House Of Commons
Wednesday 18 June 1980
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
British Transport Docks Bill
As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.
Edward Berry And Doris Eileen Ward (Marriage Enabling) Bill Lords
Read a Second time and committed.
Felixstowe Dock And Railway (No 2) Bill
Read a Second time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.
Alexandra Park And Palace Bill Lords (By Order)
Order for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time upon Tuesday 24 June.
Breasclete Harbour Order Confirmation
Mr. Secretary Younger presented a Bill to confirm a Provisional Order under section 7 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936, relating to Breasclete Harbour : And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be considered upon Tuesday 24 June and to be printed [Bill 221.]
British Railways Order Confirmation
Mr. Secretary Younger presented a Bill to confirm a Provisional Order under section 7 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936, relating to British Railways : And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be considered upon Tuesday 24 June and to be printed [Bill 220.]
Oral Answers To Questions
Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs
asked the Lord Privy Seal if, at the next meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will raise the matter of Afghanistan.
NATO members consult on all matters of topical interest. I have no doubt that my right hon. and noble Friend will discuss Afghanistan with his NATO colleagues at the Ankara meeting of the NATO council, which begins on 25 June.
While being strongly opposed to the invasion of Afghanistan, does the Minister support the supply from America of large quantities of arms to the rebels, as evidenced by Western sources, including such reliable people as United Press International and others?
Our evidence is that the Afghan freedom fighters get most of their arms from defecting Afghan soldiers.
Is my hon. Friend reminded by the current situation in Afghanistan of similar, but not identical, events that took place in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968? Will he give an assurance that all possible help, aid and equipment, short of manpower, is being provided for the freedom fighters, who are fighting not only for their own freedom but for ours?
This war, unlike the other episodes to which my hon. Friend refers has continued for much longer and is getting more intense as more Russian troops arrive and as Afghans in almost every province show that they are determined to resist Soviet occupation of their country.
On the more general questions raised by Afghanistan, the Minister will recall that one of the immediate responses of Her Majesty's Government was not to renew the credit terms on which Britain used to sell goods to the Soviet Union. Will the Minister say whether there have been discussions with other NATO countries or within the EEC about measures of a similar kind being contemplated? What is the state of those discussions?
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has reminded the House of the step that we took against soft credit for the Soviet Union. Discussions on this matter in OECD—the forum for them—take place from time to time but there is not yet a unified approach.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a further statement on Iran.
The British Government's trade sanctions against Iran came into effect on 30 May. The orders have since been approved by both Houses. The Government continue to support diplomatic moves which might lead to the release of the hostages, including the visit to Iran by Mr. Daoudi, the Syrian member of the United Nations Commission. In Iran, the Majlis has met but not yet considered the question of the hostages.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that those of us who were strongly opposed to the Shah's regime, and are certainly opposed to sanctions as serving no purpose, continue to be very much opposed to the totally unlawful detention of the American hostages, who should be released as quickly as possible? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of us are also deeply troubled by the almost daily executions that are taking place in Iran?
I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has said. I take note, as the House will have done, of the second part of his question.
What evidence does the Minister have that British or Western sanctions against Iran are working?
Our sanctions have been in effect for about three weeks and it is difficult to judge. Certainly, they have not produced the explosion of retaliation prophesied by some Opposition Members.
asked the Lord Privy Seal, what criteria he adopts regarding the sale of arms to foreign Governments.
The standard practice in dealing with arms sales proposals is to consider them case by case in relation to their political, strategic, security, and economic merits.
Was the Foreign Office consulted by the defence sales office about the countries which are normally invited to the British Army exhibition? If so, why were States such as Zaire, Indonesia, Iraq and even Libya invited, although their contempt for human rights is notorious? Is it not humiliation enough that we should have supplied radios to Amin's secret police without us also supplying the tools of surveillance to every police State which happens to be outside the Warsaw Pact?
We were consulted. This is a matter for the Ministry of Defence. The Under-Secretary of State answered questions yesterday. I have nothing to add to what he said.
When the Under-Secretary of State answered questions yesterday he placed heavy emphasis on the human rights concept. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Republic of China, for example, is not a place where human rights have a high priority? Would not it be more apposite if, as with our allies the French, the sole criterion for the sale of arms was their effect on production and employment in this country?
We try to take a number of criteria into account when making a responsible judgment on each proposal. On reflection, my hon. Friend will recognise that that must be so. Human rights is one criterion.
Leaving aside the question of the exact criteria which govern the sale of arms, does the Minister agree with the statement in the Brandt Commission report that the escalation of arms sales generally is a serious and dangerous matter? Does he accept that the competition in selling arms between the Soviet Union, the United States and France—the three principal suppliers, although Britain and Italy are suppliers on a smaller scale—is damaging and dangerous in all its implications?What has happened to the discussions begun two years ago between the United States and the USSR, with the support of the British Government, to try to find a way of limiting the sale of weapons, particularly to developing countries, which should be spending their money on other priorities?
Clearly the discussions did not lead to any marked progress. We are a long way from the Soviet Union joining others in restricting arms sales.
Can my hon. Friend comment on reports in the press today that the French Government are seeking to undermine the Jaguar aircraft deal with India which was negotiated under the previous Government? Is my hon. Friend aware that, in relation to that deal, the construction of about 40 aircraft has already begun in Britain? Will he comment on reports that the French have made strenuous efforts to have the contract annulled and replaced with the purely French Mirage aircraft?
I cannot comment on that today, but I shall look into the matter and let my hon. Friend know.
On a day when there is evidence that the South African Government are taking a heavy toll of lives, will the hon. Gentleman take the opportunity to make it clear that Government policy is that there will be no arms sales to South Africa?
Overseas Emergencies (Commonwealth Assistance)
asked the Lord Privy Seal what is his policy on whether to seek assistance from other Commonwealth countries when emergencies occur in a colony or dependency.
It is the policy of the British Government to seek assistance from Commonwealth or any other countries on such occasions as are deemed appropriate.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that the strengthening of our Commonwealth links is important in order to facilitate help when circumstances demand it?
The Government have made it clear that they are fervent supporters of the Commonwealth. We had considerable success in rallying the Commonwealth in connection with Zimbabwe. My hon. Friend will recall that the Commonwealth played a valuable role there.
In view of the evidence of extreme starvation in Sudan, Ethiopia and other parts of the Horn of Africa, and of the worsening situation in Kampuchea, do the British Government intend to offer further assistance?
That is a question for my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development. He is about to go to a conference in Sudan dealing with that subject.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it was only because of the wish of the Australian Government that we got embroiled in the New Hebrides because, for consitutional reasons, it was not able to sign a treaty with France?
My hon. Friend is well informed about the history of the New Hebrides. The situation in the New Hebrides is of considerable interest to South Pacific countries, many of which are Commonwealth countries. They have made it clear that they support the British Government in sending the Marines.
Is it not also true that the Australian Government have reminded both the British and the French Government of their joint responsibility to leave the territory in a proper state when it is given independence at the end of July?
That is correct. I am in close touch with the Australian High Comissioner in London. We need no reminding about our responsibilities to the New Hebrides.
asked the Lord Privy Seal whether any new initiative is contemplated by the United Kingdom in concert with other West European States to help resolves the problems in the Middle East.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps he intends to take to help to achieve a peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis arising from continued denial of Palestinian rights.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on 16 June, the European Council issued a statement on the Middle East in Venice on 13 June. The Nine will determine their future action in the light of the contacts with the parties concerned called for in the statement. The Nine's objective is to reconcile Israel's legitimate security concerns with the political rights of the Palestinians.
Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the forthright statement from Venice in favour of full self-determination for the Palestinian people is welcome and long overdue? Is he further aware that as long as the Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza continue to be treated in an insulting and humiliating way by the Israeli colonial Administration the prospect of conflict will become closer and closer?
As the Prime Minister said, there must be general agreement on the two principles—security for Israel and recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. There has been a serious situation on the West Bank in the last few weeks. That has concerned not only us. It has been the subject of considerable anxiety in the Knesset. It is a matter of great gravity.
Has my right hon. Friend noticed how frequently the denial of the legitimate rights of the indigenous population, be it in Zimbabwe, South Africa or Palestine, seeks to equate nationalism with terrorism? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is obvious that there will never be a conclusive peace settlement in the Middle East, unless the Palestine Liberation Organisation is involved in direct negotiations? In the light of the European declaration, will my right hon. Friend use his best endeavours to bring together both parties, without preconditions, so that we can make positive progress towards the inevitable settlement that most British people would like to see?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that terrorism is not and cannot be a solution to the problem. We all condemn terrorism, from wherever it comes. Obviously, the problem can be solved only by negotiation and agreement. Before we get as far as my hon. Friend seeks, the reconnaissance proposed by the European Council is a worthwhile exercise. It is valuable to talk to all the parties so that we can clarify all the issues.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with his right hon. and noble Friend Lord Home that before the British Government and the EEC start any initiative with the PLO the PLO must renounce its avowed aim of the destruction of the State of Israel?
