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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 13: debated on Monday 16 November 1981

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Trade

Trade Mark Office

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has received concerning the siting of the European Economic Commission trade mark office in Greater Manchester.

The Manchester chamber of commerce and industry, supported by the Manchester city council and other local interests, has written to urge that Manchester should be offered as the site for the proposed Community trade mark office. I have also had the opportunity of meeting representatives of the Manchester chamber at which all aspects of this question were discussed. While I understand the concern to aid a regional centre, it must be remembered that there are strong counter-proposals from the Continent. If we are to succeed in our efforts to bring this office to the United Kingdom, we must offer our strongest contender. In my view, this remains London.

Is the Minister seriously suggesting that Manchester, with its historic links with this subject and its magnificant communications network, cannot compete with The Hague and Strasbourg in this matter? Is he aware that in Greater Manchester two sites are on offer—in the city of Manchester and in Stockport? Is he further aware that, once again, the North-West feels that the Government are not really serious about regional policy?

I come from a regional centre, and I have repeatedly given my support to regional projects. In this case, however, the interest of the United Kingdom as a whole must prevail. I am convinced that the offer of a London site is essential to the success of our bid.

Will the Minister explain why Britain has signally failed in putting forward regional centres for EEC institutions?

With respect, that is not entirely correct. The bid for the Patent Office was rather late, but it was inevitable that it would be decided against us. That makes it the more important that we should succeed in attracting the trade mark office. London is the centre for trade mark work in the United Kingdom, and one of the world's foremost industrial property centres.

Since the United Kingdom has nothing like its fair share of EEC offices, is not our claim so strong that we could both demand to have the office here and meet the claims of regional policy?

I understand my hon. Friend's point, but if he considers the strength of the bids being made by Brussels, The Hague and Strasbourg, I think that he will understand that it is essential that we put forward the strongest claim that we possibly can on behalf of the United Kingdom.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the totally unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I wish to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

British Airways (Iberian Flights)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has had from British Airways as to their departures for the Iberian peninsula from Gatwick airport.

British Airways have expressed a wish to operate some of these services from Heathrow and will be making detailed proposals which I shall then consider.

Is it correct that the two principal competitors of British Airways in respect of flights to the Iberian peninsula have refused to move their operations to Gatwick? Is it right that British Airways, in consequence, are losing substantial sums of money? Is it wise to leave that situation unchanged?

The two other airlines have been extremely reluctant to move to Gatwick. I am very keen that British Airways should return to profitability as soon as possible. The recently announced recovery plan is a good start, but I also have to consider the longer term implications for airports policy. As my hon. Friend knows, Heathrow is already operating very close to capacity.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the announcement concerning terminal 2 at Gatwick, reported on the tapes this morning, is overdue in the sense that the decision has only been postponed? Does he agree that there is need for urgent resolution of the problem whether terminal 2 at Gatwick should be built? Can he offer some encouragement in the matter?

We sent out at the end of last week letters that should have been received today informing certain parties to the previous inquiry of new air traffic forecasts. We shall await replies to those letters and then take those replies into consideration before coming to any final decision. That will be done with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Multi-Fibre Arrangement

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the multi-fibre arrangement negotiations.

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the present state of negotiations for the renewal of the multi-fibre arrangement.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a statement on the present stage of renegotiations of the multi-fibre arrangement.

The textile committee of the GATT will meet in Geneva on 18 November to begin the final phase of the renegotiation of the multi-fibre arrangement. The position to be taken by the European Community in these negotiations is due to be finalised by the Council of Ministers tomorrow in Brussels.

Will the Minister confirm that, among a myriad of aspects, outward processing counting against quotas and a social clause remain features that the United Kingdom will put forward in negotiations? Will he assure the House that when the mandate is finally agreed he will make a statement so that hon. Members can be kept abreast of developments? As the Minister knows, the textile industry views the negotiations with a great deal of concern. Will he assure the House that he intends to ensure that proper enforcement facilities are provided for the agreement when it is reached by the EEC? That was not a feature of the last arrangement.

