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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 14: debated on Monday 30 November 1981

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Wales

European Regional Development Fund

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the value of the grants allocated to Wales from the European regional development fund since 1975.

Grant commitments from the fund total £111·5 million.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is an impressive figure? What steps is he taking to ensure that the people of Wales know the extent of the assistance being provided by the EEC?

The figure is perhaps even more impressive, because the total of identifiable grants and loans to date is £805 million. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I take every opportunity to draw the attention of the Welsh people to the importance of the assistance, and also to the damage that would be caused if Britain withdrew from the Community.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the Hungarian company that is about to complete a factory in Eire, no doubt supported by EEC grants? It is designed to put 27 million light bulbs into the British market. Will that not cause enormous damage to the jobs provided by Thorn at Merthyr and other British light companies? Instead of praising the EEC, what action will the right hon. Gentleman take to defend the jobs threatened by such Hungarian-Irish fiddles?

The hon. Gentleman's remarks emphasise the importance of making every possible effort to encourage inward investment in Britain so that jobs are created for Welsh workers, not elsewhere in the Community. If we withdrew from the EEC we would still face competition from the factory in Ireland, but without the possibility of attracting similar investment for Britain.

Does the Secretary of State know whether Welsh business people are taking full advantage of EEC funds?

There is general awareness of the availability of such assistance. We recently took the opportunity to advertise and draw attention to the low interest schemes that have been introduced in both steel closure and rural areas. We shall continue to do everything in our power to make companies aware of the existing advantages.

Does my right hon. Friend know how many people in Wales are currently employed by transnational companies? What would be the probable reaction of such companies should Britain withdraw from the Community?

At least 55,000 people are employed in overseas companies or their offshoots. There is no doubt that a considerable number of such companies are established in Britain solely because they see this country as a base for entry into the European market.

How much of the £111 million is additional to what would have been spent anyway, and how much is mere replacement and, therefore, of no net benefit to Wales? As Northern Ireland has overcome the additionality hurdle, will the Minister ensure that Wales also has those funds additional to other expenditure?

The funds are additional to the resources available in the United Kingdom. Therefore, they enable us to reduce the total of public spending that would otherwise exist. It is right that Britain should retain control of where that assistance is directed and not surrender it to others outside this country.

Unemployment Statistics

2.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the increase in unemployment in Wales since May 1980.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the actual numbers and the percentage increase in unemployment since May 1979 when he assumed office.

At 12 November 1981 the seasonally adjusted level of unemployment stood at 158,400, an increase of 77,200 or 95.1 per cent. over the corresponding level at May 1979, and of 65,000, or 70·5 per cent., over the May 1980 level.

Will the Secretary of State assure us that he will strongly resist attempts to make real cuts in unemployment benefit? Has he read of the unprecedented scenes in Shotton high street last week when several hundred men queued to apply for the 200 smelter jobs at Shotton? Bearing in mind the youth unemployment lobby today, how does he propose to bring to Wales real jobs for the young unemployed?

In my speech last week I began my remarks on unemployment benefit by saying that the options for the greatest economies had been closed. I argued that that was not an area in which significant cuts could be made.

I know of the scenes to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We are undertaking a massive programme of infrastructure improvement, of building advance factories and of provision for attracting new industry into the area. We have greatly extended the special measures and the youth opportunities programme.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the policies of the Labour Party, including withdrawal from the EEC, would be likely to push up unemployment in Wales by as much as 100,000? Is he further aware that the Social Democratic Party has so far come up with no suggestions for dealing with the unemployment crisis? Is he also aware that unless the Government do something about unemployment, without clobbering those who are already unemployed, they will lose the next election?

I have already said to my hon. Friend that I do not think that that is an area where there is room for substantial savings in public spending. I have made that absolutely clear, but I do not in any way underestimate the scale of the problem. It is encouraging that, in a year of severe recession, we have succeeded so far in allocating an all-time record number of advance factories to provide more factory space and more potential for jobs than in any comparable period in Welsh history.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that while the unemployment figure fell marginally in the rest of Great Britain, it increased, albeit marginally, in Wales last month? Is he aware that the unemployment figure of 170,000 represents about 3,000 additional people in the dole queue for every month in which the right hon. Gentleman has held office? Did the right hon. Gentleman see the Western Mail article last week that referred to the fact that Tenby, which he represents, has the rare distinction of being the worst unemployment black spot in Wales? May I therefore urge the right hon. Gentleman to consult his colleagues and see that we have a debate in Government time on the present level of unemployment?

