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Commons Chamber

Volume 35: debated on Monday 17 January 1983

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House Of Commons

Monday 17 January 1983

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions


Manufacturing Industry


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what are the latest figures available for the output of British manufacturing industry; how these figures compare with the corresponding figures in January 1979; and if he will take steps to increase the output of British manufacturing industry.

In the three months August to October 1982 the index of production for manufacturing industry was 88·3 compared with 105 in the first half of 1979.

Recent steps taken to help industry become more competitive include the further cut in the national insurance surcharge, measures on energy prices and the ending of the deferment in the payment of regional development grants. All these measures will be of direct benefit to manufacturing industry.

Does the Minister accept that the output of manufacturing industry is a fair reflection of the state of the economy, and that the fact that output today is probably at its lowest for 15 years is a true sign that the Government are presiding over the destruction of our industrial base?

We have the deepest recession that Europe has seen for 30 years. I am not sure which solution the hon. Gentleman advocates. Is he advocating that we should now have a two-stage depreciation of sterling, as advanced by the Opposition? If so, will he tell us how that will be achieved without a rise in interest rates?

Will the Minister answer the question and tell us what the Government are going to do about the problem? Is it not a fact that manufacturing output is down by more than 20 per cent. since 1979? Is not our manufacturing output lowest when compared with the major OECD countries? It is not a matter of world recession. We want to know why Great Britain is the worst developed country with regard to manufacturing industry.

Over the past year manufacturing output has fallen in the United Kingdom by 1·5 per cent., in France by 3·5 per cent., in Germany by 4·5 per cent. and in the United States by 9·5 per cent. This country entered the recession before other countries, but, as a result of the Government's anti-inflation policies, British industry is now more competitive and efficient. We are now seeing the benefits, because we are not suffering the drop that other countries are. We are well positioned to take advantage of the world upturn when it comes.

Synthetic Fibres


asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will consult the trade unions in the United Kingdom synthetic fibres industry before finalising his response to the proposed agreement among the major European producers of synthetic fibres to cut capacity within the European Economic Community by half a million tonnes.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will estimate the effect on the British textile industry of the proposed agreement among the major European producers of synthetic fibres to cut their capacity within the European Economic Community by half a million tonnes.

The agreement between the major European synthetic fibre producers to reduce production capacity was in fact signed last October. It is not an inter-Government agreement and it would therefore be inappropriate for me to consult the trade unions about it.

I do not anticipate that the agreement will have any effect on the British textile industry, which will still be able to obtain the yarns and fibres that it requires.

If there are to be reductions in jobs and capacity in the synthetic fibres industry, what assurance can the Minister give that those reductions will be shared equally by all companies and countries, and that countries such as Spain and Portugal, which are privy to the discussions but not signatories to the agreement, will not build up capacity before they enter the EC?

The purpose of the agreement was that the European producers should join together voluntarily to try to reduce the substantial over-capacity in the industry. We do not expect any further reductions in capacity in the United Kingdom. We shall be looking for reductions in Spain and Italy.

Will the Minister take heed of what happened in the Common Market over the agreement to rationalise steel production? We carried out rationalisation, but our EC partners did not. Will the Minister ensure that he does not fall into that trap? If he does, it will not just decimate the synthetic fibres—

Order. We are already beginning to have arguments instead of questions. We must have questions.

Order. I have no doubt about the importance of the question. I am worried about the interrogatory part.

I shall try to answer the assertions. The point that I should like to stress again is that this agreement is an attempt by the companies in Europe to rationalise and to reduce their capacity. The Governments are not involved in this matter. I understand that the companies would expect to see reductions particularly in Italy and Spain rather than in this country.

Is not the problem that neither this Government nor the Community have any idea of the size or shape of the textile industry that they want? Would it not be better to decide that and then give the incentives and the long-term perspective, which would allow the industry to plan ahead?

If the hon. Gentleman reflected upon what he was asking, he would appreciate that it is unrealistic for any Government to try to set an ideal size for any particular industry. Whether an industry is too small or too big must depend on factors outside those that Governments can influence.

