assumed to be their omnipotence. We are seeing the frustration that this causes for the United States at the moment. I believe that it will also be seen in the Soviet Union later in the decade when its economic difficulties become increasingly serious.

In such a situation, national and Alliance security will need to continue the dual policy adopted since the Harmel report of 1967, namely
"to maintain adequate military strength and political strength to deter aggression... and to defend the territory of member countries if aggression should occur"
and to
"pursue the search for progress towards a more stable relationship in which the underlying political issues can be solved."
Harmel specifically said in his report to NATO that
"Military security and a policy of detente are not contradictory but complementary."
He made it clear that active pursuit by members of the Alliance of disarmament and practical arms control measures reflected their will to work for effective detente with the East. It is therefore right, as the White Paper recognises in paragraph 130, that members of the Alliance have agreed, since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to continue their efforts to seek agreements on arms control.

I was glad that both the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State and, in a more detailed way, his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army made some reference to the contribution that arms control can bring to increasing our security. I must confess that until I heard the remarks of the Army Minister I was concerned that it might have become as difficult to find an arms controller in the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence as it is, apparently, to find a Keynesian in the Treasury.

As my right hon. Friend indicated yesterday, we believe that arms control, as well as defence, can contribute to security. There is obviously not a simple alternative, one for the other. Both have a role to play. We are disappointed that there is relatively little reference in the White Paper to disarmament and arms control. This is not wishful thinking; nor is it a proposal for unilateralism. We believe, rather, that there is a common interest between the West and the Soviet Union to attempt to achieve security at a lower cost if this can be agreed by a mutual agreement that can be verified. As has been clear in the negotiations for SALT I and SALT II, the United States and the Soviet Union have a common interest in reducing the risk of nuclear war. As has been clear in the discussions that have gone on among the Powers with a nuclear capacity and those able to produce civil nuclear equipment, there is a common interest in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In the same way, I believe that there is a common interest in limiting the share of our national resources devoted to defence. This may become even more important as economic growth in the Soviet Union, which was at its lowest level ever last year and has virtually stopped, continues to fall during the decade and the voracious appetite of defence planners causes problems there" as it does here.

If it is possible, by agreement, for us to obtain the same level of security at a lower expenditure of real resources by means of achieving satisfactory arms control and disarmament agreements, this is surely an objective to which we should devote some resources. It is necessary to look at the various disarmament and arms control negotiations now going on and to ask the Government what they have done to ensure that these succeed and to suggest to them ways in which they can contribute to the development of such negotiations.

While, clearly, the climate for disarmament and arms control may be less propitious today than it was two years ago, when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition spoke at the special session on disarmament of the United Nations General Assembly, there are on going negotiations that must be maintained and some areas where agreement should be achieved. The White Paper, presumably deliberately, uses the word "detente" once only in paragraph 107, in spite of two references in the index, and does not mention disarmament anywhere. None the less, paragraphs 130 to 135 discuss the possibilities of arms control. I should like to say a word about the various negotiations to which reference is made, as well as SALT II, which is discussed in chapter 2 of the White Paper.

We welcome the fact that the Government, in paragraph 206, express the hope that SALT II will be ratified in due course. This would clearly be a useful contribution to world stability and prevent the continuing arms race among strategic systems. As paragraph 208 states, the agreement was reached because its provisions are realistic, equitable and verifiable. This is the basis on which other arms control and disarmament agreements must be developed.

Proposals put forward last December, at the time when decisions were taken on long-range theatre nuclear force modernisation in NATO, are also important in that they provide a basis for bringing these weapons within a framework of a future SALT agreement. If there is no agreement to ratify SALT II, there is surely a case for pursuing this problem outside the SALT framework.

We have made it clear in our amendment that we feel that the Government have failed to take the clear initiative on arms control and disarmament that we believe the situation warrants. We believe that any Government who come before the House, as they do in this White Paper, and say that there is an unprecedented threat which it will cost the country ever larger sums of money to defend itself against, have an obligation to show that they are examining the methods of negotiation and international agreement to reduce the threat.

In spite of the remarks of the Under-Secretary of State last night, we believe that that has not been done, I believe three examples of where we feel there is room for future positive action. The Minister last night referred to the fact that the Soviet Union had rejected the approach by the Americans following the NATO decisions of 12 December last year. Surely, the issues and the risks involved in the deployment of new generations of theatre nuclear weapons in Europe are sufficiently serious for us not to leave the matter there. Chancellor Schmidt certainly does not think so, and he has continued in his efforts to attempt to start an effective dialogue with the Soviet Union in these matters. If Ministers feel that they cannot do so by speeches, could not the matter have been followed up through diplomatic channels in Moscow and London to continue to promote these important proposals? One "No" from the Soviet Union is not enough. We should continue to pursue this matter with it.