The question of a statement is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and the usual channels. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will take notice of what the hon. Gentleman says. If that does not happen, I shall ensure that he is made aware of what the hon. Gentleman says. We are well aware of the deep concern of hon. Members representing textile constituencies on both sides of the House.

The question of outward processing is very much in everyone's mind in the course of the negotiations. I have stressed on more than one occasion in ministerial Councils that any protocol negotiated in Geneva, particularly, for example, in relation to Mediterranean preferential suppliers, should be comprehensive, practical and readily enforceable. I take the hon. Gentleman's point.

Is the Minister aware that there is great concern in the House and the country that when he goes to Geneva tomorrow he should take a firm stand alongside France and Italy in seeking a tough MFA and that he should not seek to compromise as Germany does? Will he say that the Government are wholly committed to base levels that are based on existing trading levels, and not on 1982 quotas?

The Commission will negotiate on behalf of the members at Geneva. I shall not be present there, although it will be part of my duties to go to Brussels tomorrow. We are well aware of the concern. The hon. Gentleman has expressed his concern personally to me as a member of a delegation of what I might call textile Members.

The preferred position of Her Majesty's Government is that we should start at least from 1980 actual imports. I must, however, warn the House that this is a matter of negotiation. There are differences of view not only inside the European Community but also, clearly, outside. The Commission has endeavoured to produce some kind of proposals that will be developed in some detail tomorrow. I hope that we shall be able to reconcile the slightly divergent positions of the various members of the European Community.

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman be more precise? Are the British Government pressing that the EEC negotiating mandate shall include the requirement that the level of low-cost imports will be related to the level of demand in order to avoid any further disruption at a time of prolonged international slump? Will he also indicate whether the British Government are pressing that the negotiating mandate ensures that the global ceilings from countries covered by the MFA bilateral agreements shall be adjustable to take account of, first, low-cost imports from countries not covered by the agreements, notably the Mediterranean and ACP countries, and, secondly, outward processing?

I and those representing Her Majesty's Government at various levels in the negotiations at Brussels and Luxembourg have, I think, established clearly with the other members of the European Community that we attach importance to some kind of recession mechanism. I believe that this point has been taken on board. Global ceilings are crucial for those negotiating at Geneva. The question of ceilings for the Mediterranean or preferential suppliers is a separate matter. These will be taken carefully into account in the negotiated ceilings for countries that are parties to the MFA.

Will my hon. and learned Friend impress on the Germans and other like-minded States in the Community tomorrow that we have the largest textile industry in Europe, that our industry is the second largest employer in the country, and that ours is the industry under the greatest pressure in Europe? It is therefore imperative that we take a firm stand and do not give an inch in the renegotiation of the MFA.

The points made so perceptively by my hon. Friend are the points that I ventured to make to other members of the ministerial Council. I have stressed that our textile industry has had to shed about 150,000 jobs over the past 18 months. I think that the point has been clearly established in the minds of my ministerial colleagues in the Council.

Will the Minister take on board the fact that this is a vital interest for British industry? Will he make sure that in the discussions tomorrow the British interest is advanced forcefully, even to the extent of causing serious difficulty within the Community? Will he seek thereafter to make an early statement? His right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food comes frequently to the House to tell hon. Members about negotiations in that sphere. This negotiation is so important that I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman not to give the usual answer about business being the responsibility of the Leader of the House, but to undertake to make an early statement so that we know where we stand.

I cannot add to or embellish anything that I have stated earlier in the exchanges about a statement. The right hon. Gentleman is well aware of the procedures of the House. He is aware that the negotiations in Brussels to establish a common European Community position are technically part of the Foreign Affairs Council. It is questionable whether it would be for me to make a statement. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will take careful note of what the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have said.