This Government have given far more opportunities for debates on Welsh affairs than were provided by the Labour Government. We shall continue to do so. However serious unemployment in Tenby is, and although the percentages are too high, it is absurd to describe it as the worst unemployment black spot in Wales, because, as in other seaside towns, there are seasonal unemployment factors. It is worth noting that, though there has been a serious increase in unemployment in Wales it has not risen anything like as fast as in many other parts of the United Kingdom.

In view of the complacent nature of that reply, I beg leave to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.

Council House Sales

3.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether he is satisfied that local authorities are making full use of the capital receipts from sales of council houses to finance further housing investment.

Under present arrangements local authorities can use half the net proceeds of council house sales to augment their capital allocations. I remind authorities that if they do not take full advantage of this facility they will be missing an opportunity to expand their housing programmes, which they can now do with some confidence.

What will those receipts amount to? Will my hon. Friend give us an assurance that those funds will be used by the authorities, some of which have complained about inadequate allocations?

The local authority returns for the first six months of this year show that total net receipts could be about £39 million. Of course the authorities may apply the prescribed proportions to supplement their housing allocations. The signs are that most authorities will spend their full allocations. It is not possible at this stage to predict whether all will make full use of their capital receipts this year, although I wish them to do so.

Does the Minister not appreciate that the construction industry needs a considerable infusion of Government money? That has been called for particularly by building trades employers and the trade unions involved in the industry. Many families in Wales are crying out for accommodation. Why does he not attend to the real problems?

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would listen to what he is told. I said that half of the net proceeds of the £39 million would be available to authorities for housing purposes. In addition, there will be the repayment of past lending and the proceeds from the sale of land, all in all amounting to about £30 million, which is the equivalent of the total budget of the housing corporation in Wales.

What was the allocation to housing authorities in Wales in 1979, and how does that compare with this year's allocation?

There have been reductions in housing allocations under both the Labour Government and this Government. The sale of council houses and of land will make significant additional moneys available not only this year but, in all probability, next year also.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is important that those moneys should become available to local authorities as soon as possible? What evidence has he that recalcitrant authorities, particularly after the offer notices have been sent out, are sending contracts and conveyance documents to would-be buyers?

That matter arises on a later question, but I assure my hon. Friend that about 12 per cent. of tenants in Wales, which is a significant proportion, have applied for the right to buy. We have fixed dates by which we expect local authorities to have dealt with those applications and sent out offer notices. Considerable progress has been made with sale completions, too.

Will the Minister confirm that, according to the figures in a Welsh Office publication, there are 25,000 people on the Welsh Office's so-called net waiting list and that, even with that figure, the housing programme in Wales has borne the heaviest share of public expenditure cuts imposed by the Government? If the profit from sales accrues to a local authority towards the end of the financial year, thereby making it extremely difficult for the local authority to use that money, will it be able to carry forward that money to the coming year?

The money is coming through now as sales are completed. The majority of local authorities have been surprised at the number of applications and the amount of private money coming in. The money is becoming available this year. The net receipts will also be available to those authorities next year, and they must recognise that they will be in continuing receipt of those moneys.

Unemployment Statistics

5.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many men were in employment in Wales on the same convenient date in each of the years 1960, 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980 and 1981, respectively.

At June in each of the years in question males in employment were 711,000, 708,000, 636,000, 618,000, 590,000 and 541,00.

Does the Secretary of State agree from those figures that, disastrous though the Government's policies have been for Wales, the records of previous Labour and Conservative Governments, especially when one takes into account that the 1960s were a period of a world-wide economic boom, appear to be just as bad?

I also notice that the sharpest fall was during the five years when Mr. Roy Jenkins was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Government supported by the hon. Gentleman.

How much future growth in employment is likely to come from the microprocessor and associated industries? Why is Wales missing out so desperately on its share of those growth industries?

It is impossible to forecast, but it will be significant. We welcome major new projects in Wales, such as those launched by Inmos and Mitel, which are two of the key organisations. During the last few days I have had discussions at Swansea university, and I shall have similar discussions elsewhere with a view to stimulating science-based and high technology development, particularly in the vicinities of our universities.