We have said many times that we have no intention of recognising the PLO. As the Prime Minister said the other day, there can be no negotiation even after reconnaissance unless the PLO recognises the right of Israel to exist. Of course, this must be a two-way process, as the hon. Gentleman will understand. Just as the Fatah declarations at its conference the other day were not such as to help to produce a negotiated settlement, so Israeli claims to alter the status of Jerusalem and to sovereignty over the West Bank are, similarly, not in accordance with a negotiated settlement. We need compromise on both sides.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is of the greatest importance that there should be contacts—if necessary at an unofficial level—between European Governments and moderate PLO leaders, not only to encourage the moderate elements of the PLO leadership who are silent but who believe that it is possible, and desirable, that in future Israel should exist within secure frontiers next to a predominantly Palestinian State?
Of course, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. If we refuse to speak to people on any level we are, obviously, unable to persuade them to the way of thinking that we believe to be right. To boycott the PLO—whatever we may think of it—when it plainly represents a large part, though not all, of the Palestinian people will defeat our objective of bringing it into the peace process. The PLO must be talked to and we must get it to agree to the fundamentals of the Venice statement.
May I press the Lord Privy Seal further on that point? Is it not a fact that the fundamental cause of the conflict is the injustice indicted upon the Palestinian people? Is it not therefore essential that they should be brought into discussion and negotiation? Is not the PLO the only possible body representative of Palestinian opinion?
It has long been clear to virtually everyone that there can be no comprehensive settlement in the Middle East without the involvement of the Palestinian people. That is fundamental. It also follows that the PLO must be brought in not as the sole representative of the Palestinian people but as the representative of a large number of them.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is a tragedy for all those who wish to see peace and recognition in the Middle East that a resolution of its problems should await a resolution of the American domestic situation? Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that the Venice declaration will not be a time-filler until the American presidential election is resolved and that every effort will be made, by this and every other European Government in the meantime, to press and fulfil the purpose and spirit of that accord?
As my hon. Friend indicates, the American election creates difficulties in relation to this issue. One of the objectives of the Venice declaration, and one of the most reasonable and legitimate of them, was to recognise that there would otherwise be something of a hiatus between now and the American presidential election and that it was important that momentum should be kept up. The leaders of the Nine made it clear that they in no way sought to cut across, or spoil, the Camp David process but that they were acting in conjunction with it. I am sure, therefore, that what they decided to do was extremely valuable.
The purpose and meaning of the statement issued by the Nine on the Middle East is far from clear, as I think the Lord Privy Seal will acknowledge. It has not become a great deal clearer from the right hon. Gentleman's replies this afternoon. However, we have noted that the Government have no present intention of recognising the PLO. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think—and here, I reiterate a point made by one of my hon. Friends—that to associate the PLO in any way with these negotiations must be made contingent upon a quite clear recognition and declaration by the PLO that it will accept the right of the State of Israel to exist and enjoy full security? That is essential.Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand that the credentials of Western Europe in relation to the Middle East are marred and spoiled? It is not that we are not conscious that there is a real problem and that real injustice is being inflicted on many people on the West Bank. But surely the right hon. Gentleman understands that European countries, with their massive dependence upon oil, are indeed suspect in the approaches that they have made?
Almost everything that the right hon. Gentleman says is untrue. The idea that, because Western Europe is dependent upon oil, it is unable to say something about the Middle East is utter rubbish. The implication that the Palestinian people have no rights in themselves and that they are given rights by us only because of the oil problem is also absolute rubbish. The idea that there is any lack of clarity in the Venice statement is also untrue—[Interruption.] It may well be that hon. Gentleman do not wish to solve the problem of the Middle East. Most people do. We have already said that we shall not recognise the PLO. But as the right hon. Gentleman must know, from his experience in foreign affairs, to refuse to talk to people because one does not always agree with them is not a sensible way of carrying matters forward.The Americans, certainly, committed themselves not to talk to the PLO and have probably been regretting that decision ever since. The PLO represents a large part of the Palestinian people. Dr. Nahum Goldmann has for many years suggested that Israel and the PLO should recognise each other. That is a suggestion from, probably, the most distinguished living Zionist. For the right hon. Gentleman to try to crab the European initiative—which he must know is extraordinarily important not only because of the severe tensions on the West Bank but because of severe tensions in the Middle East as a whole—is entirely wrong and is extremely unhelpful to the West and to this country.
Order. We shall come back to this but I hope that we shall have shorter questions and answers.
Hong Kong (Housing)
asked the Lord Privy Seal what has been the total completion of public and private housing in Hong Kong each year for the last five years; and what completions are anticipated each year for the next five years.
In the last five years the average annual total completion of public and private housing was 40,128 units. The estimated average annual total completion for the next five years is 64,498 units. I will circulate in the Official Report figures for each of the years in question.
Is not that a wonderful achievement when we recall that Hong Kong is short of land and building materials? Should not the House congratulate Hong Kong and take note of what it has done, bearing in mind that private enterprise gets on with the job and provides much-needed housing?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. In the housing context, as in others, the Hong Kong story is one of success.
Is the Minister aware that the proposals for the re-introduction of elections recently announced by the Hong Kong Government in some of those areas where new housing has been provided are welcome, even though they do not go as far as some of us would like? Will the Minister seek to ensure that the House has an opportunity to express an opinion on the Green Paper dealing with the new democratic structure in Hong Kong before discussions on it are concluded, before the end of August this year?
I think that we are getting away from the subject of housing in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, I take the opportunity of welcoming the hon. Gentleman's remarks. As regards an opportunity for a discussion in the House, I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in some matters we treat Hong Kong as a colony but that in others, such as overseas students, we treat its people as foreigners? Does he think that this is fair?
There is a difficulty in our relations with Hong Kong because of its relations with China. Again, we are getting away from the issue of housing in Hong Kong.
No Hong Kong building programme will be able to meet the growing problem of refugees entering Hong Kong from China and the Vietnamese boat people. Will the Minister tell the House how many Vietnamese boat people are still in Hong Kong? Has he had reports of new arrivals in boats in Hong Kong and neighbouring territories? Does he anticipate that there will be another wave of Vietnamese boat people entering Hong Kong in the next two weeks?
There has been a slight increase in the number of Vietnamese boat people coming to Hong Kong recently. We have no evidence to suggest that this is a deliberate change of policy on the part of the Vietnam Government. We think that it is connected more with the seasonal winds.It is true that the enormous influx of people into Hong Kong from both China and Vietnam has placed a tremendous burden on the Hong Kong authorities. It is very much to their credit that they have managed to keep up so well with the situation. The latest figures that we have for the number of Vietnamese boat people still in Hong Kong—[Interruption.] This is relevant to housing if hon. Gentlemen would just follow the point. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) is entitled to raise this matter. The latest figure that we have is about 40,000.
Following are the figures :
|In the last five years total completions in public and private housing were as follows :|
|The following estimated total completions are anticipated :|
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on Government policy towards Namibia.
The Government continue to work in conjunction with our partners in the group of five Western countries and with the United Nations Secretary-General for an early and peaceful transition to internationally-recognised independence for Namibia to be achieved through the plan for United Nations-supervised elections.
Are the Government considering, within the five Powers, making any recommendations for onward transmission to the United Nations concerning the United Nations monitoring of SWAPO bases in Angola and Zambia in the course of a peace settlement?
The South African Government gave their reply on 12 May to the proposals for a demilitarised zone. The ball is now in the court of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in consultation with all the parties, including the contact Western group of five. It is for them to respond to the South African request and to see thereafter whether future progress can be made.
Do not recent and current developments in South Africa shorten the time scale for getting a peaceful negotiated settlement in Namibia since the longer there is not a peaceful settlement, eventually the tougher the line that South Africa will take? Will not that undermine the efforts of the group of five to secure the negotiated settlement that we all wish to see?
Inevitably it is a matter of judgment for all of us to decide what effect internal developments will have on Namibia. Equally, we have to consider the effect upon the successful result of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe.I share the view that it is important that progress should be made. The South African Government have made a response with some constructive points in it. I think that it is now possible, as a result of the meeting of the neighbouring States in Lusaka which have expressed this view, that progress can be made based upon United Nations—supervised elections. We now await the Secretary-General's response and hope that progress can be made.
Are not the South African Government proceeding with trying to impose their own internal settlement on Namibia? Will the Government condem any such move and make it clear that there can be no peaceful settlement in Namibia so long as the South African Government are prepared to send military forces to attack refugee camps in Angola ?