As to whether the United Kingdom's position is expressed forcefully, the right hon. Gentleman should perhaps address my colleagues in the ministerial Council. I shall bear in mind his encouragement. I am well aware of the importance of the textile industry in the North, the North-West and the North-East. It will be no advantage to the textile industry if no credible negotiating position is achieved for the European Community before negotiations open in Geneva on 18 November.

Will my hon. and learned Friend bear in mind especially the threat to the British textile industry when Portugal and Spain become members of the EEC? Their transition from being non-EEC countries to EEC countries must reduce greatly the scope for the global total of imports of textiles from outside the EEC.

I took careful note of that point, which my hon. Friend made lucidly and persuasively in the Select Committee, of which he is a member. I assure him and the House that, naturally, these matters will be taken into account when the interim arrangements are negotiated with Portugal and Spain as part of their accession to the European Community.

To the extent that it is necessary to impress these matters upon the other member States in the negotiations tomorrow, will the Minister remind them that, in our country, the textile and clothing industry still employs 600,000 workers and, as he said, has already shed hundreds of thousands of workers in the last few years? He carries with him the full support of right hon. and hon. Members for a tough negotiating stance, without being protectionist, to preserve industries which are essential to our livelihood. At the end of the day, without jobs, we cannot buy any country's exports.

Like the previous Government, this Administration have never underestimated the importance of the textile industry both socially and economically.

Motor Cars (European Community Imports)

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what is the present level of imports into the United Kingdom of cars manufactured in other member States of the European Economic Community.

Detailed import figures for 1981 are not yet available. However, vehicle registrations in the period from January to October 1981 included 479,000 passenger cars assembled in other countries of the European Community.

Is not the cost of manufacture of cars by United Kingdom manufacturers substantially greater than that of competitive models assembled or made in other countries of the Community? Does that not mean that the United Kingdom car market is a highly profitable one for importers? Would not the manufacturing side of the United Kingdom motor industry do well to ponder that if it is serious in its attempt to increase its penetration of the United Kingdom car market?

Does that answer and the previous one suggest any conclusion to my right hon. Friend about the dynamic—or cold douche—effect of joining the Common Market of which we were assured by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath)?

What serious consideration has been given to the local content in cars being brought into the country? Other countries seem able to impose certain percentage levels, whereas we do not seem even to have considered the possibility seriously.

The hon. Gentleman is really asking whether the trade in motor vehicles in the European Community should be subject to national restraints on account of the degree of local content. That simply is not feasible under the requirements of the European treaties.

Tourism

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he has evidence of any change in the current year in the way Great Britain is seen by North America as a tourist destination.

In the first eight months of this year there was a small but welcome increase in the number of visitors to Britain from North America, compared with the same period in 1980. In my view, that is an indication that we are no longer regarded in North America as a high-priced tourist destination. I am also pleased to say that the American Society of Travel Writers has voted Britain the most friendly country in the world for American tourists and their favourite European vacation country. This view is supported and augmented by the market research carried out for the British Tourist Authority in the United States.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging reply. Will she consider whether she can increasingly publicise the fact on both sides of the Atlantic so as to encourage more tourists and to encourage our tourist industry, which is the salvation of many of our unemployment problems?

My hon. Friend is right. This cannot be publicised too often. Britain is almost certainly the best buy for American tourists and, for that matter, for tourists from much of the rest of the world. With a strong dollar and with very competitive pricing, the outlook for the travel trade next year is very optimistic. The United States is a huge market, as I learnt on a recent visit, and one with a great deal of potential which is yet to be exploited fully. We should all do what we can to ensure that that market is realised to the fullest extent.

Does the Minister agree that Scotland is an important element in attracting visitors from North America, and especially from Canada? That being so, is it not a retrograde step that British Airways have seen fit to withdraw their flights from both Toronto and New York? Will the right hon. Lady and her colleagues try to reverse that despicable decision?

I agree entirely with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question or statement. Of course Scotland has a very important role in attracting tourists here. As for the air services to which the hon. Gentleman referred, I understand that Sir Freddie Laker has applied for the route. It is hoped that no vacuum will be created.

