As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.
Private-Sector Vehicle Testing
I beg to move amendment No. 17, in page 6, line 19, at end insert—
This amendment makes it impossible for vehicle operators to be appointed as approved testing authorities. It fulfils an undertaking given in Committee, where concern was expressed about the possibility of undue commercial pressure if vehicle operators were able to pass their vehicles and fail those of other operators. It became clear during the discussions in Committee that many hon. Members shared the view that no vehicle operators should be able to carry out tests on their own and their competitors' vehicles, with the evident risk of commercial influence that that entails. It has always been the Government's view that vehicle operators should not be appointed as testing authorities. We have given assurances to that effect. We agreed, however, to consider whether it would be desirable to make that intention plain in the Bill. That is what the amendment does. The amendment makes it impossible for the Secretary of State to authorise as an improved testing authority any person—that includes a company—who holds an operator's licence either for PSVs or HGVs. The provision will reassure hon. Members and those in the industry who have been concerned that we should never enable a vehicle operator to pass his own vehicle and fail those of his competitors. That possibility is clearly ruled out.'(1A) The Secretary of State may not under subsection (1) above authorise any person who is for the time being either—
(a) the holder of a goods vehicle operator's licence granted under Part V of the Transport Act 1968; or (b) the holder of a PSV operator's licence granted under Part II of the 1981 Act;to carry on a vehicle testing business; and any authorisation granted to any person under that subsection shall cease if that person subsequently becomes the holder of any such licence.'
I am grateful to the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary for tabling the amendment. In Committee we were concerned that the hiving off of vehicle testing centres from the Department of Transport to private enterprise would lead to undue commercial pressures that could damage road safety and public confidence in the testing system. We are glad that the amendment has been tabled as we want all doubt removed. The Opposition welcome amendment No. 17
Amendment agreed to.
The Testing And Surveillance Functions
I beg to move amendment No. 18, in page 8, line 37, after 'The', insert 'cancellation'.The amendment follows one that was made in Committee to provide for the cancellation of certificates of conformity and Minister's approval certificates. The relevant provisions can be found in schedule 5(8)(b). The earlier amendment gave power to cancel a certificate of conformity or Minister's approval certificate. It is a minor change to procedure which will improve the handling of paperwork, which follows when a goods vehicle subject to type approval is altered in some way which affects its type-approved characteristics. The vehicle has a certificate that shows its conformity to the approved type. If the vehicle undergoes major alterations, that certificate may no longer apply. Regulations under the Road Traffic Act 1972 require that certain alterations to type-approved vehicles must be notified to the Secretary of State, who may require an examination. Once a vehicle has been inspected and the alterations have been found satisfactory, the paperwork needs to be brought into line with the new position. At the moment we can suspend or amend the certificate of conformity or MAC. We cannot cancel it altogether and issue a new one. In many cases that would be a great deal simpler and give a much clearer result. Schedule 5(8)(b) provides that small extra power. Clause 9 provides that authorised inspectors may be given a number of related powers in the same area. They should also be authorised to carry out examinations of type-approved vehicles which have been altered and to exercise existing powers to amend or suspend the certificate. If they are to operate in that area they should also have the new power to cancel the certificate, and that is what this small amendment does.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 19, in page 9, line 8, at end insert
`under regulations made under subsection (IA) of that section'.
With this, it will be convenient to take also Government amendments Nos. 20 to 23.
The first amendment of substance is No. 20, which strengthens the provisions under which the Secretary of State can determine which examinations of public service vehicles are carried out by the private sector. The new subsection which the amendment adds to clause 10 introduces a power to make regulations about examinations under section 6 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981. That concerns the requirement of certificates of initial fitness for PSVs. The other substantive amendment is No. 23, which similarly introduces a new regulation-making power relating to one of the activities that authorised inspectors may be authorised to undertake in the private sector. It adds to the existing amendment in clause 10 which concerns section 20 of the 1981 Act regarding inspections of public service vehicles following notifiable alterations or damage to a vehicle. The other amendments are consequential and add nothing of substance.The introduction of the provisions means that less weight needs to be placed on the conditions that can be attached to the authorisations under clause 8 which, I believe, some hon. Members felt were in danger of being overworked. I do not accept that as a general proposition, but I agree that certain key provisions about the way examinations are to be carried out in the private sector might usefully be embodied in regulations where they have the force of law. These amendments make that possible. They also repair an omission. Clause 9 allows authorised inspectors to be empowered to carry out or supervise examinations under section 6 or section 20 of the 1981 Act. At present those sections contain no reference to the supervision or direction of examinations. Section 6 and section 20 of the 1981 Act need to contain some reference to supervision or direction if authorised examiners are to be empowered under clause 8 and clause 9 to carry them out. The supervision to which we are referring is the in-house supervision or direction of examinations as part of an approved testing authority's own systems for quality and standards control. There is a subsequent Government amendment on the Amendment Paper on outside supervision. The amendments make no changes of substance to the range of functions to be transferred to the private sector, or the powers and duties of authorised inspectors. They make explicit a number of matters which have been managed by administrative arrangement while the work has been done in the Civil Service. The amendments strengthen the structure of the Bill and make it more effective. I hope that the House will accept the amendments as a helpful improvement.
I am not sure that I wholly accept the phrase used by the Minister that amendment No. 20 strengthens the workings of the new testing centres. It may be that reference back to the 1981 Act and different sections of that Act complicates the matter even further. Amendment No. 20 transfers to private enterprise the provision of the certificate of initial fitness and type approval under the 1981 Act. It was not my impression that that was the intention of the Bill. I have noticed the amendment relating to out-house inspection, which we will welcome when we come to it.There seems to be some contradiction between what is embodied in amendment No. 20, the subsequent amendments, and that later amendment. Either the initial certificate of fitness has to be provided for individual vehicles or, if the vehicle is of a type that has a type certificate under section 10 of the Act, the certifying officer can, if he thinks fit, give the vehicle its licence or operator's certificate without actually examining the vehicle. We believe that that is what happens and that to pass initial testing and type approval to private enterprise stretches the frontiers of the examination system too far. The hon. Gentleman knows that we object to the transfer of the testing stations. He referred earlier to the need to build into the Bill clear safeguards against commercial pressures. If type approval is to be done by the private sector instead of the Department of Transport, clear commercial pressures could be brought into play. I believe that, instead of strengthening the Bill, the amendments actually weaken it. When the Under-Secretary replies, I ask him to tell us how many certifying officers will be replaced by section 20 of the 1981 Act concerning type approval and initial certificate fitness work. We understood that the Secretary of State is embarking on this hiving-off operation to divest himself of a number of civil servants. However, his enthusiasm for so doing should be tempered by the necessity to ensure that when vehicles first take to the roads they are in proper order. Surely that is consistent with the supervisory functions that he is now writing into the Bill and consistent also with retaining the certifying officers' functions within the Department of Transport. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will think again about pressing the amendment if what I have said is right.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) revealed a misunderstanding when he asked his first question. Power for the private sector to carry out examinations of public service vehicles for certificates of initial fitness is already in clause 9, and has been from the start. I hope that on consideration of this issue the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the amendment will improve the means by which the standards of such examination can be kept high on an in-house basis.The other powers about which the hon. Gentleman is worried will be handed over only if testing goes to one authoritative body, such as Lloyd's Register. Clause 9 lists the powers that may be handed over, not which must be handed over. I know that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the importance of that wording. Type approval of PSVs cannot be handed over. There is not provision for that. Only individual initial fitness examinations can go to the private sector. I hope that that will satisfy the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry that it is not possible immediatedly to answer his inquiry about the number of certifying officers. However, I shall obtain that information and let the hon. Gentleman have it as soon as possible.
The Minister says that the functions that can be transferred are those that are listed in clause 9. Lines 29–33 on page 9 in clause 9 state:
I am not raising this issue on Report merely as a nitpicking point. I raised it as a matter of substance in Committee. Short of seeing what the Minister proposes, it is almost impossible to tell whether the functions might be described as being connected with the other functions listed in clause 9. Therefore, it is not possible to state with authority, unless the Minister has received legal advice on the meaning of this part of the clause which I have not been able to obtain, that the function to which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) referred could not be transferred. If the only functions that can be transferred are those that are listed, the Government must have had a clear idea of the functions that would be transferred when they decided how many civil servants' jobs were to be chopped. If they had not had that knowledge, they would have been unable to make an estimate. If the Government have changed their mind about the savings within the Civil Service that they will achieve with the Bill, if fewer civil servants' jobs are to be lost than previously indicated by not transferring all the functions listed in clause 9, and if they are not to transfer any of the functions set out in lines 29–33 of the clause, that should be stated now. Is that what the Minister is saying, or is he merely giving an assurance that further functions will not cover the area that we are discussing? Will he tell us what areas are not covered and the areas that cannot be covered and, against that background, explain the purpose of having these provisions in the Bill?"Such further functions (whether conferred by or under any existing enactment or not) as may be prescribed, being functions which appear to the Secretary of State to be connected with any of the functions described above."
I am not able entirely to follow the legal interpretation of the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) of clause 9. If he considers the matter more fully, he will find that I have made the position clear. The functions that are referred to have to be connected with others and cannot include type approval. That was the anxiety expressed by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and I have been able, I hope, to reassure the right hon. Gentleman. However, the right hon. Gentleman went much further in his thoughts, for which there is little foundation.I emphasise that the amendments will make no changes of substance to the range of functions that are to go to the private sector or the powers and duties of authorised inspectors. The intention is to make explicit a number of matters that have hitherto been managed by administrative arrangements. The amendments strengthen the Bill's structure and make it more effective for inside or in-house examinations.
Surely the hon. Gentleman must accept that the words to which I have referred do not give any absolute limitations to what may be covered by clause 9. The words are:
and so on. If the Secretary of State thinks that there is some connection between type approval and any of the examinations that are listed as functions in clause 9, he is entitled to take that view. It would be difficult to argue with him. One could argue that anything involved in testing public service vehicles must be connected with something that is specified as a function in clause 9. That could not be challenged effectively in the courts. If the Secretary of State of the day said "This is my view and I say with my hand on my heart that there is some connection between that type of testing and that function", how could that be denied? The courts would say "Parliament passed the Bill and saw fit to allow the Secretary of State to add further functions to those that were specified." The Under-Secretary of State has said that the current Secretary of State thinks that there is no connection. However, we cannot have an assurance, while the Bill is in this form, that further functions connected with examinations, the issuing of certificates, the refusal to issue certificates, plating, periodical tests and all the functions in clause 9 will not ultimately be added to the functions that are to be transferred from the Civil Service to the private sector. I am asking a simple and straightforward question: was the Government's estimate of the saving in civil servants made on the presumption that only the functions listed in clause 9 and not covered by the further functions paragraph would be transferred? That is a simple and straightforward question. If that is the basis of the estimate, the answer is "Yes". If that is not the case and further functions are to be transferred, and if the last part of clause 9 has to be used to make that Civil Service saving, the Minister can say so. If he is not prepared to reveal what those further functions are, that will be a matter of argument between us. Surely, it is not impossible for him to give a straight answer to that question."Such further functions … as may be prescribed, being functions which appear to the Secretary of State to be connected"
The right hon. Gentleman has sought to bring forward his own interpretation of the meaning of part of clause 9. His interpretation is wrong. No absolute limitation is appropriate. The Secretary of State must exercise his powers in context. A type approval function would not be in context. The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in his interpretation. There are settled rules for determining the limits of powers.The basis for the savings in civil servants quoted to the right hon. Gentleman in Committee was correct. For the purpose of this amendment we are discussing the in-house position of examination. The right hon. Gentleman has used the occasion to examine clause 9 and to bring forward his own interpretation of it. I have sought to explain to the right hon. Gentleman that his interpretation is not correct.
The right hon. Gentleman was so absorbed in setting out his understanding of this part of the Bill that he missed my explanation. I am able to confirm that the estimate of Civil Service savings was made on the presumption that only the functions listed would go.
Order. I remind the House that we are on Report and not in Committee. Only the mover of the amendment and the Minister in charge of the Bill have a right of reply. There was genuine anxiety, which needed clarification, so I allowed a dialogue to take place.
Amendment agreed to.
Provisions Supplementary To Section 8
Amendments made: No. 20, in page 11, line 27, at end insert—
(7A) In section 6 of the 1981 Act (certificates of initial fitness required for use as public service vehicles), the following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (1)— "(1A) Without prejudice to the powers of the Secretary of State under section 7 of this Act in relation to the exercise by certifying officers of their function,, regulations may make provision with respect to the examination of vehicles for the purposes of subsection (1) (a) above by or under the direction of authorised inspector s and the issue or refusal of certificates of initial fitness by such inspectors on any such examinations.".'.
No. 21, in page 11, line 28, leave out 'the 1981' and insert `that'.
No. 22, in page 11, line 45, leave out 'and'.
No. 23, in page 12, line 6, at end insert
(c) for the examinations to be carried out under the regulations and, in particular, for authorising any such examination to be carried out by or under the direction of a public service vehicle examiner or an authorised inspector ".'.—[Mr. Eyre.]
I beg to move amendment No. 24, in page 12, line 14, leave out subsection (10) and insert—
'(10) Subject to the qualification mentioned below, regulations made under
(a) section 43, section 45 or section 50 of the 1972 Act; or (b) section 6(1A) or 20(2A) of the 1981 Act; may include provision for the purpose of securing that private-sector examinations are properly carried out in accordance with the regulations, including (but without prejudice to the generality of the preceding, provision) provision for the supervision or review of private-sector examinations by persons authorised for the purpose by or under the regulations.
No person other than an officer of the Secretary of State may be authorised by or under regulations so made to supervise or review an examination carried out in the course of a vehicle testing business carried on by a person other than his own employer.
The amendment replaces the present clause 10(10) with a new subsection. Like the present one, the new subsection is about arrangements for ensuring that private sector testing is properly carried out. It differs from the present provision in two main ways. First, it is more comprehensive. It refers not only to sections 43 and 45 of the Road Traffic 1972 Act but to several other sections. Therefore, it effectively covers all the main areas of work where authorised inspectors may be authorised to carry out examinations. Secondly, and most important, the new subsection contains completely different provisions about the supervision and review of examinations. We have revised it to make it clear that the supervision of the work of approved testing authorities will and must be carried out by officers of the Secretary of State. We shall not be using independent private sector contractors on this work, which, at one time, was being considered. There remains some provision for supervision of examinations by people who are not civil servants. That relates to in-house supervision to which I have already referred, which an approved testing authority will carry out, using its own staff, to ensure that proper standards are maintained within its own organisation. In-house supervision by the authority's own management will be important. The amendment does nothing to frustrate it. In ruling out private sector supervision, we refer to outside supervision by people who are not employed by the approved testing authority but who act on behalf of the Secretary of State. According to the amendment, these people must be civil servants. The question of who should carry out the supervision caused some concern in Committee. We undertook to reconsider our previous view that private sector staff might be used. I am glad that we have been able to meet the wishes of the Opposition on this point. I hope that the amendment will be generally welcomed.In this subsection "private-sector examination" means, in relation to an examination under regulations so made, an examination carried out by or under the direction of an authorised inspector.'.
I rise briefly to welcome the amendment. Two points exercised us in Committee. The first was that the general supervision of the approved inspectors of the business should be retained in the Department of Transport under the direction of the Secretary of State in the interests of public safety. Secondly, we were concerned that, if the chain were to be broken up into two or three chains, one part of the chain could not supervise the functions of the others. I take it that that could not happen.
I see that the Minister is agreeing. I welcome the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 12, line 35, at end insert—
The purpose of the amendment is to provide the Secretary of State with the power to make orders for the provision of pensions for those who are transferred from the Civil Service into private employment as a result of the Government selling or leasing heavy goods vehicle testing stations. Part II of the Bill contains no provision for pensions. There are inconsistencies in the construction of the Bill. The Government have introduced a series of privatisation measures. Not only the Department of Transport but a number of other Government Departments have introduced, during the past two legislative years, a number of Bills which turn over functions either from nationalised industries or from the Civil Service to the private sector. In all those Bills provisions have been made to take care—if I may put it that way—of any possible difficulty which might arise in the transfer of pensions. To demonstrate an inconsistency, I turn first to the measures introduced by the Department of Transport. In the Transport Act 1980, in the Transport (Finance) Act 1981 and in part I of the Bill, provision is made for the Secretary of State to make an order, if he judges that to be the right thing to do, for the transfer of pensions from a nationalised industry to the private sector. The Bill provides for the transfer of pensions from the National Bus Company to the private sector. We debated the matter last night and expressed our reservations about such provisions, but there is no argument that the Government judged it right to have such a provision. However, in this part of the Bill there is no such provision and I oppose the inconsistency. I cannot see that there is any consistent line of policy which until now in the Department's legislation for privatisation has given the Secretary of State power to make orders for the transfer of pensions, yet there is no such provision in the case of heavy goods vehicle testing stations. Another inconsistency is that, when people have been transferred from Government service, as opposed to a nationalised industry—from local government or even the Civil Service—the legislation of other Departments has provided for the transfer of pensions. One example, under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, is people moving from the Audit Commission to another form of service. In the case of the Department of the Environment, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 created the Countryside Commission and those who had to leave Government employment ceased to be members of Government pension schemes. In the one case I am talking about a local government pension scheme and in the other of the Civil Service pension scheme. The consistent thread has been a recognition by the Government that when they move people out of public service into private employment it may be necessary or desirable for a Minister to have a direct power or obligation, or at least the right, if he judges it necessary, to make an order to cover the transfer of pensions. The Secretary of State's predecessor judged it correct to use, as a pattern for the transfer, a method that was developed for transferring pensions not from the public to the private sector but between public sector industries. In earlier Transport Acts, when people were required to move between British Rail, British Road Services and the National Freight Corporation, there was a method of transferring pensions. One sees it in schedule 1 to the Bill, which deals with the sale of British Rail subsidaries, and it is repeated in clause 5 of the Bill. The terms are almost exactly the same. It has been accepted in part II of this Bill that a similar power is necessary. That is not surprising. Preservation of pension rights on transfer is a problem that has exercised management and unions in the public sector for many years and, because of the attention that has been given to the problem, we have reached the position in legislation whereby staff can in most cases move freely between schemes in the public sector without jeopardising their pension rights. It is possible to move from British Rail to the National Bus Company or to the National Freight Corporation. I hope that the Minister will accept that that protection has been possible mainly because the benefits and schemes that have existed in the public sector have been broadly comparable. One cannot say that all the schemes in the private sector have been comparable with those in the public sector. There have been many significant differences, which I hope I need not detail for the purpose of this argument. 4.15 pm The preservation of pension rights on change of employment has been given much publicity in recent years. The Occupational Pensions Board was requested to examine the problem in depth and to make recommendations, but the Government have decided to proceed with their privatisation legislation before they have the benefit of that examination in depth and the recommendation of the Occupational Pensions Board. Therefore, it is understandable that the Government should have consistently used a mechanism in legislation for the transfer of pensions from the public to the private sector similar to that used for transfers in the public sector. In transfers from the public to the private sector, many problems can arise. In my researches, I have found only one precedent when the Department of Transport attempted to transfer employees from the public to the private sector without a provision being made for pensions to be transferred. That is the case of those who were transferred from the road construction units to employment as private consultants. Many problems arose. The Government were unwilling to permit the extension of indexing public service pensions into the private sector. The consultants were unwilling to enter into agreements that would have involved what they regarded as the acceptance of an open-ended liability for index-linking. The Association of County Councils was unwilling to advise its constituent members to negotiate such agreements because, as it claimed, in the event of a consultant's default the superannuation administering bodies would have to pay the bill for the cost of index-linking. That is the only example that I can find. If the Minister knows of other examples of people being forced by Government legislation to transfer from the public to the private sector without any legislative cover or without the Minister retaining any rights, I shall be interested to hear what they are and whether it was possible to accomplish the change without any difficulty. All the evidence shows that it has been a matter of considerable difficulty. Therefore, we have supported the Government in such provision as they have made until now and all our criticisms have been addressed in the other direction of having more safeguards in the legislation. Here we must protest that there are no safeguards. Those who will be affected by part II of the Bill—I assume that we shall have the misfortune of seeing it carried through this Session—will be covered by the principal Civil Service pension scheme. They are in a scheme that provides benefits indexed to increase in line with Civil Service earnings. Those who have joined the Government test service have been encouraged not only to join the pension scheme but to transfer any pensions that they have in the private sector to the Civil Service scheme. If the Minister wishes, I shall quote chapter and verse from the leaflet that was issued within the Civil Service. In effect, it says that a person going into Civil Service employment and the Civil Service pension scheme has the responsibility of deciding whether to transfer his benefits into the principal Civil Service pension scheme, even if his benefits under his present scheme are better, as it might be worth while to transfer to the Civil Service one which gives lower benefits, as it is unlikely that his present scheme will have as good an indexation arrangement as the Civil Service one. I have paraphrased the leaflet but I believe that I have fairly represented the basis upon which many people have joined the Government testing service and have transferred their pensions to the Civil Service scheme. As a result of the present legislation, they will find themselves being treated exactly the same, in legal terms, as if they had voluntarily left the Civil Service. They will not be one whit better off than the person who decided of his own free will to leave. I challenge the Minister to show me any shred of legal protection or benefit that would have accrued to a person who had voluntarily left the Civil Service. We are now dealing with people who will be forced out by the present legislation. That is the way in which the Government propose to treat them. Not only is the Secretary of State being inconsistent in his treatment of his civil servants as compared with civil servants of other Departments; he is also legislating between those who will be forced to leave his employ in the HGV testing stations and those who will be forced to leave the employ of the National Bus Company under the same Bill. Such inconsistencies are, to say the least, highly unjust. I should like to put some direct questions to the Minister. I have addressed them to him before without receiving an answer, but that makes them no less relevant. I hope that the Minister will accept their relevance now. What will happen to civil servants who are currently employed in HGV testing stations which the Government will sell or lease to private employers who may not have a contracted-out scheme? Nothing in the Bill will limit those to whom the Secretary of State might decide to sell HGV testing stations. There is nothing to limit the right hon. Gentleman's selling stations to those who have contracted-out schemes. What will happen to the people employed there? Will the Treasury be prepared to make a payment into a scheme of an employer which is not contracted out to secure benefits for the civil servants whom the Bill transfers? If the Treasury will not be prepared to make such a payment, how are the pension rights of the affected civil servants, on ceasing to be civil servants, to be protected? What will happen to those who have transferred into the Civil Service scheme on joining the HGV testing stations service when they have not acquired five years' service? Presumably, they do not even have a right to a frozen pension arrangement. The right to a frozen pension at the current acquired benefit level is dependent upon five years' service. I admit that I have had to re-study the legislation to prepare myself for the debate. As I understand the present provisions for transfer guarantee, civil servants with more than five years' service in the Civil Service scheme who go to a contracted-out scheme, provided that it is approved by the Inland Revenue and provided that the trustees of the scheme are prepared to accept the transfer, can have their accrued payments into the Civil Service scheme transferred. They may turn out to be the fortunate few. There is no guarantee that the only people who will be transferred will have five years' or more service in the Civil Service pension scheme, or that the employers to whom they are transferred have contracted-out schemes approved by the Inland Revenue and the trustees of which will accept a transfer from the Civil Service pension scheme. Unless all those conditions are met—there is nothing in the Bill to suggest that they will be—civil servants are entirely justified in expressing the fear that has been represented to us through their union that the Bill is utterly inadequate with regard to pensions. It does nothing to protect them. It leaves them substantially worse off than others who have been affected by Government privatisation proposals. The Secretary of State may take the same view of that as he took when the Opposition proposed that there should be some statutory liability to make orders of transfer. We were then arguing about a different proposition. It is not pertinent here. When we discussed National Bus Company pensions, we accepted that the Secretary of State had taken an order-making power but that he would retain discretion about when to use it for the transfer of pensions. That is not the argument here. We are discussing why the Secretary of State has not taken an order-making power. Without the amendment, no such power will exist. The Opposition cannot and will not accept at this juncture simply the Secretary of State's hope or wish that anyone to whom he transfers civil servants, as a result of the sale or lease of testing stations, will be so honourable, decent, civilised and progressive with regard to pensions that he will run a pension scheme that is capable of taking transferred Civil Service pensions. We may hope for that but we cannot leave the matter to the hopes of the Secretary of State. He cannot say that, because he hopes that that will happen, there is no need to have a provision for transfer when he said previously that order-making powers were necessary, as he did in this Bill and his predecessor did in the two previous ones. At the very least, the Government can accept the amendment so that there is a safeguard. The Minister cannot deny, on the basis of the record, that such are the problems of transferring pensions from the public to the private sector that it has been found desirable to have a power to make an order for transfer. That has been done in all the other cases. The amendment deals with one exception that covers a serious range of problems confronting those who have lost their public servant status. For that, if for no other reason, the amendment should be accepted. If it turns out not to be necessary and it is possible to transfer and safeguard pension provisions, no one will be happier than my right hon. and hon. Friends and I. We cannot be happy with the creation of a precedent whereby people who, by legislation, are thrown out of the Civil Service are in exactly the same legal position as those who voluntarily leave or break a contract into which they have voluntarily entered.'(12) The Secretary of State may make orders with respect to the provisions of pensions by any person authorised to conduct a business which consists of or includes any of the functions specified in section 9 of this Act; for or in respect of persons who are transferred from the Civil Service to private employment under the provisions of section 8 of this Act'.
We are dealing here with issues of great importance for the employees concerned in the changes proposed by the Government, which we debated yesterday. There is no difference or division whatever between the extremely strong, well-informed and concerned feelings of the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) and those of the Government about the importance of pension provision for those working in the testing stations who will in future be working in the new organisation.We must start from the recognition of a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman says about the need to ensure a fair deal for the staff under the new arrangement and to ensure either that a pension scheme is available in the type of organisation to which the testing stations will be transferred to which, if the employees so wish, pensions can be transferred or that existing and accrued pension rights are properly preserved. All these matters are very much the concern and intention of the Government and are very much in our mind in preparing plans for the negotiation of the transfer of the HGV testing stations to a new organisation of the kind outlined in the debate yesterday. I should not like there to be any difference of view on that. The difference arises when the right hon. Gentleman asks why there is not a more explicit power in the Bill relating to the bringing about of this change of affairs and of a situation in which pensions would be guaranteed under the new arrangements. The answer given in Committee, which I shall be concerned not just to repeat but to justify very closely again today, is that the amendment is not necessary. The order-making power that it proposes is not necessary to achieve the aims and objectives that both I and the right hon. Gentleman have outlined for the preservation or transfer of accumulated pension rights when an individual ceases to be a civil servant. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the proposition that I have put, and which I shall elaborate—that there is no need for an order-making power of the kind that he seeks because the matter is covered by existing powers and special powers are unnecessary—is in some way unique, that it had never been done this way before and that it must therefore be inconsistent and arouse fears. I know the right hon. Gentleman's feelings in these matters and I know that he would be the last to wish to raise fears and worries for which there is no basis. The charge of inconsistency is perfectly fair and I must seek to meet it.
Just to make sure that the record is completely straight, I did not say that there was no precedent. Indeed, I cited the case of those who were transferred from the road construction units to the private consultants and I instanced the difficulties that it raised.