Neither we nor the contact group recognise the National Assembly that has been established in Namibia. It is important to keep our sights on the fact that all the parties, iincluding South Africa, are commited to the concept of United Nations-supervised elections. As long as no obstacles are put in the way and we make progress on that issue, there is hope of a successful result.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's attitude on progress towards peace in the Middle East.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given earlier today by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Healey (Mr. Hooley).
This question has already been well ventilated, but, while accepting that advance towards peace in the Middle East has been helped considerably by the clear declaration of the Nine in Venice, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he agrees that much will now depend on the speed with which the follow-up operation takes place? Will he confirm that a dialogue will be initiated soon with all the relevant parties, including the PLO, which is obviously the only effective representative of the Palestinian people?
My hon. Friend is right. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated, we are considering the methods of the follow-up. I think that she also indicated that it would probably start fairly soon after the new presidency of the EEC begins in January.
Does the Minister agree that the decision on the status of Jerusalem will form an important part of any final settlement of the problem? Will he clarify for the House that part of the EEC communique which said that the EEC would not accept any unilateral change in the status of Jerusalem?
I think that the statement is fairly clear and is in line with the position which has been held by British Governments for some time.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the strong feelings of many people in this country that it is wrong for democratic Governments to engage in negotiations and talks with terrorist organisations and that the EEC Governments are mistaken in their decision to seek to invoke and involve the PLO, particularly when it has not renounced violence or agreed to accept the right of Israel to exist? As the West Bank was taken from Jordan in 1967, a predominant Palestinian State, is it not time that the West Bank was restored to Jordan?
We condemn violence, whether it comes from the PLO or anybody else. The fact is that the PLO represents large numbers of Palestinians. It is also a fact that we shall not have a very sensible agreement on Palestine if we try to set up an autonomous machinery which Palestinians will not work, or autonomous elections in which they will not vote. Therefore, in our view, the PLO has to be involved in any final negotiations.
I hope to do better with the Minister of State than I did with the Lord Privy Seal. It is one thing to have unofficial communications and contacts with bodies such as the PLO and others —we understand that—but the point at which we are getting is that the reference to bringing in the PLO is in an official communique signed by the Nine heads of Government and that the contact is to be made unconditionally without any prior move by the PLO to accept the fundamental need to recognise the existence of the State of Israel. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that is a foolish move to take? Does he not also think that it would have been helpful if the Nine had issued a clear statement to the effect that the full autonomy already agreed under the Camp David formula ought to have been carried out?
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman welcomes contacts with the PLO at the right level. I think that is a step forward.
I did not say that.
It is clear from the declaration of the Nine and from what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in the House that if there are to be proper negotiations, the PLO will have to accept the right of Israel to exist, just as the Israelis will have to take a step forward in accepting the political rights of the Palestinians.
Order. I shall call one more hon. Member from each side.
Does my hon. Friend accept that, while it might seem surprising to hon. Members on both sides of the House that the recognition of Palestinian rights should be equated with the need to create an independent State on the West Bank, it is nothing short of astonishing to many of his hon. Friends that the Government should seek in any way to promote the creation of a State which, if dominated by the PLO as seems likely, would be a threat not only to all its neighbours but, through its support for terrorism, to the free world wherever it is found?
There is no reference to a State in the communiqué, for reasons which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained at length in her statement. I hope that my hon. Friend will take into account the argument that the effect of totally neglecting the PLO, with the support that it enjoys on the West Bank, would make it certain that it would pursue a pro-Soviet line.
Does the Minister really expect the State of Israel, without whom no peacemaking process could succeed in the Middle East, to negotiate with a body that remains devoted to its destruction through methods of terrorism, and which reiterated that aim in a statement only last week?
I do not believe that even the hon. and learned Gentleman would suppose that a settlement could be reached except by negotiation. That negotiation must include Israel—without whom, as he said, no settlement could take place—and representatives of the Palestinians.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what further proposals he intends to place before his European Economic Community colleagues for the development of a Community foreign policy.
The United Kingdom has always made a positive and, I believe, effective contribution to political cooperation among the Nine. We shall continue to do so. The practice of seeking to act together in dealing with practical problems is of great value in strengthening European unity on foreign policy questions. I should, nevertheless, remind my hon. Friend that political co-operation consists of co-ordination among independent States, and stops short of being a common foreign policy.
Although considerable progress has been made in recent months in co-ordinating foreign policy in the Community, now that the budget problem has been resolved does my right hon. Friend think that the present is an appropriate moment for a major initiative in the development of foreign policy in the Community?
I agree that the present moment is propitious. My right hon. Friend and I have various technical ideas that we are discussing with our friends in the Nine.
Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that, if there is to be a unified approach by the EEC countries on foreign policy, they should extend their discussions to take in the European countries that are not in the Common Market? Should they not also consider that one of the most fundamental things at this stage is to try to reach agreement among them to remove nuclear weapons from Europe?
I am afraid that I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman on either count. We are talking about political co-operation within the EEC, not about political co-operation with countries that do not belong to the EEC. Nor, as he knows, is the matter of nuclear weapons one that comes within the competence of the EEC.
If it is part of EEC policy to recognise the PLO, how long will it be before it becomes part of EEC policy to insist that we recognise the IRA? If this is not so, what is the difference?
There are considerable differences. As my hon. Friend knows, it is not our policy to recognise the PLO. Therefore, the question does not arise.
There is not much cooperation over the New Hebrides, is there? What is the Government's reply to the French view that the Marines should not be deployed?
My hon. Friend the Minister has made a number of statements over the past few days. The hon. Gentleman knows the answer very well. We believed that after the French had sent in the gendarmerie it was entirely right that we should send the Marines to the New Hebrides. The matter has been exhaustively discussed over the past few days, and I do not have anything useful to add today.
United Kingdom Budget Contribution
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has had any further consultations with his Community counterpart since the ministerial statement on 2 June concerning the European Economic Community budget payments by the United Kingdom.
Now that the outstandingly successful agreement on the United Kingdom budget payments has been reached, and the Commission is beginning its work on the longer-term view of the budget, does not my right hon. Friend feel confident that, with the necessary amount of energy and co-operation between member States, all members will be able to move forward on the construction of a new budget in two or three years' time, which will involve the agricultural proportion reducing to perhaps 50 per cent., and more money being spent on other projects, including industrial reconstruction and revival?
My hon. Friend is basically right. The agreement reached in Brussels does, for the first time, give us a good opportunity to restructure the budget so that the over-emphasis on agricultural expenditure can be mitigated, and other areas of expenditure substituted. That is the most hopeful development to come out of our agreement.
Surely the point about reaching an agreement is that, whether successful or unsuccessful, it is only an interim agreement. What response are the Government making to the welcome call by Chancellor Schmidt for a wholesale overhaul of the CAP in the next two years?
The hon. Gentleman said that the agreement is an interim measure. I tried to explain to the House recently that, because of what was said about restructuring, it holds promise for a permanent agreement. Chancellor Schmidt's remarks were very much in line with what we have been saying over the years. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, when making a statement recently, said that because other countries are having to share the burden of the CAP it tends to alter people's attitude.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that on 2 June the Government undertook to accept the fundemental principles of the CAP? If they did that, how is it consistent with a review of the EEC budget?
From my hon. Friend's remarks, I have a feeling that he is not as intimately aware of the principles of the CAP as he perhaps once was. If it will not weary the House, I shall read out the principles. The principles of the CAP, as laid down in the Treaty of Rome are first :
I do not think that my hon. Friend would object to that. Secondly :"to increase agricultural productivity by promoting technical progress and by ensuring the rational development of agricultural production and the optimum utilisation of the factors of production, in particular labour."
I do not think that my hon. Friend would object to that. Thirdly :"thus to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, in particular by increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture;"
Fourthly," to stabilise markets."
Fifthly——" to assure the availability of supplies."
It is not waffle. Those are the principles. I know that the hon. Gentleman does not like hearing the truth for a change. If he spoke less from a sedentary position the proceedings of the House would go better. Fifthly,
I think that my hon. Friend would agree that the principles of the CAP—I am not talking about how they were worked out—are entirely in accordance with what he would accept." to ensure that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices."
We are grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for reminding us of the principles, as well as the practices, of the CAP. Ignoring, as I hope he will, the rather orchestrated sycophancy of his Euro-fanatical friends, will he confirm that, under the remarkable arrangement, we are to pay some £400 million this year and £500 million next year? Will he also confirm that both the French and the Germans have made a claim that their arrangements and agreement to pay back money to Britain is contingent upon agreement on the agricultural price review next year and upon agreement on the common fisheries policy?
Neither of the conditions described by the right hon. Gentleman is true. He spoke of an orchestrated sycophancy on the Conservative Benches, and that is not an apt phrase. If he would, for once, throw off his own peevish insularity and take time off to read the European newspapers he would see that his view of our settlement is quite different from theirs.
asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps he will be taking to ensure greater European co-operation in foreign policy now that budget difficulties have been overcome.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Knox).