As one of the most expensive items for tourists is hotel costs, will my right hon. Friend say where we stand in the world league table? Are our hotel charges still the most expensive in Western Europe?

I assure my hon. Friend that that is a complete myth. It is not true now, if it ever was, that London hotels, for example, are expensive compared with those of our main competitors. A Financial Times survey about 18 months ago showed us near the top of the league. We are now 25th in the league table. Moreover, some 30,000 hotel rooms are available in London alone for between £8 and £25 a night, including breakfast. By any yardstick, that is a very good buy.

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the over-valued pound had a fairly dramatic effect on our tourist trade and that, happily, the trend is being reversed?

To what extent are high internal fares a disincentive to people coming here from abroad?

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said about an over-valued pound. There is a stronger dollar today. That is how I prefer to view the matter. That is very helpful to the tourist industry.

The tourist industry has had a difficult year, for a variety of reasons. But the optimism for the future is a tribute to the industry for responding to increased competitive pressures at a time of rising costs.

The hon. Gentleman referred to high travel charges. There are some highly advantageous packages on both British Rail and British Airways available to tourists purchasing their tickets abroad from the BTA and other sources. Travel is by no means a problem. The competitive coach services introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) when he was Minister of Transport have helped keep fares for tourists even lower.

What view does my right hon. Friend take of recent moves by the English Tourist Board, the Wales Tourist Board and the Scottish Tourist Board to become more actively involved in the promotion of their respective countries overseas? Is it not about time that we looked again at the Development of Tourism Act 1969 in the light of any changes that there may have been in the last 12 or 13 years?

I welcome any initiative and any action abroad on the part of any tourist board to promote tourism here. Our main tourist bodies do a very good job in this respect. I was able to see them in action recently in the United States.

My hon. Friend asked me about the Development of Tourism Act. I am afraid that I require notice of his question.

European Community (Exports)

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proportion of United Kingdom exports is now made to other members of the European Economic Community.

In 1980, 43 per cent. of the United Kingdom's exports went to other members of the European Community.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a very significant figure and that it proves that, if we were so misled or misguided as to withdraw from the EEC, it would be a devastating blow to our exporters and to the jobs of those who work in exporting industries?

I agree that this figure demonstrates the great advantages in having a free trade arrangement with neighbouring economies. If this were replaced by a system of mutual tariffs, it would be quite destructive.

What proportion of our exports to the rest of the EEC in this period consisted of oil?

We had a positive oil and oil products balance with the EEC in 1980 of £2,700 million.

Will my right hon. Friend reinforce what he has already said to my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), because our membership of the Common Market and the growth of our exports to that market is absolutely central to the maintenance of jobs in the United Kingdom? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government must spell this out ever more clearly to the public?

I think that the development of trade with the EEC must be spelt out realistically and forcefully.

Is it not a fact that the comparable figure before entry into the Common Market was only about 12 to 13 per cent. less than that? As this increase in trade has come over the last 10 years, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that readjustments, not necessarily in other directions, could also take place over a similar period?

That might be so. I think that any dispassionate and, therefore, helpful analysis of this trade would conclude that both our exports and imports percentages have risen substantially, thus demonstrating the strong attractions that this country has for the Continental members of the European Community, and vice versa.

Japanese Exports (Voluntary Restraint)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade which Japanese exports to the United Kingdom currently are subject to voluntary restraint.

Motor vehicles, television sets, music centres, pottery, stainless steel tableware and a wide range of steel products.

Despite that long list, is my right hon. Friend aware that the balance of trade deficit with Japan stands at an all-time record? Does that not show the futility of voluntary agreements? Therefore, has not the time come for us to move forward to some form of unilateral quota system until there is a fairer balance of trade with Japan?

I think that we should recognise that voluntary arrangements have failed to secure their objectives. We should also recognise clearly that this is not an area in which we can undertake unilateral action. Whilst I appreciate my hon. Friend's anxiety on this point, I would not disparage what has been secured by voluntary arrangements.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the profound concern in parts of the small engineering industry, making component parts for cars and subcontracting to the large manufacturers, about the importation of such parts from Japan? Will he take action to safeguard firms such as Glacier Metals in my constituency?