Last night's reference by the Under-Secretary of State to the review conference on the non-proliferation treaty, due to be held later this year, was very brief. In an uncertain world, the goal of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons must be of growing importance. Was the reference last night so limited because the Government know that the conference will be much more difficult because of the failure of ourselves, the Soviet Union and the United States to reach agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty? In the absence of such a treaty, they know that there is serious risk of some, of the present signatories of the non-proliferation treaty denouncing it, with serious risks for the peace of the world.

The Minister said last night that negotiations for a comprehensive test ban treaty were complex and progress slow. Last year, however, in my right hon. Friend's White Paper, we were told that steady progress had been made and
"it is hoped that agreement can now be reached very soon".
What has happened in these negotiations since last year? Have the present Administration succumbed to pressure from the nuclear scientists of Aldermaston, who, like their colleagues in the United States, have continued to lobby against this important measure? I hope that that is not the case. I am glad to have the Secretary of State's reassurance. I hope, also, that we have not held back because of the cost of the limited number of verification stations that we would need to provide. Such costs are trivial compared with the defence Estimates that we are considering today. Success in the negotiations for a properly verifiable, multilateral treaty, banning nuclear explosions in all environments, would be of great importance. Britain has a direct and special responsibility.

I realise that the hon. Gentleman has to say much of what he is saying to make a case for the amendment for which his hon. Friends seem to be intent on voting. Will he provide a little factual assistance by producing one piece of evidence from the Soviets dating from within the last 12 months that they are genuinely interested in the type of dialogue which he blames the Government for not opening?

The signatures of the United States and the Soviet Union to the SALT II agreement in Vienna was an important step forward. In the case of the comprehensive test ban treaty, evidence in the press suggests that the Soviet Union has. for the first time, accepted the possibility of verification stations on its territory. The suggestion now is that that is being held up because of a failure of political will in Britain and the failure of the Treasury to provide the money for the verification stations.

The third area in which we could do more was referred to last night, and it is mentioned in the White Paper. I refer to the associated measures linked to the MBFR negotiations in Vienna and the confidence-building measures to be discussed at the Madrid meeting of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe, which are closely related.

Paragraph 110 of the White Paper talks of the limited warning time that the Alliance might receive of an impending attack. One way to extend warning time and to increase the time available for political negotiations in a crisis is by the development of effective confidence-building measures. A year ago the International Institute for Strategic Studies published a valuable set of essays outlining the range of possible developments in confidence-building measures. Why do not the Government, either by themselves or collectively within the Alliance, indicate more explicitly which of the proposals they feel can usefully be adopted, within the context of either MBFR or CSCE? It would be useful to have concrete examples of confidence-building measures which the Government believe could be introduced.

I have indicated three specific areas in which we believe soundly based, verifiable arms control initiatives can be taken. All three could add not only to the security of Britain and our partners in NATO but to the peace of the world as a whole.

I turn to the question of procurement, as set out in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates" in chapter 7. That shows that we spend more on defence procurement than is spent by any of the other European members of NATO—£4½ billion on procurement in the widest sense, or, excluding research and development, about £2¾ billion on new equipment. Figures published in the Nato Review of February 1980 on the share of defence budgets spent on equipment show that we spend about 24 per cent. of our defence budget on equipment and that that is a significantly higher share than that of any other Western European member of NATO. Indeed, it is higher than that of the United States.

If we apply the 24 per cent. either to the absolute expenditure on defence or to the per capita spending on defence shown in figure 21 on page 86, as a percentage of GDP, as an absolute sum or in terms of per capita expenditure, we see that we are spending more on equipment than any of our European NATO allies. The paradox, on which we need information from the Government, is that we seem to be spending more and yet in some respects we have worse-equipped forces.

The problems that we face are increased by the fact that defence equipment does not merely have to face the normal inflationary pressures that occur throughout the economy but is subject to the aspect of technological inflation, which some American studies show increases the price of equipment in real terms by two or three times in a 15-year period. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), when questioning the Secretary of State in the Select Committee on Defence, quoted from a speech by a senior Ministry of Defence official, which showed that there might be even more alarming figures. He said:
"if we take the life of major pieces of equipment as some 15–20 years, we find that the increase in real cost between generations is of the following order: tanks, a factor of 2; frigates, a factor of 2·5; ground attack aircraft, a factor of 3; submarines, a factor of 6; guided weapons, a factor of 7."
Those are serious and terrifying figures in the context of our spending profiles for the decade ahead.