6.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many registered unemployed persons there are in Wales; what percentage this is of the working population; and what proposals he has to improve employment prospects.

There were 170,221 unemployed persons on 12 November 1981, a rate of 15·7 per cent. Our main objective is to restore the competitiveness of industry and the national economy. We are also committed to a major programme of measures to reduce the impact of the recession on the unemployed, particularly the young unemployed.

How can there be competitiveness when our manufacturing industry is disappearing? It will not be there when the economic upturn comes. What measures is the Secretary of State taking to improve employment prospects? What hope can he give to those young people who were on the job express and are lobbying the House of Commons today, and who have no hope of getting jobs because of the Government's policies?

The effort to create new industrial development in Wales is proving astonishingly successful in the middle of a recession. The best long-term hope lies in the creation of new jobs in the growth industries. The improved competitiveness of industries, such as the steel industry at Llanwern and Port Talbot, provides the best guarantee of success. In the meantime, we have massively extended the special measures, which at present cover about 44,000 people in Wales, including more than 17,000 on the youth opportunities programme.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the massive increase in productivity that has been achieved by British industry this year? Is he further aware that only by such means will secure jobs be found in Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom? Does he accept that that increase in productivity contributed to the 41 per cent. increase in engineering exports in the last quarter?

There have been striking export successes, despite the strength of the currency during much of that period. Later this week I shall be meeting the chairman of the British Steel Corporation to discuss the corporate plan. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry pointed out, there has been striking progress towards the achievement of the targets of that plan, which offers by far the best prospect for strength and stability in that industry.

Is the Secretary of State aware that since the Government came into office there has been a 400 per cent. increase in unemployment in Ogmore, 1,000 of the 7,000 unemployed being young people, many of whom are lobbying Parliament today? What do the Government propose to do to alleviate the problem? I remind the Secretary of State and the Government that it costs the country £4,500 per unemployed person per year. That money could be better spent on keeping them in jobs.

I do not seek to mitigate the scale of the problems that we face. I acknowledge that there has been a substantial increase in unemployment in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The measures that we have been preparing—the infrastructure and other packages—are now producing striking results, with a sharp upturn in the number of inquiries and factory allocations. When figures were announced by my predecessor at the same period in the month in 1978, he talked of "remarkable successes". We have allocated far more factories this year than he did then to provide more jobs.

My right hon. Friend's concern for the young unemployed can be understood and appreciated, but will he represent to his colleagues in the Cabinet the difficulties of the 40 and 50-year-olds who are thrown out of work and whose problems are even more difficult?

Of course, I fully appreciate those difficulties. We can solve the problems only by restoring the health of the economy and by moving into a period when jobs are sustained by our competitiveness and ability to sell goods in world markets. I repeat that remarkable progress is being made. Although the unemployment figures are high, many people are getting jobs all the time, even in this difficult period. About 5,000 people a week move into new jobs in Wales.

Does not the Secretary of State realise that the success stories that he describes so pathetically at every Question Time are completely at variance with the true picture as we see it in Wales? Does he not also realise that the rosy picture that he has attempted to paint again today was not the picture portrayed to me last Saturday at Milford Haven in his constituency? If he is so sure of himself, will he publish the balance sheet that I requested last Question Time, or, better still, let us have a debate so that he can show the black spots and the goodies at the same time?

I do not believe that I have exaggerated. I have acknowledged the scale of the difficulties that we face. I am entitled to remind the House again that when the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour Government did less well they described the position to the Welsh Grand Committee as a "remarkable achievement". I believe that, in a period of severe recession, I am entitled to say that to do even better in the creation of new factories, in the number of allocations and in the provision of new jobs is also a remarkable achievement.

Council House Sales

7.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he is satisfied with the progress made by housing authorities in Wales with the sale of council houses to those tenants who have applied to buy them; and what is now the average period of waiting between the application to buy and the completion of sale.

We shall not be satisfied until all tenants who wish to exercise their right to buy have been able to complete their purchases. It is not possible to estimate the average waiting time, but approximately 12,000 tenants submitted applications to buy before 31 December 1980, and approximately 4,000 sales had been completed by 30 September 1981, almost 2,500 of them in the June to September quarter.