Most certainly. If the hon. Gentleman can furnish the Department of Trade with any evidence that he thinks constitutes evidence of dumping, it will be referred to the European Commission for action.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the sort of replies that he has been giving have been trotted out for years and years by successive Secretaries of State for Trade without any discernible change of attitude on the part of Japan? Is not the only way to stop the Japanese exporting from fortress Japan to take positive actions against them?

Coming from a Social Democrat, those remarks immediately invite one to wonder whether the Social Democrats are in favour of Britain taking unilateral action in trade negotiations against the Japanese irrespective of our commitments under the Treaty of Rome. When the hon. Gentleman can answer that question, I shall be more disposed to listen to his question.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the voluntary industry-to-industry arrangements have given our motor industry a much needed breathing space, although there is now increasing concern about possible misunderstandings in respect of light commercial vehicles?

My hon. Friend neatly anticipates a question in his own name later on the Order Paper. He is correct in saying that the voluntary arrangement has been observed much more effectively in respect of motor cars than of light commercial vehicles. The Government are deeply concerned about this matter.

In respect of light commercial vehicles and some other products, will the Secretary of State take account of the Japanese negotiating technique of keeping talking and talking to postpone almost for ever the day of action, and that it seems that they respond only in the face of tough talking or proposed tough action by either the British Government or the European Community?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. I hope that they will convey to the outside world, particularly to the Japanese, that this matter binds both sides of the House.

European Community

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will give the value of United Kingdom total exports to and imports from European Community countries during the last 12 months for which figures are available.

In 1980 the United Kingdom's visible exports to the Community were valued at £20·4 billion compared with imports of £19·7 billion.

I welcome that surplus, which is, presumably, greater if invisible trade is taken into account. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that trade with EEC countries has increased more than fivefold in the past eight years? In view of the supplementary questions by my hon. Friends the Members for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) and for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle), have the Government made any estimate of how many jobs have been provided when exports have totalled £20,000 million?

My hon. Friend is correct in saying that there has been a rapid expansion in trade between Continental Community countries and ourselves. If that trade were to be interrupted by some system of mutual tariffs, I believe that it would to everyone's disadvantage. That is the refutation of the Bristol South-East economics, which are gradully being fastened on the Opposition Bench.

Does the Secretary of State agree that if Britain withdraws from the Common Market we shall obviously have to negotiate an association agreement? Whilst the pattern of trade with Europe has changed, is it not true that we could regain Commonwealth and other trading arrangements provided that this country were determined and prepared to go out and get them? Is it not clear that the Europeans will have to trade with us whether or not we are in the Common Market?

If we can narrow this controversy from the enticing widths of fantasy to the narrow paths of reality, it would be feasible for this country to negotiate with its European Community partners trading arrangements which observe free trade agreements which are mutally advantageous. But since we are told by the most eloquent advocates of the Labour Party—the new Cambridge school—that the whole purpose of the new economic policy is to erect trade barriers, we are entitled to argue that that is disadvantageous to Europe as a whole, and particularly to the United Kingdom.

Will my right hon. Friend be kind enough to comment on the recent remarks of the Leader of the Liberal Party—that in some of our manufacturing industries, particularly our less competitive industries, our balance of trade has shown such a large deficit with Community countries that we ought to think in terms of some form of restraint in trade between ourselves and the Community?

It is never kind to ask me to comment on the remarks of the Leader of the Liberal Party. However, if he wants the moral smugness of belonging to the Community whilst disavowing every discipline that that involves, all that I can say is that that is the historic standard of Liberal behaviour.

Is the Secretary of State aware—I hope that he is—that the references to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party in the question that he has just been asked were a travesty of what my right hon. Friend said?