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the rest of Europe the reaction is that Britain has secured an extremely good deal on the budgetary question, and that the kind of strong leadership that my hon. Friend shows bodes well for the future? Can we now build on that with some clear and practical propositions for a much closer European foreign policy to make the Community what it should be—much more than a mere trading arrangement?
I am sure that my hon. Friend's comments are generally very much in accordance with the wishes of the House. We are deeply interested in the progress of political co-operation. My hon. Friend referred to the satisfactory nature of our settlement. Since this seems still to be disputed by the Labour Party for what to me are obscure reasons perhaps I should give the figures. In 1980 we shall pay £370 million. In 1981 the figure will be £440 million——
Yes, net. Under the Labour Government in 1978 we paid £840 million, and in 1979 we paid £959 million.
Does the Lord Privy Seal accept that there is nothing to be ashamed of in trying to secure oil supplies? What attitude have he and his European colleagues taken towards the OPEC summit at Algiers, and in particular to the price relationship laid down there and the supply position for the forseeable future?
There has been no consultation. Obviously, it is in the interests of this country and of the whole Community that oil supplies should be kept down——
The right hon. Gentleman means prices down and supplies up.
Yes, I accept that. However, we have no control over OPEC.
Does it not make sense for the Community countries to coordinate and concert their action against a regime that has imprisoned 50 Americans? Does it not make even greater sense to try to co-ordinate and to concert action against the bestial regime which is at the moment murdering thousands of Afghans every week?
There has been a great deal of consultation about Afghanistan. A declaration was issued last weekend at the Venice summit. It is extremely important that the Western response to Russian aggression in Afghanistan should be co-ordinated.
Does the Lord Privy Seal consider that existing political cooperation between Britain and France in the New Hebrides is an adequate example of the way in which we should be able to communicate within the Community in future?
The hon. Lady may not have been listening, but her hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has already asked that question.
Effectiveness And Influence (Proposals)
asked the Lord Privy Seal what further initiatives he intends proposing to his European colleagues designed to strengthen the effectiveness and influence of the European Economic Community; and if he will make a statement.
We debated the report of the Committee of Three on European Community institutions on 10 June. On that occasion I outlined the Government's reaction to the proposals in that report designed to strengthen the effectiveness and influence of the Community.
In spite of the contents of the Venice declaration, is my hon. Friend aware that considerable disappointment at the outcome was expressed by the indigenous Palestinian people living on the occupied West Bank? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that it is most important to restore a sense of urgency to this matter and to prepare an updated version of resolution 242 by the European Governments to give effect to the aims and aspirations of the indigenous Palestinian people?
I am aware that there was disappointment on the West Bank about the Venince declaration, just as there was some disappointment in Jordan. The Prime Minister of that country welcomed the declaration as a step in the right direction, but wished that it had gone further. However, the Americans have expressed themselves very clearly about an amendemnt to resolution 242. It is very important that we should work in conjunction with them. There would be nothing to be gained by putting forward a resolution which was then vetoed by the Americans.
On the effectiveness of the EEC over its statement about Afghanistan, has Lord Carrington made any representations to his old bank, Morgan Grenfell, and to his son, who is a director of that bank, in order to ensure that the trading that is going on through Morgan Grenfell with Russia involving two chemical firms is stopped?
I do not think that that entirely characteristic question is worth answering.
In his efforts to increase the effectiveness of the EEC, will my right hon. Friend try to persuade his European colleagues who take an interest in foreign affairs to join the Government in their ban on the sale of arms to the military junta in E1 Salvador, particularly since reports are now reaching us that about 200 people are being murdered each week in that country, where there is no judicial process?
I take note of my hon. Friend's suggestion.
Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the last thing many hon. Members want is a military role for the EEC?
The hon. Gentleman ought to be aware that defence is excluded from the Treaty of Rome.
How can we best advance the effectiveness and influence of the EEC if the interests and outlook of two of the major partners—the United Kingdom and France—are so different and so divergent? France has shown that its interests clearly differ from ours. What can we do genuinely to advance the interests of Europe in this respect?
I disagree with my hon. Friend. I do not think that the interests of Britain and France are so far apart. They are far closer than is often realised, perhaps by both Britain and France. They may diverge in certain places about which a lot of people had not heard very much until recently, but we ought not to exaggerate those differences.
asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the likely timetable for enlargement of the European Economic Community.
Greece will join the Community on 1 January 1981. The Portuguese and Spanish Governments wish to join in 1983, and we fully support them in that aim.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is an overwhelming political case for the enlargement of the EEC by the admission of Spain and Portugal at the earliest opportunity? Does he agree that if major national problems are caused for new or existing members these should not be used as reasons for delay in granting membership or for preventing it, but should be overcome by national solutions? If that approach is adopted that will be a welcome trend in the development of the Community.
I entirely accept that. There are overwhelming political reasons for the accession of Spain and Portugal as soon as possible. Our aim is certainly that they should join in 1983. If there are any difficulties I agree that they should be sorted out as soon as possible.
Cannot the Government put an end to this EEC nonsense by declaring UDI for Britain?
With respect, I do not think that this is a sensible moment to ask such a question—when we have recently concluded a satisfactory agreement with the EEC.
Will not my right hon. Friend hasten slowly on this difficult matters? Does he not agree that the Community has taken some time to digest us, and vice versa? Will not the advent of three new, largely agricultural countries, be liable to cause further indigestion in the Community?
I am not sure that my hon. Friend has got his digestive processes right. Greece joins in January this year——
The right hon. Gentleman said January 1981.
Greece joins in January this year——
Next year. We are trying to help.
If Greece has not joined already, it follows that it will join next January. Spain and Portugal will join two years later. There is, therefore, a considerable interval. As my hon. Friend knows, this has been under consideration for some time, and I am confident that the accession of Greece, Spain and Portugal can be brought about without the troubles that he fears.
Has the Lord Privy Seal seen the recent statement of President Giscard, questioning the timetable for enlarging the Community? Has the Foreign Office made clear to the President of France that we reject his proposals that the advent of Spain and Portugal be delayed?
We have certainly made it clear that we believe that any problems over our budget solution should have nothing to do with the date of Spain and Portugal's accession to the Community. We have made it clear to Spain and Portugal that we strongly support their entry on the original date.
European Community (Budget)
The following question stood upon the Order Paper :
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much of the rebate on the United Kingdom's contribution for 1980 will be paid in cash, and when; and how the remainder will be repaid, and when.
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to answer question No. 32.All the payments due under the arrangements described to the House by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal on 2 June will be made in cash. The precise timing of the payments remains to be decided, but we expect the bulk of the money due in respect of a particular calendar year to be paid in the corresponding United Kingdom financial year.
Does the Minister's reply mean that no part of the rebate will be tied to projects under the regional fund or other funds to which the principles of additionally will have to apply? Does he agree that as the repayments will form part of the 1981–82 budget the French Government are right to claim—as they have repeatedly done—that the fact that they will form part of next year's budget and not this year's gives them the right of veto over the repayments and makes the repayments subject to a full agreement on the farm price settlement in the spring of next year?
I think that the hon. Gentleman is slightly mistaken. It is true that part of the refund will be paid by means of Community assistance for agreed domestic expenditure under a new article 235 regulation, but that is intended to help to finance programmes rather than specific projects. As to the second part of the hon. Member's question, there is no such thing as a Community 1981–82 budget. The Community's financial year is the calendar year. The money will come in the 1981 budget, but it is understood that it will be paid in the first quarter of 1981. Therefore, it will come within the current financial year.
Has not my hon. Friend's answer given the lie to the widespread attempts by the Labour Party to suggest that the deal was not as good as it seemed to be? Every other country in Europe thinks that Britain has achieved a major change to its advantage. Why cannot the Labour Party cheer when we have done well?
My hon. Friend is right. If the Labour Party had achieved a settlement half as good, we would never had heard the end of their crowing.
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the Prime Minister's promise to cut interest rates because of the cut in the PSBR was based on a gross misunderstanding about the reduction in the PSBR during this fiscal year? The hon. Gentleman has just told us that we shall receive only the bulk of the money in this fiscal year, and he has admitted that a good deal of it will not go towards reducing the PSBR but will go towards the financing of programmes that may not be included in the Government's present policy. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us specifically by how much he expects the PSBR to be reduced in this fiscal year as a result of the agreement reached by the Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister has made it perfectly clear that this money will be applied to reduce the PSBR. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware from his own experience as Chancellor—a sorry experience, admittedly—that it is not customary to publish interim figures for the PSBR after the Budget Statement. I forget the second question that the right hon. Gentleman asked.
Let me remind the hon. Gentleman. First, the effect of the various financial transactions that were not envisaged at the time of the Budget have always been announced. I announced them repeatedly when I was Chancellor. Will the hon. Gentleman answer the question that I put to him? By how much does he expect this year's public sector borrowing requirement to be reduced as a result of the agreement in Brussels?