We must look in part at the management of the procurement operation in the Ministry of Defence. I was pleased at some of the things that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy said. Several aspects of procurement management could enable us to make further savings. Although in general the increasing sophistication of weapons systems leads to the increase in price to which I referred, there is evidence from the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany that other defence forces are using technology to save costs. Are we finding ways of economising by new techniques? Can the Minister say what the British experience is? If he is not able to do that today, will he consider indicating in next year's defence White Paper ways in which new technology can be used to save money on procurement?

We should take further the proposal in paragraph 701 of the White Paper and find ways of stretching the life of existing systems by making improvements to those systems during their life as technology develops. That is already being done in some cases. May we have an assurance that an examination is made of every weapons system, not only at the design stage but throughout its life, to see what can be done to stretch its life further?

A third possible source of saving, both in terms of initial cost and in efficiency of use once in service, is through collaboration. I was glad to see a commitment to that in paragraphs 737–742 of the White Paper. Of course, as paragraph 742 states,
"Collaboration is not an end in itself."
Both in assisting us to get equipment at lower initial cost and in ensuring that we have equipment that is interoperable with our NATO allies, collaboration among European countries, within the independent European programme group and across the Atlantic as part of the so-called two-way street, is of great importance. May we be told, today or on some future date, whether Ministers have considered increasing the level of our representation at the meetings of the IEPG? On a number of occasions I have heard complaints from our NATO allies that they felt that the IEPG would be more successful if there were representations on it at a political rather than official level. I hope that that is being considered and that progress is made.

I should be glad if we could have more details about the success of collaboration across the Atlantic. The Select Committee was given an alarming statistic—that the ratio of imports from the United States compared with exports to the United States was running at about four to one. That is unsatisfactory. Although we need to buy American equipment on some occasions, there should be more examples of Americans buying British equipment or of British firms playing their parts as subcontractors to American prime contractors for some of the major United States weapons systems in joint ventures. It would be valuable if once a year the Alliance could produce an overall balance sheet.

There is a reference in paragraph 701 to the long period between the decision to create a new weapons system and its entry into service. That is clearly expensive and I am sure that there should be an attempt to see whether we cannot reduce some of these over-long gestation periods, and whether we can see the results of our investments sooner.

It is the case that not only is money locked up during the building process but cost rise during construction. It also means that we are not getting the weapons systems to our troops in time.

The United States recently attempted to accelerate certain projects. While that may, in some cases, lead to problems and cost more, it seems that on the other hand there are savings that should be taken into account. I hope, therefore, that this issue can be examined.

The Minister made certain remarks about the recent study of the dockyards, and we were glad to hear what he had to say. The House and its Select Committee have been concerned about the dockyards for a long time, and I believe that we should be provided with as much information about them as possible. I hope that the Secretary of State will take into account what has been said in the debate on this matter and carefully consider the case for publishing this study and others of a similar nature so that they can be examined in full by the Select Committee and by the House.

As the hon. Member seems to have left the subject of arms procurement, may I say that it seemed odd that he did not mention the question of the integration of our industrial and defence policies? His party is keen on intervention in industry, and this is the most obvious and productive area in which an industrial policy should be developed. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman left that issue out of his speech in consideration of the sensibilities of his hon. Friends.

I am grateful for what the hon. Member has said about procurement in relation to our industrial policy. As is said in the White Paper—and as was said in last year's White Paper—the development of technology in defence is of some importance. I believe that a good deal of what is done to establish standards of procurement for the Ministry of Defence—and what was said about the Quality Assurance Directorate—is of importance in maintaining and raising standards in British industry. I am sure that that is a matter that we should pursue. Perhaps the relationship between defence procurement and in- dustrial development could be examined in more detail by the Select Committee.

There are references to procurement outside chapter 7, and I seek clarification from the Minister on one of these in particular. I refer to paragraph 409 in the chapter on wider defence interests, where we are told that a number of improvements in the worldwide capabilities of the Services are being considered. The paragraph outlines a whole selection of things to be done and, clearly, if all of them were done without diminishing our central commitment to the Alliance they would make a significant addition to the procurement bill. The House should be told what decisions have been made or when they will be made and how much they will cost in all.