I note what the hon. Gentleman said. Doubtless we shall have many opportunities to finesse what Liberalism and Social Democracy stand for before we move from the era of the politics of protest to the essential moment of the politics of decision.

Consultancy (Foreign Earnings)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the total, for the last 12 months for which figures are available, of British consultancy earnings abroad.

The latest generally available estimates for the overseas earnings of British consultants relate to 1980. The earnings of some of these groups are separately identified in the "United Kingdom Balance of Payments", 1980 edition. From the figures given in that publication, an estimated total of £891 million was earned by British consultants in 1980, of which consulting engineers earned £425 million, consulting services within the nationalised industries £335 million, architects and quantity surveyers £71 million, and management consultants and others £60 million.

Does my hon. Friend agree that these figures of nearly £900 million in 1980, and probably nearly £1 billion for the last 12 months, represent a tremendous achievement for Britain abroad, and that tribute should be paid to those British consultants, engineers and architects in the private and public sectors who do so much to maintain our reputation abroad?

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that all his ministerial colleagues are aware of the need to involve British consultants whenever possible in all project and promotional work abroad?

I gladly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the considerable efforts made by British consultants and to the important contribution they make in their own right. I offer them my congratulations. Their efforts can pave the way for further British exports. I am sure that the consultants are conscious of the importance of this work. I assure my hon. Friend that we shall do everything possible to support and encourage consultants. If he has any further specific views on the question, I shall be glad to hear them.

To what extent are these figures due to the fact that, in the past, overseas students have been able to study here at a relatively low cost? To what extent will this trade be affected by the suicidal level of fees now being charged to overseas students?

I think the hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the presence of students from abroad has helped the continuing relationship. But it is easy to exaggerate the effect of the reduction in the number of students which, as he knows, has been brought about by our economic circumstances. We are conscious of all the implications.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the vital need to involve our embassies and consulates in seeking opportunities and backing for British consultants? Will he continue to ensure that those who are doing a good job are given every encouragement, and that those who are not always as keen as some of their better colleagues are pressed to improve?

My hon. Friend has made an important practical point. British posts abroad are conscious of their responsibilities in this area. The reports that we receive show that they are responding well and positively to these needs.

Marine Oil Pollution

13.

Wainwright asked the Secretary of State for Trade what action he intends to take on recommendations of the eighth report of the Royal Commission on environmental pollution with regard to pollution of the sea by oil from ships.

As a first step, the Government are consulting interested parties on the report. My Department, in collaboration with the other interested Departments, will give careful consideration to the Royal Commission's recommendations, taking into account the further comments and views which may be received. The Government's response to the report will be published in due course.

I thank the Under-Secretary for that reply. What is his Department doing in relation to the EEC on these matters? I refer in particular to the recommendation, which the Royal Commission endorsed, that the EEC should be asked to consider that insurance should be refused to vessels which will not comply with international standards on oil pollution.

We noted the proposal in the Royal Commission's report. We shall be giving it careful consideration, although so far our partners in the European Community have shown very little interest in it

Is my hon. Friend aware that on 27 November there will be a demonstration in Gardenstown, in my constituency, of a new technique, similar to that of the purse seiners, for containing oil pollution? Will he attend that demonstration?

I know how hard my hon. Friend fights on behalf of his constituents. I am glad that he has drawn the matter to my attention. If he will give me further details, I shall consider his invitation sympathetically.

Is the Minister aware of the disquiet felt by the regular passage of oil tankers through the Minches, which is an area of navigational hazard and stormy weather at times? An accident there could cause severe damage to the fish stocks, if not their total destruction.

I am aware of the problem, which was brought to my attention by my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Mackay). I am not aware of any serious oil spillage in the waters to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. We wish to keep closely in touch with all local groups to make certain that everything is being done that should be done.

Does not untreated or partially treated sewage from the shore pollute the sea just as effectively as oil spilt from ships?

My hon. Friend will know that one of the reassuring aspects of the Royal Commission's report was that oil pollution caused only minimal damage to marine ecology.