I now remember the other question that the right hon. Gentleman put. He asked about interest rates.
I did not.
The point that the Prime Minister made was that the money would be applied to reduce the PSBR and that, by keeping the PSBR down, a downward pressure would be exerted on interest rates. The right hon. Gentleman made that point when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The hon. Gentleman really is dodging and weaving. I asked him a specific question, to which he must know the answer. Why is he frightened to tell the House that the reduction in the PSBR this year will be far less, as a result of the Brussels agreement, than the increase of £700 million since the Budget that was estimated in last year's PSBR?
The right hon. Gentleman is always good at making assertions for which he has no back-up. It is impossible to say at this stage by how much the PSBR will be reduced.
I shall call one more speaker from either side on this question.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, bearing in mind that the previous Government did nothing to renegotiate our excessive financial payments and spent 10 times as much as our net budget contribution on the useless, wasteful nationalisation of steel and other industries, the Opposition have no right to ask impudent questions about the PSBR just a few weeks after the agreement in Brussels?
Although I am not always wholly in agreement with my hon. Friend, I agree with him on this occasion.
The Financial Secretary said two things that appear to be incompatible. He mentioned that this sum would be paid in cash, but later he referred to programmes. Will he now tell the House whether all this money will be available for the reduction of the PSBR or whether it will be put into programmes of expenditure in this country? If so, what will be the conditions, and under whose auspices will those programmes of expenditure be conducted?
Inasmuch as the cash is used to finance, programmes—and it will be cash, rather than money debited through the financial mechanism, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is the other part of the solution—they will be our programmes, not Community programmes in the sense that the regional fund is a Community programme.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My question No. 33 is precisely on all fours, in its history, with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). Will my question also be answered?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My question is identical, and it was dealt with identically by the Lord Privy Seal. Therefore, may I ask the same question about my question?
I can understand that both hon. Members thought that I would have read their questions and called them for supplementary questions. I promise to bear that in mind next time. I am very sorry about today.
Allied Bases (Questions To Ministers)
I have a brief ruling to make. Yesterday I promised to look into various points in connection with movements in allied bases. I emphasise that only questions about movements—that is, operational movements—are affected by the refusal to accept questions. Other more general questions about allied bases have been consistently accepted by the Table Office. That is how the question of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)—question No. 32—came to be on the Order Paper yesterday.The hon. Gentleman asked me about the transfer of one of his questions to' another Minister. As he knows, that is not a matter for me. I hope that I have helped the House by making clear that the Table Office leans over backwards, if there is doubt, to try to help the hon. Member concerned. That is why the pro- hibition is limited to questions about operational movements.
Is it for the Table Office to decide what elements of a question constitute an operational movement and what do not? It is a very thin line.
It is a thin line. If any hon. Member is not satisfied with the ruling given by the Table Office, he can appeal to me and I shall consider it and exercise my judgment.
Will you confirm, Mr. Speaker, that whatever the ruling of the Table Office may be, if the question of security arises it is for the Minister to answer or not answer, as he pleases?
I am wondering, Mr. Speaker, whether your reply deals with the point of order that I raised yesterday. I raised the point of order following a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor). We understand that the Table Office rules out questions that have been asked previously. It has time to do so. It has research facilities to enable it to ascertain whether the question was asked on a previous date. It would be impossible for you, Mr. Speaker, in a fraction of a second, to remember whether a question had been asked previously. It would be unfair to expect that of you, Mr. Speaker. It therefore seems that you should not block a supplementary question because it may or may not have been asked previously.
I should have explained that I apply the same rules to supplementary questions as to main questions put on the Order Paper. If a question is not in order to go on the Order Paper, it is obviously not in order to raise it as a supplementary question. I was not trying to say that the question was out of order because it had been asked earlier; it was out of order because it dealt with base movements. I am not making a new rule.
European Community (Agriculture And Fisheries Ministers' Meetings)
Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to make a statement on the meetings of the Fisheries Council and the Agriculture Council that took place in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuseday of this week.I start by offering my apologies to the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) for the fact that he received a copy of my statement only 15 minutes ago instead of the customary period. I regret that that happened, and I shall endeavour to ensure that it does not happen again. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Minister of State and I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Fisheries Council on 16 June. The Council had a friendly and constructive meeting and the main item on the agenda was to have a general discussion on the principles that would govern the allocation of catch quotas between member States on the basis of a background document prepared by the Commission. The United Kingdom made clear its view as to the importance of taking into account all the considerable losses in fishing opportunities for the United Kingdom fleet that had taken place in the seas of third countries. We stressed the importance of the special needs of local comunities and the importance of recognising the proportion of the fish in the waters of member States that is found within United Kingdom fishery limits. We resisted a proposal that herring fishing be allowed in certain areas in 1980 contrary to the clear scientific advice. We agreed to an extension until 31 July of the interim decision on internal fishing arrangements, which requires member States to control fishing activities by their national fleets having regard to the total allowable catches set by the Council. The Council agreed to the ratification of the framework agreements establishing fishery arrangements with a number of third countries. This will have no effect on current or future fishing arrangements. We refused to agree to the signature of an agreement with Finland which envisaged the possibility that Finland could obtain a catch of herring in the North Sea. There was an important discussion on the possibility of a long-term fisheries agreement with Canada, and I pointed out that there could be serious implications for the United Kingdom market if unsuitable tariff concessions on fish products were to be granted to Canada at a time when our own market was already suffering from a surfeit of imports. The United Kingdom views were shared by three other delegations and the Commission undertook to have regard to these concerns in the talks that they are going to have with the Canadian Government. The next meeting was fixed for 21 July when, following a series of bilateral meetings by the Commission with a number of member States, including ourselves, more detailed proposals will be put forward to the Council. At its meeting yesterday, the Agriculture Council concluded its discussion of the text of the sheepmeat regulations, and at the United Kingdom's suggestion agreed that the structure of prices should be included in the one regulation. This will enable the new regime to be implemented as soon as possible, after negotiations with New Zealand and other countries have been finalised. During discussions on structures, we argued for the early adoption of three integrated development programmes, which include one covering the Western Isles of Scotland. The Council also had before it new proposals for Northern Ireland, one dealing with agriculture in the less favoured areas of the Province and the other with the processing and marketing of eggs and poultrymeat. At my request, the Commission agreed to amend the second proposal to include pigs. The Council agreed that a high priority should be given to reaching agreement upon these various programmes with the object of the Council approving them at its meeting in July. The Council discussed the Commission's report on the effect of competition in the glasshouse sector of differences in energy costs. I emphasised the problems faced by our own glasshouse sector and urged the need for speedy action to secure fair terms of competition between producers in different member States. We were supported by a number of member States in our view that urgent action was necessary to eliminate the adverse effects of the gas price advantage that Dutch growers were enjoying. At the end of the discussion the Commission agreed that urgent action was necessary and I hope that it will be making proposals prior to the July meeting of the Council. The Commission indicated that it intended very shortly to make its proposals for the future access of New Zealand butter after 1980 and stressed the judgment of the Commission as to the political, economic and social importance of providing New Zealand with realistic quotas for 1981 onwards. It was agreed that a special committee consisting of top officials should be set up to consider the Commission's proposals so that substantive discussion could take place at the July Council. I have asked Sir Brian Hayes, my permanent secretary, to represent me on this committee. The next meeting of the Council was fixed for 22 July.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his apology for the late delivery of the statement.Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was a unanimous resolution of the House on 20 March when he agreed that in the recent agriculture price fixing he would reduce the production of surpluses and the cost of the common agricultural policy, stand fast for a price freeze on milk and sugar and withhold any settlement that did not include a plan to achieve a steady reduction in surpluses? He failed on every count. As we know now, he was ditched by his right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister in what is now seen to be a rigged budget deal. The right hon. Gentleman is now on test on a common fisheries policy. Once again all quarters of the House and all sections of the fishing industry have called for a 12-mile exclusive belt, a dominant preference for Britain's fishermen in a 12- to 50-mile zone and a total allowable catch that fully covers our historic and traditional fishing rights. Will the right hon. Gentleman stand by that and assure the House that there has been no deal on fish as there was on agricultural prices? Will he tell the House the truth on the timing of a solution on a fisheries policy? What is the truth on the granting of concessions from our basic stand to the French and the Germans by July the next Fisheries Council, in view of the statements that have been made by President Giscard d'Estaing and Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, especially after the Fisheries Council meeting took place? If a fisheries deal is not finalised by January 1981, is the whole budget deal off? I hope that the Minister will come clean on all these doubts. New Zealand is the loser in the right hon. Gentleman's sheepmeat deal with the French. He has fixed them in an embarrassing straitjacket. Will he be prepared to stand by New Zealand if it refuses to curb its lamb exports to Britain? Will he be prepared to veto the cutback of its butter exports from 115,000 tonnes now to the proposed 90,000 tonnes, a threat which it appears is now being used to force New Zealand into line on lamb?