In dealing with equipment in general, I wonder whether the Minister either today or subsequently, could say something more about one of the more difficult figures in the White Paper. I refer to figure 22, which shows the deployment of resources, looking forward 10 years, on defence equipment. It is not clear to me, no matter for how long I study that table, what it represents. Clearly, it is not the long-term costings. Nor is it the net profile of the spending on the major procurement items already committed. The figures at the top show not the actual level of spending but 100 per cent. only of what is to be spent in a particular year.

One has to ask, therefore: is it any more than a theoretical, possible profile, or is it in some way an estimate of the figures for the next 10 years for the 1980s? It seems to me that if Ministers include figures such as these in the White Paper we are entitled to know exactly what they represent.

This White Paper has the grandiloquent title "Defence in the 1980s". The complaint of the Opposition—and implicitly that of the Select Committee, if I read paragraphs 41 and 42 of its report correctly—is that the Government have failed to set out clearly their priorities for the 1980s. The Secretary of State spoke yesterday of the need to construct a sustainable programme. The White Paper talks of a coherent and stable defence effort in the years to come but fails to show how that will be achieved.

We do not see how, even if the Secretary of State is able to maintain—in an increasingly difficult economic environment—his projected 3 per cent. growth per annum, he will be able to carry forward all the commitments required. We believe that it is impossible to make the improvements required to the equipment of the Army that were discussed yesterday by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, the improvements for the Navy referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe to deal with the shortcomings of the air defences of the United Kingdom, referred to in the report of the Select Committee, and to make adequate provision for the growing electronic warfare threat mentioned by the Secretary of State yesterday, let alone make provision to improve what the White Paper calls the world wide capability of the Services to compensate in Europe for any forces of the United States that might be diverted to other parts of the world. Nor do we believe that we can replace Polaris with a Trident successor from these resources.

It would be far better for the Government to set down now what their choices are than to pretend that they can do everything. We must be properly defended, but it is not fair to the Armed Forces, to the citizens of this country and to our allies in NATO to pretend that we can carry out a set of tasks which clearly demand more than the resources available.

Before I call the first speaker from the Back Benches, may I remind the House that there is a long list of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who wish to take part in this important debate and that short contributions would, I think, be generally welcomed.

5.47 pm

The hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) devoted a considerable part of his speech to the subject of arms control. I had some responsibility in this matter from 1972 to 1974.

They were the years of the heyday of detente when our relations with Moscow were probably better than at any time since the war. That was the period of the run-up to the Helsinki and Vienna conferences. But I have to tell the hon. Gentleman from personal experience that even in that heyday we made no progress at all. Since then we have had the Brezhnev rearmament programme, the takeover of Angola, Ethiopia and Aden and the invasion of Afghanistan. Against that background, I can only remind the hon. Gentleman of the retort of Rosa Luxemburg to the ambassador who tried to kiss her hand:
"Drop it, my friend. The times are too serious for such frivolous courtesies."
The House may have noticed that on Sunday night President Giscard d'Estaing appeared on television and delivered a solid, four-square speech in support of the United States. When the President of the French Republic comes out publicly in support of the President of the United States, we can be pretty sure that the situation is very serious. Indeed, I think that there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that that is so.

We face a global threat, and it calls for a global response. The hon. Gentleman said—and it is a record we have often heard in the past—that we should concentrate all our efforts in NATO. He took the credit for the decisions of past Governments to abandon the wider role that we have played in the past. Yet I should have thought that since the invasion of Afghanistan the main burden of comment from both sides of the House, and from all commentators, has been on the need for closer consultation, worldwide among the industralised nations, to meet threats outside the NATO area.

In political terms, we are reversing the process to which the hon. Gentleman referred. People have asked "Why was there not closer consultation between the United States and its European allies about the Middle East and Southern Asia"? Surely what we must come to is some kind of tri-lateral alliance worldwide, embracing Western Europe, the United States and Japan. Here I should particularly like to welcome Prime Minister Ohira's declaration that Japan must now accept wider responsibilities in relation to defence. We should go on to extend the trilateral alliance to a quadruple entente with China. Nothing is more likely to make the Soviet Union pause than the knowledge that there is a second front which it would have to take into consideration.

We must all now accept that peace is indivisible. We can no longer trade space for time. We cannot afford another Afghanistan. That means that we must be prepared to resist further expansion on the part of Soviet imperialism by all effective means. Quiet diplomacy and economic pressures may be the right recipe in dealing with a limited problem such as the hostages in Iran, but when it comes to holding back the aggressive tide of Soviet imperalism the crux is military power.