I certainly do not wish to mislead or misquote the right hon. Gentleman. As he has said, he cited one instance in which special powers were not involved. There are others. I am advised, for example, that no such provision appeared in legislation relating to the sale of British Rail hotels or Seaspeed. I shall examine whether special powers of the kind that the right hon. Gentleman seeks were found necessary in other areas.In this situation, however, the need for such powers does not exist. As we have said before, there seems to be no real difference between us on the question of the pension need. We want to see fair and reasonable pensions for the testing staff after they leave the Civil Service. The only difference between us is about the necessity for legislation to achieve that. I mentioned the charge of inconsistency, as I do not wish it to be suggested—I understand from the right hon. Gentleman's intervention that he is not suggesting this—that the arrangement is unique and special and therefore to be feared, because it is not. I place on record again what I said in Committee. Ample powers already exist to make suitable pension arrangements for former civil servants. The principal Civil Service scheme, which was often cited in Committee, contains full and detailed provisions for the preservation or transfer of accumulated pension rights when a person leaves the Civil Service. Provision for future pensions with a new employer will be covered by the rules of whatever scheme the staff joins, so even if it is necessary to set up a new scheme no special provision is required to cover that. The normal and right way to make provision for pensions of staff who leave the Civil Service, as is proposed in this case, is by negotiation and agreement. As the right hon. Gentleman fairly pointed out, this follows from Government action. It follows from the policy that was described, debated and approved by the House yesterday. As I have said, there is no need for special legislative provision to deal with this. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Government's word on this is not enough. In other words, in a matter of this kind he is not prepared to accept the assurance that the Government want a fair deal for those involved. He wants it to be written into the Bill. I must tell him that there is no need for legislation because the powers exist already. It is therefore the assurance of the Government in good faith that the powers are available and will be used to ensure adequate pension provision. That is the assurance that the right hon. Gentleman can throw back in the face of the Government, but it is also the assurance upon which I believe that those concerned should rest without fear and with comfort, in the full realisation that a fair deal will be sought and secured for them in the negotiation with the successor organisation. The nature of that organisation was clearly set out in the amendments yesterday. I believe that that undertaking is not only adequate but fully sufficient to secure the aspirations and concerns and the immediate, long-term and lasting needs of those involved in the change of ownership. Of course, no pension transfer is possible if there is not a contracted-out scheme in the new organisation. Accrued pension rights would then be preserved within the principal Civil Service pension scheme and index-linked, and future earnings-related pensions would come from the State scheme. But in the case of transfer to Lloyd's Register Vehicle Testing Association, which is precisely what we are proposing, this should not arise. I indicated in an earlier debate that that was what we were proposing and that plans were well advanced. I spoke of this matter in a way that satisfied the House. If the House will accept that that is the course that we are set en, I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should feel it vital that we should write in an order-making power on the lines proposed in the amendment. There is no necessity for it. Either a new contracted-out scheme will be established or we shall arrange for staff to join an established scheme. That is what we have said again and again. I have been able to give to the House a much clearer indication of the nature of the body that will take over the stations than I was in Committee. In negotiating with the new body, we have said that we are determined that the staff shall have a fair deal, which means that they will be able to enter a pension scheme when they leave the Civil Service pension scheme, and that the question of transfer, as with preservation, will be governed by the principal Civil Service pension scheme. I give those assurances most strongly to the House because I wish to counteract firmly any impression that there might be grounds for fear that the staff would not get a fair deal. The Government are determined that they will get a fair deal. I have indicated to the House the sort of organisation to which we propose to transfer the heavy goods vehicle stations. The staff would become employees of the new organisation. Against that background it is right for the Government to put forward through me their intentions. It is not necessary to press for the additional order-making power proposed by the right hon. Gentleman to achieve the objectives that we all want and that will clearly be achieved in the context of the plans outlined in an earlier amendment for heavy goods vehicle testing stations. For those reasons, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
With the leave of the House, may I first clear up the misunderstanding by the Secretary of State? As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he said that he was advised that there was not a statutory provision covering British Rail hotels or Sealink services. That is not the case. Section 4 of the Transport Act 1981 says:
The first paragraph of schedule 1 gives the Secretary of State powers to make"Schedule 1 to this Act has effect for the purpose of making certain provisions supplementing sections 1 to 3 of this Act. '
I submit that that provision is applicable to both British Rail hotels and to Sealink. Therefore, those who negotiated on the transfer of pensions of the staff at the three British Rail hotels, which included Gleneagles and the Edinburgh hotel, knew that if they could not secure a satisfactory agreement they could ask the Secretary of State to use his power under schedule 1 to the 1981 Act to make a transfer order. 4.45 pm That is on all fours with what my hon. Friends and I are seeking in the amendment. This is not a question of cur not trusting the Secretary of State. We are asking him to accept an amendment under which we are placing trust in him. That is the interesting point. We are saying that we are happy that he should have the power and the discretion. If he accepts the amendment, it will not place an obligation upon him. It does not say that he must make an order if the transfer can be negotiated. If the amendment were accepted, the Secretary of State could make an order if he deemed it to be necessary or justified. If the Secretary of State had the order-making power, it could in certain circumstances influence the nature of the negotiations. It is one thing to negotiate with somebody when it is recognised by both sides that if the negotiated outcome is not satisfactory the Minister can be called upon to make a statutory provision: it is another thing to conduct negotiations if the person with whom the employees are negotiating knows that they have to rely entirely on their own strength and cannot call upon a Minister. That is particularly the case for these civil servants who are without any of the rights that would accrue if there were order-making powers. They are in the same legal position as those who have retired. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks this matter through, I do not think that he can say that it is consistent to argue that there is no necessity in this case but that it was right to make such a provision in another case. I am happy to stay with the examples that the right hon. Gentleman cited of British Rail hotels and Sealink. One could cite many other examples. For example, under clause 5 the Secretary of State might have said that it was the Government's intention that the pensions should be negotiated and transferred on a satisfactory basis and that he did not want to have the back-up power. But he did not say that. Very wisely, he defended having exactly the degree of back-up power that we are asking him to take in this case, not one whit more or one whit less. Although we pressed him to take greater powers and greater obligations, he resisted, but he did not resist having this degree of power. I put it to the Secretary of State that the precedent has been established for good reasons. I do not want to go over the ground again. The Government have acknowledged the problems of the transfer of pensions from the public to the private sector. In their wisdom, or otherwise, they decided to proceed with the privatisation in advance of getting the benefits of the commission. Having done that, they have said that in all these cases they will call upon the House of Commons to give the Secretary of State this back-up power, which will enable him, if he is not satisfied that negotiations will produce a satisfactory transfer of pension, to make an order. That is what we are asking. It is a modest request. We are reflecting fears which have been expressed to us. Whether we share them is not important for the purpose of this debate. We did not bring forward the amendment without having talked to those who have negotiated pensions, to pension experts in transport unions, to pension experts in the TUC and to Civil Service officers who are concerned about pension levels. The Secretary of State cannot wipe away their fears. He cannot say that their fears are ill-founded, in view of all the evidence, and that of course the Government set up a commission to consider the problems of the transfer of pensions. If the Archangel Gabriel came to the Dispatch Box, he could not wave away those fears. I am not saying that I do not believe in little miracles, because I believe that big miracles can happen. I am pleading for a very small miracle, and that is for the Secretary of State to accept here what is regarded as consistent and proper in part I of the Bill and in legislation introduced by his predecessor in the Acts of 1980 and 1981. We should rejoice with him if he did not have to use the powers and if the transfer were accomplished smoothly, but we would still say then, as we say now, that the fact that the power to make the order was in the background was valuable and could contribute to achieving a satisfactory arrangement."orders under section 74 of the Transport Act 1962 … in relation to related companies as he could make if those companies were subsidiaries of the Railways Board."
Will my right hon. Friend ask the Minister for an assurance that the fears of the unions which have been negotiating on this matter are unfounded? That would be a great help to them.
I shall be delighted if the Secretary of State can tell us that he has reached a clear understanding since we last talked with the unions that the transfer will not take place unless every civil servant who is transferred under part II will take with him his accrued rights and the equivalent benefits of his pension scheme. I could then accept that our amendment was unnecessary. I can only reiterate my hon. Friend's appeal. However, that would be surprising, and, with great respect to the Secretary of State, it would be easier for him to accept our amendment than to give that assurance.
With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall try to answer some of the right hon. Gentleman's points.First, I cannot accept that the special powers that the right hon. Gentleman now presses on the Government would be either consistent or necessary. On the contrary, the pattern proposed and the words that I have used to describe the procedures and the line that the Government will adopt in pursuing their plans for this transfer give the best assurance that there will be a fair deal for the staff. Moreover, the Bill provides that that will take place with the powers "in the background"—if I may use the right hon. Gentleman's phrase—which lie in the principal Civil Service pension scheme. That underlying security provides the background against which the new pension provision, or the transfer or the preservation of accrued rights, will be secured for all employees. The right hon. Gentleman returned to the matter of the British Rail hotels. He mentioned Sealink, but in fact Seaspeed was the example that I used. I am still advised that what I said about the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the legislation involved in those transfers and negotiations was correct. The right hon. Gentleman quoted textual evidence in an attempt to refute that, but I am advised that the words that I used were correct. If there is a misunderstanding and we are arguing about different things, as often happens, or if there are two separate views, or if it will help the right hon. Gentleman, I shall endeavour to support what I said on the matter in correspondence with him. However, that is the clear advice that I have received in support of the words that I used. All the same, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree that it will not help our common objective to get a fair deal for the staff if we get involved in a wrangle about precedents. After all, our aim is to get a fair deal for the staff. I wish to take up a further point, because I am anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should feel satisfied about all the matters that he raised. He asked about civil servants in the heavy goods vehicle testing network who had less than five years' service. I understand that, under the principal Civil Service pension scheme, transfer payments may be made even where the individual has less than five years' service and that people with less than five years' service may not opt for a preserved pension. If they do not take a transfer value, they receive a short-service payment instead. If they opt for a transfer, they should be in the same position as civil servants with longer service. I believe that I am giving an accurate representation of the position. I shall, of course, check further on the details of the matter. If any amplification is needed, I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman. I listened closely to the right hon. Gentleman, whose views I respect in this connection. Having carefully examined whether special powers of the kind that he seeks are justified, I am clear that there is no need for special legislative provision to make that possible. There is no ground for fearing that the Government intend anything other than a fair deal for the staff who are involved. That is the Government's determination and intention. I have described the kind of body to which heavy goods vehicle testing stations are to be transferred under the privatisation proposal. On that basis, I believe that employees can be assured that their pension needs and problems will be well looked after and that there is no need in the Bill for a further legislative order-making power of the kind that the right hon. Gentleman wants. On that basis, I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.
With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is clear that the Secretary of State is not prepared to make similar legislative provision for these civil servants as has been made for a number of other people forced out of public service. I am not prepared to withdraw the amendment, because it involves the important issue of employment protection rights. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I can only vote on it.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The House divided: Ayes 221, Noes 281.
Division No. 170]
|Abse, Leo||Campbell, Ian|
|Adams, Allen||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Allaun, Frank||Canavan, Dennis|
|Alton, David||Cant, R. B.|
|Anderson, Donald||Carmichael, Neil|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Cartwright, John|
|Ashton, Joe||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)|
|Bagier, Gordon A.T.||Cohen, Stanley|
|Barnett, Guy(Greenwich)||Coleman, Donald|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Beith, A.J.||Conlan, Bernard|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Cook, Robin F.|
|Bennett, Andrew (St'kp'tN)||Cowans, Harry|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Crowther, Stan|
|Bradley, Tom||Cryer, Bob|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Cunningham, G.(IslingtonS)|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)|
|Buchan, Norman||Dalyell, Tam|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P)||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)||McWilliam, John|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Dewar, Donald||Marshall, D(G'gowS'ton)|
|Dixon, Donald||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Dobson, Frank||Martin, M(G'gowS'burn)|
|Dormand, Jack||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Douglas, Dick||Maxton, John|
|Dubs, Alfred||Meacher, Michael|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Dunnett, Jack||Mikardo, Ian|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Millan, RtHonBruce|
|Eadie, Alex||Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)|
|Eastham, Ken||Mitchell, Austin(Grimsby)|
|Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)|
|Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|English, Michael||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Newens, Stanley|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Field, Frank||Ogden, Eric|
|Fitch, Alan||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Flannery, Martin||O'Neill, Martin|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Ford, Ben||Palmer, Arthur|
|Forrester, John||Park, George|
|Foster, Derek||Parker, John|
|Fraser, J.(Lamb'th, N'w'd)||Parry, Robert|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Prescott, John|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|George, Bruce||Race, Reg|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Radice, Giles|
|Graham, Ted||Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Richardson, Jo|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Hardy, Peter||Hoberts, Gmilym (Cannock)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Haynes, Frank||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Rooker, J. W.|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)||Sever, John|
|HomeRobertson, John||Sheerman, Barry|
|Horam, John||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Howells, Geraint||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Short, Mrs Renée|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|Hughes, Robert (AberdeenN)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Silverman, Julius|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Skinner, Dennis|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillhead)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)|
|John, Brynmor||Snape, Peter|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Soley, Clive|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Stoddart, David|
|Kinnock, Neil||Stott, Roger|
|Lambie, David||Strang, Gavin|
|Lamborn, Harry||Straw, Jack|
|Lamond, James||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Leighton, Ronald||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Lestor, MissJoan||Tilley, John|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Tinn, James|
|Litherland, Robert||Torney, Tom|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Urwin, Rt Hon Tom|
|Lyon, Alexander(York)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|McCartney, Hugh||Wainwright, E.(DearneV)|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Wainwright, R. (ColneV)|
|McElhone, Frank||Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Watkins, David|
|McKelvey, William||Weetch, Ken|
|McMahon, Andrew||Wellbeloved, James|
|McNally, Thomas||Welsh, Michael|
|McNamara, Kevin||White, Frank R.|
|McTaggart, Robert||White, J. (G'gow Pollok)|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Woodall, Alec|
|Whitlock, William||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Wright, Sheila|
|Willey, Rt Hon Frederick||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)|
|Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)||Dr, Edmund Marshall and Mr. George Morton|
|Wilson, Rt Hon SirH.(H'ton)|
|Adley, Robert||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Alexander, Richard||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Eggar, Tim|
|Ancram, Michael||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Arnold, Tom||Eyre, Reginald|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)||Fairgrieve, SirRussell|
|Atkins, Robert (PrestonN)||Faith, MrsSheila|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E)||Farr, John|
|Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Banks, Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, SirCharles|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Bendall, Vivian||Forman, Nigel|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Fox, Marcus|
|Benyon.W. (Buckingham)||Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh|
|Best, Keith||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fry, Peter|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Gardiner, George(Reigate)|
|Biggs-Davison, SirJohn||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)|
|Blackburn, John||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Blaker, Peter||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Body, Richard||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bonsor, SirNicholas||Goodhew, SirVictor|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wichW)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Bowden, Andrew||Gorst, John|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Gow, Ian|
|Braine, SirBernard||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Bright, Graham||Gray, Hamish|
|Brinton, Tim||Greenway, Harry|
|Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon||Griffiths, E. (B'ySt.Edm'ds)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm 'thN)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Grist, Ian|
|Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n)||Grylls, Michael|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Gummer, JohnSelwyn|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.||Hamilton, Hon A.|
|Buck, Antony||Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury)|
|Budgen, Nick||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Hannam, John|
|Burden, SirFrederick||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Butcher, John||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Hawkins, Paul|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Chapman, Sydney||Heddle, John|
|Churchill, W.S.||Henderson, Barry|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hicks, Robert|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Clegg, SirWalter||Hill, James|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hogg, Hon Douglas(Gr'th'm)|
|Colvin, Michael||Holland, Philip(Carlton)|
|Cope, John||Hooson, Tom|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hordern, Peter|
|Corrie, John||Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)|
|Costain, SirAlbert||Howell, Ralph (NNorfolk)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Critchley, Julian||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Crouch, David||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset)||JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.||Kershaw, SirAnthony|
|Dover, Denshore||Kilfedder, James A.|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Kimball, SirMarcus|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Kitson, SirTimothy|
|Durant, Tony||Knight, Mrs Jill|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knox, David|
|Lamont, Norman||Ridsdale, SirJulian|
|Lang, Ian||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Latham, Michael||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Lee, John||Rossi, Hugh|
|Lennox-Boyd, HonMark||Rost, Peter|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Loveridge, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Luce, Richard||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|McCrindle, Robert||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Shepherd, Richard|
|MacGregor, John||Silvester, Fred|
|MacKay, John (Argyll)||Sims, Roger|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Smith, Dudley|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Speed, Keith|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Speller, Tony|
|Madel, David||Spence, John|
|Major, John||Spicer, Jim (WestDorset)|
|Marland, Paul||Spicer, Michael (SWorcs)|
|Marlow, Antony||Sproat, Iain|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Squire, Robin|
|Marten, Rt Hon Neil||Stainton, Keith|
|Mather, Carol||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus||Stanley, John|
|Mawby, Ray||Steen, Anthony|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Stevens, Martin|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stewart, A (E Renfrewshire)|
|Mellor, David||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Meyer, SirAnthony||Stokes, John|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||StradlingThomas, J.|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Moate, Roger||Thompson, Donald|
|Monro, SirHector||Thorne, Nei1 (IlfordSouth)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Moore, John||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Morris, M. (N'hampton S)||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Morrison, HonC. (Devizes)||Trippier, David|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Trotter, Neville|
|Mudd, David||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Murphy, Christopher||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Myles, David||Viggers, Peter|
|Neale, Gerrard||Waddington, David|
|Needham, Richard||Wakeham, John|
|Nelson, Anthony||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Neubert, Michael||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Newton, Tony||Wall, SirPatrick|
|Normanton, Tom||Waller, Gary|
|Nott, Rt Hon John||Walters, Dennis|
|Onslow, Cranley||Ward, John|
|Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.||Warren, Kenneth|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Watson, John|
|Page, Richard (SW Herts)||Wheeler, John|
|Parris, Matthew||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Pawsey, James||Whitney, Raymond|
|Percival, Sir Ian||Wickenden, Keith|
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Pink, R.Bonner||Wilkinson, John|
|Pollock, Alexander||Williams, D. (Montgomery)|
|Porter, Barry||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Wolfson, Mark|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Young, SirGeorge (Acton)|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Mr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Anthony Berry.|
|Rhys Williams, SirBrandon|
Question accordingly negatived.
Consultation With Representative Bodies
I beg to move amendment No. 26, in page 15, line 38, leave out '10 or 11' and insert '10(11) or 11(2)'.The sole purpose of this small and simple amendment is to make the Bill a little clearer. Clause 14 lists the subjects on which the Secretary of State must consult representative bodies, and one of those subjects is the designation of premises as testing stations. To make clear what is meant by designation, clause 14(4) refers to the clauses in which the powers to designate premises are to be found. In Committee, it was suggested that it would be helpful if the reader were referred not only to the appropriate clause, but to the right subsection. The Government are happy to oblige. I hope that this small amendment will be generally welcomed.
I shall not detain the House. The Solicitor-General for Scotland has acknowledged the concern expressed in Committee. I am grateful to him for introducing an amendment that clarifies the position.
Amendment agreed to.
Prohibitions Under Section 57 Of The 1972 Act
I beg to move amendment No. 27, in page 19, leave out lines 34 and 35 and insert 'any person".'.
With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 76 and 78.
The amendments improve the drafting of the provisions in the existing legislation on the imposition of prohibitions on dangerously defective vehicles. Clause 18(1), as drafted, amends section 57 of the Road Traffic Act 1972, which is about prohibitions on goods vehicles found to be unfit for service. Clause 18(1) alters the specification of the circumstances in which a goods vehicle shall be prohibited with immediate effect, so as to make that section consistent with the corresponding provision for public service vehicles, which is to be found in section 9 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981. The formula that clause 18(1) introduces—copied from the 1981 Act—provides that a prohibition shall take effect immediately if using the vehicle
In Committee, Opposition Members pointed out that the formula was unnecessarily long and complex. A reference to "danger to any person" would do just as well. Accordingly, we propose these amendments, which will amend both clause 18(1) and the model on which it was based—section 9 of the 1981 Act. The amendments have the rare virtue of shortening two pieces of legislation. I hope that that in itself will be enough to commend them to the House."would involve danger to the driver, to other persons carried on the vehicle or to other members of the public."
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 28, in page 20, line 6, at beginning insert
`subject to subsection (9A) below'.
With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 29.
The amendments extend the provisions in clause 18 to introduce what is known as a due diligence defence for a goods vehicle operator who is charged with causing or permitting a vehicle to be used in contravention of a prohibition. The amendments will provide him with a defence if he can prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to prevent an offence from being committed.Clause 18 already contains provisions that give some protection to a driver who is charged with driving a goods vehicle in contravention of a prohibition, but who had no knowledge that the vehicle was prohibited. The amendment extends a corresponding protection to the vehicle operator. In both cases, we are bringing the law on goods vehicles into line with existing provisions for public service vehicles. The provisions in clause 18 are modelled on those in the 1981 Act about public service vehicles. It is right and reasonable that such protection should be given to vehicle operators. If an operator can prove that he took all reasonable precautions, he should have a defence against conviction. I emphasise that that will in no way weaken the sanctions that are available against the careless or irresponsible operator. The burden of proof remains on the defendant. He will have to convince the court that he exercised all due diligence. The amendment involves protecting people who are in practice innocent of wrongdoing. It is a modest improvement to the law. I hope that it, too, will be welcomed by the House.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 29, in page 20, line 7, at end insert—
`and the following subsection shall be inserted after that subsection—
"(9A) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (9)(aa) above to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of any offence under that provision.".'.—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]
Forgery And Misuse Of Documents Etc
I beg to move amendment No. 30, in page 23, line 23, leave out from `section' to '(at' in line 24 and insert
This is a technical amendment which does not affect the substance of clause 22. It amends subsection (2)(a), which defines what is meant by the "statutory maximum" fine with respect to England and Wales. The clause, as drafted, refers to the provisions of the Criminal Law Act 1977. However, that Act has been repealed, and the relevant provisions now appear in the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980. The amendment accordingly deletes the outdated reference and substitutes the new one.`32 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980'.
Amendment agreed to.
Fixed Penalty Offences And Fixed Penalty Notices
Amendments made: No. 31, in page 26, line 1, leave out from `a' to end of line 5 and insert
'fixed penalty notice in respect of the offence'.
No. 32, in page 26, line 10, after 'notice', insert
'in respect of the offence'.
No. 33, in page 26, line 29, leave out subsection (5).— [The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]
I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 26, line 35, after '(6)', insert
'subject to section 27(1) and '.
With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No 38, in clause 27, page 27, line 27 at end insert
No. 50, in clause 39, page 43, line 20, leave out from 'Act' to the end of line 23 and insert`but no such order may provide for any offence involving obligatory endorsement to be a fixed penalty offence'
No. 67, in page 60, leave out schedule 1. No. 71, in page 65, leave out schedule 2.'but not any offence involving obligatory endorsement'.
In Committee, we raised serious doubts about whether we should embark on framing legislation that would bring offences that are currently and properly defined as endorsable into the fixed penalty net. Our concern has been expressed and shared by many hon. Members, particularly by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), who indicated some dissent in our debates yesterday.Over the years, the laws applying to motorists have become more and more complicated. The situation has not been helped by the lack of uniform application. The Bill represents an ideal opportunity for simplifying the process of dealing with motoring offences by enlarging the number of offences to be dealt with under the fixed penalty procedure. I believe that the vast majority of hon. Members welcome such a move, because regulations that are well founded and simple to apply will be readily accepted by the driving public. Regrettably, if the Bill's provisions are enacted in their present form, they will have the reverse effect. Drivers will find them complex, confusing and in some ways objectionable. The Bill will probably not achieve its primary objective of simplification, ease of understanding and the removal of the thousands of minor cases from our courts. There are degrees of culpability in all motoring offences and that fact is generally recognised by the current procedure. A specific motoring offence may be ignored, or it may result in a verbal on-the-spot warning, a written warning or a prosecution. We believe that the offer of a fixed penalty should be a further option, but that it should not attract an endorsement, penalty points or in any way be given the status of a conviction. That must continue to be a matter for the courts to determine. The provisions of the clause and its associated schedules describe the offences which may be dealt with by the offer of a fixed penalty. Many endorsable offences are included. The Bill thereby perpetuates the complication of the penalty points system by failing to accept the basic and essential need to simplify these procedures. I contend that fixed penalties should be no more than a further option available to the police for dealing with motoring offences. As I said earlier, any offence dealt with by fixed penalty should not involve the expensive administrative procedure of endorsements, the levying of penalty points and the associated record-keeping that is envisaged in the Bill. Once the fixed penalty has been paid, that should be the end of the matter. However, if the offender comes before a court for non-payment of a fixed penalty, the penalty points procedure should apply as if the matter had been dealt with summarily in the first place. We made these points on many occasions in Committee. We have tried to probe the Government on the reasons why they have seen fit to include in the fixed penalty net offences that rightly attract penalty points and other offences that attract endorsements. We have not yet had a satisfactory reply. The Opposition contend that some of the offences listed in schedules 1 and 2 for fixed penalty treatment should not rank as such. We welcome the Government's intention to remove from the schedule of fixed penalties the pedestrian crossing offence and the offence of disregarding a school crossing patrol, but most of us believe that other offences should be removed because they demonstrate anti-social driving behaviour and should always result in the culprit appearing before a court. The offences to which I refer are offences committed on motorways; contravention of one-way requirements on a trunk road; failure to comply with traffic directions and signs; dangerous parking; failure to stop when required to do so by a constable; and using a vehicle in a dangerous condition. None of those offences should be available for treatment by a fixed penalty notice. I cannot understand why the Government have sought to muddy the waters in that respect. I venture to suggest to the Solicitor-General for Scotland that most of us are in favour of extending fixed penalties into the areas I have mentioned. However, we are not in favour of doing so into areas where there are serious anxieties that the Bill, in seeking to deal with the problem, will actually allow motorists to get away with a more serious offence. We are worried that the Government have sought to include offences that are rightly and properly endorsable. We believe that they should continue to be dealt with properly in court. We do not believe that they should be included in the fixed penalty net, although we give a general welcome to the Government's view that fixed penalties should be extended to take minor offences out of the courts. However, I must tell the Solicitor-General for Scotland that I was not convinced by the arguments in Committee. I am still not convinced that we are legislating in the right way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take my remarks on board.
Not for the first time, I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) who speaks for the Opposition on transport matters.It is a pity that the House is hardly fuller than it was earlier this afternoon to deal with this important aspect of the Bill, which goes to the root of the observance of, and respect for, the law on the part of the average motorist. Those who have served on a jury dealing with motoring offences will know that there is a marked reluctance by jurors to find someone guilty of a serious offence when a heavy penalty is involved, merely because it is a motoring offence. The reason is that there are a host of minor offences which most of us, alas, probably commit at one time or another, such as exceeding the speed limit. The average motorist, although knowing that he has done wrong, does not accept that he has broken the law in the same way as he would if committing burglary, fraud or inflicting grievous bodily harm. In most people's minds there is a distinction between, say, driving at 12 miles an hour above the speed limit and driving dangerously. It is not too hard to distinguish between the two. Because there are so many minor offences—some are technical—that are still subject to endorsement, there is a blurring in people's minds. There is not the clear distinction that one would have thought was necessary between a serious offence and a minor one. It is an important aspect, because it relates to the attitude of the motorist to the law. I should have thought that the Government would use the opportunity presented by the fixed penalty system to encourage a clear distinction between committing a serious offence and committing a technical, or minor, offence. Unfortunately, the Government do not appear to have made the saving or reduced the complication. It is noticeable that both of the major motoring organisations, the Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association, are against the Government's proposals in this respect. To illustrate the attitude of the motoring organisations and my own point of view, there is no more typical offence than that of speeding. If a person drives along the motorway at 120 miles an hour, he is clearly a major danger to other road users and to himself. On the other hand, it is also commonly known that one can drive at 79 miles an hour along the motorway and probably escape prosecution simply because there is a margin offered to the offender who just exceeds the limit. But there is no doubt that the driver doing 79 miles an hour is speeding. However, the odds are that he is not causing any danger either to himself or other road users. Therefore, speeding is fairly obvious whether the offence is serious or a minor infraction of the law.
I have been listening to my hon. Friend with a great deal of interest and I agree with him to a large extent. Clearly serious offences should be punished with severity. Although all of us from time to time unwittingly or through negligence have committed motoring offences, does my hon. Friend agree that there are many people who persistently break the law by committing what he calls small and technical offences and, as a result, are bad drivers and a menace to other people?
I take that point. However, a number of offences that are considered to be endorsable do not, to my mind, fall into that category. I accept what my hon. Friend says about the person who habitually speeds. None the less, in other countries—the United States is an example—it is normal to get a ticket for exceeding the speed limit up to a certain level above the norm.5.30 pm Having said that, I go on to say that a person who perpetually breaks the law in a dangerous way is hardly likely to exceed the speed limit by just a few miles an hour. He will probably be the sort of driver who will exceed it by 20 or 30 miles an hour. In such cases he should be prosecuted, and I believe that the offence should be endorsable. I want the Government to get the advantage of introducing a fixed penalty system, but I believe that they have unnecessarily complicated the issue. Secondly, I want to encourage motorists to keep and respect the law. I therefore believe that we must look at speeding as a two-tier conviction. Thirdly, the motoring organisations that speak for many millions of British motorists have given useful advice, and it is a great pity that the Government have not accepted their point of view. As the hon. Member for Westhoughton said, a policeman now has an alternative. He can either caution, as he does on certain occasions, or he can issue a fixed penalty. In addition, if there is any doubt, he can insist on a prosecution against the offending motorist. The fact that those three alternatives exist take care of the case where there is some doubt about whether the motorist has committed a less serious or more serious offence. If the policeman is in any doubt he can issue a notice of intended prosecution, in which case the courts can decide. I am in agreement with the Opposition amendments. The Government should explain why they have not accepted this common sense advice. If we have fixed penalties that insist on endorsement, there is the problem of levying the penalty points. There is the record-keeping associated with that and all the administration that is involved. Surely the practice in other countries should have given us some guidance. We should not forget one thing. British motorists are about the most law-abiding in the world. The accident rate on our roads is excellent compared with that in nearly every other major industrialised country. The British motorist is not a habitual law-breaker, yet the one area where there is friction between the police and the public is that covering traffic offences. The Government appear to have missed an opportunity to reduce at one fell swoop the time taken by the courts to deal with minor offences, by convincing the motorist that he will be heavily penalised if he commits a serious offence. On the other hand, using the fixed penalty system without an endorsement will ensure that police-public relations are not worsened. Frankly, many of the offences that are now listed as endorsable are not accepted as serious offences by the vast majority of motorists. I therefore ask my hon. Friend to be realistic about the real world and to think again about this part of the Bill.