I shall take up the last point first. When the Labour Party was in Government it renegotiated the Common Market treaty and allowed a situation where the dairy products of New Zealand would be nil by December 1980. I am therefore shocked that the right hon. Gentleman should now speak up for New Zealand. When I came into office, New Zealand had no quota of dairy products from December 1980 onwards. The record of the previous Labour Government is therefore disgraceful.Turning to the right hon. Gentleman's opening gambit, I should point out that he failed to make his case on the CAP settlement. That is understandable given the previous Labour Government's record on CAP settlements. However, the Labour Party is alone in Europe in believing that the deal that was struck for Britain was not exceedingly good. Germany and France are much more interested in reducing the surplus problem of Europe because they now have to foot more of the bill. We had our greatest success when we introduced the financial interests of the other major countries into the surplus problems of Europe. I confirm that the Government's position on fishing rights remains the same. When the agreement was reached in Brussels, no concession was made as regards our negotiating position on fishing. I also confirm that at the Council meeting that took place the day before yesterday no member State raised the question of the budget. In addition, I confirm that during bilateral talks with the French and Germans they did not raise the relationship of the budget to the fishing agreement. The right hon. Gentleman speculated that that was so, and suggested that statements had been made by Herr Schmidt and by Giscard d'Estaing after the Fisheries Council on Monday. I know of no such statements. It is clear that Britain is in a position freely to negotiate, veto, or approve any fishing deal. I am also anxious about the date. At the last Council meeting I supported a number of measures to speed up negotiations. I recognise that it is in the interests of the British fishing industry to reach a satisfactory agreement as quickly as possible. I am glad that no member State appeared to be attempting to delay or drag out the procedures in any way. I hope that speedy and quick progress will be made. However, there is no link with the budget agreement and the Brussels statement makes clear that no such link is involved. I believe that the negotiations on sheepmeat and dairy products will result in a satisfactory agreement with New Zealand. The Govenment have constantly stood by New Zealand, and we have refused to agree to a sheepmeat regime that would not be subect to a satisfactory agreement with New Zealand. Earlier this year I spoke to the New Zealand Government about the prospect of dairy products coming into the Community. However, I had no negotiating strength, because on 31 December all allocations and quotas for New Zealand dairy products ran out. Any member country could have vetoed that. Judging by the Commission's statement earlier this week, and the position of the New Zealand Government, I think that we shall agree a deal on sheepmeat and dairy products that will satisfy the New Zealand Government.
Order. I wish to appeal to the House, and hope that the House will co-operate. At least 20 hon. Members have a direct interest in the Ferranti issue, which is to be debated later. It will be an abbreviated debate. I should be deeply grateful if questions were both to the point and quick.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the hard-won quota agreed between the Danes and Great Britain on the number of immature salmon taken out of the North-West Atlantic fishery off Greenland is now invalidated? Will he assure the House that the quotas that apply to salmon in the North-West Atlantic will apply to all EEC nations, including the Danes? If such an assurance is not given, Mr. Speaker, that green bag behind your Chair will become redundant and we shall never put another good spring fish in it again.
That subject did not come up at the Council meeting. However, we are discussing it with the Danish Government and others.
Is the Minister aware that we, welcome his categorical assurance that a fishing agreement will not be linked to the budget? I congratulate him on stressing the need of local communities. Did he make any progress on the dumping of fish into Britain, which gravely affects our industry? Is he satisfied about the future negotiations, which will depend on giving Britain great preference in its own waters?
Prior to the meeting the Commission announced, as a result of its statements on safeguard prices, improvements relating to imports into Britain. I hope that it will shortly announce the arrangements for imports from third countries. That will help to improve the situation.As for the Canadian agreement, we made clear that a further inflow of imports would have an adverse effect. In terms of overall quotas, member States could put forward their individual requirements at the meeting. There will now be a series of bilateral talks between the Commission and individual countries, including the United Kingdom. At those talks we shall spell out our requirements in great detail.
It is reported that other members of the EEC wish to settle the issue on the basis of a 12-mile United Kingdom limit and nothing else. Will the Minister assure us that he will not make any such settlement?
Although I congratulate the Minister on the energetic way in which he is dealing with the subject, particularly as he has had to make up a great deal of leeway resulting from the previous Administration, will he bear in mind that he may have to take unilateral action? The time factor is all-important for British fishing fleets. During discussions with Fisheries Ministers, I hope that Spain's entry into the Community will not be forgotten. It has vast fishing fleets that will considerably affect the South-West of England.
As regards unilateral action, my hon. Friend will know that we met the fishing industry in March and agreed on several national aids to the industry. I am having a further meeting with the industry on 3 July so that the industry and I can assess its current financial and economic problems. On that basis, and in conjunction with the progress made on the common fisheries policy, the Government will consider what needs to be done.My hon. Friend is correct about the difficulty of negotiating. When we came to office, eight member countries had agreed a fishing policy in the absence of Britain. That gave us a difficult base from which to start negotiations. However, we have now created a climate in which sensible negotiation is possible. My hon. Friend's point about Spain is important, and is in the minds of a number of member States, including our own.
Whatever the Minister may think, is it true, as reported almost everywhere, that the French and German Governments regard the budget settlement as dependent on agreement on fisheries and on sheepmeat?
Obviously I am unable to speak for representatives of the French and German Governments. On Monday I had a meeting with the Fisheries Council that lasted for many hours. The French and Germans participated in that meeting. I had bilateral talks with both Ministers prior to the meeting. I have arranged bilateral talks with both countries before the next Council meeting. No mention was made of any link between the two, either at the Council meeting or during the bilateral talks. Whatever any politician in Europe may think, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the British Government believe that the budget settlement was made in its own right and that it was perfectly justified, just as the settlement of agricultural price fixing was made in its own right. There is no embargo on our freedom to negotiate the fishing agreement.
When and in what form will the proposals relating to Northern Ireland be published?
I shall make the proposals of the Commission available to the hon. Member in their present form. On the second set of proposals, we have added the pig industry, which is very important to Northern Ireland. I would think that we could reach agreement on these proposals at the July meeting. The proposals were first published at the meeting yesterday, and with the improvement of the inclusion of the pig industry they will, in total, bring substantial benefits to the farming industry in Northern Ireland.
If it is the case that by the end of this year there would have been a nil quota for New Zealand dairy products, is this not a damning indictment not just of the Last Labour Government but of all previous Governments who were engaged in negotiations on this issue? In pursuing the matter energetically with a determination to put it right, which I know he will, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that he is thereby securing a good bargain for the British people as well as justice for the New Zealand people?
It has always been the Government's view that the position of New Zealand and its access to the European market is an advantage to the British housewife. We are used to consuming New Zealand products, and this issue is also very important in political and economic terms. Europe as a whole has a substantial favourable balance of trade and balance of payments with New Zealand. Therefore, we believe that it is vital that sensible and realistic arrangements should be made for the future.
Will the Minister accept that attack is not always the best form of defence? Will he give a pledge that he will not allow any large imports of Canadian cod into the United Kingdom? Secondly, in making any agreement on quotas, will he bear in mind the fact that he should not make these in any way excessive, but should always consider the losses sustained by Hull and Humberside as a whole, particularly in the waters of Iceland and Norway?
On the question of Canadian cod, there is a swap of opportunities of long-distance fishing in Canadian waters, for a tariff reduction for Canadian fish in the European market. In present practical terms, this means that most of their fish will come into the United Kingdom and most of the longdistance fishing will go to other countries. On that basis the swap is a great disadvantage to the United Kingdom. I cannot say what the future balance of opportunity between long-distance fishing and imports of fish will be to the United Kingdom. However, I can assure the hon. Member that I will make my judgment in close consultation with the industry on what both the industry and myself believe to be to the net advantage to the United Kingdom.
But what about the losses sustained by Hull fishermen in Icelandic and Norwegian waters?
We have made it clear that the loss of fishing to places such as Hull since 1970 is a very important factor in the calculation of quotas.
Now that the Commission is at last to take action against the Dutch for operating subsidised prices to their glasshouse producers, does my right hon. Friend intend to seek a short time scale within which such action would operate?
On this occasion for the first time we were supported by the Germans, the Belgians and the Danes. I urged that it was no use making decisions at the end of the growing season, by which time most of our growers would have suffered. I wanted decisions by July. The Commissioner said that he recognised that it was important to make decisions now, and therefore I very much hope that at the July meeting we shall have positive proposals of the Commission.
Is it not obvious from recent statements that serious attempts are being made to undermine the Government's position and weaken their resolve not to link fishing with the budget? In order to counteract such pressure, will the Minister make it clear that unless such threats are stopped immediately the Government will cease to pay their contributions to the budget?