In view of the difficulties that certain local authorities appear to be experiencing in implementing the legislation, will my hon. Friend consider the possibility of fixing a maximum period between the receipt of a valid application to buy and completion of sale?

As my hon. Friend knows, we have asked local authorities to ensure that any backlog in the issue of offer notices for applications made before 3 April 1981 is cleared by the end of this year. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his suggestion, because we are actively considering the idea of fixing targets for the completion of sales.

In Wales, what is the average amount received from the sale of a council house? What does it cost a local authority to replace such a house to meet the problems of the homeless? Do the Government intend to do anything to meet the difference that faces ratepayers, local authorities and council house tenants?

I can give the hon. Gentleman the figures. The average receipt is about £8,000. Of course it costs more to build a new house, but, as I said earlier, there are resources available to the local authorities which come from the sale of council houses and they must use them to improve their housing provision. New build is not the only answer. It is possible to improve old properties and to build for low cost. Various other initiatives are also open to local authorities.

How long does it take the Department to process applications from local authorities which wish to purchase from the private sector?

Municipalisation and purchase of properties by local authorities are allowed on only limited occasions, and obviously they require consideration by the Welsh Office. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the average time required for such consideration, but I assure him that the Welsh Office acts as quickly as possible, depending on the individual circumstances.

I remind my hon. Friend that, of the 4,000 houses that have been sold in Wales, more than 1,000 have been sold in the Vale of Glamorgan in my constituency. As the Vale of Glamorgan is administered by a comparatively small authority, and as larger authorities have lower figures, is that not evidence that the larger authorities must be dragging their feet.

The position is not quite as my hon. Friend suggests. I commend the authority that is responsible for the Vale of Glamorgan, but, as my hon. Friend knows, no authority in Wales is refusing to carry out the Government's council house sales policy. There is activity, which has increased, throughout Wales. From this last quarter onwards, the rate of completions will be accelerating.

Beef Cows

8.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many beef cows there are in Wales; what were the corresponding figures for the last three years; and if he will make a statement.

Numbers of beef cows in Wales have declined from 194,400 in 1978 to 185,700 in June this year, but I am pleased to note the recent improvement in market prices, which will enhance the prospects for the industry. Welsh farmers will particularly welcome the Government's proposals to increase hill livestock compensatory allowances for beef cows by £2 in the coming year.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there will be an acute shortage of home-produced beef in January due to adverse Government policies? What plans has he to safeguard the interests of the consumer?

The Government have taken a number of measures to help farmers through this difficult period. The most recent measure is the increase of £2 for hill beef cows, which I know has been widely welcomed. That increase will help to correct the imbalance that has been developing in the hills between beef and sheep. The beef suckler cow premium is providing assistance, as is the beef premium scheme. I am sure that all these measures are playing a part in the welcome increase in prices that is taking place.

Unemployment Statistics

9.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate his Department has made of the number of people who have been unemployed in Wales for 12 months or more.

On 8 October 1981, 50,078 people had been registered as unemployed for over 12 months.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is a staggering figure? It seems that 50,000 people in Wales now depend on supplementary benefit and social security discretionary payments instead of unemployment benefit. Is he further aware that the Government propose to establish centres—there will be one at Merthyr, for example—to interrogate and harass the long-term unemployed and to try to force them into looking for jobs far and wide? Will he make representations to his fellow Ministers and tell them how deeply resented and bitterly opposed will be the establishment of such centres in South Wales, especially at Merthyr?

The hon. Gentleman is wrong about what will be done at the centres. Preparation is being made for the change that will involve a movement to self-registration for unemployment. That will involve a transfer of responsibility from jobcentres to unemployment benefit offices. A series of investigations are taking place to ensure that the transfer of responsibility can be carried out effectively by the unemployment benefit offices.

Will my right hon. Friend note that what will no doubt be described in the press as a massive onslaught by Labour Members on this day of demonstration against unemployment is supported by five Labour Members on the Opposition Back Benches? On a separate point, will he endeavour as soon as possible to put an end to the nonsense whereby any unemployed person who seeks either to better himself by going on a course or by doing some voluntary work risks losing his benefit?