I shall be brief in my support of the amendments. In doing so I agree not only with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) but with what was said by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry).I believe that the Government have missed an opportunity. Transport legislation should aim to achieve quick and fair justice. If that is the case, many parts of the Bill do much to expedite matters and to establish a quick relationship between the punishment and the crime. Most people involved with safety and driving behaviour believe that that is of the essence. If the paying of the fine or penalty takes place as soon as possible after the committing of the misdemeanour, all the research that has been carried out in many countries shows that that is the best possible solution, because people than respond. Only yesterday, in our debate on wheel clamps, we heard how some sections of the law on driving and parking have fallen into disuse because there is no clear relationship between the misdemeanour or crime and the penalty that is paid. If that attitude creeps into the behaviour that has been described by my hon. Friend, we shall be in danger of the law falling further into disrepute. I therefore believe that we must have a system that is fast and fair. We shall create a dangerous precedent if at the same time as introducing a fixed penalty system on a much broader scale we introduce a system which the motoring public regard as unfair. The provisions of the Bill are not bad when viewed in the long term. However, I should have liked a phasing in of the legislation so that in the first year or two, when motorists are learning about the fixed penalty system, the penalties do not result in a loss of licence. This is a major change. Many of us have underestimated the size of the change and the qualitative step that we are taking by introducing a much broader fixed penalty system. If we allow the motoring public two years to learn about the fixed penalty system, we can then assess in a fair and pragmatic way how the system has worked. We shall then be able to see more clearly whether there is a need to introduce fixed penalties into the system, from which penalty points and loss of licence flow. I cannot understand why the Government cannot adopt a much more tentative approach at this stage. After all, we must be realistic. It is unlikely that a transport Bill will be introduced each and every year.
Not until we have a change of Government.
My right hon. Friend is right. Even though many of us would like to see improvements in the law each year, we realise that a transport Bill will not be introduced each Session.Surely the drafting of this Bill can be amended so that the penalty points system can be phased in over, say, a two-year period. That would be similar to some of the provisions of the 1981 Act. I do not know why that is impossible. I hope that the Government will examine this again, bearing in mind what has been said about police-public relations, and will more seriously consider the views of the major motoring organisations. As someone who has served on two Standing Committees on transport Bills, I pay tribute to the motoring organisations. In a sense, Oppositions are more grateful to motoring organisations than Governments, because they do not have large armies of bureaucrats helping them with drafting and so on. The reputation of the two major motoring organisations in Britain is second to none. Although we may disagree with some of their actions, by and large they reflect the wishes and desires of the motorist. In the short time between the Bill going to another place and returning to this House, I hope that the Government will talk to the motoring organisations and have second thoughts on this aspect of the Bill.
I apologise for coming late to this debate, but I am concerned about the issue involved in the amendment. I subscribe to the general thesis behind the proposal in the Bill that, in so far as it is possible to extend the fixed penalty system, it could be done for a number of comparatively minor traffic offences. It seems to me that a fixed penalty would be appropriate for offences of the kind set out in the schedule. However, what I find unacceptable is that, under the points system, those penalties can be the accumulator for disqualifying people from driving.Disqualification is the severest punishment that magistrates' courts can impose. It can create far more difficulties for an offender than a prison sentence. A prison sentence of, say, a month may disrupt his life and cause him to be socially ostracised, but disqualification can end his job and lead to a collapse of his living standards. In the present economic climate, perhaps he would not work again for a considerable time. I do not believe that totting up the number of endorsements imposed simply as traffic precaution measures, which fixed penalties would be, should be a prerequisite for cutting a man's standard of living. Therefore, I am opposed to the suggestion that fixed penalty endorsements should be used as part of the system of points regulation for disqualification. If the Government wish to continue to use these fixed penalty offences as part of the system of points regulation for disqualification, they should provide that after, say, three fixed penalty endorsements, there should not be any further fixed penalty endorsement and that any subsequent endorsements would be for other offences. The fixed endorsement principle would apply, say, only three times. If one looks at the offences that will be part of the fixed penalty endorsement system, it is not too much to say that none of them, even cumulatively, should count for disqualification. The offences that are suggested are a nuisance, but represent the kind of thing that any driver of any vehicle can do from time to time. They are not offences like dangerous driving, driving without insurance or driving under the influence of drink, which can be said to be criminal offences. They are the inevitable pattern for anyone who is on the road for a long period. Those who can say that they have not committed any of these offences are probably people who do not often drive. 5.45 pm In those circumstances, it is right to say that it should not be possible for a fixed penalty endorsement for this kind of offence to be dealt with by disqualification. I am opposed to the Government's proposition. I favour the amendment.
As the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) said, there was considerable debate on this matter in Committee. I recognise that the division of opinion on what should be done has not necessarily followed party lines. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) has made clear in this debate and previously how he feels. It was suggested in Committee that endorsable offences should not attract penalty points if they were dealt with by the fixed penalty system. That proposal was not acceptable, but at least it maintained one of the principal objectives of the Bill that I had understood both sides of the House considered desirable—to reduce the considerable burden that road traffic offences impose on the police and the courts.We are now discussing a proposal that no endorsable offences should be included within the fixed penalty system. If that were to be followed, we would effectively demolish the objective of this part of the Bill. The estimate is that up to 600,000 cases a year could be taken out of the courts by the extension of the fixed penalty system. That number would be so significantly reduced by this proposal as to make it hardly worth while, because about 500,000 cases would have to be dealt with by the courts.
How many of the cases that come before the courts are for comparatively minor speeding offences? According to my information, the majority of cases are for speeding. If, therefore, only offences where the speed limit was exceeded by more than 15 miles an hour had to come to court, there would be a considerable saving.
Two points are involved. The first concerns offences which are ordinarily dealt with following a plea of guilty and where there is no necessity for a court appearance. I shall come to that point. It is important to establish that the introduction of the fixed penalty system is not intended to devalue the seriousness of endorsable offences or their consequences. We are providing a simpler and more efficient method of dealing with many traffic offences that are currently processed through the courts.Of the endorsable offences, only the less serious ones are being included in the extended fixed penalty system. We are not proposing to include careless driving or any of the more serious offences. Except for the more serious breaches, with which only the courts will be able to deal appropriately, the net effect of committing an endorsable offence will be little different if it is dealt with by fixed penalty. The licence will still be endorsed with penalty points, although the fine may be slightly less and there will be no record of conviction. The endorsement will, of course, be a record of the offence itself. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith) made an important point. Although the degree by which the speed limit is exceeded—many hon. Members may on occasion have done just that—may be small, what is more important and what is, I believe, in the interests of public safety is that, if a motorist repetitively commits that offence, it would seem appropriate that the courts should have that in mind. If we know that a motorist has been driving in this way on a number of occasions, eventually he will have to pay a greater penalty. I have heard the worry that dealing with endorsable offences in this way, and not through the normal process, will lead to a diminution of respect for the law. If that were to be so, I should be concerned. However, I do not believe that that will be the case, particularly as in a substantial number of cases there is no personal appearance in court. For straightforward speeding and other endorsable offences—the type ideally suited to the fixed penalty treatment—a substantial proportion of offenders plead guilty by post. This does a great deal to save court time, but a large amount of court work is still necessary in such cases, which would be removed if the fixed penalty procedure were used. It must be remembered that the fixed penalty system is not being introduced exclusively, or as the only option. It will be one of three options. A constable will still have the discretion to caution or prosecute when there are serious breaches of the law. I know that much of the concern about the introduction of endorsable offences into a fixed penalty system originally centred around the need for the licence at the roadside. We have already dealt with that matter, which is not a particularly relevant problem over the border. If that problem disappears, some of the anxieties about including endorsable offences in the fixed penalty system will also disappear. In all the circumstances, it seems to me that what is being provided is an additional option that gives the police greater flexibility. Concern was expressed that people m ho have had fixed penalties imposed on them may rind that the accumulator works against them, and that it might be undesirable to do all this within the fixed penalty system. It must be emphasised that the motorist is not obliged to accept the fixed penalty notice. If it is a matter that concerns him, and he wishes to go to court, there is nothing to stop him doing that, even with the fixed penalty system. It would be alarming if motorists believed that we were introducing this system to deprive them of the fundamental right, in the last resort, to go to court. There are two threads which, although they may not conflict, none the less are evidence of an unease, for different reasons, about what has been introduced. On one side, there is the argument that this will diminish the respect for the law, and reduce the seriousness of the offences involved. Another thread, which the RAC has been suggesting, is that we ought to be reducing the importance of such things as lesser speeding offences by taking them out of the penalty points system. I understand that that is what the RAC is suggesting in the latest briefing that it has sent to hon. Members. It appears that it is suggesting that, in the more serious speeding offence, it would be incumbent on the prosecution not only to establish the speed at which the motorist was going and the prevailing speed limit, but to point to some additional evidence of potential accident risks. In such circumstances, we should not be making a true distinction among the different effects of speeding at a particular degree above the limit but, in that category of dangerous or reckless driving, introducing yet a further category of offence in which speeding, of itself, is not necessarily a major part.
I agree that the proposal by the motoring organisation is misconceived, but does the Minister agree that speeding can be either a potentially dangerous activity or not, depending on the circumstances? It may not be simply a question of degree. The speed of 30 miles an hour could be dangerous in a particular place, yet 100 miles an hour on a motorway might not be dangerous in any circumstances.In that respect, would it not be better for us to reconsider the whole realm of speeding and whether we should make it, as it has been in this case, simply subject to a fixed penalty? If the driving is thought to be dangerous or reckless, charges should follow, which would deal with the serious danger that is occasionally caused by speeding.
I follow the hon. Gentleman's point, but as I understand the position—this is the case north of the border on which I can speak—if someone was doing 120 miles an hour in a 30 miles per hour limit close to a school, he would not expect to be prosecuted only for breaking a speed limit. He would be charged with the more aggravated offence of careless driving. I understand the argument and realise that it is appropriate to look to the circumstances of the driving, such as the condition of the road, not just the speed.With regard simply to speeding offences, we are allowing in the Bill a simple and necessary flexibility, with three options. First, if the offence is minor, all that the constable needs to do is give a caution or warning. Secondly, if the offence is more excessive, the fixed penalty would be more appropriate. Thirdly, if it is significant and serious but does not involve one of the other driving offences it is still open to the police to take the case to the courts. That flexibility is desirable. By deleting all of schedules 1 and 2, these amendments would have an odd effect. I doubt whether the hon. Member for Westhoughton intended that. It would mean that when we introduce the new system we should have to seek parliamentary approval, by the affirmative resolution procedure, for the use of fixed penalties for offences, such as parking offences, that have already been in the fixed penalty system for many years. I think that the hon. Member for Westhoughton accepts that that is an appropriate system to deal with such offences. Rather than adding to the list of fixed penalties, we should have to seek further approval for those that we already have. We should be moving backwards rather than forwards. I appreciate the concern expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough on this matter. However, as this system allows for flexibility, if we were to exclude all the offences that were endorsable, all that we have sought to do in this part of the Bill would effectively be worthless, because so many offences would be left before the courts. For those reasons, I am not inclined to recommend that these amendments should be accepted.
I join my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) in his tribute to the motoring organisations. Throughout the proceedings on the Bill, on Second Reading, on Report and in Committee, we have been greatly assisted by the Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association in formulating our amendments and our view of the Bill. I pay tribute to them because they co-operate fully with all hon. Members.6 pm We have had an interesting short debate. Good contributions have been made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) and by my hon. Friends the Members for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) and York (Mr. Lyon), all of whom, like me, feel that endorsable offences on principle ought not to be included in the fixed penalty net. It is clear from what the Solicitor-General for Scotland said that the Government have no intention of withdrawing that provision because they believe that it will assist in taking out of the courts many of the offences that are taken to court at present. I still remain opposed to the principle. I speak only for myself from the Dispatch Box, not for my party, because this is not a party issue, but an issue that concerns the House generally. Therefore, I must say that I still oppose the principle because I do not wish to see those offences given the status of a conviction, which I fear may happen. The Solicitor-General seemed to try to mollify me by saying that the problems envisaged in Committee in respect of the licence had been removed, so the major plank of our objections was removed. That is a useful step. I am pleased that the Government have taken our advice, but our fundamental objection to the principle enunciated in the Bill has not been removed. While I recognise that many Conservative and Opposition Members may support the hon. Gentleman, a number of us, including hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon, still oppose that principle. I am keenly aware that I might attract the wrath of the House if I were to force a Division, but I shall restrain my natural inclination only because I believe that their Lordships will have taken note of what we have said in Committee and in the Chamber. I am sure that when the Bill goes to another place, their Lordships may be able to persuade the Government to remove endorsable offences from the provisions of the Bill because many hon. Members do not believe that they should have been included.
The Question is, That the amendment be made. As many as are of that opinion say "Aye". Those of the contrary opinion say "No".
The "Noes" have it.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When you put the Question a moment ago, I said "Aye". I may not have said it loudly enough, but I said it. In those circumstances, is it right that the Division should not have taken place?
I put the Question clearly. I did not hear any "Ayes". I said: "The 'Noes' have it". There were still no "Ayes" in my hearing. When I moved on, the complaint was made. I was sure in my own mind that the "Noes" had it.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was sitting next to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) and I distinctly heard him say "Aye". I imagined that the Division would take place.
I did not hear that. I waited and still did not hear any "Ayes". I heard the "Noes", so the amendment was defeated.
Amendment made: No. 35, in page 27, line 12, at end insert—
'(8A) In this Part of this Act, "fixed penalty notice" means a notice offering the opportunity of the discharge of any liability to conviction of the offence to which the relates by payment of a fixed penalty in accordance with this Part of this Act. '—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]
Further Provisions With Respect To Fixed Penalty Offences And Notices
Amendment made: No. 36, in page 27, line 22, at beginning insert
`Proceedings shall not be brought against any person for the offence to which a fixed penalty notice relates until the end of the period of twenty-one days following the date of the notice or such longer period (if any) as may be specified in the notice (referred to below in this Part of this Act as the suspended enforcement period in respect of the offence).
(1A).'.—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]
I beg to move amendment No. 37, in page 27, line 26, leave out ' (including Schedules 1 and 2)'.
With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 57.
This amendment has been coupled with amendment No. 57. Hon. Members may observe that my remarks will also be relevant to amendment No. 58.These minor amendments do no more than seek to make the Bill easier to understand. Schedule 2 is not introduced until clause 39 and it therefore seems inappropriate to refer to it in clause 27, before the reader knows that it has anything to say about fixed penalties. However, in order to retain the meaning of the existing reference to schedules 1 and 2 in clause 27, we need to say that references to this part of the Act include the schedules introduced by it.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 39, in page 28, line 17, at end insert
We debated this issue in Committee. We did not get much satisfaction from the Under-Secretary of State.`( ) Chief officers of police shall operate the provisions of this Part of this Act on the same basis and in respect of the same fixed penalty offences in accordance with written advice from the Secretary of State for the Home Office and the Secretary of State for Scotland.'.
The hon. Gentleman will get less from me.
Perhaps, if the Solicitor-General listens to my remarks, he will moderate his view.We debated the uniform application of the fixed penalty system. Under the Bill a constable or the procurator fiscal in Scotland may issue a fixed penalty notice. It seems that the availability of the fixed penalty system as an alternative to prosecution will remain a policy decision for individual police forces rather than be nationally implemented on a uniform basis. That will perpetuate the present unsatisfactory and confusing situation whereby in different areas of the country the fixed penalty is used to a differing extent for different offences. Under the terms of the Bill over 30 more offences will qualify for fixed penalty treatment in Scotland compared with the rest of the United Kingdom. It is inequitable that a decision whether to prosecute or issue a fixed penalty should depend upon where the offence took place rather than on the nature of the offence. A first step in simplifying motoring offence procedure would be that the fixed penalty system should be available on the same basis throughout Great Britain for the same offence. The Solicitor-General may recall that in Committee I gave some examples of the wide discrepancy among the police forces of Essex, Suffolk and Kent in respect of certain fixed penalty provisions. Chief constables do not apply the fixed penalty procedure uniformly. The amendment provides that some uniformity would be a good thing in new legislation. It appeared that the Government were sympathetic when the Under-Secretary of State for Transport wound up the debate in Committee. I prayed in aid in defence of the amendments the recommendations of the report of the inter-departmental working party on road traffic law. Paragraph 50 says:
The acceptance of the amendment would make the extension of the fixed penalty provisions uniform throughout the United Kingdom, as they should be."We have acknowledged the reasons put forward by Chief Officers of police for the unevenness of the application of the existing fixed-penalty system. The resource argument in that connection would have little if no relevance to offences under the extended system since it is designed to reduce the work of the police in preparing and undertaking prosecutions and we therefore consider that there should be uniformity in practice."
We had a considerable debate on this matter in Committee. I do not quite know what the words "on the same basis" mean. I understand the amendment to mean that there should be uniformity of practice in the conduct of the fixed penalty system both in terms of procedure and offences dealt with. It is hoped to achieve that uniformity by circulars to the police.The Government's reservations are essentially the same as they were about the amendment that was debated in Committee. I thought that it was accepted that it would not be right to seek to impose complete uniformity of procedure on the police and unrealistic to suppose that all forces could deal in the same way with all possible offences. The Committee was aware that the interdepartmental working party on road traffic law had recommended that the system should be operated uniformly. The Association of Chief Police Officers has accepted that recommendation in principle. It is accepted that uniformity should be our goal but it may have to be achieved gradually rather than instantly. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) withdrew his amendment in Committee on the basis that he accepted the assurance of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport that the fixed penalty system would be operated as uniformly as possible. It is with some surprise that we find a further amendment on the Notice Paper. The hon. Gentleman may feel that there is a distinction between imposing uniformity by statute and advising it by circular. The drafting of the amendment does not make such a distinction. It provides for circulars to be issued giving advice and the police would be under a statutory obligation to comply. That is quite contrary to normal practice, where advice to chief constables has no statutory force although it is issued in the expectation that it will be fo—llowed. It would be unusual for a statute to provide that Ministers should not only offer guidance but also stipulate the contents of the advice. The amendment is similar to a provision for regulation-making powers. Ministers frequently give undertakings as to the advice they will offer but not on the face of the Bill. Technically, it is not conventional to refer to the particular Secretary of State. I cannot accept the amendment and commend it to the House. The most that it would be appropriate for me to do would be to undertake to explore with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland the possibility of guidance being issued to the police to the effect that consistency of practice is desirable if possible. Since the Association of Chief Police Officers has already agreed to that approach, it might be thought that such advice would be superfluous. The Government do not object to the principle of uniformity.
I have a sense of deja vu since the same people have said much the same thing in Committee. To be consistent, I should like to say that we should not regard uniformity as something to be universally sought. There may be circumstances in which the application of the provisions within a particular police area may be considered by the chief constable to be necessarily operated in a way that is not entirely consistent with that operated in other police areas.Certain areas of the country are affected by motoring offences at particular times of the year—Christmas or the New Year—when chief constables may wish to carry out particular schemes designed to discourage motorists from committing road offences by telling them in advance that there will be a blitz on that type of offence. Anything which inhibited a chief constable from carrying out such a scheme because it did not conform with the way the fixed penalty system was being operated elsewhere would be most undesirable. This amendment is an interference in chief constables' operational decisions. It was wrong when it was suggested in Committee and it is even worse that it should be included in the Bill.
The hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) made exactly the same points in Committee. My response, now as then, is that, although I understand the resource argument, I believe that the amendments we tabled then and now are valid to try to make the Government ensure that the fixed penalty scheme is applied on a uniform basis. It may be that we did not table it correctly but we intended to ensure that the Government were apprised of our feelings.The Solicitor-General for Scotland asked me why I withdrew the amendment in Committee. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, I am famous for being able to facilitate progress in debate. That is one reason why I withdrew the amendment. I was pleased to hear the Solicitor-General for Scotland say that the Government will issue guidance to chief constables on the new provisions within the Bill. If uniformity cannot be written into the statute, guidance to chief constables will be most welcome. The motoring public will feel that it is unfair if one area of the United Kingdom issues more fixed penalty notices than another merely because the chief constable considers them to be especially important in the first area. That will cause confusion in the minds of the motoring public.
I did not say that the Government undertook to issue guidance to chief constables. I said that my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Scotland will consider the possibility of issuing that guidance and that that will now be explored.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I hope that when the Secretary of State for Scotland and other Ministers have considered that possibility they will see fit to give guidance. It is important that it is given. With that in mind, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Effect Where Fixed Penalty Notice Is Given To The Alleged Offender
Amendment made: No. 40, in page 28, line 20, after '26(1)', insert
'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'.—[Mr. David Howell.]
Endorsement Of Licences Without Hearings
Amendments made: No. 42, in page 33, line 13, after '26(1)' insert
'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'.
No. 41, in page 33, line 24, after '26' insert
'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station]'—[Mr. David Howell.]
Amendment made: No. 43, in page 35, line 3, after '26(1)' insert
'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'.—[Mr. David Howell.]
Registration And Endorsement Invalid In Certain Circumstances
I beg to move amendment No. 44, in page 38, leave out lines 6 to 9.
With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 45 to 47.
The amendments remove an anomaly in clause 35, which deals with the statutory declaration. As the clause stands, if a person makes a statutory declaration under subsection (2)(b) to the effect that a hearing had been requested in respect of the fixed penalty offence in question, the registration of the fine and any proceedings to enforce it are void. However, that person's licence may already have been endorsed. The clause, as drafted, has no provision for cancelling that endorsement. The amendments put right that anomaly.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 45, in page 38, line 11, leave out 'and'.
No. 46, in page 38, line 13, after 'registered', insert
'and any endorsement, in respect of the offence in respect of which the relevant fixed penalty notice was given, made under section 32 of this Act before the declaration was served'.
No. 47, in page 38, line 17, at end insert—
'(6A) It shall be the duty of the clerk of the relevant court to cancel an endorsement of a licence under section 32 of this Act that is void by virtue of subsection (5) or (6)(a) above on production of the licence to him for that purpose, and to send notice of the cancellation to the Secretary of State.'—[Mr. David Howell.]
Notification Of Court And Date Of Trial
Amendment made: No. 48, in page 40, line 21, after '26(1)'
'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'—[Mr. David Howell.]
Provision For Exclusion Of Fixed Penalty Procedures Where Fixed Penalty Notice Mistakenly Given
Amendment made: No. 49, in page 41, line 37, after '26(1)' insert
'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'.—[Mr.David Howell.]
Evidence In Fixed Penalty Notice Cases
Amendments made: No. 51, in page 48 line 34, after 'notice' insert
'or a notice under section [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (1) of this Act'.
No. 52, in page 48, line 37, leave out 'fixed penalty'.
No. 53, in page 49, line 30, leave out from 'the' to end of line 33 and insert
In paragraph (b) of this subsection, "relevant date" means—
(i) where the accused gives notice requesting a hearing in respect of the offence in accordance with any provision of this Part of this Act, the date on which he gives that notice; and (ii) where a notice in respect of the offence was given to the accused under section [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (1) of this Act but no fixed penalty notice is given in respect of it, the last day for production of the first-mentioned notice at a police station in accordance with that section.'.—[Mr. David Howell.]
Amendments made: No. 54, in page 50, line 40, after '26' insert
'[Fixed penalty notices given at a police station]'
No. 55, in page 52, line 34, at end insert
'or in respect of which a notice has been given under section [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (1) of this Act'—[Mr. David Howell.]
Interpretation Of Part Iii
I beg to move amendment No. 56, in page 53, line 27, after 'constable', insert
In Committee it was accepted that the Bill should make clear that a constable must be in uniform when he issues a fixed penalty notice. This technical amendment is consequential to that. It maintains consistency by ensuring that references to a constable in uniform, as well as to a constable, are to include a traffic warden for the purposes authorised.'or, as the case may be, to a constable in uniform'.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 57, in page 53, line 31, at end insert—
'(4A) Subject to any express exception, references in this Part of this Act to this Part of this Act include Schedules 1 to 3. '.—[Mr. Eyre.]
I beg to move amendment No. 58, in page 53, line 34, after 'this' insert 'Part of this'.When I was speaking to amendments Nos. 37 and 57 I said that this amendment naturally fell with them. It is a technical amendment that relates to amendments Nos.37 and 57.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 59, in page 53, line 39, leave out '(1)' and insert '(8A)'.
No. 60, in page 54, line 10, leave out ' 26(5)' and insert '27(1)'.— [Mr. David Howell.]
Control Of Operation Of Goods Vehicles On Environmental Grounds
Amendment made: No. 61, in page 54, line 16, leave out clause 49.— [Mr. David Howell.]
Regulations And Orders
I beg to move amendment No. 62, in page 57, line 35, after '(2)', insert
'subject to subsection (2A) below'.
With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 63, in page 57, line 38, at end insert—
(2A) The Secretary of State shall not make any orders under section 27(1) of this Act unless a draft thereof has been approved by both Houses of Parliament.'.
This is a reference back to clause 27(1), which gives the Secretary of State power to create new fixed penalty offences or to remove certain fixed penalty offences from that category. We had a considerable debate in Committee on a wider issue about whether the orders should be by affirmative or negative procedure. I do not want to repeat that argument in full.It is interesting to note that if the Secretary of State wishes to extend the functions of traffic wardens under the 1967 Act, he has to proceed by affirmative order. We believe that moving offences into or out of the fixed penalty system should be done with some consistency and that consistency should be taken into account. There are difficulties with the negative procedure, the most obvious one being lack of time. The House NA ill recall that during 1971–72 a Joint Committee of both Houses considered delegated legislation. I shall not go through the report, but there was considerable criticism about a number of prayers that were not taken. There have been changes since then and it is now possible to consider statutory instruments in Committee. But that is no guarantee that a matter will be debated in time. The Department is open to criticism on this score. My attention has been drawn to the occasion when the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) prayed against an order dealing with right-hand sidecars on motor cycles. In Committee, the Government were defeated, but the then Under-Secretary of State, the hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), who is now the Minister for Health, refused to accept the decision of the Committee on the ground that the debate had taken place one day out of time. When a Department cannot arrange to take matters in time, it does not inspire us with confidence in the negative procedure. It is even worse than that, because the then Secretary of State declined to take the matter on the Floor of the House so that the view of the House might be taken. That does not inspire confidence in the negative procedure. In Committee, we debated penalties as well as offences. It was a two-pronged debate. The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), said that she was open to further enticement. The hon. Lady is not on the Government Front Bench to be enticed. We understand why she is not present and we make no complaint about her absence. I hoped that, following the end of our deliberations in Committee, the hon. Lady had been able to persuade the Secretary of State to accept the amendment. I await the Under-Secretary of State's reply with confidence.
I regret that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will be disappointed with my reply. He was right to say that this issue was discussed at some length in Committee. The question whether such orders should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure was considered fully. I do not share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the negative resolution procedure that we are proposing for the order to remove from or to add to the list of fixed penalty offences. Hon. Members need not be worried that we shall want to start including serious offences, such as drinking and driving, in the fixed penalty offences. Any offence which involves the possibility of disqualification could not be included because of the need for a court hearing. However, experience of the system may show that some offences should be taken out or that others should be included.6.30 pm Things do change. New offences may be created which may subsequently be thought suitable for fixed penalty treatment. In some circumstances the procedure advocated is appropriate, but it is time-consuming and by no means simple. It is not warranted for the type of order that we envisage. This is a matter of judgment. There are other considerations. There is no advantage in including an offence if the fixed penalty procedure is not suitable for it. The motorist would probably object and not accept a fixed penalty notice, and the police, too, would not take advantage of the benefits offered by the system. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has given the matter much thought since it was discussed in Committee. He remains of the view that what we propose is adequate and proper. Therefore, I ask the House to join me, if necessary, in resisting the amendment. However, I hope that, in the light of my explanation, the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.
I regret that the Minister regrets that he cannot accept the amendment. I would have been happier if he had come to the Dispatch Box and explained that, although the matter arose before he went to the Department of Transport, he could give an absolute assurance that the Government, in the form of the Secretary of State for Transport, would ensure that prayers were not delayed beyond the time that they were due to be debated. That would have been a great reassurance, but the Minister has not said that.The Minister put forward a fallacious argument about convenience. What is convenient for the Government is not important, but what is convenient for the House is. It is true that the negative procedure is more convenient for the Government because, once the orders are laid, they lie there unless someone takes action against them. I did not suggest that the Government would act irresponsibly by taking things out or putting them in, but it would be perfectly proper for the Government to use the affirmative procedure. That would mean that they must find time for debate and that the changes could not be effected until the debate had taken place. This is a House of Commons matter. I do not wish to delay the House any longer. I am prepared to give way if the Government will give an assurance that they will play the game on the negative procedure. I shall be delighted if the Minister springs to his feet—it rather worries me that he does not—and says that the events which I have described will not happen again.
Any procedural mishap would be regretted. I have listened to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I do not know enough about the facts of the matter, but I assure him that the Government would want to avoid the repetition of such a procedural mishap.
Since we appear to be in a friendly mood today, I will go so far as to accept that there was a mishap on the previous occasion, but I have some suspicion that it was not. In view of the assurances that I have finally managed to wring out of the Minister, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Minor And Consequential Amendments And Repeals
Amendment made: No. 64, in page 58, line 7, at end insert—
`but the repeal in the Heavy Commercial Vehicles (Controls and Regulations) Act 1973 is subject to the saving in section (Definition of heavy commercial vehicle) (3) of this Act.'.—[Mr. Eyre.]