Is the right hon. Gentleman differentiating between Soviet imperialism which, as is said in the White Paper, is based upon Marxism-Leninism, and the position in China, which is also Marxist-Leninist? Perhaps he will explain to a simpleton such as myself what the difference is between the Chinese Marxist-Leninists and the Soviet Marxist-Leninists, and how we can line up with one but not the other.

The White Paper may have made that comment, but I was not in the least basing my analysis of Soviet imperialism on Marxism and Leninism. Indeed, I recommend that the hon. Gentleman—I thought that he had some understanding of these matters—studies the Soviet situation in Marxist terms. It is precisely the economic and social tensions within the Soviet Union which are driving the Soviets in an expansionist direction. As a good Marxist, the hon. Gentleman ought to now that better than anyone.

When it comes to holding back the tide of Soviet imperialism, there will have to be a military deterrent to further advance. Here is the rub. For a long time we have been inferior in quantity of conventional forces. We have now lost our lead in quality. We are weaker in long-range theatre nuclear weapons, and, on the best estimates that I can find, in a couple of years we in the West will be in a position of strategic nuclear inferiority. We are thus approaching very swiftly a period of maximum danger.

Of course, the resources of the industrialised West and Japan are five or six times greater than those of the Soviet Union. We can restore the position if we are given the time. But how long will it take to make good the years which the locusts have eaten? The cycle of research, development and production before the Second World War used to be three years or so. It is now nearer 10. We are thus condemned inexorably to eight to 10 years of inferiority. In that situation, all of us must realise that we are facing very fragile circumstances, and it will call for cool calculation to find our way through the minefield ahead. There is no magic short cut or even any certainty that we shall be given the time to restore the balance. We must expect setbacks in view of the weakness upon which we are now entering. However, there will be difficulties on the other side as well, and where time is concerned we may be luckier than we deserve.

First, we need a clear recognition of the danger unclouded by illusion or wishful thinking. Then we need a determination to close the gap and get back to parity of force and, hopefully, superiority. For this, we need a crash programme of weapon development, not unlike the one which Lord Swinton initiated in 1937–38. We also need a recruiting drive to ensure that the men are trained in time to man the weapons systems.

Simultaneously, we need to increase our effort in research and development. At present, we spend about 11 per cent. of our defence budget on research compared with 25 per cent. in the Soviet Union. The American figure is much the same as ours. But, unless we increase research and development, we shall only regain parity over the next 10 years to fall behind once again in the decade which follows.

I think that the debate has endorsed the priorities which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State put to us in the White Paper and in his speech yesterday—the maintenance of the deterrent, the building up of air defence, the strengthening of the protection of our sea lanes and the tackling of the problem of reserves. I shall not go into the subject of air defence, because the Select Committee dealt with it thoroughly, or that of our supply routes, beyond saying how impressed I was by the remarkable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) yesterday.

I should like to say a word about the deterrent. I very much welcome the commitment to an independent British nuclear deterrent, restated by the Secretary of State yesterday. I cannot understand why the right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) was so coy about Chevaline. It sounds rather like a pretty girl's name. But it is a tribute to the previous Labour Government, as it was to the Attlee Government that, albeit by stealth, they made sure that we got our place in the nuclear race.

Here I should like to correct the statements that have been bandied about on the opinions of Lord Mountbatten on the subject of nuclear defence. I remember well talking with him one evening, and he said that he thought that one of the greatest achievements of his life had been his success in convincing the right hon. Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) that we must remain in the nuclear league.

Paragraph 203 of the White Paper expresses in magnificently diplomatic terms the case for maintaining an independent British strategic deterrent. I would only say to my right hon. Friend that I think the same logic ought to lead us to the development of our own long-range theatre nuclear weapons with British war heads. The same logic which leads us to think that we must have our own strategic weapons almost more strongly points to the need for us to have control of at least some of the long-range theatre nuclear weapons whose missiles, or whatever, with their own British warheads are stationed in this country.

My intervention follows on the right hon. Gentleman's latter comments and what he said about Lord Mount-batten, which I think are slightly different from the point which was made yesterday. The issue is that Lord Mountbatten, rightly in my view, criticised not the existence of the strategic nuclear deterrent but theatre nuclear weapons, because one could not stop a conventional war tripping over into a nuclear war. That was the point, and it sounds to me as though the right hon. Gentleman is again making that mistake. That would increase the dangers, not decrease them.

I think that the speech of Lord Mountbatten to which the hon. Gentleman refers was made in 1977.