I shall take up the final issue that my hon. Friend raised. As to the point about the Opposition Benches, there is a difficulty, because I understand that a number of Labour Members are leaving the party.

What is the right hon. Gentleman doing to help the long-term unemployed through the Nissan car factory project? What news has he of that? Does he know that on Deeside about 8,700 workers are still presenting themselves for work, which the Conservative Government are not supplying?

Representatives of the Nissan car factory have met my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry within the past week to discuss further this important project. I understand that it is likely that the company will indicate its intentions early in the new year.

In view of the inadequate explanation about the interrogation centre that is to be established at Merthyr, I wish to give notice that I shall seek to raise the issue in an Adjournment debate.

Wales Council For The Deaf

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what sum was allocated from the Welsh Office to the Wales Council for the Deaf in this current period.

None. A very recent application from the council for the funding of a special project is being considered.

I object strongly to the Minister's indifferent and uncaring attitude. Is he aware that this is the International Year of Disabled People? Does he realise that 120,000 people are suffering from deafness in Wales? What criteria does the Welsh Office apply for sorting out grants? Does its criteria amount to raffles, or what are they? Is he merely turning a deaf ear to the council's representations for aid to help it assist the deaf in Wales?

The hon. Gentleman has allowed himself to become carried away in an especially obnoxious manner. We have given the fullest consideration to the council's application. Government assistance is normally restricted to contributions towards the headquarters' expenses of the organisations that are national in scope. The Wales Council for the Deaf is a regional association of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf. Its sphere of interest is restricted mainly to South-East Wales. We have suggested to the council that it collaborates with other bodies such as the British Association for the Deaf, the British Association of the Hard of Hearing and the National Deaf Childrens Society, all of which operate in Wales. The Welsh Office suggested to the council that it should bring a project forward for consideration. We have given the application the fullest possible consideration. There is a great deal that we do for the deaf in Wales.

May I ask the Minister to reconsider the attitude of the Welsh Office towards the council? It is in no party spirit that I make that request. I think that I speak for all hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Ellis), when I urge the hon. Gentleman to reconsider the council's application. I understand that its activities are confined largely to South-East Wales, but that is the area where the largest proportion of those who are unfortuate enough to be deaf is concentrated. I ask the Government to do everything that they can to assist the council. I am sure that somewhere in the Welsh Office there is some money that can be used to assist it.

May I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the issue is not the availability of money but the appropriateness of a grant in this instance. We have given the application every consideration. We are considering the council's latest approach. A number of hon. Members wrote to me and I believe that some of them may have already received my reply, in which I outlined what we are doing for the deaf in Wales. I know that you will be interested to learn, Mr. Speaker, that we have contributed £200,000 towards the Institute for the Hard of Hearing Research to enable research to be carried out at University hospital in Cardiff. We shall be contributing a further £50,000 per annum over the next five years.

Rate Support Grant

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what factor he proposes to include for inflation of (a) salaries and wages and (b) goods and services in arriving at the rate support grant settlement for Welsh local authorities for 1982–83.

I shall be consulting the local authority associations in Wales shortly on my proposals for the 1982–83 RSG settlement.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great fear among Welsh local authorities that all that he will include for wage and salary settlements is about 4 per cent., whereas the going rate is substantially above that, and that this will be a back-door way of squeezing out jobs or pushing up rates? Can he assure the House that the allowance for wages and salaries will be realistic?

I am certain that the overall settlement for Wales will be very fair and reasonable. But, as it is intended shortly to consult local authorities under the statutory arrangements, and as my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making a general statement later in the week, it would be wrong to anticipate those announcements.

How can the right hon. Gentleman help the local education authorities that are coping with the problem of cuts and the withdrawal of free bus services? Has the right hon. Gentleman been following the issue in my constituency of the village of Broughton, whose children, it seems, must walk to school at Saltney?

That is a matter for the local authority, which has its own priorities, to decide for itself. My desire is to make sure that Wales gets a fair and adequate share of the available resources and that the overall settlement is satisfactory. When we come to make the necessary announcements, I think that it will be thought to be a very reasonable settlement.

Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence in the Cabinet to ensure that the Local Government Finance Bill is dropped, in view of the tremendous opposition to it in Wales and on both of the House? In calculating the inflation rate, will he have regard to the tax and price index as well as to the retail price index to ensure that local authorities do not have to bear an additional burden because of the inflationary policies of the Government?