Citation, Commencement And Extent
Amendment made: No. 66, in page 58, line 22, at beginning insert—
`Sections (Immobilisation of vehicles illegally parked, etc.) and (Definition of heavy commercial vehicle) of this Act and'.—[Mr. Eyre.]
Fixed Penalty Offences
I beg to move amendment No. 68, in page 61, line 7, column 2, at end insert
`except an offence in respect of a moving motor vehicle'.
With this, it will be convenient to take amendment No. 69.
These amendments are in response to the Opposition's concern that these two offences were not suitable for fixed penalty treatment. Their proposal would have removed all pedestrian crossing offences from the fixed penalty system. We do not feel that is justified.—Schedule 5 Therefore, the amendment is confined to excluding offences
There are many instances where fixed penalty treatment would be appropriate for minor breaches of the pedestrian crossing regulations, especially those involving stationary vehicles. It would be absurd if each of those had to be dealt with in court when one of the main objectives of the new system is to relieve the courts of road traffic cases. However, I am prepared to accept that offences in respect of moving vehicles may be more serious. It must be remembered that the fixed penalty procedure is only an option for a constable who retains the discretion to prosecute for serious breaches of a regulation. There is no intention to devalue the seriousness of any offence by making it eligible for fixed penalty treatment. Nevertheless, in view of the concern expressed, we have decided that breaches of pedestrian crossing regulations in respect of a moving motor vehicle should not be included in the extended fixed penalty system. We have also decided that the offence of disregarding a school crossing patrol may not be ideally suited to the fixed penalty treatment in all cases. In view of the fact that the number of cases that would stay within the court process is relatively small—about 650 convictions in 1980—and in view of the concern expressed, which to an extent I share, we have decided that these offences, too, should not be part of the fixed penalty system."in respect of a moving motor vehicle."
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I thank the Minister for bringing forward the two amendments.Amendment No. 68 is a sensible amendment with regard to pedestrian crossings. I understand the Minister's point about the moving traffic offence. That is important. The Committee was appalled that a provision should be included in the Bill whereby a fixed penalty notice could be given to a motorist who clearly ignored a school crossing patrol. That could not be right. I am grateful that he has taken notice of the view expressed on both sides in Committee.
This is a useful concession. It is an example of some light being shed rather than just heat being generated in Committee. Once the Committee recognised the division between those offences and the number of prosecutions for moving and stationary vehicles, the need for the amendment became clear. I thank the Government for making that change.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 69, in page 61, leave out lines 9 and 10.— [Mr. Eyre.]
Amendments Of Transport Act 1968 Relating To Operator's Licences
Amendment made: No. 72, in page 70, leave out from beginning of line 1 to end of line 9 on page 76.— [Mr. Eyre.]
Minor And Consequential Amendments
I beg to move amendment No. 73, in page 77, line 35, after 'in', insert 'any provision of.This is a minor technical amendment which makes no difference to the substance of schedule 5. It simply improves the drafting. It amends the definition of "authorised inspector" which paragraph 9(4) of that schedule inserts into the Road Traffic Act 1972.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 74, in page 78, line 27, leave out from—driver"' to "`alleged"' in line 28 and insert
This is a technical amendment that alters the amended definition of "driver" in section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 1974. The use of "is" rather than "was" is more appropriate to convey the feeling that the allegation can be a continuing one and consistency with the wording of clause 29(3) is maintained.`for the word "was" there shall be substituted the word "is",.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No.75, in page 79, line 21, leave out first 'and' and insert `to'.This amendment merely corrects an error of drafting.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment made: No. 76, in page 79, line 40, leave out from beginning to end of line 42 and insert—
'In section 9 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 (power to prohibit driving of unfit public service vehicles)—(a) in subsection (5), for the words from "the driver" to "public" there shall be substituted the words "any person"; and (b) the following subsection shall be added at the end—'—[Mr. Eyre.]
I beg to move amendment No.77, in page 79, line 44, at end insert—
The purpose of this minor amendment is to ensure that if the initial certification of public service vehicles is undertaken by an authorised body in the private sector, applications and fees for the certification work will go to the authority that does it and not, as at present, to the traffic commissioners. The amendment does not contain any specific reference to the payment of fees to a private sector testing authority, but it makes it clear that the destination of applications and fees can be determines in regulations under the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1931. That leaves it open for regulations to specify that fees shall be paid to the prescribed authority.`16A. In section 52(1)(a) of that Act (fees for grant of licence), for sub-paragraph (ii) there shall be substituted the following subparagraph—"(ii) applications for certificates of initial fitness under section 6 of this Act which are required by regulations to be made to the commissioners and the issue of certificates on such applications;"'.
Amendment agreed to.
No. 78, in page 80, line 1, leave out 'the 1981' and insert `that'.— [Mr. Eyre.]
No. 79, in page 80, line 21, column 3, leave out `Section 68(4) (a)' and insert—
'In section 63, in subsection (1) the words "Subject to subsection (2) of this section" and subsection (2).
In section 64(2), in paragraph (d) the words from "and that the place" to the end of the paragraph and in paragraph (e) the words "and of a suitable operating centre".
No. 80, in page 80, line 37, at end insert—
`1973 c. 44
Heavy Commercial Vehicles (Controls and Regulations) Act 1973.
Section 1(7). '.
No. 81, in page 81, line 34, column 3, at end insert—'In Schedule 4, paragraph 2 (b) and (c).'.— [Mr. Eyre.]
I beg to move amendment No. 82, in page 81, line 44, column 3, leave out 'paragraph 3' and insert `paragraphs 3 and 5'.This is a minor consequential amendment completing the repeals that must be made of parts of schedule 3 to the Transport Act 1978.
Amendment agreed to.
No. 83, in page 81, line 50, after '7', insert 'paragraph 13 and'.— [Mr. Eyre.]
`Amendments Of Transport Act 1968 Relating To Operators' Licences
Provisions Inserted After Section 69 Of Transport Act 1968
Control of operating centres for goods vehicles on environmental
Operating centres for authorised vehicles to be specified in
69A.—(1) A person may not use a place in the area of any licensing authority as an operating centre for authorised vehicles under any operator's licence granted to him by that authority unless it is specified in that licence.
(2) A person applying for an operator's licence shall give to the licensing authority a statement giving such particulars as the authority may require of each place in the area of the authority which will be an operating centre of the applicant if the licence is granted.
(3) Without prejudice to section 62(4) of this Act, a person applying for an operator's licence shall also, if he is required by the licensing authority so to do, give to him such particulars as he may require with respect to the use which the applicant proposes to make, for authorised vehicles under the licence, of any place referred to in the statement under subsection (2) of this section.
(4) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) of this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500.
Objection to, and refusal or modification of, applications for operators' licences on environmental grounds
69B.—(1) Any person entitled by virtue of section 63(3) of this Act to object to the grant of any application for an operator's licence on the ground there mentioned may also object to the grant of any such application on the ground that any place which, if the licence is granted, will be an operating centre of the holder of the licence is unsuitable on environmental grounds for use as such.
(2) In the case of any such application, any person who is the owner or occupier of land in the vicinity of any place which, if the licence is granted, will be an operating centre of the holder of the licence may make representations against the grant of the application on the ground that that place in unsuitable on environmental grounds for use as such, provided that any adverse effects on environmental conditions arising from that use would be capable of prejudicially affecting the use or enjoyment of the land.
(3) Where any objection or representations are duly made under this section in respect of any application for an operator's licence, the licensing authority may in any case refuse the application on the ground that the parking of authorised vehicles under the licence at or in the vicinity of any place which, if the licence were granted, would be an operating centre of the holder of the licence would cause adverse effects on environmental conditions in the vicinity of that place.
(4) Where any objection or representations are duly so made in respect of any such application, the licensing authority may refuse the application, subject to subsection (5) of this section, on the ground that any place which, if the licence were granted, would be an operating centre of the holder of the licence is unsuitable for use as such on environmental grounds other than the ground mentioned in subsection (3) of this section.
(5) A licensing authority may not refuse an application for an operator's licence under subsection (4) of this section if the applicant satisfies the authority that the grant of the application will not result in any material change as regards—
(6) Without prejudice to the power of a licensing authority to issue an operator's licence subject to either or both of the modifications or limitations mentioned in section 64(4) of this Act, in any case where—
For the purposes of this subsection, a place referred to in any such statement given to a licensing authority by an applicant for an operator's licence is unsuitable for use as an operating centre if the licensing authority has power to refuse the application under subsection (3) or (4) of this section in consequence of the proposed use of that place as an operating centre.
(7) A request for the grant of a licence under section 67(5) of this Act pending the determination of a current application shall not be treated as an application for an operator's licence for the purposes of this section, but in granting a licence under section 67(5) a licensing authority may specify in the licence such place or places referred to in the statement given to the authority by the applicant under section 69A(2) of this Act as the authority thinks fit.
Conditions as to the use of operating centres
69C.—(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, a licensing authority may attach such conditions to an operator's licence as appear to him to be appropriate for the purpose of preventing or minimising any adverse effects on environmental conditions arising from the use for authorised vehicle under the licence of any operating centre of the holder of the licence in the area of the authority.
(2) The conditions which may be attached to a licence under this section shall be of such description as may be prescribed; and, without prejudice to the generality of the preceding provision, the descriptions which may be prescribed include conditions regulating—
(3) Subject to subsection (4) of this section, the licensing authority by whom an operator's licence was granted may at any time vary or remove any condition attached to the licence under this section.
(4) The power to attach a condition to an operator's licence under this section shall be exercisable by a licensing authority on granting the licence; and that power, and the power to vary or remove any condition so attached, shall also be exercisable in accordance with section 69D of this Act on an application by the holder for variation of the licence.
(5) Any person who contravenes any condition attached under this section to a licence of which he is the holder shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500.
Variation of operators' licences with respect to operating centres and conditions affecting their use, etc.
69D.—(1) Subject to section 69E of this Act, on the application of the holder of an operator's licence, the licensing authority by whom the licence was granted may at any time while it is in force vary the licence by directing—
(2) A person applying for the variation of an operator's licence under this section shall give to the licensing authority such information as he may reasonably require for the discharge of his duties in relation to the application.
(3) The licensing authority shall publish in the prescribed manner notice of any application for a variation under this section, unless the licensing authority is satisfied that the application is of so trivial a nature that it is not necessary that an opportunity should be given for objecting to it or making representations against it.
(4) Any person entitled to object to the grant of any application for a variation of which notice has been published under section 68(4) of this Act may object to the grant of any application for a variation of which notice has been published under section 68(4) or under subsection (3) of this section on either of the following grounds, that is to say—
(5) Subject to subsection (6) of this section, any person who is the owner or occupier of land in the vicinity of—
(6) A person may not by virtue of subsection (5) of this section make representations against the grant of an application for variation of an operator's licence unless any adverse effects arising from the use of the place or operating centre in question would be capable of prejudicially affecting the use or enjoyment of land there mentioned.
(7) On any application for a variation of an operator's licence under this section the licensing authority may refuse the application in any case where it appears to him that the application ought to be refused on either of the grounds mentioned in subsection (4) of this section.
(8) In any case in which the licensing authority grants an application for a variation of an operator's licence of which notice has been published under section 68(4) of this Act or under subsection (3) of this section, the licensing authority may direct that any condition attached to the licence under section 69C of this Act shall be varied or removed or that a condition shall be attached to the licence under that section.
(9) If an applicant under this section so requests, the licensing authority may, pending the determination of the application, give an interim direction under subsection (1) or (8) of this section, that is to say, a direction expressed to continue in force only until the application, and any appeal arising out of it, have been disposed of; and a request for such a direction shall not for the purposes of subsections (3) to (7) of this section be treated as an application for a variation under this section.
Publication Of Notice Of Applications For Licences And Variations In Localities Affected
69E.—(1) The licensing authority for any area shall refuse—
(2) The period referred to in subsection (1) of this section is the period beginning twenty-one days before the date on which the application is made and ending twenty-one days after that date.
(3) For the purposes of this section a locality shall be taken to be affected by an application to a licensing authority for, or for the variation of, an operators's licence if it contains any place in the area of the authority which will be an operating centre of the holder of the licence if the application is granted, or (in the case of an application for variation) any existing operating centre of the holder of the licence to which the application relates.
Revocation, Etc Of Operators' Licences For Breach Of Provisions Controling Use Of Operating Centres
69F.—(1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, the licensing authority by whom an operator's licence was granted may direct that it be revoked, suspended, terminated on a (late earlier than that on which it would otherwise expire under section 67 of this Act, or curtailed on the ground that the holder of the licence has contravened section 69A of this Act or any condition attached to his licence under section 69C of this Act; and during any time of suspension the licence shall be of no effect.
(2) Section 69 of this Act shall apply as if the power to give a direction under subsection (1) of this section and the ground there mentioned were respectively conferred by and mentioned in subsection (1) of that section.
Provisions supplementary to sections 69A to 69F
69G.—(1) Any objection or representations under section 69B or 69D of this Act shall contain particulars of any matters alleged by the person making the objection or representations to be relevant to the determination of the licensing authority to which the objections or representations relate; and the onus of proof of any matters so alleged shall lie on the person making the objection or representations.
(2) any objection or representations under either of those sections with respect to any application for, or for the variation of, an operator's licence shall be made within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, which—
(3) In making any of the following determinations, that is to say—
(4) In making any such determination for the purposes of exercising any of his powers under sections 69B to 69D of this
Act in relation to an application for, or for the variation of, an operator's licence, the licensing authority shall also have regard to—
(5) Notice of an application for a variation of an operator's licence published under section 69D of this Act shall contain
(6) Any statement or information to be given to a licensing authority under section 69A or 69D of this Act shall be given in such form as the authority may require.
(7) For the purposes of sections 69D(5) (b) and 69E(3) of this Act an application for a variation of an operator's licence shall be taken to relate to an operating centre of the holder of the licence if any condition attached to the licence which the application seeks to have varied or removed relates to that centre.
OTHER AMENDMENTS OF TRANSPORT ACT 1968
'1. In section 63 of the Transport Act 1968 (objections to grant of operators' licences)—
2. In section 64 of that Act (grounds for objection to application for a licence under section 63 and decision of licensing authority on applications)—
3. In section 68(4) of that Act (publication of notice of applications for variation of operators' licences)—
4. In section 70(1)(b) of that Act (right of appeal for persons aggrieved by certain directions or orders), after the words "69(1) to (7A)" there shall be inserted the words "or 69F(1)".
5. At the end of section 92(3) of that Act (construction of references to directing that an operator's licence be curtailed), there shall be added the following paragraph—
"(d) that any one or more of the places specified in the licence as operating centres be removed therefrom". '.—[Mr. Eyre.]
Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
No. 85, in title, line 15, leave out 'the operation of' and insert 'operating centres for'.— [Mr. Eyre.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.— [Mr. David Howell.]
I take it that the Secretary of State is simply formally moving the Third Reading.
That is what the Secretary of State did.
It is understandable that the Secretary of State does not wish to deploy a case for the Third Reading of such a repugnant measure as this. I realise the reluctance of those who have laboured hard and long on any measure to see it killed or disappear. No matter what the results of one's handiwork, if that handiwork is embodied in the Bill one is reluctant to see it dispatched to the scrap heap, the dustbin or the wastepaper basket of legislative history. Nevertheless, it is my task tonight to commend the House to do precisely that with this measure.I commend the House to do so, first, because of the main provisions of clause 1, which are that a power shall be granted to the Secretary of State to instruct the National Bus Company to sell any of its subsidiaries or to so reorganise its assets as to form a subsidiary for the purpose of selling it. It is clear to anyone who examines the transport industry that few assets can be sold. There are many that one could not give away, to put it bluntly. However, there are a few profitable areas of operation, jewels that shine from the murky background of the operation—murky in the financial sense, not necessarily in the public service sense. Many operators strive hard to maintain a tradition of good public transport. Within the National Bus Company there are a few profitable organisations that were made profitable by much enterprise and effort by those who worked in the company and responded when the Government de-licensed express coaching. It is clear that in part I the Government wished to say "You have used our legislation to create a profitable area in transport. You cannot do that. You will be giving a good name to a public industry and to public transport. Anything that is public must be damned or made unprofitable and, therefore, we shall instruct you to sell it." That is our first objection to what the Government are doing. They have found another profitable area in the holiday agency operation. Apart from our difference of philosophy with the Government, we have a mechanical difference with them which we commend to the House. The ability of the NBC to succeed in this area where others have failed does not arise solely from the management expertise, the ability of the staff or the fact that it is a good operator. It arises because it is such a large organisation that it can integrate the provision of other services within its general duty to run the stage carriage services of Britain. As it has garages and booking offices all over the country, it is possible to slot into the framework of that massive organisation express coaching and holiday agencies and to derive a profit, which is currently used to support the non-profitable services such as the rural bus services and the off-peak urban services. Last night the Secretary of State urged the House to get the matter into perspective. I took that point carefully. He said that the company made a profit of only £5 million, although it has a large turnover. Which other organisation made £5 million last year running buses anywhere in Britain? That would be a desirable organisation, but I know of none. To make £5 million last year when the competition was cut-throat and when other firms went to the wall in trying to compete is no small achievement. That situation will not continue for long. There will be a swing of the pendulum in the other direction and the coach operators that survived the period of cut-throat competition will examine ways in which to put up their fares again so that they can have a larger income. That is all the more reason why we should not attempt to break up that closely integrated operation. I question whether it can be done. It might be done by accountancy, but to remove from the NBC the drivers, buses, garages and offices and to say that those parts must be devoted only to express coach operations or holiday agencies is to make practical nonsense of the operation. If only £5 million is to be taken out, will the Secretary of State give us a guarantee that the £5 million will be handed to those authorities whose agreements with the NBC will lapse as a result of the NBC no longer being able to feed in that money by way of transport supplementary grant? If that is not the case, the public will once again be the loser. Before raising the Opposition's principal objections about HGV testing stations, I urge the Secretary of State to consider their possible size. I do so incase, despite our superb case against the Bill, the Government's argument may yet be carried. The right hon. Gentleman should carefully examine public service vehicle testing. When I talked to operators, I found that the development of testing facilities for public service vehicles on the operator's premises had almost been brought to a halt by Government action. There had been considerable expansion of the installation of such facilities in larger bus garages. The operators tell me that they are uncertain about being able to have coaches tested and about the charges that will be made as a result of the proposed changes. If the Secretary of State is to operate the Act, he must take steps to ensure that operators who have good test facilities are assured that they will be provided with authorised testers. There is no guarantee of that at the moment. They fear, with some justification, that some of the authorised testers will be the employees of their competitors for test facilities. The Secretary of State appears to disagree. I take the example of a bus operator who has spent a considerable sum of money installing equipment to carry out tests to the Ministry of Transport's requirements. He may have been able until now to rely on the Ministry to supply someone to test buses on his facilities at a fixed fee. The operator fears that he may in future be forced to go to a private HGV testing station to ask for someone to test his vehicles on his premises. The private tester will decide when he will make a man available and how much to charge, unless there is a uniform system of charges, without any account being taken of the fact that operators provide their own test facilities. That will be a major disincentive to the expansion of test facilities. I plead with the Secretary of State to bear in mind that the provision of such facilities has contributed greatly to the maintenace of bus standards. An operator with his own test facilities does not use them only when the tester arrives. He tests his vehicles first. He will not waste the time of the tester, who might find that the vehicle is not up to standard and the owner will then have to carry out the work. He will test his vehicles first and find the faults. He will carry out the work to prevent the faults from developing. This is done to maintain braking standards, for example. It is in the interests of road safety to encourage that development. The Opposition remain alarmed about the down-licensing rather than the down-plating approach of the Government. I hope that the Secretary of State will ensure that vehicle operators who claim the advantage of paying a lower licensing fee under the Finance Bill because they will run below their plated weights will be required to display a plate prominently. That will allow much more effective enforcement. In spite of varying cross-party opinions on part HI, the Opposition find parts I and II repugnant. They are narrowly doctrinaire and are conceived to sacrifice the interests of public transport and road safety to Tory monetarist prejudice. They will result in cuts in the Civil Service and the destruction of the public sector because of the aims of a crusade, the achievement of which seems to justify any end. For those reasons, we recommend that the Bill be rejected.
I was anxious to hear whether the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) had some worthwhile reasons for opposing what most people recognise as a thoroughly constructive transport Bill. Admittedly it covers a wide range of transport interests, but it is utterly in tune with the needs of those who use public transport, the transport industry and the interests of the community. That is why I thought it right that the right hon. Gentleman should have the opportunity to oppose the Bill and to advance some good reasons for doing so. The House will be confirmed in its suspicion that he has none.The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the question of more private money being brought into the bus industry. He mentioned his worry that the profitable operations of the National Express subsidiary of the National Bus Company should be privatised. That is a little strange as, thinking back, he and his right hon. and hon. Friends vigorously opposed—possibly with more vigour than the Opposition have pursued what they think is wrong in the Bill—the measures that enabled National Express to develop healthily into a highly profitable enterprise. What is wrong with that? The right hon. Gentleman opposed it. Now that it occurs he wrings his hands and regrets that private money should be sought to reinforce the success of National Express. What is more, the money will be used to reinforce the NBC, which is a minority shareholder in the National Express subsidiary—as I believe it will be—and to provide some resources to back up its other operations. That is a desirable and helpful development. It is not in the mode of party doctrine or dogma. It is a sensible and practical development. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman could not advise his right hon. and hon. Friends to welcome it strongly. The Bill also deals with other opportunities for the development and expansion of the passenger transport business. It will bring higher quality services and better facilities for both the travelling public and the staff. The company has advanced preliminary proposals for separate commercial accounts for National Express and the holiday side of the business. Those ideas are being developed in discussions between the Department and the company with a view to their being in place by the end of 1982. With regard to property, the chairman of the National Bus Company has presented me with an interesting package of proposals that involve the private sector in the development and improvement of NBC sites. I shall discuss them shortly with the chairman to try to agree the best way forward for the NBC, the people who use buses and sit in stations and all those, both customers and those in the industry, who wish to see it prosper. I cannot understand why the Opposition find that so objectionable in practice or why they find it impossible to suppress a deep primeval instinct to attack everything to do with the private sector and private money being introduced to further operations. It is a pity that they were not able to override their prejudices. Part II proposes a goods vehicle scheme which will be more efficient and better geared to the needs of industry. The way in which I have suggested that that should be done—through discussions with Lloyd's Register—is wholly in line with the requirements and suggestions that were advanced both by the Select Committee on Transport and with the needs and concerns that were expressed in Committee. Again, I should have expected a warmer welcome than we have received from the Opposition. I shall, of course, take account of the needs of bus operators in the way that the right hon. Gentleman describes. Of course we want an efficient service in safe hands. I believe that under the scheme being discussed with Lloyd's Register it will be possible to develop the system in a way that meets the needs as well as or even better than at present. The Bill also proposes a fairer and much more efficient system of penalties for traffic offences and more effective safeguards for the public from the unpleasant side of lorry operations. Much of the debate on traffic offences inevitably concentrated on the extension of the system to a wider range of offences. Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the important measures provided by the Bill to improve enforcement of the present system, which have, I think, also been universally welcomed. As the House knows, at present the system is being defeated by a large number of motorists who do not pay because they believe that the penalties will not be enforced. The changes being introduced will help to ensure that that does not happen. I have listened carefully to the right hon. Gentleman, but I have heard no good reason why the Third Reading of the Bill should be opposed. We do not feel defensive about it in terms of party dogma. We put it forward with confidence as a series of sound, practical measures which deserve the full support of everyone with a genuine interest in the transport industries of this country and in meeting the transport needs of the community and the customers of the transport services. I hope, therefore, that right hon. and hon. Members will give it full support.
Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
The House divided: Ayes 282, Noes 217.
Division No. 171]
|Adley, Robert||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Alexander, Richard||Biggs-Davison, SirJohn|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Blackburn, John|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Blaker, Peter|
|Ancram, Michael||Body, Richard|
|Arnold, Tom||Bonsor, SirNicholas|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Boscawen, Hon Robert|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)||Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)|
|Atkins, Robert('PrestonN)||Bowden, Andrew|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E,)||Boyson, Dr Rhodes|
|Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)||Braine, SirBernard|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Bright, Graham|
|Banks, Robert||Brinton, Tim|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon|
|Bendall, Vivian||Brooke, Hon Peter|
|Bennett, SirFrederic (T'bay)||Brotherton, Michael|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Brown, Michael (Brigg&Sc'n)|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Bruce-Gardyne, John|
|Best, Keith||Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bevan, DavidGilroy||Buck, Antony|
|Budgen, Nick||Hicks, Robert|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Burden, SirFrederick||Hill, James|
|Butcher, John||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Holland, Philip(Carlton)|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Hooson, Tom|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hordern, Peter|
|Chapman, Sydney||Howell, Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)|
|Churchill, W.S.||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey|
|Clegg, SirWalter||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cockeram, Eric||Kaberry, SirDonald|
|Colvin, Michael||Kershaw, SirAnthony|
|Cope, John||Kilfedder, JamesA.|
|Cormack, Patrick||Kimball, SirMarcus|
|Corrie, John||Kitson, SirTimothy|
|Costain, SirAlbert||Knight, MrsJill|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Knox, David|
|Critchley, Julian||Lamont, Norman|
|Crouch, David||Lang, Ian|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Langford-Holt, SirJohn|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Latham, Michael|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.||Lee, John|
|Dover, Denshore||Lennox-Boyd, HonMark|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Durant, Tony||Lloyd, Ian (Havant&W'loo)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Loveridge, John|
|Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)||Luce, Richard|
|Eggar, Tim||McCrindle, Robert|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Eyre, Reginald||MacGregor, John|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||MacKay, John (Argyll)|
|Fairgrieve, SirRussell||Macmillan, Rt Hon M.|
|Faith, MrsSheila||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Farr, John||McNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Fisher, SirNigel||Madel, David|
|Fletcher-Cooke, SirCharles||Major, John|
|Fookes, MissJanet||Marland, Paul|
|Forman, Nigel||Marlow, Antony|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Fox, Marcus||Marten, Rt Hon Neil|
|Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh||Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Mawby, Ray|
|Fry, Peter||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Mellor, David|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Mills Iain (Meriden)|
|Goodhart, SirPhilip||Mills, Peter (West Devon)|
|Goodhew, SirVictor||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Gorst, John||Moate, Roger|
|Gow, Ian||Monro, SirHector|
|Gower, SirRaymond||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Gray, Hamish||Moore, John|
|Greenway, Harry||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Griffiths, E. (B'ySt. Edm'ds)||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)||Mudd, David|
|Grist, Ian||Murphy, Christopher|
|Grylls, Michael||Myles, David|
|Gummer, JohnSelwyn||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hamilton, Hon A.||Needham, Richard|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Neubert, Michael|
|Hannam, John||Newton, Tony|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Normanton, Tom|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Nott, Rt Hon John|
|Hawkins, Paul||Onslow, Cranley|
|Hawksley, Warren||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Heddle, John||Page, Richard (SW Herts)|
|Henderson, Barry||Parris, Matthew|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Pawsey, James|
|Percival, Sir Ian||Stevens, Martin|
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)|
|Pink, R, Bonner||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Pollock, Alexander||Stokes, John|
|Porter, Barry||StradlingThomas, J.|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Tapsell, Peter|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Thompson, Donald|
|Renton, Tim||Thorne, Neil(IlfordSouth)|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Rhys Williams, SirBrandon||Townend, John (Bridlington,)|
|Ridley, HonNicholas||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Ridsdale, SirJulian||Trippier, David|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Trotter, Neville|
|Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)||van Straubenzee, SirW.|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Rossi, Hugh||Viggers, Peter|
|Rost, Peter||Waddington, David|
|Royle, SirAnthony||Wakeham, John|
|Sainsbury, HonTimothy||Waldegrave, HonWilliam|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Wall, SirPatrick|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Waller, Gary|
|Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)||Walters, Dennis|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Ward, John|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Shepherd, Richard||Watson, John|
|Silvester, Fred||Wheeler, John|
|Sims, Roger||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Whitney, Raymond|
|Smith, Dudley||Wickenden, Keith|
|Speed, Keith||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Speller, Tony||Wilkinson, John|
|Spence, John||Williams, D.(Montgomery)|
|Spicer, Jim (WestDorset)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Sproat, Iain||Young, SirGeorge (Acton)|
|Squire, Robin||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Stanley, John||Mr. Anthony Beny and Mr. Carol Mather.|
|Abse, Leo||Conlan, Bernard|
|Adams, Allen||Cook, Robin F.|
|Alton, David||Cowans, Harry|
|Anderson. Donald||Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Crowther, Stan|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Cryer, Bob|
|Ashton, Joe||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)||Cunningham, G. (IslingtonS)|
|Bagier, Gordon A.T.||Cunningham, Dr J.(W'h'n)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Davidson, Arthur|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Beith, A.J.||Davis, Clinton (HackneyC)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)|
|Bennett, Andrew(St'kp'tN)||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dewar, Donald|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Dixon, Donald|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Dobson, Frank|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Dormand, Jack|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Douglas, Dick|
|Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith)||Dubs, Alfred|
|Buchan, Norman||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Dunn, James A.|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P)||Dunnett, Jack|
|Campbell, Ian||Dunwoody, Hon MrsG.|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Eadie, Alex|
|Canavan, Dennis||Eastham, Ken|
|Cant, R. B.||Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n SE)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Ellis, R.(NE D'bysh're)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||English, Michael|
|Cartwright, John||Ennals, Rt Hon David|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)||Field, Frank|
|Cohen, Stanley||Fitch, Alan|
|Coleman, Donald||Flannery, Martin|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Ford, Ben||O'Neill, Martin|
|Forrester, John||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Foster, Derek||Palmer, Arthur|
|Fraser, J. (Lamb 'th, N'w'd)||Park, George|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Parker, John|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Parry, Robert|
|George, Bruce||Penhaligon, David|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Graham, Ted||Prescott, John|
|Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Hardy, Peter||Race, Reg|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Radice, Giles|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)|
|Hogg, N. (EDunb't'nshire)||Richardson, Jo|
|Holland,S.(L'b'th,Vauxh'll)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|HomeRobertson, John||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Howells, Geraint||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Janner, HonGreville||Ryman, John|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Sandelson, Neville|
|John, Brynmor||Sever, John|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Short, Mrs Renée|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Silkin, Rt HonJ. (Deptford)|
|Kerr, Russell||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Silverman, Julius|
|Kinnock, Neil||Skinner, Dennis|
|Lambie, David||Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)|
|Lamond, James||Soley, Clive|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Spearing, Nigel|
|Leighton, Ronald||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Stallard, A. W.|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Litherland, Robert||Stoddart, David|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Stott, Roger|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Strang, Gavin|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|McElhone, Frank||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|McKelvey, William||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Thorne, Stan (PrestonSouth)|
|McMahon, Andrew||Tilley, John|
|McNally, Thomas||Tinn, James|
|McNamara, Kevin||Tomey, Tom|
|McTaggart, Robert||Urwin, Rt Hon Tom|
|McWilliam, John||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Marks, Kenneth||Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)|
|Marshall, D (G'gowS'ton)||Watkins, David|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Welsh, Michael|
|Martin, M (G'gow S'burn)||White, Frank R.|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||White, J. (G'gow Pollok)|
|Maxton, John||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Whitlock, William|
|Meacher, Michael||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Williams, Rt HonA. (S'seaW)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)||Wilson, Rt Hon SirH.(H'ton)|
|Mitchell, R.C. (Soton Itchen)||Woodall, Alec|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Morris, Rt HonJ. (Aberavon)||Wright, Sheila|
|Morton, George||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Newens, Stanley||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Mr. James Hamilton and Mr. Frank Haynes.|
Question accordingly agreed to.