No such threats have been made to the British Government. No such threats were made to me at the Fisheries Council, and no such threats were made at the bilateral meetings with either of the countries concerned. No such threat has been made. If such a threat were made, I would totally reject it.
Will the Minister tell the the House a little more about the British Government's position on fishing limits? In particular, what is their standpoint on preferential rights?
This varies from one locality to another and from one fishing community to another. Our position remains as clearly stated by the Prime Minister before the election, and repeated by myself and the Secretary of State for Scotland since.
Order. Hon. Members have been very helpful with brief questions, so I will be able to call every hon. Member who has been rising in his place since the beginning of supplementary questions.
Can the Minister say whether his fellow Council Ministers have yet grasped the deep indignation felt by British fishermen about the way in which conservation measures are frequently and fragrantly flouted, particularly when the result of that is dumping in our own markets?
In fairness, I must say that in recent months there have been substantial prosecutions against German ships, with very heavy fines. The rate of prosecution by the French authorities against French ships has also increased considerably. I believe that the standards that we have set are beginning to be followed by other Community countries.
Is there any possibility of our budget contribution not being repayable if the common fisheries policy is not agreed by the end of the year? In the light of that deadline, is it not time to let the Prime Minister back out of the cage into which the Foreign Secretary has so unceremoniously bundled her on European issues, because without her backing there is very little chance of getting the 12-mile exclusive zone, the 50-mile preferential zone and the 200-mile conservation area, which is essential to the industry?
The hon. Member's statements are a travesty of what was agreed in Brussels. There was an attempt by other European countries to put in conditions about the fishing agreement. That attempt was totally rejected by the Foreign Secretary and never came into the text. The text that was agreed in Brussels left the British Government with total freedom to negotiate the fishing agreement—to agree to it, not to agree to it or to veto it. We can do whatever we like with it, and that position remains.
Is the Minister aware of the deep concern felt by the New Zealand Government about the new sheepmeat regime? Will he give an absolute assurance that he will support the New Zealand Government in their efforts to secure the continued shipment of quantities of lamb to the United Kingdom that will at least reflect the supplies sent in the past five to seven years? Will he also give an assurance that he will support the New Zealanders in their efforts to obtain a reduction of the 20 per cent. tariff that they are paying?
The short answer is "Yes" to both questions. The New Zealand Government are well aware how closely we have worked with them throughout the negotiations. We are continuing to do so. We have offered help and assistance to the New Zealand Government in this area, and as far as I know there is no attempt by other European countries to diminish the volume of New Zealand lamb coming into this country. I hope that as a result of the agreement the New Zealanders will succeed in getting a reduction in their tariff.
Could my right hon. Friend use his influence with the Commission before the next meeting of the Council of Ministers to urge them to calculate the exact benefit to countries, such as France, of selling produce at above world market prices within the EEC, and the lack of benefit to countries such as the United Kingdom, which must buy at European prices rather than world market prices? Then the people of the countries that have been party to the deal that was recently struck by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would know exactly what that deal was.
My hon. Friend knows that this position varies rather sharply and quickly. For example, last year France received considerable net benefit from selling sugar at a price well above the world market price. However, currently France has to sell sugar at a price way below the world market price. Therefore, the position can vary considerably. My Department makes assessments from time to time about the advantages and disadvantages.
Is the Secretary of State aware of the deepening concern of fishermen in small ports such as Girvan, Ballantrae, Dunure, Maidens and, indeed, Ayr, the constituency of the Secretary of State for Scotland? Will the right hon. Gentleman say a little more about what he hopes to achieve with regard to preferential rights to keep outside fishermen away from the areas close to these small ports?
The Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of State in my Department and I are well aware of the problems of Scottish fishing ports. Many fishermen from Scottish ports accompanied us to Brussels, and we are working close with them. We are demanding a preferential area that will secure inshore fishing for the United Kingdom.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that unless new rules are agreed by 1982 European fishermen will be able to fish right up to our shores? Does that not demonstrate that the Minister has no power of veto?
We would argue that in the absence of a policy we have a right to continue after 1982 the derogation that we have so far received.
Why did not the Government put forward specific proposals with regard to Canadian imports at the meeting in order to strike the balance that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned more fairly, so that British industry did not continue to suffer? Did the right hon. Gentleman or the Secretary of State for Scotland raise, in the context of Canadian imports, the damage being done to local fisheries around the Scottish Highlands by lobster imports?
We mentioned that, apart from cod, there were problems with regard to lobsters and possibly herring fillets, which could also be part of the agreement. It is difficult for one country to put forward a specific proposal when discussing fishing rights and quotas for the Community as a whole. However, we put forward proposals for a balance between the two interests.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that previously I raised the topic of a link between fishing and the budget precisely because I had read the text to which he refers, which was capable of more than one interpretation? Will he admit that suspicions have been raised because his categorical assurance that there was no link was subsequently publicly contradicted by spokesmen for the French and German Governments? Since we are to hear the Commission's quota proposals at the next Council meeting, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that for those quotas to be acceptable to the United Kingdom not only will they have to reflect the fact that about two-thirds of the EEC's fish are in British waters but the terms will have to be much better than those rejected by the Labour Government in 1978?
As the hon. Gentleman knows better than most, the difficulty is that eight countries, in the absence of Britain, reached an agreement on fishing. It has therefore been difficult to shift the Community from that agreement. On reflection, the hon. Gentleman may feel that it was a pity to allow those countries to meet by themselves and reach that agreement. We want an improvement on the previous proposals and an agreement that gives long-term stability to the British fishing industry. That is the objective of our talks.With regard to the link with the budget, it is absurd to suggest that any single country could demand a quota for specific fish on the basis that if it were not given it would destroy not only the budget but the common agricultural price fixing arrangement and the sheepmeat regime arrangement. That is not in the text, it is not the interpretation of the British Government, and it is not an interpretation that has been raised with the British Government by any other member Government.
Northern Ireland (Television And Radio Broadcasts)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
Yesterday evening the nation was again subjected to the sick and twisted journalism of Miss Mary Holland in a programme that purported to document life in the Creggan area of Londonderry. No attempt was made to present a political and/or economic analysis of the situation in that area. Instead, there was a period of 45 minutes in which unrelenting hatred was encouraged and marshalled. It was all directed at members of the British Army in Northern Ireland. This purveyor of hate reaches a new depth of gutter journalism, which will result in serious attacks on Her Majesty's forces in the near future. It is therefore vital that we should immediately discuss the existence of such programmes and how best to obviate their results. It is the duty of the Government to ensure that hate propaganda coming from such disturbed minds should not be allowed to add to the growing cesspool of lies and distortion about Ulster. The Government should immediately determine effectively to apply anti-hatred legislation to protect identifiable groups such as the British Army. If there is no adequate legislation, we should immediately attend to that. I therefore ask for a debate this afternoon."the necessity of securing a more effective application of incitement-to-hatred legisation, when such incitement results from television or radio broadcasts".
The hon. Gentleman gave me notice before noon today that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,
As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the order but to give no reasons for my decision. I listened with care to the hon. Gentleman's representations, but I have to rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order, and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House. I do not expect to be in the Chamber at the conclusion of the Ten-Minute Bill, so I appeal to hon. Members to be strict with themselves over the length of their speeches in the Ferranti debate, which has to finish at 7 o'clock. Every hon. Gentleman who has written to me appears to have a claim to be called."the necessity of securing a more effective application of incitement-to-hatred legislation, when such incitement results from television or radio broadcasts".