In deciding these matters we shall take account of all factors, including the penal demands placed on some ratepayers by a number of high-spending local authorities.

Essential Services (Emergencies)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales whether any machinery exists within his Department for co-ordinating essential services in the case of an emergency endangering public services in any part of Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Yes. My Department's organisation provides for the handling of civil emergencies and for co-ordinating action, where this is appropriate, to maintain essential services.

Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the level of expenditure on emergency plans for civil defence by local authorities in Wales of £400,000 in the current year provides for the same level of protection for the population of Wales as will be available to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in their bunkers at Brecon and Bridgend?

Civil defence is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will encourage his local authority to ensure that the maximum provision is made for those whom he represents in his part of Wales. I understand that the local authority is not meeting its full responsibilities in this matter.

New Industrial Undertakings

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many new industrial undertakings have been commenced in Wales during the past 12 months in advance factories and with help from the industry department of his Department, respectively.

Precise information is not available, but I estimate that more than 180 advance factories have been occupied in the past year, promising nearly 4,000 jobs. Some of these factories will, of course, have been allocated in the previous year. I can also inform the House that 251 factory units were allocated between January and the middle of November this year, totalling 1·4 million sq ft. Of these, 68 units were at Cwmbran.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this is a remarkable achievement in all the circumstances? Will he express his recognition of this to all those concerned, including the members of the development corporation?

I shall pass my hon. Friend's remarks to the Welsh Development Agency and to the new town authority and the DBRW, which have helped to achieve this remarkable result. The development corporation also deserves our thanks and congratulations. My hon. Friend used the words used by my predecessor in 1978—"a remarkable achievement". At that time the figures were not as good as these.

Why does the Secretary of State Indulge in such fantasies with these optimistic forecasts about the economy? It is as though he had become a compulsive reader of Grimms' fairy tales, whereas the reality is that unemployment is reminiscent of the levels of the 1930s, with only one in five of our companies in Wales working to capacity, with redundancies continuing apace, with mortgages soaring—

The hon. Gentleman must ask a question and not merely give information.

Order. I think that the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) is coming to the end of his question.

Why does not the Secretary of State realise the terrible depression that we are in and call for a complete turn round in the Government's policy?

These are not fantasies. They are facts. I was about new industrial undertakings and factory allocations. I have given the details. They are record figures, and I am entitled to draw them to the attention of the House.

I had a message from the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Williams) that he might be delayed and be unable to be present for his question. Perhaps I should not have called it.

Rate Poundage

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will estimate the average rise in rate poundage of Welsh local authorities in the next financial year.

Rating decisions by local authorities will be taken in the light of the 1982–83 rate support grant settlement. I shall be putting proposals to the Welsh local authority associations very shortly. However, I shall expect local authorities to keep rate increases to the absolute minimum consistent with the settlement.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the predictions that rates in South Glamorgan will rise by between 25p and 30p in the pound and that Howells department store in Cardiff reckons that for every 3p rise in rates one job is lost in its store, and therefore that a 30p rise in the rates will mean the loss of 10 jobs in one store alone, which can be maximised over the area?

It is not possible to make accurate predictions until the settlement is available. However, I see no possible reason for an increase of that order—except that a Labour council has taken over from a Conservative one.

Will the Secretary of State assure the House that no local authority will be allowed, on the pretext of not having finances available, to fail to undertake such statutory responsibilities as those under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, and that if they need additional funds to carry out the requirements of such legislation it will be incumbent upon them to raise that money by means of increased rates?

It will be for local authorities to meet their statutory obligations, which means deciding on the allocation of their priorities and whether it is necessary to maintain all service and all manning levels in every case.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House his estimate of the amount of rate revenue lost as a result of tens of thousands of square feet of factory space lying empty in many local authorities and the corresponding loss of jobs associated with that empty space?

No, but I am told day in and day out by industry about the very large number of jobs being lost because of the high rate burdens placed upon industry and commerce.

Education And Science

Seilern Collection

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had concerning the project for the sale of works of art which form part of the collection of the late Count Seilern, which he bequeathed to London university.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will take steps to ensure that the collection of the late Count Seilern is kept together.