Bill read the Third time and passed.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House at its rising on Friday do adjourn until Tuesday 8 June.—[Mr. Garel-Jones.]
I should tell the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
I beg to move, as an amendment to the motion, at end add
The purpose of the amendment is to make it clear to the House and to the country that the House of Commons stands ready to come back at any time during the Whitsun Recess and attend to its business, should that become necessary. In the normal course of events one could leave this matter to be considered through the usual channels without an amendment of this sort being tabled. But in the present circumstances it seemed to the Opposition that it was right that we should have a formal amendment on the Order Paper to make the position clear. My feeling is that it is likely that the House will be recalled. I find it almost inconceivable that nothing that can interest the House will happen during the next week. Whether that be so or not, at least the country will be aware that this is what we intend and what we have provided for. I hope, therefore, to get the support of the House for the amendment.'but that, pursuant to Standing Order No. 122 (Earlier meeting of House in certain circumstances) should the public interest so require, Her Majesty's Ministers of their own volition or following representations from Her Majesty's Opposition shall represent to Mr. Speaker that the House should meet at a time earlier than that to which the House stands adjourned'.'
It is customary in debates of this character for the Leader of the House to reply at the conclusion and deal with the many points which I know hon. Members will wish to raise. With the permission of the House, I should like to do that, but it may be helpful if I refer at this stage to the amendment standing on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.The Government fully appreciate the concerns that underlie the amendment. Since the Falkland Islands crisis began, the Government have welcomed the positive contribution that Parliament has made in its debates and have recognised the importance of keeping the House informed. The Government, therefore, accept the amendment. They will give proper and serious consideration to any approach made to them on this matter by the Opposition and will, if they judge that the public interest so requires, take the appropriate steps under the Standing Order for recalling the House, as was done during the Easter Recess.
I support the amendment in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends because, although the Leader of the House has referred to the Falkland Islands, there is another much longer lasting and more serious crisis which will almost certainly require the recall or at least the attention of the House at some stage. That is the deteriorating situation in the National Health Service, where a number of the unions with membership in that service are taking industrial action.The National Health Service would not be in this situation were it not that the Government had of their own volition abolished the Clegg commission in their early days of office.
As my hon. Friend says, it was disgraceful. If the Clegg commission had still existed as we left it, employees in the National Health Service would be at least £19 a week better off, and, even if they were not satisfied, machinery would exist for a painless adjustment of their grievances.In 1980 inflation at times touched 20 per cent. and National Health Service pay rises were only 14 per cent. In 1981 the inflation rate was 16 per cent. and the National Health Service pay rises were only 6 per cent. This year price inflation is still around the 10 per cent. mark and the offer that the Government have made to National Health Service employees is only 4 per cent., with 61/2 per cent. for nurses. So the Government have failed over some years to meet the legitimate ambitions of National Health Service workers. What sort of wages are we talking about? We are not talking about the wealthy of this world. Obviously, in an organisation such as the National Health Service, there is a wide range of pay rates, but, for example, catering and domestic assistants and cleaners receive a basic £59 for their working week. Even if they were given the full 12 per cent. increase that the trade unions are asking for, they would have an increase of only £2·36. Caretakers, storekeepers and assistant cooks enjoy, if that is the right word, a basic take-home pay of £64·22. Again, 12 per cent. on that would yield them only £2·57 per week. The Confederation of Health Service Employees has estimated that half the employees in the National Health Service have a take-home pay which qualifies them for consideration under the family income supplement scheme. The grades I have mentioned may not be the grandest employees in the National Health Service but they need to live and they are needed to make the Health Service tick over. Yet the Government have offered them only a 4 per cent. increase, which in some cases is an improvement in pay of only pence per week. The sole argument for that approach by the Government is the need to fight inflation—not an attempt to apply justice, but a need to fight inflation. The same argument applied when the police claim was considered and settled this year, but they got an increase of 13 per cent. The firemen got 10 per cent. Water service workers got 9 per cent. Even local authority manual workers got 7½ per cent. Doctors and dentists got 6 per cent. Members of the Armed Forces—soldiers, sailors and airmen—got 6 per cent. Civil servants generally got 6 per cent., and top civil servants, judges and defence chiefs, as we all know, have recently been granted an 18½ per cent. increase. In fact, Lord Chief Justice Lane's annual increase under this settlement of about £8,000 a year compares favourably with the average ancillary worker's annual income in the Health Service of £3,070 before the present pay claim is settled. It would not be right to attack the good fortune of the groups that I have mentioned, any more than it was right to attack their good fortune before their increase was granted. However, I want to ask the Government why some modest part of the good fortune which has been granted to those groups should not be extended to people on very low pay. Why should the full burden of fighting inflation fall on the shoulders of a humble cleaner in the NHS, when apparently it is far too heavy a burden for the Lord Chief Justice to bear? In the past three weeks in the South Atlantic we have lost three frigates. The cost of those losses, with other additions, amounts to £375 million. That price will not bring this country to its knees, but it would be enough to settle in full the union claim. That too would not bring the country to its knees. We now have mounting industrial action in the National Health Service. The official aim of that action is to reduce the NHS to an emergency service. When I attempted to obtain the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 a week ago yesterday, I said that unless this House paid attention to what was going on in the Health Service it would be an incitement to perhaps irresponsible elements to take matters into their own hands and take them much further than they should be taken. Evidence of that is now emerging and it is one of the reasons why the Government should be prepared to recall the House to consider the situation in the NHS. There is news of patients doing without meals, and of operating theatres being deprived of the services of sterile units. During the past 24 hours, news has been coming through of miners in Yorkshire and South Wales who are prepared to take action to support the NHS workers. That action is being taken because of the morality of industrial action in the National Health Service. The most fervent supporters of the morality that it is difficult to take industrial action in the NHS are NHS employees themselves. If the great mass of them did not have an overwhelming dedication to the welfare of the patients, the NHS would have ceased to exist as a viable organisation a week or two ago, and the Government would have been in serious trouble. They are saved by the sense of duty and dedication of NHS workers and union members. Where is the morality of the Secretary of State when he complains that patients' lives are being put at risk by industrial action, while he seeks to exploit the NHS workers' reluctance to strike by paying poverty line wages? When I was a law student I was told that people were supposed to "intend the natural consequences" of their action. It is a good principle for life, as well as for law. The Secretary of State should come to the House in the not-too-distant future so that we may ask him why the Government have adopted the policy of putting patients' lives at risk because, as a consequence of the Secretary of State paying poverty wages, the NHS workers are forced to take some form of industrial action. There should be a return to a machinery of fair comparison between NHS wages and those of equivalent jobs outside, as was provided by the Clegg commission, which was set up by the Government of which I was a member. If the NHS staff are not to strike, we should provide a machinery for fair wages that relates to the economy in general. We should dearly like to know the Secretary of State's plans in this connection. If the motion proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) is accepted, it will be possible for the House to consider at an early date the problems in the Health Service to which I have drawn attention.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House was wise to accept the Opposition amendment.I shall not follow the right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) in what he said about the National Health Service, except to say that my namesake was responsible for a great deal of inflation, and that the last time he was in action I was identified with him, which I found somewhat embarrassing at times. A matter which affects my constituency and in which time is a great element is the fishing industry. By the end of this year, we have to reach some conclusion about a common fisheries policy. At present, there is great confusion in the industry, as well as great uncertainty about what is to happen during the next six months. I have spoken to inshore fishermen and fishermen who are still operating in our medium-water trawlers, and they do not know where they are going. By this time last year, substantial help had been given to the fishing industry, and I know that my right hon. Friends are discussing the matter at the moment. If we are recalled next week, we should have an early statement in the House on this matter. The structure Of the industry is affected, in that uncertainty does not help vessel owners to plan replacements or to see their way ahead. The news from Europe is that other countries are subsidising the building of fishing vessels. Here we seem to be waiting for Godot as we wait for the common fisheries policy. Soon after we come back, the House should be given a statement about what is happening in this area so that the uncertainty can be removed.
I support the amendment, because it is important that we should have an opportunity to discuss the proposed closures of the British Rail engineering works at Shildon, Horwich and Swindon. Each represents a community which will be destroyed if the closures are allowed to take place.Today, 700 of my constituents came to London. They took letters to Sir Peter Parker from children in Shildon pleading with Sir Peter that their fathers should nol be made redundant. That is the position in Shildon. If Shildon dies, there is no other work there. The children have written to the chairman of British Rail saying "Don't sack our fathers. Give them jobs and let us have some prospect of jobs ourselves when we come of age." As they walked through the streets of London from Kings Cross to Westminster, those 700 people noticed that people were asking "Where is Shildon?" A brave little town in County Durham can die and the majority of people in Britain do not even know where it is. Just as people did not know where the Falkland Islands were a few weeks ago, they do not know where Shildon is and they care little whether it lives or dies. I am proud to say that after today's activities many more people in the south of England will know where the town of Shildon is. Shildon was the birthplace of the railway and has 150 years proud history of railways. The majority of people in the south who do not know where Shildon is have no idea either of the suffering of the unemployed and what it means to have the prospect of long-term unemployment for the foreseeable future. Those people now know where Shildon is and they know the anger and the bitterness of those people who have given every co-operation to try to ensure that their works was competitive both in Britain and abroad. British Rail says that it does not need to buy any wagons. There were 130,000 wagons in 1979. There are 75,000 wagons now and there will be only 34,000 in 1986. That is partly because of the greater utilisation of wagons. I welcome all increases in productivity, whether they be in nationalised industries or in private sector industries. That is good and we welcome it. However, in 1986, marginally less freight will be carried by a quarter of the fleet. That is a substantial reduction. In addition, that greater utilisation must mean that those wagons will have a shorter life and must have more maintenance and repair. Yet when we ask British Rail what it foresees will be the optimum rate of replacement of the 34,000 wagons in 1986, it cannot tell us. It says that it does not need to buy any until 1985 and that a few will come through in 1986. How many wagons is it commercially prudent to buy to replace that fleet of 34,000 year by year? British Rail has no answer to that. If one assumes, for the sake of argument, that a wagon has a 30-year life, British Rail—surprise, surprise—will need to buy about 1,000 wagons a year in the medium and long-term to replace its stock of 34,000 wagons. A thousand wagons a year is just the new production that Shildon needs to ensure its long-term future and its continued profitability. British Rail Engineering Ltd. made £1·2 million profit last year, of which £800,000 came from the little works at Shildon which has always been efficient and profitable. If it has a market for its goods, that profitability and efficiency will continue. I argue that there is a market for those wagons. While there has been a severe reduction in the number of British Rail's wagons—from 130,000 in 1979 to 34,000 in 1986—the number of wagons that are owned or leased by clients of British Rail has increased to 17,000, and British Rail expects that there will be an increase of about 8,000 by 1986. Therefore, in 1986, British Rail will own 34,000 wagons and British Rail clients will own 25,000 wagons. Therefore, another 8,000 wagons will be needed and will be produced between now and 1986. Those wagons should be built at Shildon, but I can almost guarantee that they will be built by private manufacturers. There is not a lack of demand for wagons; the demand for wagons is being diverted from British Rail Engineering Ltd. to private manufacturers to suit the convenience of British Rail because it eliminates its need to operate within tight financial limits. The fact that wagons will be built not in Shildon but in the private sector is privatisation by the back door. That is a new and imaginative method of privatisation. The works are not bought out but are starved of work, the workers are sacked and the equipment is sold at knockdown figures to private manufacturers which—surprise, surprise—are growing and will need new equipment. I wish that the Labour Party had thought of such a thing when it was in power. There is a great deal of anger in my constituency and in those of my hon. Friends, who I know would like to catch your eye Mr. Deputy Speaker later this evening on the subject of British Rail engineering closures. We are determined to pin the blame where it belongs—on the Government's policies that are starving British Rail of investment and imposing far too tight financial limits upon British Railways and which have resulted in Sir Peter Parker not knowing whether he is coming or going. He sold out his own work force to obtain the electrification of British Rail from the previous Secretary of State for Transport—who failed to deliver the goods. Sir Peter Parker now has a confrontation with his own loyal work force, which he is beginning to abuse. Those matters cannot go undebated and I am glad to have had the opportunity to draw attention to them.
Order. For the good order of our debates, may I remind hon. Members that they should link their arguments to reasons why the House should not adjourn? This is not a general Adjournment debate.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) about the need for the House to be recalled instantly should the Falkland Islands situation worsen. However, I should briefly like to raise a couple of other potentially dangerous matters on the home front.I should like to follow the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) on the difficulties of British Rail from a slightly different angle. We are faced with further serious industrial trouble from British Rail before many days into June. This year has been a bad year for the railway industry. Its relations with its customers have sunk to an all-time low. Management and unions have been at loggerheads. In The Guardian this week Mr. Sidney Weighell was quoted as saying:
I appreciate that he speaks for the overwhelming majority of the people he represents. That newspaper report went on to say:"Railworkers have reached the end of their tether and must now stand and fight for their industry. We do not advocate going to the barricades every Monday."
There is a threat of further industrial action on 7 June, which is why I think that it is relevant to raise the matter now. I am glad to see that, on the problem of allowing the Bedford-St. Pancras electrified line to work with the new rail rolling stock, Mr. Weighell has disclosed that he has put compromise proposals to the management for the operation of the new rolling stock on this line. Mr. Weighell's proposal from the NUR is that guards on the new train should also double up as ticket inspectors and collectors, which would in turn reduce the number of people required to man the platform barriers. I cannot stress too strongly the fact that many of my constituents who are regular commuters on that line look forward to travelling on the new electrified stock, instead of the old worn-out diesel stock. They would view another industrial clash on British Rail with absolute horror. In some parts of the country the idea has grown up that we can somehow manage without the railways. That is wishful thinking for the South-East. This capital city teeters on the brink of road chaos day after day. It is on a knife edge. If there is a rail strike or any trouble, the chaos instantly becomes much worse. I should like to know British Rail's response to Mr. Weighell's compromise proposal to get the electrified line working properly. I hope that there will be a quick agreement so that the commuters know what the position is. If an agreement can be reached on operating that line with new rolling stock, we may be able to build on that and seek further agreements in the industry. In general, the railways cannot go on like this. I am convinced that, with the experience of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, British Rail should talk to those industries that have overcome the problems of productivity, manning and the new technologies. There is a bank of other industrial experience from which British Rail can draw. Under its terms of reference, ACAS can set up an inquiry. The members should consist of representatives of both management and unions in an industry that has overcome the problems that British Rail is now grappling with. Other industries have succeeded in overcoming similar difficulties and it is not impossible to reach an agreement in the railway industry, and thus avoid putting commuters from the South-East and elsewhere into constant difficulty. Another industrial difficulty is looming. On 18 May, The Times carried the following headline:"Sir Peter Parker, BR's chairman, is at loggerheads with not just one but all three rail unions, making the situation even more serious than when it was a straight fight with ASLEF."
The article stated:"Power workers decide on action over pay."
slap in the middle of the recess—"The first stage of the campaign will begin May 3 l"—
It is difficult to predict the effect of an overtime ban in the power industry. Some of us remember what happened in December 1970, when an overtime ban ran rapidly out of control. Within hours of the start of the ban there was the most exceptional difficulty. If there is no agreement in the power industry and there is an overtime ban followed by further action, a very careful response will be required from the Electricity Council, and particularly from the local management of power stations, if we are to avoid the terrible difficulties of December 1970. Everybody knows that power cuts have a swift and devastating effect that often goes far further than intended. Therefore, if that difficulty cannot be avoided, I hope that management will make a very careful response. Again, such a problem raises the question of the pay of those in vital public sector industries. I am well aware that the electricity supply workers are in difficulties with their management, because they can see the settlements made in the mining, gas and water industries. The offer made to them is not quite at the same level as that made to the workers in those industries. That too raises the problem of obtaining agreements in our key public sector industries without running the risk of strikes and overtime bans. Once an overtime ban has begun, all sorts of reactions may follow and the industry and the domestic consumer can be seriously affected. The Government have a great deal of talking to do with the TUC on, to name but one matter, the new training initiative. I hope that the Government will widen their discussions to see what can be agreed on pay and conditions in our key public sector industries. The Electricity Council and the unions can probably reach a compromise settlement, but even if we settle this year we have not got rid of next year's problem. Therefore, in those industries we must try to create a more settled atmosphere so that we can avoid the problems that I hope will not be experienced by the end of the month."with an overtime ban. That will be followed by a programme of selective strikes from June 14 in large power stations and among staff collecting cash from domestic meters."
You have asked, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that hon. Members should relate their remarks to the motion or the amendment. I shall do precisely that. I shall give the House several reasons why it should not adjourn for a week. All hon. Members can enumerate half a dozen or a dozen subjects that demand the urgent attention of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) has declared his priority, which is also mine.However, during the eight days in which we are absent from the House heaven knows how many hundreds of young British and Argentine men will be killed. Hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money will go down the drain somewhere in the South Atlantic. While that is going on, hon. Members will be in recess. It is interesting to compare the Government's attitude—particularly that of the Prime Minister—towards expenditure on that great tragedy in the South Atlantic with the money spent on keeping people alive through the medium of the National Health Service. The Prime Minister is on record as saying that, whatever the cost, she and the Government will go through with the South Atlantic adventure. She will do that come what may and whether or not the operation costs £1,000 million of taxpayers' money. Indeed, it will probably cost more than that when the ships that have been lost have been replaced. In addition, it is impossible to measure the cost of the lives that have been lost; that is particularly true for the wives and families that are left behind. When it comes to saving lives and paying nurses, ambulance men and all the ancillary workers in the NHS, the Prime Minister does not say that, no matter what the cost, they will get a fair deal. She does not say that at all. The Government have brutally told the nurses that those dedicated men and women will get an increase of about 6 per cent. this year although the rate of inflation is about double that. In other words, they are saying that those dedicated people must have their standards of living slashed, no matter what the value of their work to the community. The Government claim that in a way the nurses are receiving favourable treatment. They are to receive an increase of a little more then 6 per cent. However, by the time that the increase in their lodging allowances has been deducted, hardly anything of this year's increase will be left. Meanwhile, we pour thousands of millions of pounds down the drain in the South Atlantic. Yet the Prime Minister dares to say that the House and the country are behind her in that obscenity of priorities. She had better think again. She has not got the House or the country behind her. Her priorities are not civilised. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East referred not only to nurses and ancillary workers in the NHS, but to the Plowden report on top salaries. I refer to those people who are struggling along on the poverty line, knocking along on £40,000, £50,000 or £60,000 a year, plus inflation—proofed pensions and all the perks that;go with their jobs. My right hon. Friend will not believe what that Top Salaries Review Body said, so I shall put the words on record. In considering those poverty-stricken folks, the judges, the top civil servants, the admirals, generals and air commodores, the review said that they must have much higher salary levels
The review added that the salaries"that are consistent with the effective motivation of those occupying such posts."
the judges, the top civil servants, and the top brass in the Army and elsewhere—"will ensure that they"—
I swear that those are the words used by the Top Salaries Review Body. But there is no incentive for the nurses struggling along below the poverty line. Half the nurses in our Health Service are struggling along on a wage that, by the Government's own definition, is below the poverty line. What kind of priority is that? The position is even worse. In the three Budgets of this Government it is the people at the top who have had the tax concessions. The people at the other end of the scale have been clobbered by tax. Again, that is seen from the Government's figures. Everyone on lower than averge earnings is paying more in tax than three years ago. The people earning more than £20,000 a year are paying less tax than three years ago. It is that gross unfairness, that gross division of the country between the poor, or the less well-off—the more worthy citizens, I should add—and those at the top that incenses our people. It is rather sinister that the Government have given the highest salary increases to the Armed Forces, the police and the judges. I wonder why. Is it because the Government think that there will be increased social tension as a direct result of their policies? There could be something in that. We have sought a debate on the National Health Service and on the Government's pay policy, if only to get the Secretary of State for Social Services to the Dispatch Box to defend what he is doing. He even has the genteel Royal College of Nursing against him. They are the people who will not strike. They are too respectable to strike. I can understand that. No one in the Health Service wants to strike and hurt patients, but the genteel folk in the Royal College of Nursing are now having a ballot to see whether they want to alter their constitution, which at present forbids them to take strike action. The Government know that these workers in the Health Service are so responsible, so moderate, and so unmilitant that they will not strike because that would hurt the patients. The Government have said "OK, we can belt them in the groin because they will not strike." That is exactly what the Government are doing, have done and will do in future unless the nurses stand firm. The nurses want 12 per cent. when inflation is just about the same. They had a massive reduction in their standard of living last year so they are only saying "We want, please, if we may, to stand still." They are asking not to advance their standard of living, but merely to stand where they are. The Secretary of State for Social Services claims that the 4 per cent. and 6 per cent. offers are generous. He now says that he is waiting for the result of the ballot in the Royal College of Nursing. I warn the nurses that if they say that they will not strike or take any industrial action, but will accept the Government's offer, they will have lost. The Government will have won and they will repeat the process next year. The truth is that the National Health Service is bleeding to death at the same time as the Prime Minister and the Government are pouring hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money into that silly adventure in the South Atlantic and jeopardising the lives of our young men. For those reasons even the few hon. Members here tonight could spend the whole of next week and the whole of the next six months arguing and debating the obscenity of the Government's policies and priorities."are not affected by lack of incentive or deep-seated feelings of unfairness."
I too suggest that we should not go into recess at a time when there are so many problems facing the nation. I listened carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) but I shall not follow him because I want to deal with the great problem facing British Rail that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster).The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) pointed out that by 7 June there will be a crisis in the railway industry because the National Union of Railwaymen, supported by other unions, has made it clear that it is not prepared to see the railways destroyed by the Government and the British Railways Board. I refer specifically to the problems that have arisen in my constituency of Swindon. We heard a week or two ago, with the utmost shock, as did Shildon and Horwich, that Swindon is to lose 1,500 jobs, leading to partial closure, and that Shildon and Horwich are to be completely closed down. That is being done when there are 3 million unemployed. In Shildon and Horwich the unemployment rate is between 25 and 30 per cent. In Swindon we have a high rate of unemployment and insufficient jobs are being brought to the town: Like Shildon, Horwich, and other areas, Swindon cannot afford to lose 1,500 jobs. What is more, it is quite wicked to propose that those jobs in Swindon, and jobs on the railways in other parts of the country, should be lost at a time when the railways, far from being deliberately run down, need refurbishing for the benefit of the people of this country. We went through this trauma in Swindon in 1973–74 when the British Railways Board decided that the railway workshop at Swindon should be closed. A new manager was sent to Swindon with the express instruction to close down the workshops. When he arrived he realised the potential of the railway workshops and, in co-operation with the workers at Swindon, he rebuilt them. They are now a viable and profitable enterprise. That has been achieved by a real partnership between management and men. No locomotives had been built in Swindon since 1962, but through the co-operation of the work force it was possible to build 20 from scratch for Kenya. That was a massive operation. Without anything on the ground, the workers built 20 locomotives from scratch. It showed their potential, skill and dedication. They co-operated. A real partnershhip was recognised by management and by British Rail which led to the end of demarcation disputes. For 10 years there was virtually no industrial trouble—a model of good industrial relations. The Government are always talking about partnership in industry. That was the sort of partnership they were seeking. That was the sort of partnership that Swindon gave them, but the reward has been the sack for 1,500 people. People in Swindon, Horwich and Shildon and those in the railway industry throughout the country simply will not stand for that sort of treatment. That is why the NUR and other trade unions, including the ETU, of which I am a member, will put up such a fight as the Government have never had from the railway industry before. I have with me a copy of a petition that was sent to Sir Peter Parker, the chairman of British Rail. It is signed by 160 people who were tricked into rejoining the railways because they were assured of a long and secure future. They sent that petition to Sir Peter Parker, who has not yet had the courtesy to reply to them. I shall now have to take the matter up with him and ask why he has had the discourtesy not to reply to those 160 people who were tricked into joining his railway on the assurance that they had secure jobs for a long time ahead.
I am sure that my hon. Friend's constituents will now be getting a reply, because I am sure that the message will have got home to Mr. Flexible Rostering.
I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend is right and that this place still has some influence at least to get a reply from the chairman of a great nationalised industry.There is a suspicion in my constituency that the British Railways Board is not now quite so committed as it was to running railways. The suspicion is that, instead of providing engineering jobs and enabling highly skilled and dedicated people to continue working in Swindon, the British Railways Board, at the behest of the Government, is more interested in making money. Property in Swindon is valuable. There is a suspicion that the 1,500 people—it will eventually be 3,500 people—are being sacrificed on the altar of property speculation. Believe me, if the British Railways Board thinks that it will get away with that, it will have a fight on its hands. The Government seem to have written off the railways by their disgraceful treatment of the industry as revealed in its financial operations. At this very moment, because of Government policy on external financing limits, money which should be used for capital spending, building new carriages and new wagons and refurbishing the fleet is being used on current operations. It is being used to pay wages, salaries and so on on a day-to-day basis. We believe that the Government have treated the railways disgracefully, and ought to be giving a greater commitment to that industry. The British Railways Board has a lot to answer for. It also seems to have too little commitment to railways. Every time I meet the board, all I get is the argument that is given by the British Road Federation—that 90 per cent. of goods must travel by road. Apparently, the British Railways Board sees no hope of attracting that traffic back to the railways. The people of Britain do not want heavy lorries on our roads. They suffer the environmental damage caused by heavy loads, and those vehicles will get heavier if the Government have their way. They want the railways to be used to carry freight and to improve the environment. I sincerely hope that the British Railways Board alters its attitude very soon. The travelling public deserves a better deal than it is getting at present. It deserves to travel in decent, comfortable railway carriages—not the wrecks, some of them 40 years old, that are disgracing our railway; at present. Those carriages can be provided if the money is provided. They can be provided by the workers in British Rail workshops and other railway workers who will run them for the benefit of the country and the people. If the British Railways Board stopped fighting its workers and instead fought the Government for the money with which to bring the railways up to a decent, modern standard, it would be doing a service not only to itself and railway men but to the country as well.