Higher Education (Collective Bargaining)
I beg to move,
The Bill has a simple objective—to improve collective bargaining for university manual workers and end the appalling wages paid to some of those 31,000 workers. The wage rates of some manual workers in universities and colleges of higher education are a national disgrace. At a number of Oxford university colleges manual workers receive only £26·80, before deductions, for a 40-hour week. That cannot be allowed to continue. Beneath the dreaming spires of Oxford there is poverty and distress, brought about by the attitude of some employers. It is time that we took action. The Bill contains two main clauses. The first states that all universities and colleges in the higher education sector should have a statutory requirement laid on them to abide by the terms and conditions agreed by the Central Council for University Non-Teaching Staffs, particularly the sub-committee dealing with manual workers. Under the Bill they would not be forced to become members of the UCNS, but would have to abide by its provisions. The second major clause provides that exception shall be made so that universities and colleges of higher education that are paying above the national rate of pay shall not be obliged to reduce those rates of pay to the rates made by UCNS. Indeed, there is provision already in the UCNS agreement for the protection of existing rates of pay that are higher than those negotiated nationally. The Bill in no way undermines or affects the position of teaching staff in universities, who have their own national agreement and their own collective bargaining arrangements. Most universities in this country are either members of the UCNS system or pay rates of pay to their manual workers which are above the rates paid by the consortium members. Examples of universities that pay above the rates are Newcastle, Nottingham and Leicester. The UCNS rate is £54·75 a week. That is after the Clegg Commission findings were implemented by the universities and colleges. That is for group A, the lowest grade of manual workers. This is where we come to the nub of the problem. If we compare the 136·8p an hour paid under the UCNS rate with some of the rates of pay in Oxford and Cambridge colleges, for example, we find the most gross and unfair disparity. For example, at New College, Oxford, which educated the Secretary of State for the Environment, a kitchen porter working for 30 hours gets £36·60 gross, and £29·95 net. The kitchen porter has just had six hours of his wage entitlement cut, because the college is no longer paying him for meal breaks. At Balliol college, Oxford, which educated the Lord Privy Seal, scouts who work for 24 hours get, in gross terms, £28·92 a week, and part-time workers are paid even less as an hourly rate. At Somerville college, Oxford, which educated our dearly beloved Prime Minister, the hourly rate payable to manual workers is 120p. At St. Hugh's college, Oxford, another women's college, the hourly rate is 117p. At St. Anne's college, Oxford, the current hourly rate is only 102p. This was the subject of a ruling by the Central Arbitration Committee in January 1980. An application was made through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service to the CAC by my own union, the National Union of Public Employees, under schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act 1975. It was a case that could not be resolved through the conciliation services of ACAS. The defence that was put up by St. Anne's college of the wage rates that were being paid by it at that time was, first, that no account ought to be taken by the CAC—or indeed, anybody else—of wage rates paid outside Oxford university. Its second line of defence was quite extraordinary. It argued that its wage rate of 102p an hour was substantially higher than the wage rate paid by many of the 31 colleges in Oxford university. St. Anne's college produced evidence to the CAC—which is reported in the findings on page 5 of the CAC report—that catering staff in the 31 Oxford colleges had wage rates ranging from 67p an hour to 115p an hour; that wage rates for domestics ranged from 68·5p an hour to 137p an hour; and that these rates were effective from May 1979. These figures, for a 40-hour week, produce a gross weekly wage of £26·80, which is absolutely absurd. That is why the Bill has been introduced. We simply canot allow these kinds of poverty wage rates to continue in operation. It must be remembered that these are not simply figures that I have produced, or that a trade union has produced; these figures were quoted to the Central Arbitration Committee by the employers in defence of their own position. That is the most astonishing admission of all. The CAC findings stated :That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish the statutory requirement for all higher educational institutions to be parties to the decisions of the Central Council for University Non-Teaching Staffs and its functional committees, and for connected purposes.
I had intended to refer to the financial position of some of the Oxford colleges that I have mentioned. Unfortunately, after inquiries were made by the House of Commons Library to the Oxford colleges concerned some weeks ago, the Oxford colleges were so remiss that they did not post the information to the House of Commons Library until Monday of this week, and then they sent it by second-class post. For that reason I am unable to quote the financial position of those colleges. But I am concerned not only with Oxford. There are great problems at Cambridge. Colleges at Cambridge that pay below the UCNS nationally agreed rates are Magdalene, where the Secretary of State for Defence was educated; Jesus college, where the Chief Secretary to the Treasury was educated; and Trinity college, which boasts three members of the Cabinet as former students—the Secretary of State for Trade, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales. All those colleges pay below the UCNS national rates. No doubt there are other colleges and institutions throughout the country at which such scandalous rates of pay are being paid by reactionary employers. The Bill is necessary for several reasons. The first is that the Government have seen fit to abolish schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act. By so doing they have made it impossible for any employees of universities such as those I have quoted to take action against their employers under schedule 11 to the Employment Protection Act and to try to obtain improvements in wages through that mechanism. As we have already seen, one group of employees at an Oxford college tried to do that, and the employees were fobbed off by the CAC. That is one major reason why the legislation is clearly necessary. The second major reason why the legislation is necessary is related to the two-faced attitude of the colleges themselves. Colleges deny the possibility of paying nationally agreed rates of pay to manual workers, but they agree to pay nationally agree rates of pay to clerical staff in universities, to university lecturers and to technicians. Many employees at Oxford and Cambridge universities are in such a state about their own employers and the way in which they are treating them that they are unwilling to come forward and speak out publicly on these questions. The last and perhaps most important reason why the Bill is absolutely necessary relates to a mistake that was made by the Clegg Commission. In a letter dated 24 April 1980 to the national officer of NUPE, Mr. Rodney Bickerstaffe, Professor Clegg stated :"We find that the rates paid by St. Anne's to its ancilliary staff do not fall outside the range of rates observed by other employers in similar circumstances."
That is the case for the Bill. There is a strong case for abolishing the poverty wage rates that are being paid by reactionary employers, and it is about time the House did something about it, because the CAC cannot do anything about it and the Government have abolished schedule 11. We must take action in this House to defend the interests of these very poorly paid people." At the time that we were dealing with the reference concerning university manual workers, the Commission was under the impression that the manual employees of Oxford and Cambridge were included in the reference … had the Commission been aware that the college employees were not covered, we would have expressed the hope that the colleges would apply the rates recommended for university employees."
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Reg Race, Mr. Arthur Bottomley, Mr. Roland Moyle, Dr. David Clark, Mr. Peter Hardy, Mr Tom Pendry, Mr. Ted Leadbitter, Mr. Ronald W. Brown, Mr. Robert Litherland, Mr. Bob Cryer, Mr. Jack Straw and Mr. Andrew F. Bennett.
Higher Education (Collective Bargaining)
Mr. Reg Race accordingly presented a Bill to establish the statutory requirement for all higher educational institutions to be parties to the decisions of the Central Council for University Non-Teaching Staffs and its functional committees, and for connected purposes : 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 224.]
Orders Of The Day
[19th ALLOTTED DAY]— considered
I beg to move,
In the current edition of Ferranti News, Mr. Alun-Jones, the managing director, has this to say :That this House, recognising the signal achievements of the work force, technicians and management of Ferranti Limited since it was rescued from insolvency by the action of the Labour Government and the National enterprise Board, believes that any sale of the Board's holding in the company which threatens the well being of the company and the security and future employment prospects of its 17,000 employees would be contrary to the national interest.
So everybody knows that it is the Government's instruction. Apparently everyone does not know that that is so, because in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) on 10 June 1980, the Prime Minister said :" You will all have been aware of the Government's instruction to the NEB to disinvest from Ferranti Limited."
Of course, the truth of the matter is that the NEB is about as free as a dog on a chain. It is the Government that dictate the sale of Ferranti shares, not the NEB. If evidence of that were required, one has only to turn to paragraph 9 of the draft guidelines for the NEB dated 11 December 1979, which runs as follows :" The NEB and the previous Labour Government assisted Ferranti during a very difficult period. Ferranti no longer needs that assistance. The NEB wishes to sell the shares and to obtain the best possible price. It must be free to do that."—[Official Report, 10 June 1980; Vol. 986, c. 300.]
Futhermore, it is the Secretary of State who, under paragraph 11 of the draft guidelines, decides who the NEB may dispose to and whether it can dispose at all. The Government themselves admit this; in their amendment to the motion, they talk of "the Government's intention" that the shareholding should be sold. Perhaps someone should tell the Prime Minister. The Labour Government brought the NEB into existence because they realised that the failure of manufacturing industry in our country was primarily due to its need to modernise and to re-equip and to the lack of investment that had taken place. The present Government, on the other hand, believe in the lottery of the market place. They say so quite distinctly. The Secretary of State has many times said this. He says it again in the draft guidelines to which I have referred. He says in paragraph 2:" The Board shall exercise their powers with a view to disposing to private ownership as soon as practicable all of their securities and other property."
There is no question there of the national interest; it is purely "normal commercial principles." There could hardly be a more classic case than that of Ferranti to test these two philosophies : are we in favour of public investment or are we in favour of market forces? Here, after all, is a company with a long history of advanced technological achievement, starting nearly 100 years ago—in my own constituency of Deptford. It is a company with a large and continuing series of Government contracts, and a company with perhaps the most skilled work force in the whole country, and the likelihood of expansion in its major areas of the Northwest and of Scotland, and indeed, of many other areas throughout the country. Therefore, here is a test. What actually happened? When Ferranti got into difficulties in 1974—with all the advantages that I have expressed—this was a splendid opportunity for the private entrepreneur of whom the Secretary of State is so proud. What happened? First, the City and financial institutions were approached. They listened, and looked the other way. Then that great private entrepreneur, the National Westminster Bank, heard bravely of Ferranti's troubles, and promptly called in the overdraft. It reminds me of Samuel Johnson's letter to the Earl of Chesterfield in 1775:" The Board's relationship with their subsidiaries and other companies and persons will be conducted on normal commercial principles."
That is the early history of Ferranti, and it is the history of Ferranti today." Is not a patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water and when he has reached ground encumbers him with help?"