I have been in touch with the parties concerned, and I am glad to say that an agreement has now been reached whereby, through contributions from the national heritage memorial fund and the Victoria and Albert museum, a major picture from the collection by Rubens will be purchased for the Courtauld Institute of the University of London. This will enable the executors to meet the residual liabilities of the estate, and the Courtauld to keep the collection intact.

May I extend my heartiest congratulations on the happiest possible outcome of such benevolent co-operation? Will the right hon. Gentleman now extend the same spirit and the same exercise to the preservation of the British film archives—the nitrate stock, which is literally dying day by day? Historic films are disappearing which we shall never be able to resurrect. Could not the right hon. Gentleman apply the same sort of exercise to this really critical problem?

I am exceedingly grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his congratulations. I know that he has played a part in all this, and I am grateful for what he has done.

The hon. Gentleman asks about the film archives. I suggest, with respect, that although this is an extremely important question, it is another one.

I should like to join in extending congratulations to my right hon. Friend. Will he now fortify success by ensuring that a future home for the collection is found in the State rooms of Somerset House, which are particularly suited both to the Rubens and the Tiepolos, which are the particular glory of the good count's collection? Will my right hon. Friend, in the meantime, as a one-off exercise, arrange for a special showing in the House of the most appropriate of all the Tiepolos, "The Allegory of the Power of Eloquence"?

I should have to consult those responsible before giving a firm undertaking. I shall write to my hon. Friend. I hope very much that a home can be found which will enable both the Courtauld collection and the Prince's Gate collection to be displayed in full. Somerset House is an excellent idea, although it is not my responsibility. I shall speak to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

I should like to add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend. Does not this underline the necessity for the Government's early acceptance of the Select Committee report on works of art, published as long ago as March?

I note that all parties in the House are anxious to see acceptance of the report. The Government are considering the matter with great care, and I hope that an announcement will not be delayed too long.

The Arts (Business Sponsorship)

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he proposes to take further steps to encourage and increase the business sponsorship of the arts outside London.

Yes. I launched a new phase in the Government's campaign to encourage business sponsorship of the arts in York last week, when I spoke to an invited audience from local businesses and arts organisations. I plan to hold similar meetings in other parts of the country.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his activities in this sphere are welcome? Does he feel that business in general understands the advantages that accrue to it from such sponsorship of the arts?

I think that big business certainly understands. I am not sure that medium-sized and small businesses yet understand. One of the purposes of my campaign is to try to spread the message to slightly smaller businesses. I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support. I shall continue to pursue my activities throughout the country to the best of my ability.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that an outstanding example of this support is the Cambridge symphony orchestra? Cannot this example be well adapted elsewhere?

Yes. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to address the Cambridge symphony orchestra dinner recently. I hope that the orchestra continues from strength to strength.

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that, whatever the generosity of business firms, this can never replace the support that will always be needed from the State? This has not happened in any other country in the world. Is he aware that in the provinces as well as in London a large number of theatres are dark or crumbling away, including one in my constituency, which we are trying hard to save?

Will he make sure that besides encouraging firms and industry to support the arts, he will do his best to see that he gets a greater share of resources from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to support the arts?

The hon. Lady has a later question on the Order Paper that I am looking forward to answering. I agree with her that business support is a supplement and not a substitute. It is, however, an extremely valuable supplement, and one that is growing considerably.

When the right hon. Gentleman addresses business men—I hope that he will address them soon in Greater Manchester—will he emphasise the real spin-off that exists for business, since areas that become areas of cultural excellence attract staff of equal excellence?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. There have been tremendous advances in Manchester in business sponsorship of the arts. This sponsorship has been a tremendous success in the past year.

Would there not be some considerable value, not only in continued appeals for business sponsorship by the right hon. Gentleman, but in a special appeal, in a particularly cold climate, to local authorities to defend and, indeed, to extend their cultural activities to offset some of the social and economic damage caused by the Government?

The hon. Gentleman, most uncharacteristically, slightly exaggerates his case. The Government have done nothing to damage the arts and have supported them in difficult economic circumstances as generously as any reasonable man could expect. I hope that local authorities will continue to support the arts. I hope that they will not discriminate against the arts. That is the message that I try to give them.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what advice he provides to arts organisations which are looking for business sponsorships.