Film Industry (Legislation)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the working of existing legislation affecting the film industry.

In general, yes, although there is the possibility of some duplication of effort between the two advisory bodies of film matters namely, the Cinematograph Films Council and the Interim Action Committee.

Is the Minister aware that the Films Act 1980 and the reduction in the quota have greatly lowered morale in the film industry? Does she agree that we have some of the best film makers in the world, and that their work, among other things, means hard cash in exports? Will she, as a matter of urgency, convene a meeting of all concerned in the film industry, including the unions, so that she may hear of the difficulties that the legislation is causing?

I agree wholehearedly that we have some of the best film makers in the world at every level and in every sphere. I frequently meet them to discuss the various problems of the industry and am always impressed by their constructive approach.

There is no point in setting a quota at a totally unrealistic level in terms of the number of British films available and the number of people going to cinemas. That leads only to widespread and legal evasion.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I was advised at one stage to abolish the quota altogether. I decided that that was going too far. I have instead set the quota at what I believe to be a realistic level which the vast majority of cinemas in this country can meet. I intend to keep the matter under review and to take any further action which may appear to be necessary and valid.

Does my hon. Friend consider the existing system of collecting the film levy to be equitable?

I do not believe that the present method of collecting the levy is equitable; or as equitable as it might be. In recent years, as my hon. Friend will be aware, a multitude of multi-screen cinemas have opened. As a result, the main burden of paying the levy has fallen on those least able to pay. I shall shortly be considering a new formula for collecting the levy on a much more equitable basis. The formula, which will adopt a more even-handed approach, will bring all classes of cinemas into liability for the levy. It should, therefore, be far more equitable.

Airport Capacity (South-East)

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when, in the light of the latest air traffic forecasts, he expects extra airport capacity in the South-East to be required.

This will depend on a number of factors, including the decision on the proposal for a second terminal at Gatwick, which is currently under consideration. The provision of extra capacity in the longer term is being examined at the Stansted inquiry. The inspector will have before him all relevant evidence, including the latest air traffic forecasts produced by the air traffic forecasting working party and other bodies. It would not be appropriate for me to prejudge the issues by commenting at this stage.

Will my hon. Friend defend the integrity of the air traffic forecasting working party? If not, what proper research will he institute in its place?

I certainly defend the report's integrity. Indeed, the report is being considered. This very day we have drawn the attention of interested parties at Gatwick to it. There is no need for further research.

Will the Minister ensure that the diversion of traffic from the airlines to British Rail that might occur when the Channel tunnel is built is taken into account?

As the British Airports Authority tells us that there is an increase in demand, will my hon. Friend assure the House that the BAA does not try to draw operators away from places such as Luton by offering cheap facilities and hangars at Stansted?

Even assuming that all relevant consents were given, the earliest possible date at which Stansted could come into operation would be towards the end of this decade, but not before 1988. Therefore, we must wait a little longer before answering such questions.

Overseas Development

Angola (Aid)

40.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what are the main components of United Kingdom aid to Angola.

We are providing a small team of English language teachers to assist the National Language Institute in Luanda.

In response to an appeal from the Angolan Government we have met the cost of chartering an aircraft to carry relief supplies made available by Her Majesty's Government and the disaster emergency committee for people displaced or suffering as a result of drought in the southern provinces of Angola.

Small items of equipment are provided to Angola under the heads of mission gifts scheme.

Is the Minister aware that the trouble in the southern region of Angola has been caused, not by drought, but by massive and sustained attacks by the South African armed forces using weapons and equipment supplied by Britain? Therefore, is it not at least morally necessary to provide substantial aid to Angola to make good the damage done by those attacks and to ensure that the Angolans have a reasonable chance of developing their economy in peace?

The situation is being monitored closely by the United Nations disaster relief organisation and by our embassy. A report on the United Nations disaster relief organisation's fact-finding mission is expected shortly. In the light of that report and information provided by our embassy, we shall consider the need for further emergency assistance. However, the Angolans receive plenty of help from Russia and Cuba. In addition, their system of government does not seem to help the economy. It is a Marxist system.