Like my hon. Friends the Members for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart), who spoke so eloquently, and for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster), I support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I do so for much the same reason as my two hon. Friends, the crisis—I believe that term is justified—in the railway industry.During the past 25 years, the railway industry has tottered from crisis to crisis and from problem to problem. In the 1950s—indeed, almost in the first week that I began working on the railways—it was said that the industry was Victorian and grossly overmanned and that, unless and until the railway unions and management got together and sank their differences, the future would be bleak. In the 1950s, there were the modernisation plans with their consequent redundancies, and dieselasation with its effect on the locomotive grades in particular. The 1960s heralded the Beeching era, when the good doctor, who w as then paid a salary of about £24,000 a year, told the workers "Ah, but this time, if you accept your medicine, those of you who are left will have well-paid and secure jobs." The workers in the industry are still waiting. At present, the industry is being told that it is again the fault of the wicked trade unions and that if only it will accept the board's productivity proposals there will be jobs for all and the Government will play their part in the modernisation of the railway system. I met some of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland this afternoon. No one within the railway industry believes this any longer. All the years of cooperation have brought not the benefits that railway men were promised, but rather the reverse. Any pleasure, if that is the right term, that I might have derived from addressing railway men this afternoon is tempered by the fact that the fight for the railway industry will not be waged in this Chamber. The fight for its future will not even be waged at Rail House—that palatial building outside Euston to which the British Railways Board has managed to move itself lock, stock and cocktail cabinet in the last few weeks, despite financial problems within the industry. The fight for the future of the industry will be waged by the men and women involved within it. Success will be achieved only, I regret to say, by a fight, the reasons for which I shall try to outline. No one who has any connection with the industry likes advocating strike action. I have participated in one official and one unofficial strike during my time in the industry. Strike action is a course upon which railway men—a disciplined and ordered body of men—are reluctant to embark. Yet hon. Members saw within the precincts of the House of Commons today a group of men driven by desperation and concern about their future prospects and the future of the railway industry to come to London to march from Euston station to the Embankment. Some were saying that they had never before taken part in a march. However, so great is their concern that they felt they must express it. The Government, who have promised through successive Secretaries of State to take action over investment and modernisation of the railway system, are far from blameless. The previous Secretary of State made various promises about electrification—some in the Chamber and others through press releases—that have not been kept. One cannot accuse the present Secretary of State of breaking any promises, because he never says anything. The right hon. Gentleman seems reluctant to comment at the Dispatch Box on the future of the railway industry and its modernisation. That is perhaps not surprising. By all accounts, the right hon. Gentleman did not particularly want the job, which was widely regarded by experts in the newspapers as a demotion for him. However, it is sad that, given the state of the industry and its problems, we seem to have a Secretary of State who shows a deplorable lack of concern for its future. On electrification, the British Railways Board has made all the necessary submissions to the Government. It has set out the prospectuses for inter-city and freight business, established as preconditions by the Government, who stated that, once they were received, a sympathetic approach would be adopted towards authorising further electrification projects. The board has belatedly submitted proposals for electrification of the East Coast main line between Kings Cross and Edinburgh. The railway unions, despite the adverse publicity that many receive, have cooperated on a wide range of productivity items—another precondition for electrification laid down by the Government. Nevertheless, the Government have taken no action to keep their promises. It is surprising that a Government who supposedly believe in business, profitability and efficiency should treat the board's application to go ahead with further electrification in a cavalier manner. It is surely in the interests of the Government, as paymaster, as well as in the interests of the management and the rail unions, to proceed as speedily as possible with electrification. The benefits of such a programme are well known: increased speed, increased reliability of rolling stock and equipment, reduced fuel requirements, lower maintenance costs, lower marginal costs, lower capital costs and greater productivity from the railwaymen. All that could be achieved by a programme of electrification. The Department of Transport and the British Railways Board produced a review of main line electrification as long ago as February 1981. It was stated at the time that the largest and the most expensive scheme, in terms of investment, would bring great tangible and measurable benefits to the railway industry. But the only Government announcement has been the agreement to go ahead with electrification of part of the line from Liverpool Street to Norwich. No new money has been provided for this purpose. The Government know that preliminary work before electrification, such as re-signalling and track alterations, will take about two years, which should see them safely, they hope, into the next election. Nothing at all has been offered towards paying for further electrification. There have recently been leaks in the newspapers about prospects for the Channel tunnel. It would appear from newspaper reports that the Prime Minister turned down the Channel tunnel project at a meeting with President Mitterrand on 18 May. But hon. Members are still awaiting a Government statement confirming this. There has been even greater pressure on the British Rail Property Board in recent months to sell off its assets. Sir Robert Lawrence, the property board chairman—he is no Left-winger—said recently that he believed that only three years remained before the property division was virtually stripped of its prime assets. In an article in The Guardian on 19 May he conceded that the property board, because of pressure from the Government to make sales, was not getting the best price for the land and property that it was selling. The true decline in the railway industry is amply outlined in a recent report of the Central Transport Consultative Committee pointing to service reductions and the fact that passengers were not receiving proper treatment because of the pressure for savings imposed on the board by the Government. The report expressed concern about the effects of the application of rigid financial targets on the quality of services. Those who continually complain about standards of service in London and the South-East would be better employed, instead of writing angry letters to Mr. Sid Weighell and Mr. Ray Buckton, pressing Conservative Members to apply pressure on their Government to bring about more investment and so produce better services in their areas. There have been other numerous consequences of service reductions. The frequency of London to Birmingham stopping services which normally use the slow line through Northampton has been reduced and the journey time increased due to the state of the track. The effect is felt not only by passengers and commuters using the stopping services. Because of the state of the track, many services booked to use the fast, more direct route via Rugby find that they are moved to the slow line due to the backlog of maintenance on the fast line. Customers who depend on a service at 30-minute intervals and a journey time of one and a half hours between London and Birmingham are deserting the service because of the chronic unreliability of the trains. The line was electrified in the mid-1960s. It carries traffic far in excess of that for which it was designed. There are not only two trains to Birmingham from Euston every hour, but one to Manchester, one to Liverpool, one normally to Scotland and an intermediate semi-fast train to Preston and either to Blackpool or Barrow. The same lines are used by freightliner trains from Willesden and by freight trains from other regions. There is a chronic need for greater investment and modernisation of a line on which a great amount of money was last spent 17 years ago. In that time, the equivalent of 30 rail years have been used due to the amount of additional traffic. Again, that is a commentary on the productivity of the railway men, which is rarely, if ever, acknowledged by the Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon said, it looks as though industrial action will be precipitated in the railway industry in the next few weeks. I blame not only the Government for this. The management must take some blame. All too often, it appears to want to do the Government's job for them. Recently I had the pleasure of visiting my hon. Friend's constituency, when the employees at the Swindon works staged a demonstration in protest against the threatened partial closure of the works and in defence of their jobs. The following day, in a newspaper which circulates in my hon. Friend's constituency, under the heading
a Mr. D. J. Cobbett, who is described as the director for strategic studies, talked about the need to get out of suburban services and some of the more lightly used commuter services. He said:"BR want to cut rural lines",
That is, having to run passenger trains. He continued:"Our dearest wish is to get out of having to do it."
I do not know Mr. D. J. Cobbett particularly well. In my railway career we managed to do without a director for strategic studies. I should hazard a guess that he has no problem about flexible rostering for his work. However, when senior managers in the railway industry are doing the Government's job for them, it is a sad commentary."We are not allowed to in many ways. Our own unions are not as clear-sighted on this as we are, which is a great shame as there is much opportunity in employment if you concentrate on strengths rather than including your weaknesses and allowing everything to fritter away to everyone's detriment."
Undermining the railways.
Further, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon said, it undermines the position of the railways, and of the unions in defence not of jobs for the sake of jobs, but of the industry, because they want to see a reasonable and viable future for the railways.Ultimatums have been issued by both sides. The Railway Staffs National Council meets on Friday this week when it is expected that the negotiations will collapse. Many in the industry, and those of us who are members of the railway unions, believe that the management of British Rail has decided that now is the right time to take on the railway unions to try forcibly to implement many of the so-called productivity schemes that it desires. One scheme that it is trying to force on the National Union of Railwaymen is that of one-man train operations between St. Pancras and Bedford. The management has put up a valid case for a driver only, with no other crew member on a train. As an ex-railway guard, I know that there are times when it is not possible to deploy railway guards to "maximum efficiency", to use one of the board's phrases. It will be a far worse railway system for many of the passengers and commuters if the only member of the staff is the driver, isolated as he is, in the front cab.
Yes, it is also dangerous.For the travelling public, one-man operation of buses has proved to be a disaster. I remember the arguments in the early 1970s about productivity, when I was a member of a passenger transport authority. The result of the forcible implementation of the one-man buses is a mass desertion of passengers from buses. The buses are too slow and cumbersome and passengers cannot get assistance with luggage. There is no service provided. Public transport should provide a service. It should be concerned with helping people on and off trains and moving parcels and mail. The proposals of the British Railways Board for one-man operation of trains are, in my view and that of my union, a disaster. We were prepared to talk, but we are now being told by the board "Drive them, operate them, or else". If we do not operate them, the board says that it will close down the system. So be it. The railways board is ready for what it would term a long siege. It is prepared for a two-months' shutdown, or one that is even longer. None of us with any regard for the industry looks on that with any pleasure. I have little patience for those who continually spend their time carrying banners demanding "Fight, smash, and crush", or this, that, or the other. However, railway men have been driven into a corner from which the only escape will be strike action. That will be a disaster for the industry, but the responsibility will lie primarily with the Government.
I shall vote for the amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford, (Mr. Silkin) for the reason that he enunciated. However, like my other hon. Friends I have a further reason for doing so, and one that is also urgent. It relates to regional policy and to those changes that were announced in the early life of the Government, of which my right hon. and hon. Friends representing the Yorkshire region were apprehensive a year ago. We were responsible for promoting a full day's debate, the purpose of which was largely to bring to the attention of the Government and the House the effect of the Government's impending changes in regional policy on our region.The timetable for those changes is almost up, and time is fast running out. Already, it is too late to lodge applications for aid under certain headings of regions! policy. Already parts of Yorkshire and Humberside are viewing the changes that are to become final during the next few weeks with much more dismay than they thought possible a year ago, because of the change in their economic conditions. Some parts of Yorkshire and Humberside, soon to be deprived of assisted area status, believe that the impact of those changes on them could be nothing short of catastrophic. I wish to look at the region as a whole before focusing on my corner of it, South Yorkshire and the city of Sheffield. In doing so I wish to take stock of the fortunes of our region over the past year. I remind the House that our region remains substantially dependent for manufacturing employment on three sectors—textiles, mining and steel—and prospects for all of them have deteriorated since we held our debate a year ago. The bulk of Britain's wool textile industry is concentrated in our region, in Bradford and Huddersfield. Although the industry has moved up market and now exports 40 per cent. of its output, it remains prey to foreign competition. Consequently wool textile manufacturers find themselves once again wondering what kind of future: lies ahead for the industry, as they have to face up to regional difficulties. Trade union leaders too are questioning yet again whether the job sacrifices that they have made have been worth it. In the short space of a decade and a half the Yorkshire coalfield has been transformed from a top-heavy, under-productive organisation to a highly efficient one, using the latest technology to achieve productivity levels that are the admiration and envy of nearly every other British coalfield. Yet the future of our mining industry is, like that of textiles, difficult to assess. Although coal's importance seems likely to increase further as a result of oil supply and price uncertainties, the future of the region's pits will be affected by the development of the great new Selby coalfield in neighbouring North Yorkshire. Sheffield has also been seriously hit by the problems of two of its principal sectors—steel and cutlery. Private sector steel has suffered long and hard from market raids by European producers, especially the Germans, who appear to have established an efficient and streamlined marketing system for all grades of specialised steel. In the public sector, the British Steel Corporation, having shed more than 1,000 jobs a year for the past 13 years, is down to 3 million tonnes of manned capacity. In cutlery about 90 per cent. of the market for stainless steel knives, forks and spoons has been captured by importers, which has forced the local industry to concentrate almost entirely on higher priced items. The engineering sector as a whole remains depressed, with a generally low level of business and cuts in employment continuing at firms such as Johnson and Firth Brown and involving for the first time firms such as Davy Loewy. Those are engineering giants. There are no parts of the private sector on which the whole of our economy must depend more than those firms. If they get into trouble, the whole of British industry is in trouble. Moreover, the majority of small firms in great engineering centres such as Sheffield depend precisely on the giant engineering firms such as Firth Brown and Davy Loewy as well as the British Steel Corporation and Hadfields to keep them going. The deep-sea fishing fleet on Humberside has declined from nearly 500 80 ft trawlers at the beginning of 1975 to about 120 registered trawlers, of which no more than half are active at present. For Hull that has meant that only about 5 per cent. of the labour force is now employed in fishing and its associated processing industry. British Aerospace workers at Brough are worried about their future employment. Today's announcements about cuts elsewhere in the economy by British Aerospace will do nothing to ease their anxieties. People in both Rotherham and Doncaster hope that the completion of the South Yorkshire navigation improvements will symbolise the renewal of the region and the ultimate revival of their industries. However, Doncaster, with its unique geographical setting, its long-established and advantageous rail links, its industrial diversity, which includes glass, fabrics, vehicle manufacture and everything from railways to steel rope-making and a high standard of industrial relations and responsible trade union leadership, might be expected to survive the recession better than most. Instead, it continues to be afflicted with severely increasing unemployment. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) brought to the attention of the House today in his early-day motion entitled "Unemployment in South Yorkshire", the level of unemployment in the south of the region continues to rise. The underlying trend continues to rise more steeply than in almost any other part of the country. Despite today's news of the sag in the national level of unemployment, the level in South Yorkshire is still at 14·5 per cent., which is higher than the national level of 12·4 per cent. and significantly higher than the level of 11·3 per cent. that Yorkshire Members deplored just a year ago in our debate on Yorkshire. Furthermore, that unusually high level of unemployment in South Yorkshire hides the severity of the problem in the main industrial centres. In our region unemployment is now higher than it was traditionally and is rising more steeply than elsewhere in the economy, yet in the part of the region that includes North Yorkshire, a rural county, the number of unemployed is substantially lower, which brings down that level. Therefore, the level is higher in the industrial centres. When we scrutinise the level of employment more closely we see that the regional rate, even in the old industrial centres of West and South Yorkshire and Humberside, also hides the higher level of unemployment among men. In all the great cities such as Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull, the male-only figure of unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent. Because of the overall state of the United Kingdom economy, the rate of inward investment into our area has been low. The gap between jobs lost and jobs created has been growing. In trying to persuade new industry to settle, from now on most of the region will be able to offer only a narrower range of investment incentives, following the Government's redrawing of development area boundaries and their intention to deprive local authorities such as Sheffield of assisted area status in a few weeks' time and given their general retreat from regional policy. That is where my concern lies. A comparison of average gross weekly earnings, spending on social security benefits, regionally relevant public spending per head and regional development spending per head with figures for Scotland, Wales, the Northern and North-West regions shows that our region fares badly. There is less public investment within our region than in neighbouring regions. The onus for securing economic regeneration has been placed as a result upon the local authorities. Each of the four county councils, together with their constituent districts, has been investigating possible new initiatives aimed at influencing the pattern of economic development. South Yorkshire has been active in the development of industrial estates. In Humberside a large quantity of land on the Humber estuary is being offered as an inducement for major petrochemical plant development. Sheffield city council is setting up its own employment department, thus launching a unique initiative in local government. A special working party recently set up by the Sheffield trades council criticised the youth opportunities programme for its failure to create new jobs for young people. A group of Sheffield business men have devised a plan called "future enterprises" to revitalise the city's industrial base. In West Yorkshire the county council has supported an action committee formed to link the various bodies concerned with the problems of the wool and clothing industries. It hopes to attract EEC funds for a scheme for textile area regeneration, known as STAR, through which aid to improve the environment and stimulate employment opportunities can be channelled. In the Yorkshire and Humberside region there is a surprising and heartening amount of self-help among local authorities, trade unions, trade councils and private business men. It is precisely the response for which the Government have asked. Every responsible body in the region is playing its part except the Government. The Yorkshire and Humberside region is a good area in which to test Britain's industrial prospects. In economic terms the region shares many of the structural problems affecting many major United Kingdom centres. It has a number of important assets which suggest that it is one of the areas where economic improvement would manifest itself with the right encouragement and the required Government policies. The Government have well-defined financial policies. They can point to some results, but they have no strategy to help British industry sustain itself against the shattering effects of those same financial policies. The Yorkshire and Humberside region is in trouble, its industrial base of textiles, mining, steel and heavy engineering has been badly eroded. Yet this is the time when the Government have chosen to deny parts of the region investment incentives. I appeal to the Leader of the House and the Secretaries of State for Industry and Employment to reconsider their policy decisions. There might have been some justification for those policies when notice of them was given nearly three years ago. Given the deterioration within our national economy and the faster deterioration in the Yorkshire and Humberside region, there is less justification than there was. In parts of the Yorkshire and Humberside region, such as Sheffield, the imminent deprivation of assisted area status is viewed as perhaps a near-disaster. I hope that the Leader of the House will bring to the attention of his right hon. Friends my appeal to them at this late hour to reconsider their regional policies.
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) in his contention that there are a hundred and one reasons why the House should not adjourn for the Whitsun Recess. Yesterday during Welsh questions I referred to the scandal of Welsh water charges. I was incensed by the indifferent nature of the reply that I received and I resolved to raise the issue again at the earliest opportunity.It seems that Ministers at the Welsh Office have an insufficient realisation of the gravity of the situation that is developing in Wales over water charges. I gave them due warning during the Welsh debate on 25 February, especially of the feeling that was building up in my constituency. An urgent statement is now necessary from the Secretary of State for Wales on financial relief for hard-pressed ratepayers in Newport and throughout Wales. Bearing in mind the right hon. Gentleman's performance, I am not optimistic about the outcome. One can point to the scandalous nature of the administration of the Welsh water authority. The authority was created nearly 10 years ago by a Conservative Government. Throughout its area there has been no representation on its management board from Newport, which is the third largest town in Wales. On the new board that has been created by the Secretary of State—one might say that it is his brain child—Gwent does not have a representative, yet Gwent has about 20 per cent. of the population of Wales and perhaps the largest sector of industry throughout the Principality. The public have become cynical about the political nepotism that is so frequently demonstrated by the Secretary of State in the appointments for which he is responsible. This tendency has been most marked over appointments to the new Welsh water authority. We have, for instance, the ridiculous appointment of Sir John Cotterell of Hereford, a well-known Conservative. As I have said, Gwent, which is one of the largest counties in Wales, has no representative. There is no need to take my word for the strength of feeling over appointments to the authority. A few days ago the Gwent county council had a full-scale debate on the issue, during which it was said that retired Army officers seem to have the best chance of being chosen for the board. Among other scathing criticisms reported in the Welsh press was a reference to the "clowns" at the Welsh Office. A senior member of the county council said that the new board was an "affront" to Gwent and was a case of "jobs for the boys." There has been some speculation that the board will meet in private. Bearing in mind its composition, one can understand why. Newport and Gwent seem defenceless in this situation. Exorbitant charges are levied without representation. All local access to and local links with representatives will vanish. Such developments are dangerous for democracy, particularly when one considers the strength of feeling that is building up over these charges. I have received several large petitions from people who say that they will refuse to pay. I do not encourage them to do that, but I can understand why they feel as they do. Newport, as a progressive local authority, provided for the water supplies of its consumers many years ago. Then, over the years, we experienced various centralisation measures. The Newport authority was followed by the South Monmouthshire authority and the Gwent authority. Now we have the Welsh water authority. Throughout this time the ratepayers of Newport have paid through the nose. Since 1960 water rates in Newport have increased by no less than 2,700 per cent. That is why I say that the charges are a scandal. They have risen from £1·93 in 1959–60 to £53·00 in 1982–83. There has been a similar exorbitant pattern of increases in sewerage charges. For the average domestic ratepayer, water and sewerage charges will amount to £96 compared with a total borough rate of £46. That figure is finalised by the 18 per cent. imposed by the Welsh water authority about three months ago. The charges for water and sewerage are more than double the charges for all the other services provided by the local authority. A great proportion of the rates in Newport is eaten up by these charges, when so many other valuable services need that money. A great deal more money could he spent on housing. Public health, swimming pools, parks, public works, the municipal bus service and a subsidy for the National Welsh Bus Company must be provided for out of the rates. What is left must be spent to try to attract new industry to the area. Industrial sites must be developed to provide new jobs not only for Newport but for the valleys of the hinterland. Newport has done its best to persuade the Welsh water authority to provide drainage and water supplies for the new industrial areas. We already pay enough to the Welsh water authority to have that type of service. Work is particularly necessary on a number of low level sites on the coastal belt. Such sites could accommodate the massive new industries, such as Datsun, which we hope to attract to the area. Many firms realise the potential of the area, with its motorway links to the Midlands and South-East England, yet the Welsh water authority just does not wish to know about this vital work and says "We shall leave it to the Welsh Development Agency or you can do it yourself at the ratepayers' expense". There is no rebate scheme for water charges for the really needy sections of the community. Pensioners, some of them with limited means, cannot understand why they receive such hefty bills when the quantity of water that they consume is so small. Mr. Haydn Rees, the chairman of the Welsh water authority, will retire this week after six years in the hot seat. I do not blame him for the situation that has developed. He inherited the problem, and he seems to know the difficulties, but the Government have not given him the wherewithal to rectify the position. In his valedictory statement a few days ago, Mr. Rees said that within 10 years there would be a common water charge for England and Wales. Such a system has already been created for gas and electricity charges. Perhaps that is the way ahead, but people in Newport are not prepared to wait for 10 years. Mr. Rees has at least attempted to get a realistic price for Welsh water where it is sold to other water authorities, but the Secretary of State for Wales is dithering over this proposal. Indeed, he has been dithering for seven months. It is absurd that people who live in the shadow of the Elan valley reservoirs are paying more for their water than those who live in industrial Birmingham and the West Midlands. The Labour Government introduced a rudimentary equalisation scheme and the Welsh water authority benefited by £3 million annually. Admittedly that was not much, but the idea was that the system should be built up to obtain an element of justice for Welsh ratepayers. However, when this Government came to power they soon set aside that scheme. Ministers in the Welsh Office should remember that if they do not take some action on the exorbitant charges they will reap the whirlwind. Those who live in Newport and in the whole of Wales are law abiding, but now they seem to be saying "Enough is enough".
I shall return to the matter of the railways, a subject which has already been raised by four of my hon. Friends. The Leader of the House will be aware that many Opposition Members are distressed because, due to the need to debate the European Community tomorrow, we have been deprived of the opportunity to discuss the grave state of affairs of British Rail, which is likely to lead to the worst industrial confrontation—and perhaps a decimation of services thereafter—that I can recall. It will certainly be the worst during the present generation. Those are serious words. I hope that they will be taken seriously.We are now on a collision course, about which the Government must make a statement before the House rises for the recess. The deadlines involved will have been passed before the House resumes. It appears that on Friday, at a meeting of the Railway Staffs National Council, the British Railways Board will advance proposals that will lead to the complete shutdown of the railways. It may have decided on that course of action in the knowledge that a collision with all the major rail unions, at a time of national crisis and hypertension as a result of events overseas, may intimidate railway workers out of taking industrial action, which will be inevitable if the board puts forward its package. The board is being egged on by the Government. The Government have brought about the impasse. That impasse will continue as long as the complete freeze on investment and a failure of confidence in the railways remain. Decisions about the future of the industry have been pre-empted because of the inquiry—which may be an inquest on the whitening bones of the industry if the Government force the industry to commit suicide by egging the board on to a collision course to disaster. I shall not go into detail as others have done. I shall deal with the problem as it affects my constituency and the industry as a whole. It is not right to say, as I believe the Secretary of State for Employment—that well-known hammer of the unions—will say in Beaconsfield this evening, that the railways have not delivered, that the unions must be told that if there is a showdown they will be to blame and that they must be whipped back into line. The unions and those who work on British Rail have always acknowledged that there is a need for a more efficient and productive railway. Most of them have delivered. The National Union of Railwaymen, to which I belong, has delivered on the productivity deals that the British Railways Board has suggested. The railwaymen have delivered on freight marshalling yards, rationalisation, cuts in passenger train mileage and the acceleration of administrative changes, and they have co-operated in all of the good housekeeping schemes that have been put up by British Rail. Every month 1,000 people leave the industry. From April 1980 to April 1981 there was a reduction of 5,886 posts, with a saving of £28,896,000 in staff costs. In the following April to December of 1981 another 8,293 posts were lost, yielding a saving of £33,741,000. The unions have delivered time after time. They have delivered the jobs of their own members. What have they received in return? Nothing. All the schemes for electrification have been put on the back burner. They have had no tangible benefits recently to show for the years of co-operation. The matter has been brought to a head by the proposal artificially to bring forward the decision to close two-and-a-half railway workshops and make major redundancies elsewhere. We have heard what has happened to the Shildon and Swindon works. In my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Johnson) the Derby locomotive works must face 400 redundancies. The work force there has co-operated with the management in every scheme. Now the workers are told that they will have some work as a result of closures elsewhere, so why not co-operate? "Let the crocodile eat other people and he will eat you later." That is not working people's view of closures elsewhere when they know that their turn may come next or the time after that. Two of the three apprentice schools in Derby have been closed as a result of a rationalisation. In those circumstances, how can British Rail say that it will be going out for expansion and that if productivity were better it could obtain more overseas orders? A large order for Nigeria is being discussed. Where will the rolling stock be built? Where will the trained personnel be found if lay-offs in the workshops continue in this way and skilled apprentices do not come through into the work force? The answer is that it will be impossible to find them. Many of us suspect that not merely is British Rail embarking on a collision course with all the unions, having deliberately put together a package which includes elements of conflict with the staff unions, the NUR and TSSA, but that the Government are encouraging British Rail to act as their willing client in selling off most of the assets of the railways. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) referred to the sayings of Sir Robert Lawrence about asset-stripping. In Derby our workshops have been the pride of the railway system. There is the technical centre and there are the carriage and loco works. We now hear that those workshops may be candidates for privatisation. They will not be closed, because too much investment went into them in the good days of the railways, but if they are slimmed down and the work force bled away they may well become candidates for privatisation. Indeed, we are told that GEC may be coming to look around. It would be outrageous if the engineering workshops in Derby were sold off. I believe that in the last Session of Parliament there was a draft Bill, which never saw the light of day or the scrutiny of Members of Parliament, to permit the selling off of all the workshops. Our suspicion and fear is that, after two months of total shutdown on the railways and a crisis from which everyone should now back away because it will lead to the most destructive confrontation, the result will be the devastation of the railway system as we have known it. As has been emphasised several times this week, there have been persistent calls for statements from the Government on a number of issues. Where is the statement about the Channel tunnel? Where is the statement about the delays in electrification? Where is the statement about railway workshop closures? Finally, before the key decision that must be made on Friday, just before the House rises for the recess, I say in all seriousness to the Leader of the House that an explanation is required from the Government. There must be some understanding by the Government that if the essentially moderate people who work on the railways are driven too far, not only will they be driven to the point at which they have no alternative but to take industrial action, as I believe will be the case if the proposals to be put on Friday are carried through, but the result will be the destruction of the British railway system, for which the British public will not forgive the Government.
I endorse all the remarks made by my hon. Friends the Members for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), Swindon (Mr. Stoddart), West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) and Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) about the onslaught on the railway industry. My hon. Friends spoke eloquently of the need to defend their constituencies and the industry and they have the full support of the entire Parliamentary Labour Party.It is many years since the House went into recess in a situation such as today's, in which we are at war with another country. There was unanimous agreement in the House in totally condemning the Argentine junta's invasion of the Falkland Islands. Before the House goes into recess, however, the need for a negotiated settlement must be understood. I understand the political pressures that led the junta to take its action. The week before the invasion, there was a massive demonstration in the Argentine capital, and it was to relieve itself from that pressure that the junta acted as it did. The need to seek a negotiated settlement is very important and should be given great priority by the House and by the Government. I was concerned at what I considered to be the negative attitude shown by the Prime Minister at Question Time today. When pressed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about negotiations, the United Nations and so on, the right hon. Lady fell back on the need for military victory. As my right hon. Friend mentioned, the speech which the Foreign Secretary made on Thursday was somewhat different from the remarks we heard from the Prime Minister today. I hope that the Leader of the House will listen to this quote from what the Foreign Secretary said only last Thursday:
In the same speech the Foreign Secretary also said:"I was coming on to the future of negotiations, which was one of the important points taken up by the right hon. Member for Cardiff South-East as well. There is no question of the Government having turned their back on the idea of a negotiated settlement. The diplomatic option and effort continues as vigorously as before."