I have just published a new booklet of guidance to smaller arts organisations about sponsorship proposals, and also a new edition of an earlier booklet issued by my predecessor. Both give advice that I hope will be widely read and acted upon. I shall send my hon. Friend a copy.

Will my right hon. Friend accept warm congratulations for this positive step to enhance sponsorship of the arts? May I direct his attention to Mr. Horn, who is the chairman of the patrons and associates of Manchester city art galleries, and who does an excellent job? Does my right hon. Friend agree that this sort of impact on the arts is the pattern to be followed?

Yes. Manchester city art gallery was one of the first in the field, and I endorse what my hon. Friend says. I have noticed a demand by smaller arts organisations for advice on making an approach to business. I hope that the booklet will be helpful. I shall bring it to their attention wherever possible.

Library And Information Services Council

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has now received the latest report of the Library and Information Services Council and what steps he proposes to take.

The council has recently sent me its latest report. I am most grateful to it and I am arranging for the report to be published.

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that he does not regard this council as a head waiting to be hunted by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlton (Mr. Holland), and that, on the contrary, it does a very good job? Is my right hon. Friend convinced that he is making the maximum use of modem British information technology?

The council, which has been recently reorganised, does an extremely good job. It has published an interesting report which I am sure the House will want to consider in due course. The report recommends the study of electronic publishing, a review of manpower and training, and extra information services for small firms, which could be of immense value. I shall pursue this matter as best I can.

Craftsmanship

22.

A great deal of progress has been made, particularly through the work of the Crafts Council, which in January will open a new exhibition gallery and information centre in London.

I am grateful for that information, which I welcome. As our craftsmen enjoy a high reputation, abroad as well as at home, does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways in which the Government can help to increase the number of craftsmen and encourage more people to take up crafts is to provide assistance with outlets where they can sell their work? Does he not consider that this is an important factor where the Government could provide help?

Yes. It is extremely important. I agree that there is an immense spin-off for British industry from the high standard of work of British craftsmen. This can have a great effect on the products of British industry. It is important that there should be more outlets where craftsmen can sell their works. The new gallery in the West End of London is a tremendously important site and will have a considerable effect. I shall want to watch the situation closely.

I recognise that one of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors made an enormous advance in support of crafts. Will he continue that excellent support by providing help where craft centres, in the present economic climate, are in some danger of collapse? In view of the enormous public response to native craftsmanship over the last few years, will he look upon this as a particular problem that requires more financial assistance from the Government?

The hon. Gentleman raises a number of points. It is important to keep up support for the Crafts Council. I shall do my best to see that that happens. However, some of the points that the hon. Gentleman makes are more the responsibility of my right hon. Friends. I shall look at what he says and see what can be done.

Public Lending Right

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he has completed his consultations on the proposed public lending right scheme.

Can my right hon. Friend inform the House when he feels that the scheme will be fully operational?

That is not yet absolutely clear. I should like the House to examine the scheme when I put it before hon. Members, I hope just before Christmas, or, if I am unlucky, very early in the new year. I hope that it will be generally welcome. Most of the points raised by interested parties have been met and I hope that hon. Members will support the scheme.

I do not wish to appear too antipathetic this afternoon, but does the right hon. Gentleman accept, that there have been years of delay during which we have been talking about implementation of the scheme? There is always another excuse for not introducing it. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the House—or the more cultured sections of it—is impatient to see the scheme? When can we see it? We want no more promises that are not kept.

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, his party was in power for a considerable time during this period.

We started the Bill. I am about to produce the scheme. We shall get it going. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consult the Leader of the Opposition. I am doing him a good turn. We shall have it before the House at the earliest opportunity. I look forward to receiving his congratulations.

Arts Council (Grant)

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will increase the grant to the Arts Council.

My luck is in today, having two goes at the Minister.

Does the Minister accept that unless the resources of the Arts Council are increased considerably—I hope that the Prime Minister is also noting this—in order to care for the problem of inflation as well as the expansion of growth of the arts, many artists, orchestras, theatres and companies will not be supported by the Arts Council in the coming year, which will create a very serious situation?

I note what the hon. Lady says. I must ask her to await an announcement in due course. What she has said has a great deal of force. We shall have to do the best that we can.