In the light of that reply, may I ask the Minister whether he saw the film on BBC 2—which was shown after 10 pm last night—about conditions in the camps in Angola? With the exception of Somalia, I have not seen worse conditions. Will the Minister increase the amount of aid being given? The hon. Gentleman spoke about the drought in the bush. But the South African air force is bombarding people out of their homes and, as a result, they are flocking into camps where there are inadequate facilities and impossibly small amounts of food available.

I saw that film last night. Aid activity is not guided by television films, although we take note of what we see. As I said to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), the situation is being monitored closely by the United Nations disaster relief organisation, and we shall take any necessary action according to the result of that monitoring.

Aid (Criteria)

41.

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent the granting of overseas aid to developing countries is determined by the character of their political systems; and if he will make a statement.

British aid goes to countries with a wide range of political systems.

In deciding whether to aid any particular country, the Government take account of developmental, political and commercial factors. The weight given to each of these will vary according to the individual circumstances of each case.

I accept that human rights considerations should be important in granting aid. But how can the Minister justify the imposition of double standards when political considerations are concerned, when that may mean perpetuating underdevelopment or relinquishing to a foreign competitor an opportunity that could be taken up by a British industrialist? Comparing Indonesia with Vietnam, does the Minister agree that the Indonesian Goverment's record on East Timor—with the appalling war and slaughter that is taking place—should be considered just as much as other factors that may apply elsewhere?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a country's political and economic system determines the use to which aid is put and that countries with inflexible political or economic systems are the least likely to use aid effectively?

Yes, Sir. Since becoming Minister for Overseas Development that has been my experience.

Tanzania (Food Stocks)

43.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement about the Government's response to the worsening food situation in Tanzania.

We are supporting proposals for supplementary allocations of European Community food aid. We shall continue to monitor the situation closely.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. But given that European food aid should be effective, what representations has the right hon. Gentleman made to the Council of Ministers about reports of a scandalous situation in which European food firms are making profits at the expense of the Third world?

I have made no representations to the Commission, but I shall certainly consider that point.

To what extent does my right hon. Friend feel that the worsening food situation in Tanzania is due to its political system?

Up to a point it can be said to be an internal matter for the Tanzanian Government. However, they are entitled to approach the International Monetary Fund for the food facility within the compensatory financing scheme. As they are not yet in agreement with the IMF, they cannot make use of that facility, although it would be helpful.

Cancun Summit

45.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on any discussions at the Cancun summit relating to developed nations giving official aid according to their means.

There was no discussion of this precise question at the Cancun summit.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should have been discussion of that question? Does he opine that if other developed nations had given aid according to their means to countries with the greatest needs in the way that Britain has done during the past 10 years, the problems of the Third world would have been reduced? Will my right hon. Friend contrast Britain's record in that respect with that of the USSR and note Russia's appalling absence from Cancun?

I deplore Russia's absence from Cancun. Russia was invited, but it did not come. The other questions were probably dealt with in the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 26 October. I was not at the summit. Therefore, I cannot speak at first hand about it.

I agree with the Minister's answer about the USSR. But will he confirm that, despite all the promises made by the Prime Minister at Cancun, not a single penny of new money was offered to that conference? Will the right hon. Gentleman also confirm that the Government are still considering further cuts in the aid programme? If so, would that not disgrace the reputation of the House and the Government as a whole?

Cuts generally, or the allocation of money, are being considered. I cannot make a statement at this stage. As regards the allocation of money for the subjects that were agreed at the Cancun summit, there could be an allocation of uncommitted funds within the existing aid programme and a shift of existing aid to the subjects covered—for example, agriculture and energy.

Is progress being made on the proposal that I put forward some years ago for the revision of the Lomæ convention to incorporate an undertaking to observe human rights as a condition of the receipt of aid?

I have not noticed any progress on that subject, but I always bear it in mind.