We know about the military pressures and the escalation which has occurred since the debate last Thursday. What we do not know about are the diplomatic efforts and what efforts have been made by the British Government to find a negotiated settlement to the crisis. No one, certainly not myself, denies that the issue is complex. I have said previously in a debate on the Falkland Islands that I do not consider this to be another Suez because at the time of Suez it was clear who the aggressor was. If I believed it was another Suez, I would be virtually condoning what the junta did. That does not alter the fact that a military solution will not be a proper lasting solution—for reasons which must be obvious to everyone in the House. Therefore, I hope that the Government will not close the door on negotiations or on trying to find an interim arrangement. There has been much talk in the House and in the media generally about the possibility of United Nations administration or trusteeship. That type of solution may be more acceptable in the long run than Britain simply repossessing the Falkland Islands. If we repossess the islands, what will we do afterwards? Will we keep a huge force there, 8,000 miles away from the United Kingdom? Will we have to keep such a force there in case the ruling authorities in Argentina decide to have another go? There must be recognition of all the complex problems involved, which must mean a need to get around the negotiating table. Of course it goes without saying that that applies to the junta as well as to the British Government. I am glad that the Leader of the House accepted at the outset the amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin). It would be impossible to believe that if there was a further major escalation of the conflict with major casualties the House would not be called back. I hope that pressures from Members of Parliament and the public generally will ensure that we will be brought back. I have contempt for those who believe that what is happening in the South Atlantic can be a springboard for some electoral success. It would be a disgrace if the British and Argentines who have lost their lives and those who have been injured were used as an excuse for a snap election in which the Tory Party could do well on the basis of what has happened over the Falkland crisis. I hope that, like me, most Conservative Members will view with contempt those people who are willing to use people's lives, let alone British lives, lost in military action purely and simply to advance their party's narrow interests. Might I add here that the inquiry has yet to take place about the events which led to the invasion in the first place, and presumably the then Foreign Secretary did not resign for the fun of it. I turn now to some local matters. Although there has been some decrease in unemployment according to the figures which came out today, the underlying number of unemployed adults is still increasing. What is particularly worrying for hon. Members like me who represent West Midlands constituencies is the continued substantial increase in unemployment in the region during the past three years. On 22 April I asked a question about"I agree entirely with what the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said about military and diplomatic pressures going together. Both are required. Neither would be effective without the other. They are part of a comprehensive whole."—[Official Report, 20 May 1982; Vol. 24, c. 552.]
In my own travel-to-work area of Walsall, the increase in unemployment over the past three years was 240 per cent. In Dudley and Sandwell, and, also of course, in the black country, the figure was 271 per cent. In Birmingham, it was 182 per cent. Clearly, the increase in unemployment in the West Midlands has been far greater than in most other parts of the country, and certainly nationally. I have here an answer to another question that I asked on 8 April. These answers will be of particular interest to the Leader of the House, for obvious reasons. I asked for the percentage increases for the West Midlands and the Walsall travel-to-work area. I have already mentioned the increase of 241 per cent. in three years in the Walsall travel-to-work area. For the West Midlands as a whole the figure was 193 per cent. There are also continuing large-scale redundancies, closures, and the rest. We therefore believe that measures are urgently needed to reverse the tide of mass unemployment so that people may get back to work, and to stop adults rotting their lives away in the dole queues, as well as young people leaving school. So far, there has been no announcement from the Government that they intend to pursue policies which will reverse the tide of mass unemployment. At the moment, the dominant issue is the Falklands. That is natural, because lives are involved and we do not know how many more casualties there will be. However, when the Falkland crisis is over, we shall still be faced with the crisis of mass unemployment and the fact that millions of people in this country are denied the opportunity to earn their living. I am also worried because those who have been made unemployed are to be penalised in a particularly vindictive manner. We had a debate about the fact that unemployed people are to be taxed. We know, too, that although taxation will begin in the current year, the 5 per cent. which was taken from them in 1980 in lieu of taxation will not be restored. I have a reply here from a Treasury Minister to a question in which I asked how many unemployed will not pay income tax because their income is too low. The reply was 1¼ million. So out of those who will not be liable to income tax—the registered unemployed—1¼ million will not pay any income tax at all because their total income is too low. Forty per cent. of the unemployed are affected in that way, yet those people who will not pay income tax are denied the 5 per cent. in benefit. The 60 per cent. of unemployed people who will be liable to tax will be subject to double taxation. They will pay income tax as well as the 5 per cent. deduction that was introduced in lieu of taxation about 2 years ago. I mention that matter because it seems to me that the House should have special concern for those people most at risk in our community. It is all very well for the Government to say that unemployment is unfortunate but inevitable because of economic trends and what is happening abroad. That is certainly not an argument that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I would accept. What possible justification can there be, however, for the measures that I have been describing being taken against the unemployed? People who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without work and on the dole queue are penalised by having less money than they would otherwise have. When we talk about going into recess, everyone should bear in mind how difficult things are for those of our constituents who are out of work and to whom every single penny counts. It is not just the unemployed who suffer: it is their wives and children. Yet the Government have taken action which is amongst the most vindictive that they have taken in the past three years. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) was right in what he said about the nurses. He also referred to the wealthier sections of the community which have done so well. It is about time the Government took some action for the poorer sections of the community and certainly for the unemployed. The plight of those people who have been the victims of Government policy should be brought to the notice of the House. I hope that even at this late hour the 5 per cent. that was stolen from the unemployed will be restored to their benefit."the percentage increase in unemployment between May 1979 and the current time in each of the travel-to-work areas of the West Midlands."—[Official Report, 22 April 1982; Vol.22, c. 130.]
Many of my hon. Friends have raised the issue of the railway workshops. Like some of my hon. Friends, I have the good fortune to be an NUR-sponsored Member. There is nothing that I can usefully add to the authoritative speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) and others who have spoken on this issue, as the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) knows well.In all the meetings that I have attended with the NUR I have been struck by the extent to which the union has cooperated in the various proposals that have been put forward over the years by British Rail. If anybody thinks that in the cuts and in the changes in passenger services and freight there has not been formidable union cooperation, they are living in another world. It may be that they have been too helpful for their own good. It would be a great pity if at this stage, on the crux issue of railway workshops, unfair advantage was seen to be taken of all the co-operation that has been given over the past few years. Last year, with several colleagues, I visited the railway workshops in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart). It is an extremely impressive place. The training is exceptional. As one whose job it was to go round a number of training institutions in Britain, I can say that the training given at Swindon is second to none. I hope that the Leader of the House and his colleagues will heed what Labour Members have said. It would be an abuse of the procedure of the House to go in detail into the many aspects of the Falklands issue at this stage in the business. However, I thank the Leader of the House for the undertaking that he gave at the beginning of the debate on the recall of Parliament. I shall concentrate on one issue. If those who share the view that some of us have put forward are to be persuasive in trying to achieve a ceasefire and an immediate end to bloodshed we must point out to the Government that they should be very careful about inviting the Russians into the South Atlantic. As the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said, we must look over the hill. In addition, the American Secretary of State has said that there is no military solution. Therefore, the House should be recalled if there is any sign of change within Argentina.
I have been waiting to speak since 7 pm.
I shall be brief.Elements of the Left in the Argentine Air Force and Army, together with some of the Left-wing Peronistas and—according to friends who work for a Latin American newsletter—the Communists, are almost certainly trying to put together some deal with each other. I do not say that General Menendez and his forces on the Falkland Islands are likely to surrender, but it is possible. Our forces face the most formidable terrain when crossing the island to Port Stanley. However, if General Menendez and his forces surrender, there will almost certainly be a coup or revolution in Argentina. If I were asked what evidence there was, I would point to an important fact that is known to the Foreign Office. Indeed, I have spoken partly in the hope that the Foreign Office will take it more seriously than those who put it to them suggest. Juan Abalmedina was secretary general of the Peronistas in the 1970s. Those of us who spoke to the Latin American delegates at the Latin American European Assembly conferences will know of the charisma that attaches to that man. He has been incarcerated—that is the word—in the Mexican embassy in Buenos Aires for the past six years. In a sense, he is a charismatic figure. He could have been given his freedom only with the connivance and agreement of at least sections of the Argentine armed forces. Therefore, I suggest that a deal has been made. We must study carefully what the right hon. Member for Sidcup called the other side of the hill. Hon. Members should imagine the scenario of the Argentines facing defeat, inflation and a debt of $35 billion. We have the ingredients for an explosive situation and either for a coup by the Right to achieve a more hard-line Government or for the advent of what can be described only as a Gaddafi-like situation. If that situation were to develop in the Southern hemisphere, it would be extremely dangerous for the West. It would play right into the hands of the Soviet camp. The one thing of which we can be certain is that any successor to the Argentine Government, Right or Left, will not be any more disposed towards negotiation. There is no likelihood of a civilian Government who might negotiate. I suppose that one must look at it from our point of view and from theirs. Indeed, if it is worth dying for the islands, they must be worth keeping. The more blood spilled, the more intransigent the impasse that we have reached. However, Argentine intransigence would survive any British military triumph. Therefore, we would unleash a revolutionary process in Argentina that certainly would clash with the traditional sectors of society. That involves the British community. This is a new situation because there is no precendent for such a war in South America. The purpose of my speech is to stress that at this stage, and possibly in the next 10 days, we must be careful to look for any moment at which, by stopping fighting, we can help those forces in Argentina who want a dialogue with the West rather than the alternative of dependency on Moscow. For that reason, I am not happy about the EEC sanctions. The sanctions, which I suspect are inefficient, nevertheless create the atmosphere of the Hispanic world taking on the Anglo-Saxon English-speaking world. During Question Time reference was made to the French Government and their exports. The French Government said that the radar avionics for the Exocet were not exported by them. That is the weaponry that sank poor HMS "Sheffield". However, the chairman of Dassault, exulting in the missile's success and suggesting that his exports are really formidable, told us that it was a package. Both cannot be right. The question arises: who is right? If, as one suspects, the chairman of Dassault is right and the French Government are wrong, one begins to wonder about the efficiency of the embargo. The sanctions are not efficient, because Siemens has told the German Government that it will not obey the embargo, or words to that effect. So that sanction is not effective. And we all know what the Italians are doing. If we create the atmosphere of these sanctions, we are reinforcing the idea of the Hispanic world against the English-speaking world. That is extremely dangerous and it must be watched in the coming crucial 10 days. Incidentally, it is a situation that makes those around Willy Brandt, not necessarily around the German Chancellor, extremely angry with what is happening. Another reason I hope that there will be a report back concerns the delicate issue of what is happening on the South American mainland. The Leader of the House may look very bored about all this——
I have spent 30 years listening to the hon. Gentleman, and they have been the most pleasurable experiences that I have had.
That is a gem for my election address.I endeavoured to raise this matter of considerable importance under Standing Order No. 9. If the press had not raised it, I do not think that I would have done. There is widespread belief that there has been an operation on the South American mainland. Unlike some of those with whom I am widely associated, I think there is a perfectly understandable reason for doing that. It is politically hazardous, but if we do not withdraw the task force, as would be my preference, something might have to be done about the bases. However, someone some time will have to explain why that helicopter crashed in Chile. We can be forgiven for the assumption that it was some kind of an attempt to do something about the Super Etendards that carried the Exocet that sank the "Sheffield". If I were a member of the task force or had relations serving with the task force, I would be pressing as much as anyone—given that the task force was there—for something to be done about the Super Etendards and the Exocet. Rather than sending Vulcans to knock them out, frankly it might be better to send SAS parties—as has been suggested by the Daily Mail, among others—on to the Latin American mainland. To me, that is a reason for withdrawing the task force. If landing on the mainland has been found necessary, the Government are creating a new situation. We have been told by the Venezuelan President that once anything happens on the South American mainland, diplomatic relations will be broken with Venezuela. Certainly Roberto Campos gave the same indication to some of us about relations with Brazil, as did the Colombian ambassador. That therefore brings us back to the whole question of relations with the Latin American continent. The House has been patient with me. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his promise. I merely seek to extract from him the courteous assent that he will raise these matters with the Foreign Office. It knows perfectly well that they have been raised before. I hope that, by raising them now, they will be taken seriously.
I also support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think that the House should adjourn, especially in view of the serious situation in my own constituency—and several other constituencies—over the operation of the community enterprise programme run by the Manpower Services Commission.The matter is urgent in Vauxhall, where Elephant Jobs Ltd., sponsored under the community enterprise programme, is threatened with foreclosure of its funding from the end of this month; in other words, before the House returns from the recess. I posed various questions to the Secretary of State for Employment and received a series of unclear replies. For example, I asked the right hon. Gentleman
and received a typically monosyllabic answer:"whether he has required the Manpower Services Commission to reinterpret the guidelines for projects funded by the community enterprise programmes",
On the other hand, both Elephant Jobs Ltd. and the House of Lambeth Project, funded indirectly by the Manpower Services Commission through the Lady Margaret Hall Settlement, may have to close part of their project work because of a change in the interpretation of the guidelines on the financing of these programmes. The change in interpretation hinges—this has been confirmed by the Minister—on what is meant by "economic" and "economic benefit" and whether projects of this kind can put existing jobs at risk. So far as anyone concerned with these projects can tell, no evidence has been adduced to suggest that this is the case and that jobs are at risk. The reply that I have received from the Minister is purely hypothetical—that projects should not be put at risk but that there was a possibility that projects"No".—[Official Report, 24 May 1982; Vol. 24, c. 228.]
What we have here by implication is a variant on the Government's general crowding-out argument from either public enterprise projects or public sponsored projects and their impact on the private sector. Just as the Government are mistaken in arguing generally that public spending drains rather than sustains the private sector, so, in the particular case of two projects—one of which, Elephant Jobs Ltd., employs 140 persons and the other, the House of Lambeth, employs 40 persons—the Government's reasoning is dubious and raises a fundamental question. If these projects are now to be called into question and further funding denied them, how is it that, under the same guidelines, they were approved for funding by the Manpower Services Commission and the community employment programme under the same provisions and under earlier spending commitments? The definition of what is or is not a project meriting benefit comes out of the CEP's sponsors handbook, which says that the community enterprise programme scheme should contribute to the improvement of the local environment, the conservation of energy or provide amenities or economic benefit to the community. But the handbook makes no other reference to community benefit. There are references to other things that the scheme should not do, but what is defined as community benefit is not made clear. Nor, frankly, is it made clear by the replies that I have had so far from the Minister. He says that projects put forward by sponsors are considered individually and the Government will judge whether projects are of economic benefit in the light of local needs and circumstances. However, if they were local needs and circumstances we might be talking about one or two isolated projects. I am not only faced with two projects that are now threatened with closure in my constituency, but another similar project is threatened. Several projects are now in question, not only in the London area, but in the rest of the country. Clearly the Secretary of State has passed instructions down the line that there should be a revision of the interpretation of the rules for funding which throws not only these projects but others into nothing less than crisis. The crisis is caused not only because current activities cannot be sustained, but also through not knowing how funding should continue. It is very difficult to know what lies behind the effective reinterpretation of the rules, but one suspects that it must be something which either the Manpower Services Commission or the Secretary of State prefers not to make public. One can only suspect that they hoped that this fudging of the community benefit criterion definition would not be observed. There is also a widespread suspicion that this is a covert way of changing the whole nature of the community enterprise programme projects nationally. The Minister assures me that this is not so and that the Government have made available additional resources under the programme to support another 5,000 places during the coming year. It is interesting to speculate how they will do this. It is very hard to imagine the creation of programmes that would escape the harsh and unrealistic redefinition of employment creation. What sense can be made of the community benefit of projects of this kind if they cannot create employment which, in effect, brings benefit to the local community? If the Minister is not clear about the benefit, it is possible to suggest grounds on which he should be able to judge whether benefit is brought to a local area. These include the generation of income and surplus by the enterprise and higher spending power of some of those employed in inner city areas. Unfortunately, that is not the end of the matter. In Elephant Jobs Ltd. the average wage is £83 gross a week. About one-third of the employees are married or single parents, with dependants. But others are single persons. I have asked the Minister to state the net cost to the Exchequer if these people were made unemployed instead of continuing to be funded on these programmes. I was told that there would be no net Exchequer cost, for given reasons. The reason that was not given—which is important to the whole rationale of these programmes—is that they would be eligible for unemployment benefit that amounts to as much as they are being paid to work. There would be no net difference. The difference is that, instead of being engaged in craft training schemes and in employment, they would be unemployed and on the dole. I stress my reasons for being concerned about the immediate impact of what is happening in my constituency and in other inner city areas. The employees of Elephant Jobs Ltd. are largely drawn from the most deprived parts of a relatively deprived community. More than 50 per cent. are black. Many live in the Lambeth and Lewisham areas. Many are ex-offenders. It is people in these categories who are likely to be put on the streets by the change in the rules and guidelines for these programmes and who will view with considerable cynicism any seriousness on the part of the Government about realising the alleged intention of the inner cities programme to create jobs and to foster "community spirit" in those areas. These projects represent a first line of defence against a collapse of confidence in the social system as a whole, giving rise to the grave social discontent that was seen in the streets last year, not only in Lambeth and Brixton, but elsewhere. I am worried by the fact that the Minister does not seem to be aware of the manner in which the Manpower Services Commission is interpreting these rule changes. I was told that the Secretary of State had not requested the Manpower Services Commission to reinterpret the guidelines. Yet the House of Lambeth project, providing 40 jobs, mainly in woodworking, has received a letter from the Manpower Services Commission giving notice that"could put existing jobs at risk or prevent the creation of potential new jobs."—[Official Report, 19 May 1982; Vol. 24, c. 111.]
It is clear that, despite the Minister's assurance, instructions are coming down the line to axe a whole series of these projects in the inner city areas. The Manpower Services Commission says that there has been no change in the criteria. I have drawn attention to the guidelines, opaque though they may be, from the sponsor's handbook. It seems, however, that the Minister is not aware that the change in the interpretation of the guidelines means that capital projects approved last year will now be wasted. Resources have been committed to them, but the funds for their operation will not be available. The change in the attitude of the Government towards these programmes is made plain in the case of the House of Lambeth by the fact that this project came up for grant renewal last October and was encouraged to expand from 31 to 40 places, which was done. It seems that at that time the Manpower Services Commission was happy with the criteria. So happy was it that it gave sanction to Lambeth council to approve a £13,000 grant from the job creation fund to help. That capital sum has been spent on a GLC rented factory, which, if the scheme closes, will be wasted. There is a strong case for claiming that the revision in the application of the funding rules at best amounts to maladministration by the MSC, for which the Secretary of State is responsible, and at worst represents a cynical attack on the principle of publicly funded projects in the inner city areas. Schemes such as the House of Lambeth expire in July. Following pressure, they were given a three-month extension beyond that date either to come within the criteria as redefined, or to find alternative funding, for instance to convert to a youth opportunities training workshop or a local authority sponsored workshop. However, as the House of Lambeth—sponsored by the Lady Margaret Hall Settlement—has submitted to me, it is difficult to answer the case that has been brought when one no longer knows of what one is accused. The attempts at definition by the MSC at informal meetings have been arbitrary and—in effect—obstructive. The future of the Government's programme for the long-term unemployed, the cut in places in a borough such as Lambeth and the loss of jobs are seriously affecting inner city areas. Since the events took place in Brixton last year we have had a virtual doubling of youth unemployment in the area. It is very worrying that on the one hand a project such as the House of Lambeth has been praised for "creating real jobs" through its various projects and on the other hand has been told that it is taking away jobs from the local community. The change in interpretation is ruining not only years of work but the morale of those who are employed. I asked the Minister of State, Department of Employment whether he was aware of what the impact of a cut of 40 of the places on the Elephant Jobs scheme would be on the enterprise. He replied that that was for Elephant Jobs to determine. Of course, it is not. If one takes 40 places from 140 places on such schemes, which have fixed overheads in terms of management personnel and the commitment of a basic management staff, that means the closure of the project. It is clearly time that the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Employment got together to face the responsibilities of their respective urban and economic programmes. It is time that they got together to try to marry the commitment to the inner cities, of which we hear so much, with the real preservation of community sponsored jobs in inner city areas. At present we are in a "Catch 22" situation. All projects are required to benefit the community. They are supposed to do so through job creation. Yet when they move to viable areas of job creation it is claimed, without evidence, that they are competing with the private sector. The House should address itself to this issue. We should receive a reply from the Leader of the House indicating that he will not only draw these matters to the attention of the Secretary of State for Employment and the Secretary of State for the Environment, but will seek to ensure that projects such as these in the Vauxhall constituency can not only survive, but grow and flourish."after taking Head Office advice, the House of Lambeth fails to meet the community benefit criterion of the Community Enterprise Programme and for that reason the scheme is not regarded as refundable."
May I say to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that when I was explaining my presence from seven o'clock and the fact that I had not been called I was not commenting on his speech? I was telling my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) that it did not make any difference if one sat here all the time and tabled an amendment, and that a letter to Mr. Speaker was the only way of securing that one was called. That is one reason why the Chamber is continuously empty week after week. I am disappointed that my amendment was not called. It would have provided power to Back Benchers instead of the Front Bench and the Government who have power to determine the business of the House.I support the motion tabled by the Opposition Front Bench, because I believe that there is a continuing and growing need to reflect the criticism of the Labour and trade union movement of the Government's policy of waging war in the South Atlantic. That is no criticism of the men who face the grave danger in which the Government have placed them in the South Atlantic with a great deal of courage and fortitude. The reason why I believe that the House should not adjourn has already been mentioned by my hon. Friends and, significantly, not by any Conservative Members. It is the difficulty faced by National Health Service workers because of the position in which they have been placed by the Government. They have no wish to go on strike and they recognise the dilemma that they are in. They provide a continuous service that looks after those who are ill. They do not want to prejudice that position. If they have a face of compassion, the Government will not look at it with sympathy—they will kick it. That is the sad, glaring truth. Over the past three years Health Service workers—ancillary workers, nurses and ambulance drivers—have taken a cut in their wages. In 1980 when there was an annual inflation rate of about 18 per cent. ancillary workers received about 12 per cent. In 1981, with an inflation rate of about 12 per cent., ancillary workers had a wage increase of 7·5 per cent. over a 15-month period. Currently, with an inflation rate of about 10 to 12 per cent., the Government are offering a 4 per cent. limit. That is a wage cut. The Government do not say "We recognise the difficulties and the need to provide a continuous service". The workers see the Government imposing wage cuts because of the cash limits on the National Health Service. Mining is an occupation that has more regard for National Health Service workers than most occupations although most workers recognise their significance and importance. The National Union of Mineworkers in the Yorkshire area has said that it is prepared to take sympathetic action. That will be made illegal by the Government's Employment Bill that passed through the House this week. That is more action by the Government against workers organising themselves to fight for a just claim. The National Health Service is labour-intensive. It is a caring service for which significant funding is required. That includes the concept of paying decent wages to the staff. That is not against the interests of the national economy. If higher wages are paid, there is an increase in demand, which means an increase in demand for the goods and services that we produce and make available. However, the Government are showing their concern for the National Health Service by encouraging the privatisation of the service. They are doing so by encouraging the growth of, for instance, the Yorkshire clinic, which is in the Aire valley and not in the Keighley constituency. A number of greedy consultants, aided no doubt by the banks, which are anxious to earn interest on the investment, have decided to open a new private clinic. This will be a drain on the Health Service: trained people will be moving from the service because the private sector does not provide adequate training. This is an indication of the Government's priorities. The Government have said that there is no money for NHS workers and only limited money for the Service. The public sector borrowing requirement is extremely high because of the massive dole queues created by the Government's policies and the consequent payments of unemployment benefit, supplementary benefit and loss of tax revenue. This is costing in excess of £10 billion. However, there is money for the Falklands episode. The Government have been highly selective in the military juntas that they have chosen to move against and to be critical of—indeed, a mere 20 months or so ago the chairman of the Conservative Party, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Paymaster General, far from being critical of the military junta, which was the same one that is now in control, went on a five-day mission to Argentina to try to improve trading relations between Britain and Argentina. The Government are now much more critical. All of a sudden they have discovered the junta's reactionary nature. That has happened because it suits their position. Money for the Falklands will be running into hundreds of millions of pounds. As other hon. Members have said, the Government—this has emerged not by open debate but by a planted question—have produced a top salaries review. We should always remind ourselves that the review is carried out by "top people". Queen's Counsel and Members of the Lords meet to decide that their chums are not nearly enough well catered for and that the under secretary, the deputy secretary, the second permanent secretary and others are merely rubbing along on £30,495 a year. That is the salary of a second permanent secretary. They find that the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and the Secretary to the Cabinet are barely managing to make ends meet on £35,845 a year and that the Lord Chief Justice is somehow eking out a miserable existence on £44,500 a year. High Court Judges are just rubbing along on £35,000 a year. All these people have received an 18 per cent. increase without asking for it, without their striking, and without any organisation. The Government have given that to them on a platter. These people are not short of money. Last Wednesday I addressed a meeting in my constituency at the Airedale general hospital when the workers came out on strike, like many others in the National Health Service, to ask for a decent living wage by means of a 12 per cent. increase. There were over 300 at the meeting. These workers read in the newspapers that the "top people" are rubbing along on £40,000 a year and need an 18 per cent. increase. The "top people" have to be compared with the recipient of a wage slip for 4½ weeks' work, including weekends—this slip was received by a person who has been qualified for five years—of £283·23 net. Another worker at the same hospital received £231 for the month of March. That is an approximate take-home pay of £56 a week. When they read about the massive increases to the massive salaries of those who sit in judgment, those who advise the Government in senior Civil Service positions and the rest, they feel a deep and abiding sense of outrage which is driving them to take the industrial action that they feel is necessary.
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Business Of The House
That, at this day's sitting, the Motion relating to Adjournment (Spring) may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Boscawen.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
Therefore, the message from the workers at Airedale general hospital and from workers throughout the National Health Service is that they will keep pressing, working and agitating for a decent settlement to their claim. That claim of about 12 per cent. will do no more than keep them level with the cost of living.The House should understand that the vast majority of our people face a difficult struggle week after week to pay the gas, electricity and food bills which increase year after year. Inflation is not falling. It increases year after year. The Government boast about the fact that inflation is at the level that they inherited when they won the general election in 1979. That is still an inflation rate of about 9 to 10 per cent. People are outraged when they are denied a decent wage settlement. The Government are denying them that settlement. The House should have the opportunity to debate these and other related issues as a matter of urgency in order to see that those people receive justice.
First, I should like to associate myself with the remarks about the rundown of the railway industry. The British Rail workshops are the largest employers in my constituency. All the workers in the Springburn workshops are worried about the future. Glasgow Members and Members from the surrounding areas are worried because the workshops create employment for people not only in Glasgow but in the surrounding areas.I wish to bring to the attention of the House a problem which was brought to my attention by a brave young lady who suffers from kidney failure. Normally, those who suffer from kidney failure have to undergo treatment on a kidney dialysis machine which requires them to attend hospital for about four hours a day on three days a week. The young lady to whom I have referred, Mrs. Grace Tait of Charles Street in my constituency, has informed me that about 800 patients in the United Kingdom undergo a treatment known as CAPD—continuous ambulatory perennial dialysis. Under CAPD, the patient must connect a bag of liquid four times a day to his or her stomach wall. The treatment allows the patients to go about their daily business. It means that patients are not tied to going to the hospital for treatment on the kidney dialysis machines. That treatment, while advantageous, is fraught with many dangers, the greatest of which arises when the bag of liquid is being changed. The patient must carry out the operation himself and must ensure beforehand that the room in which he carries it out is free from germs. There is a great danger of the patient contracting peritonitis. A doctor who works at the Wolfson institute in Glasgow, which is a highly respected institute in Scotland, informed me that if he could obtain more money for research he could devise a better method that would ensure that the patient did not run the risk of contracting peritonitis. When I asked the doctor how much money he was talking about I expected him, in these days of inflation and sophisticated medical treatment, to talk in terms of hundreds of thousands of pounds, but he said that he needed about £20,000. It should be within the reach of the Government at least to examine the work of the Wolfson institute. If it can alleviate the suffering that many kidney patients must endure, £20,000 is a small consideration. I do not have all the facts, but I am sure that the Leader of the House will ask Ministers in the Department of Health and Social Security to consider the matter. Another point that worries me is that when the patient is changing the bag of liquid he must ensure that the area in which he is working is sterilised. Patients are given equipment such as sprays and face masks to ensure that sterilisation takes place and the risk of germs is at a minimum. But just before he changes the bag the patient must insert a syringe with several cc of a drug into the bag. There is a danger that the bag could be punctured, which would mean that the patient would have to leave the sterilised room or area to get another bag. Although it is regarded as a do-it-yourself process, most patients are reluctant to carry out the treatment without a member of the family to help them in case of emergency. It must be borne in mind that, when the old bag is taken away from the connection in the stomach, the stomach is exposed to air and germs. My constituent, Grace Tait, applied for the attendance allowance that dialysis patients are allowed and she was successful. I am not sure why she received the attendance allowance. I await a reply from the Minister. She suffers from diabetes and has an eyesight problem. She cannot guide the syringe into the hag properly. That could b,; a reason why she got the attendance allowance. I should like to think that every patient on the treatment, which requires a change of liquid four times per day, will receive an attendance allowance to allow a member of the family or a friend to be present in case an emergency crops up. It would mean that they do not have to leave the sterilised part of the house. I am grateful for the opportunity of raising this matter. Bearing in mind the problems of Mrs. Tait and her many friends, one could forgive them for not taking on any extra commitments. It says a great deal for the kidney patients that they were able to raise £500 through their own efforts to help with the research of kidney patients. It shows that even people with great problems of their own are prepared to take the initiative to help their fellow human beings. I hope that something can be done for those extremely brave people.
I should like, first, to thank the Leader of the House for accepting the Opposition amendment. That was the right thing to do. The country would not have understood if we had merely said that we were going away for our Spring Recess and would not bother about whatever might happen. The right hon. Gentleman made the right decision.Several of my hon. Friends mentioned the South Atlantic. That was inevitable as its shadow lies over us all. They put their points of view. It is an appropriate occasion for them to do that. The other domestic points that were made by hon. Members on both sides of the House were interestingly varied. Listening to them, I found a common theme, to which I shall return. The majority of hon. Members referred to what might happen with regard to British Rail. My hon. Friends the Members for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster), Swindon (Mr. Stoddart), West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) were all concerned about the complete lack of financing and the fact that, having gone through the traumatic experience of Lord Beeching many years ago, British Rail was apparently to go through another period of emasculation when a massive investment policy was clearly the necessary action. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle), my hon. Friends the Members for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) and Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) and, in his own way, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Springburn (Mr. Martin), who told us a moving story about one of his constituents, pinpointed what is happening in the National Health Service. They pointed out that pay is not the only issue, although it is an important factor, especially to the nurses and ancillary workers who are now being denied the justice that the country believes they are entitled to. It is also a question of keeping the National Health Service going, so there is a further factor which also requires funds and investment. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) inevitably, and rightly, spoke about his constituency and the need for investment in Yorkshire and Humberside. The theme, again, was the decline of old industries such as the wool industry, the decline of the engineering industries, the decline of industry in general, the overwhelming of our industry by foreign imports, and the need for public investment to put this right. My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland) referred to the Manpower Services Commission and a committed project in his constituency. Other hon. Members may have come across the same problem. Again, however, it was a question of investment. That has been the common theme throughout the debate. The action sought by the hon. Members for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) and Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel), when one looks into it, also required some public funds. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central made a very shrewd point. I do not agree with his analysis of events in the South Atlantic, but we are all entitled to our views on that. He made the very shrewd point that, right or wrong—I believe that it is right—when it comes down to it, there is always sufficient money available to mount a great military assault, just as there was in the last war, but that when it comes to doing things that one's own country needs, the money is not available. Only a year ago, money was not available for any of the matters that have been mentioned. Yet suddenly, without asking the cost, the money is available for an expedition 8,000 miles away. As I have said, I happen to think that it is right, although others think that it is wrong. The point is that the funds are available for that but not for the things that our fellow citizens desperately require. There was once a Latin secretary to a Lord Protector. The Lord Protector did not have a very high reputation in this House, as he closed it down, and he and I might differ on that. The Latin secretary and I, however, would have had much in common in our views when he said:
That is the basis of what my hon. Friends have said. They have referred to the requirements and needs and to the great victories that we could win for our own people if only we had the breadth of imagination and vision to see that the funds are available and can be applied, and that they are desperately needed. With that in mind, I repeat that it was right to tell the House and the country that, if necessary, we are willing to come back next week, Whitsun Recess or not. My own feeling is that events will probably direct that we do. In any event, it was right for the Opposition to table the amendment and for the Government to accept it."Peace hath her victories, No less renown'd than war."
The right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) spoke of the shadow of the Falklands which lies across the Chamber in today's debate and in so many of our other debates. He also very properly observed that the debate has fulfilled its traditional role of allowing a great range of subjects to be raised. I shall try to deal with them briefly but, I hope, as comprehensively as is appropriate.I begin by assuring the hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) that I shall certainly see that the problem of securing additional research facilities is brought to the notice of the appropriate Ministers on the Treasury Bench. I use that rather guarded form of words because a Scots Member discussed a Scots situation and has referred to an institute which sounded to me to be gilt-edged Scots. I would not wish to say that it was the Department of Health and Social Security that would have its locus on the matter, but I assure him that it will be examined and referred as appropriate. That goes also for the point about the attendance allowance. The community enterprise programme as conducted in his constituency was referred to by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Holland). I must admit that I lived in the gentrified end of his constituency until recently, sharing that privilege with, as far as I know, a fair slice of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The hon. Gentleman asked whether I would raise the difficulties which he catalogued in a formidable fashion with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Employment and the Secretary of State for the Environment. I give him that undertaking. For good measure, I will throw in the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission as well. The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) raised the daunting issue of Welsh water charges. He is a skilled parliamentarian, because, as I understand it, the matter erupted only 24 hours ago, and here he is having a battle on the Floor of the House. He is also a courteous parliamentarian, because he gave me notice that he would raise the issue. I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, because it would be more appropriate that a comprehensive reply should come from him rather than that I should try to be a surrogate Welsh Secretary and answer the points that the hon. Member raised. The problems of the fishing industry were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg). The common fisheries policy will bring that topic into sharp focus. My hon. Friend might be able to raise this or hear it raised in the debate tomorrow. I would have thought that the terms of that debate would allow discussion of the fisheries policy. I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's anxiety that there should be a statement on this matter as soon as possible after the recess. Economic policy in its regional terms—this is understandable, because we speak here with strong constituency experience—was raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) and by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). I will ensure that the points made by both hon. Members are referred to the Secretary of State for Industry. The reference to the textile industry in Yorkshire—here I felt that the hon. Member for Attercliffe was probably speaking instinctively for the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer)—underlines the need to monitor the negotiations taking place concerning the multifibre arrangement, where the Commission is acting on behalf of the countries of the Community. We shall be anxious to report back to the House when we have substantive news to announce on this important industry. The point made by the hon. Member for Attercliffe on the significance of Selby on the older pits in the coal industry should be taken to heart by all of us. The whole problem of industrial renewal and the pace at which it can be pursued, remembering the social dislocations which are inherent, will be waiting to greet us after the operations in the South Atlantic are over and, one hopes, consigned to a satisfactory niche in history. I suspect that none of us in the Chamber, with whatever satisfaction we view the heroism of our Forces in the South Atlantic, will be other than delighted that we can return to the more familiar forms of political contest. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) drew attention to the subject of National Health Service pay. His argument was powerfully reinforced by the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton). This is the first opportunity that I have had to address the hon. Member across the Floor since his recent engagement. It was splendid news, and I hope that he has many happy years in which to reflect on that settled state and that he will mellow almost to the point of becoming the Social Democratic establishment. Perhaps that is not the kindest wish, so I withdraw it immediately. I simply say that it was great news, and I am sure that the whole House joins me in my good wishes. A number of hon. Members spoke on the subject of National Health Service pay. I shall not go into the argument, not because I wish to desist from controversy on the matter but because, as Leader of the House, it is perhaps wise not to be too provocatively controversial. One of the facts which has caused some unease has been the absence of the opportunity for a wider discussion of the matter. I am happy to tell the House that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services will make a statement during the course of the week—and I can say that it will not be made on Friday. I move with great nervous caution in this life, because I know that the House wants to discuss the matter at a time that is appropriate to the magnitude of the subject. I hope that it fulfils the almost atavistic words of the hon. Member for Fife, Central that he wanted to get the Secretary of State "to that Box". Perhaps we shall all go away a little happier—the hon. Gentleman because he has got my right hon. Friend to the Box, and those on the Conservative Benches because my right hon. Friend will have vindicated the Government's policy so signally. I turn to the major issue of the railway workshop closures. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) raised the matter, and I appreciate his feelings on this subject. Oswestry is not normally thought of as a railway town, except to the cognoscenti who study these matters, but I inherited the constituency when it still had the Cambrian railway workshops and it was still thought of as the headquarters of the Cambrian railway, even though it had been absorbed in reorganisation. The closure left a sharp mark, which has not been totally erased, even a decade after the event. There were others who took part in the debate, including the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Stoddart), the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), who made a powerful contribution, the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), and my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel). Clearly, the closure programme is a matter of great controversy, but essentially it is a management decision that has to be taken by British Rail, taking into account future requirements. Naturally, the matter will be debated in the course of time. The right hon. Member for Deptford said that this will always be part of the central economic argument between us, that railway expenditure is one manifestation of it, and, as he said, clearly a massive investment policy would be needed in this respect. If I could take the right hon. Gentleman quietly out of the Chamber and gently lead him upstairs to the Standing Committee on the Finance Bill, which I agree would be quite a formidable undertaking, he would discover that amendment after amendment is being pressed by the Labour Party to reduce taxation and the resources that will be available to the Government. If that is to be argued upstairs, while on the Floor of the House we are arguing for ever-increasing public spending, I look forward with relish to the debate that must eventually emerge about the prudent conduct of economic policy over the months and years ahead.
The right hon. Gentleman had better be careful. I will send him copies of half a dozen of my speeches; and that will really punish him.
No great cause is there but worthy of sacrifice, and the sacrifice that I would make in the cause of victory at the next election is not merely to read the right hon. Gentleman's speeches but to reproduce them.
We all accept and share the mood in which the right hon. Gentleman is engaging, but there is one aspect of taxation that he has not mentioned. Does not he consider that it is wrong—I described it as vindictive—that 1¼ million unemployed people will not pay income tax because their income is too low whilst the 5 per cent. that was taken off their unemployment benefit in lieu of taxation by his Government in 1980 is not being restored?
No. Given the occasion I would defend those actions. As a Treasury Minister I was a party to them. I am certain that that, along with all the other considerations, will be properly and fully debated. As I say, I look forward to that proceeding in the months ahead.May I make one final point on the question of the railway workshops? The hon. Member for Derby, North spoke as though it were a debate by proxy for one that might have been. I was sensitive to the comments that he made. I hope that when we return from the recess the pressures on debating time that have inevitably resulted from the Falkland crisis will be eased so that there will be some early allocation of Supply time for the debating of those issues that are of rising concern on the Opposition Benches. We have had a traditional debate, ranging from the personal questions of Mrs. Tait and the important general proposition that can be deduced from such individual circumstances to the railway workshops and the National Health Service. However, the Falkland issue is the one that overshadows all others. The speech made by the hon. Member for Walsall, North on the Falkland issue was challenging, radical and, broadly speaking, aggressive. That is as it should be. It was always intended that in Parliament, even in circumstances such as this, the voice of dissent should never be snuffed out. If the hon. Gentleman believes that there is a scheme for a snap election which could be exploited to the benefit of the Treasury Bench, one flippant reply is that I simply do not believe that the Conservative Central Office could seize the opportunity even if it were pressed firmly into its hands. A more serious reply is that that kind of analysis really derives from British society as it was two generations ago. Perhaps in the spirit of Mafeking, the Boer War and so on, such an analysis could be made. It could be said that a certain pattern of political behaviour could then be traced. It is unthinkable that there could be any attempt to politicise the South Atlantic conflict by trying to secure some quick electoral advantage. May we lay that ghost, because there are many more real things that we can argue about? Perhaps the most damning comment that I can make to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is that he made a speech that was characteristically thoughtful and absolutely in the spirit of dissent that must be accepted and accommodated within our society. I shall certainly ensure that all of his points are put to the Foreign Office. He mentioned the problems of political instability in Argentina, and they are just the type of issues that deserve the consideration of the House. The hon. Member for West Lothian will probably still have opportunities to contribute to debates on this issue in the weeks ahead. I shall try to secure opportunities for him to conduct his campaign of dissent, but—to invert Voltaire—I would defend to the death my right to disagree with him.
Would it not clear the air and be better from every point of view if the Government came clean—[Interruption.] Perhaps that is not the right phrase, but would it not be better if the Government cleared up the question whether there have been operations on the South American mainland? Allegations have been made. Although I am one of those who dissent, I understand that if there must be a task force there may have been overwhelming reasons—that are not dishonourable—for SAS operations. After all, the Exocet and the Super Etendard pose a serious threat. Should there not be a short statement or a private notice question tomorrow to clear up the issue one way or the other? There would be nothing dishonourable in telling the truth.
I have listened to the hon. Gentleman and I heard the exchanges at Question Time today. I have said that I shall draw the Foreign Secretary's attention to the hon. Gentleman's speech. The matter might reasonably rest there. Therefore, I commend the motion, as amended, in the hope—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for West Lothian wishes to intervene, I shall gladly give way, although it is highly inconvenient to do so just as one is reaching one's faltering peroration. Nevertheless——
I simply wish to point out that the Secretary of State for Defence should make a statement one way or the other on whether the article on the front page of today's edition of the Daily Mail is accurate. If it is accurate, there should be a statement telling us why. If it is inaccurate, it should be completely dismissed. However, we can be certain that it creates grave problems for many States in Latin America.
The hon. Gentleman had his chance during defence questions this afternoon. I cannot go beyond what I have said. I have made a generous response to the hon. Gentleman's argument.However, there is a very good case for adjourning for the time specified in the motion. I very much hope that events in the South Atlantic will not require us to reconvene. When we eventually return to the House, I hope that we can proceed in the same workmanlike way as in recent weeks.
Question, That the amendment be made, put and agreed to.
Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That this House at its rising on Friday do adjourn until Tuesday 8 June, but that, pursuant to Standing Order No. 122 (Earlier meeting of House in certain circumstances) should the public interest so require, Her Majesty's Ministers of their own volition or following representations from Her Majesty's Opposition shall represent to Mr. Speaker that the House should meet at a time earlier than that to which the House stands adjourned.
South West Water Authority
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Mr. Goodlad.]
I am grateful for this opportunity to put forward some of the problems experienced by my constituents with the South West water authority. To be fair to the authority, it does not have an easy task with all the problems that it is experiencing because of the restrictions on finance and the high cost of capital expenditure. It must also be remembered that it had to take over many small and old water undertakings, let alone the large number of sewerage schemes that are required in the area.I place on record the courteous way in which the chairman and the staff have always dealt with my queries, but there are fundamental disagreements between us. First, I refer to the problem of the Roadford reservoir. A sad and bad decision has been made. It cannot be right for useful agricultural land to be flooded and homes destroyed when Dartmoor is close at hand, with poor land and no houses. Whatever some people may say, building a reservoir on Dartmoor will not spoil the area. In fact, I think that it will enhance it. I regret my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's decision and, above all, the failure of the South West water authority to go for a reservoir on the moor. The authority knows that it is the right place, but it lacks the courage to propose it and to push it through. If a poll were taken in the South-West, I am certain that most people would say that the moor should be used rather than deprive people of their living and their homes. I hope that even at this late hour the Secretary of State will think again. I now come to the comments of the Plymouth chamber of commerce on Roadford. It is sad when urban and city people criticise my stand to protect the farming people and villagers who live in the Roadford area. Mr. Wood, the member of the Plymouth chamber of commerce who gave evidence at the inquiry, is reported in the local press as saying that
of thousands of people in Plymouth. I feel that that is extremely insensitive. There would be a terrific row if this were happening in Plymouth. If there were no alternative it would be a different story, but there is an alternative. There is land that can be flooded and has been flooded to the benefit of many generations living in Plymouth. The Plymouth chamber of commerce has much to answer for in its attitude. I was extremely annoyed by the remarks of Mr. David Widdicombe, QC, representing the South West water authority at the recent inquiry. He said that I was irresponsible. I am used to being attacked and got at. I have been called far worse than irresponsible. All that I was doing in regard to Burrator and its future was asking the authority to clarify the rumour that Burrator was to be closed, or the water diverted elsewhere. I have every right to raise at an inquiry or in the House of Commons the views and the fears of my constituents. It is wrong of the QC representing the South West water authority to seek to restrain or stop a Member of Parliament from putting the fair question that I did. I hope that the Minister will look into the matter and obtain an apology from him. Fortunately, the chairman of the South West water authority, Mr. Hill, has made the SWWA' s position clear in a letter to me. He said:"the sacrifice of about 30 farming people has to be balanced against the sacrifices"
Mr. Mills concluded his letter:"May I first assure you that I have never sought and, indeed, would never seek, as a strong believer in parliamentary democracy, to hinder any Member of Parliament horn undertaking his proper duties."
It is important to put on record, for the benefit of future inquiries, that a Member of Parliament must have the right to put forward the fears and views of his constituents. I inquired whether this was a question of privilege but was told that it was not. That should be noted by inspectors in any future inquiries. I now wish to say something about what I call "leaky mains". This is a serious problem in the South-West, particularly in the Plymouth area. According to the local newspaper, in Plymouth alone estimated leakages in 1978 were 120 litres per head per day. They were actually higher than the estimated domestic use of 110 litres per head per day and the measured use of 101 litres per head per day. That amount of water is leaked every day from our reservoirs. Between 28 and 30 per cent. of all the water produced by my constituency is leaked away and wasted. That is an absolute disgrace. The Minister will probably say that other areas have similar leakages, but the South-West has a water shortage. If an area has plenty of water it can perhaps afford that level of leakage, but I do not think so. When we have a shortage, it is criminal that this is allowed to continue. The new reservoir at Roadford could be reduced in size if those leaks were repaired. It is wrong for the South-West water authority to say that we should build another reservoir to overcome the shortage. It does not say that we should repair the leaks. That is mad. My message to the water authority is "Put your house in order first before you build Roadford." What about the cost to the ratepayers? They are suffering a hard and heavy burden already. If a reservoir is built on the ground, the energy used to pump the water around—and therefore the cost—is very much greater. If it is built on the moor, the water gravitates downwards anti it is, therefore, cheaper to operate. The new reservoir will cost millions of pounds. Constant bursts also occur. It is no wonder that the ratepayer is finding it difficult to pay his rates and is annoyed. These matters must be looked at first. I shall not dwell on this matter for too long, because my case is simple, practical and right. If my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller) catches the eye of the Chair, perhaps he will add to what I have said. What about the future? At present, all the signs point to a water shortage in the South-West. Already the river levels are extremely low. I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North that we need more water, though in a sense that is true. The extraordinary thing is that we have an abundance of water, but much is wasted and not enough is stored. I believe that the South West water authority has not made sufficient plans this year to deal with the possible shortage of water. There is already talk in the North Devon area of restrictions, even before the summer has begun. First, the water authority must undertake these repairs and save the 30 per cent. of the supply that is being lost. Secondly, there must be more transportation of water through mains—in other words, better distribution from one area to another. Thirdly, we must use every source of water. Many water supplies have been abandoned in the interest of major supplies. In Okehampton, the East Ochment and the old Hampton water supply system are not being used. Many of those sites should again be brought into use before a small, new reservoir is built. Why cannot Wimbleball supply the North Devon area? There is much that can be done. If there is a drought this summer we shall be told that a reservoir is needed. I disagree with that approach. There is a need for a reservoir, but there is also a need to put the house in order and deal with leaks. I hope that the Minister will endeavour to see that the South West water authority deals with the points that I have raised. I refer especially to the intemperate and disturbing remarks of Mr. David Widdicombe. I am not normally sensitive, but I do not like it when people try to stop me from putting the case that my constituents want me to put in the House or at a public inquiry."Finally, I reiterate my total respect for your integrity."
I wish to associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills), who is also my good neighbour, when he speaks of the particular gentleman making reference to his irresponsibility. I cannot think of an hon. Member less likely to be accused of irresponsibility. That is the kind of phrase that slips out at the wrong moment. I am with my hon. Friend all the way.The South West water authority comprises a chairman and 15 members. Although it is generally assumed to be the ogre of the south-western world, it is fair to say that nine of its members are appointed by county or district councils. The remedy therefore lies in the hands of the electorate, who seem to think that the water authority, perhaps like other nationalised industries, is something far away and remote. The key issue in North Devon is not so much where the reservoir should be located as when it should be provided. As my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West has mentioned, the Bideford and North Devon Gazette, the North Devon Journal-Herald and the Advertiser all say that hosepipe restrictions will be coming shortly. This is a trailer that North Devon experiences every year. Only three of the last 19 years have been without some form of water restriction in the area that I represent. This has probably also been the case to a lesser degree in other parts of the South West water authority area. We need water through the taps rather than through the edges of the pipes. We need it now, or at least soon, not to give us some advantage but to allow us to catch up with the rest of the country in normal development. The development of many parts of North Devon is prevented by lack of water, yet for nine months of the year if falls from the heavens in torrents—sometimes even in summer, although I would not normally admit this except with parliamentary privilege behind me. It is unbelievable that an area surrounded by water and often covered with water should contain folk memories of standpipes and holidaymakers preferring to return home from the West Country rather than queue for a bucket of water. I do not care from where the water comes so long as there is some water. I believe that investigations have cost £1·5 million at current prices. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West did not mention the pressure groups that have kept water away from Dartmoor or the national park area. There is no doubt in my mind that the right and logical place for reservoirs is national parks. I do not believe that a reservoir spoils the appearance of an area. On the contrary, the appearance is normally enhanced. While local people and pressure groups fall out, local authorities run short of water. Although, by and large, I do not care where the new reservoir is built, I accept that Roadford is not ideal. However, the reservoir cannot be located on the sea shore. In past years, a parliamentary Committee has ruled against Dartmoor. This means, I suspect, that the water authority believes that there would be a ruling against Exmoor. If the reservoir cannot be located either on the sea shore or on the moors, that leaves built-up areas—an unreasonable proposition—or farmland. The problem is that if the water has to be produced in reservoirs and if we cannot get around to stopping unaccounted water, which seems a vast amount, a reservoir had to come somewhere. I and the people whom I represent in Bideford, Northam and Westward Ho! must have water. Please let us have it soon. While the message is "Get on with it," the problem arises of how long the nation can go on with its pipes becoming more elderly, the cracks becoming larger and the leaks increasing. If the amount of money to be spent on a reservoir were spent in detection of loss, we could avoid the need for a reservoir. In the House we often set ourselves up as engineers, architects, town planners and so on. I require water because North Devon requires water. I hope that we will get it soon. I do not think that the water authority is as black as it is sometimes painted. I fear that if we do not get on soon, we will not have the water. There will be one more standpipe year, and there will be little tourist industry left. I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to state that water will come to us soon. I wish to have the reservoir. I care not too much where. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West says that we should make savings. Without the water that we need, we will lag further and further behind in prosperity, jobs and housing.
is the theme tune sometimes in North Devon."Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink."
It is clear that my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) is extremely anxious about the siting of the reservoir and my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller) is less anxious about the siting but wants the water. There is a general fear that the needs of the area will not be met on time. It is in that tangled web that I have to try to weave a consistent thread.My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West raised two points. He referred first to leakage. I agree that it is not a satisfactory state of affairs to have as large a leakage problem as that in the south-western area. My hon. Friend was absolutely right. Through the National Water Council, the Government are urging the regional water authorities to do all that they can to reduce the waste of resources. I have written recently to the chairman of the National Water Council, Sir Robert Marshall, a letter which I think will be of interest to my hon. Friend. I wrote to him on 19 May:
I entirely accept my hon. Friend's point, so as recently as 19 May I wrote in those terms. I said, further:"You will be aware, as I am, of the fierce public criticism of water undertakers over what is seen as excessive leakage from water supply systems. The topic has been of major importance in a number of recent public inquiries into proposed reservoir projects and the Department have made it plain that new reservoirs will not be authorised unless cost-effective measures, including leakage detection and waste prevention, have first been taken in the supply area."
The leakage in Plymouth is severe. My hon. Friend quoted the figure of about 34 per cent. of total supply, but the authority is already working hard to reduce that. There are now two full-time teams working on detection and reparation of loss. Their target figure is a 28 per cent. leakage figure. That compares with targets of about 25 per cent. in the local area. It compares not unfavourably with the national average of 24 per cent. and a figure of about 29 per cent. for unaccounted flow in the neighbouring Wessex water authority. I ashamedly give those figures because I want the House to understand how severe is the national problem of leakage from the distribution system of the water supply. It is for those reasons that I take the strongest possible view of the action needed to deal with the problem. It is not a problem peculiar to Plymouth or to the South West water authority, but it is a national problem and national action must be taken to correct it. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West then referred to the Roadford inquiry itself. The proposal has been the subject of a previous inquiry when the inspector accepted that the main advantages of the Roadford scheme would be that the single new source at Roadford would meet the needs of the whole of the water supply for the Plymouth area, South-West Devon and North Devon. That will give a desirable operational flexibility to the scheme. Another advantage is that the Roadford scheme will give greater benefit in the augmentation of rivers. A further advantage is that the alternatives would be potentially more damaging to the fisheries. The inspector recommended that the scheme should be approved. There were continuing objections to the proposal and concern was expressed about the loss of some 1,000 acres of farmland. That has been the main burden of the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West. The case was referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for a decision. He sought further evidence on the need for the scheme, and in view of the submissions that he received he decided that another inquiry should be held. That inquiry was held last month and looked only at the size of the proposed reservoir. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West has questioned whether that was a legal step for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to take. We took legal advice on the matter, and we are fully satisfied that we were and are acting intra vires to limit the terms of the inquiry. My hon. Friend then referred to an incident that occurred in evidence given by Mr. David Widdiconbe, QC, who appeared on behalf of the South West water authority. The chairman of the water authority wrote to my hon. Friend on 22 May. He said that my hon. Friend had left after giving evidence but that the problem about Mr. Widdicombe's remarks may have arisen because the point was raised in terms which required that the rumour that came up in evidence should be robustly rebutted. Mr. Widdicombe made the remark which appeared in press reports and caused my hon. Friend such anxiety."I should be grateful if, in co-operation with the water authorities, you would produce a comprehensive report on leakage control describing the steps taken by each water authority, the progress made and the difficulties encountered."
It was certainly not very wise of him to call me irresponsible.
The occasion for the remark was the fact that other witnesses had elaborated on the point that my hon. Friend had made about the Burrator reservoir. I believe that the remark of which my hon. Friend complains is a matter for the learned gentleman himself to correct. I should merely opine, as my hon. Friends have done, that no one can have acted with more responsibility than my hon. Friend. I believe that the whole House will recognise that to be the case.I also endorse the view, which the chairman of the water authority clearly expresses, that in relation to his constituents and the evidence he gave at the inquiry my hon. Friend acted as he always does with perfect correctness and with the interests of his constituents at heart. The question of the Roadford reservoir includes the resources in the South West water authority area. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North is concerned that those resources should be augmented. The cost of the development is about £19 million. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West is concerned about the costs that will be incurred by his constituents and the consumers. The percentage increase in bills in the South West water authority area for the year 1982–83 is 8·6 per cent., compared with a national average of 11·5 per cent. and with movements in the retail price index of 9·4 per cent. There is no suggestion that the water authority is doing anything other than operate an extremely tight and efficient control of its financial resources. The capital investment that is being made is substantial, but I trust that both my hon. Friends will be aware that the capital investment plans of that authority are £23 million in 1981–82, and £28·6 million in 1983–84. That size of investment is to be expected if we are to provide a substantial increase in resources for that region. There have been recurring problems of water shortage in the South-West. It is a difficult problem. The water authority is faced with the need to conserve diminishing water supplies during the summer months when there is low rainfall. That is when there is a substantial increase in population, and therefore in consumption. Today the rivers in North Devon are at only a quarter of their normal height after an unusual period of low rainfall over the past six weeks. That means that from Friday of this week a hosepipe ban will be introduced in North Devon. Further and more extensive measures may need to be taken if the weather continues to be drier than average. These problems demonstrate the need to establish once and for all a strategic water supply that is satisfactory for the full all-the-year-round demand in the South-West, irrespective of the leakage problems to which my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West has drawn the attention of the House so vividly. I reassure my hon. Friend that his interests are being served——
Is the Minister aware that in many areas the pipes are not large enough to get the water to the villages even when it is available?
I am well aware of that and the hon. Gentleman is right to make the point. In most systems we are dealing with a distribution network that is no longer satisfactory to carry the weight of water which demand requires. This requires continuous and substantial expenditure in the form of capital reinvestment. That must be undertaken by each authority as a long-term aim.I assure my hon. Friend that the construction of Roadford reservoir will mark the completion of the authority's strategic plan for water supply. A plan that involves three new large reservoirs is a significant injection into the economy of the region. It will provide jobs and considerable income during construction, and once completed it will release a constraint on industry and agriculture that has been far too evident and far too frequent. I hope that it will reduce the number of occasions on which restraints are imposed upon the public of the South-West. It will enable farmers and industrialists to adopt newer and, where appropriate, more extensive methods of working. Plymouth and North Devon will be well served by the new Roadford reservoir, with South-West Devon reaping a small reward also. These are substantial gains, of which the Roadford reservoir is an intergral and essential part. I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety on behalf of his constituents that minimal disruption should occur in the creation of a reservoir on the site that my right hon. Friend has selected. It is for that reason alone that a second inquiry is being held, to reduce the valuable land take to the minimum that is required. In the assessment of the need and in the calculations that are to be undertaken to determine the size of the reservoir that is ultimately to be built, the problems that my hon. Friend has raised, such as leakage control and ultimate demand, will form a significant part. In arriving at his ultimate decision my right hon. Friend will bear these matters in mind. I hope that my hon. Friend will take it from me that we shall grapple with leakage and that every effort will be made to deal with the problem. I hope also that my hon. Friend will accept that the chairman of the water authority has made it clear that there is no possibility in the Roadford inquiry of the Burrator reservoir being declared redundant as a result of the new investment, and that with those remarks he will feel that, despite the regularity with which he has raised the issue, the importance of the Roadford reservoir and the potential benefit to those in the South-West, including the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North, will outweigh the significant disadvantages which my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West has raised so responsibly.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at eight minutes past Eleven o' clock.