Does my hon. Friend accept that many European countries are subsidising the yarn spinning end of their industries? Would it not be to the advantage of British yarn spinners if European Governments agreed not to subsidise over-capacity? Does my hon. Friend believe that the agreement that has been achieved is sensible?

I certainly agree with the last comment of my hon. Friend. The agreement that has been reached is eminently sensible. We have made the strongest protest to the Italian Government over the way in which they have been subsidising and maintaining capacity in an industry which, on a European basis, has substantial over-capacity.

Is the Minister aware that in any industry such as the British textile industry, where 210,000 jobs have been lost since 1979, there is bound to be considerable worry among the trade unions and the work force? Bearing in mind that in negotiations with the EC we always get the neck of the chicken, will the Minister give us a real assurance that the Government will protect the British synthetic fibre industry?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on joining the industry team on the Labour Benches.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I discuss these matters with the trade unions in the textile industry. In fact, about six weeks ago I had a meeting with the British Textile Confederation, and I take its views on board. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the interests of the British textile industry are strongly protected in all the negotiations in Brussels.

Video Recorders And Tapes


asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will take steps to encourage the manufacture of television video recorders and tapes in the United Kingdom.

I share the hon. Member's concern that the United Kingdom production of video tape recorders has only recently commenced. My Department was able to offer assistance for that project and stands ready to help other new ventures in this field and in the manufacture of video cassettes. We have already taken steps to ensure that potential investors in this sector are fully aware of the Government assistance that is available.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he recognise that the extent to which we have become more and more dependent upon imports of high technology goods of this nature is an extremely alarming aspect of the British economy? Were not about 2 million video tape recorders imported into the country last year, giving us the highest number of videos per household in the world?

I confirm that about 2 million video tape recorders were imported into Britain last year and that we certainly have the highest penetration of usage of any country in the world. We are clearly concerned that last year none was made in this country, but next year at least 200,000 will be made as a joint venture between a Japanese company, Thorn-EMI and AEG Telefunken at a factory in the south of England.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Fidelity Radio, in the London area, manufactures television video recorders? Would it not be a good thing if we heard more of that company and less of the Japanese? Does he agree that the Fidelity mark is as good as any mark that is imported?

Yes, indeed. At the moment Fidelity is the only domestic manufacturer of video tape recorders, and it makes very good ones.

In view of the ease with which the Japanese were able to pirate the 3D camera, which was developed by Timex in Dundee, does the Minister agree that steps should now be taken by the Government to try to break the monopoly that Japan has over such high fidelity products to regain and to build up jobs here?

Basically, video tape recorder technology is Japanese, with the exception of the Philips equipment, and it is up to them to decide which companies to license. We stand ready to assist companies in Britain that want to enter licence agreements with Japanese companies. Indeed, later this week my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be discussing with various Japanese companies the possibility of further investment in this country. We are already the recipient of the largest flow of overseas Japanese investment in manufacturing plants.

Do we not now import more Japanese video recorders by value than Japanese cars? Even under the scheme mentioned by the Minister, shall we not be lucky to have 5 per cent. of our home market in domestically produced video recorders next year? If so, should not the Government take a positive attitude on import substitution and on the creation of jobs in this country in this fast growing technology rather than simply say that it will all come right in the end? Must they not take a positive attitude towards creating such an industry if we are to survive as a technologically advanced country?

Yes, and we have a positive attitude. We have a whole series of measures to encourage investment in this country by high technology companies. In fact, this morning I opened a robotics factory in Shropshire. That is an American investment. We have similar support for the video recorder industry. If the hon. Gentleman is asking me to employ similar measures to those of the French, who route imports through Poitiers, I must tell him that such policies would be self-defeating. Sony has already said that, as a result of that, it will not build a factory in France. I remind the House that behind the video recorders sold in Britain those are about 20,000 shops that sell video cassettes, and that about 15 million to 20 million video cassettes are manufactured in Britain. That would not happen if we imposed import controls.

London Borough Of Ealing


asked the Secretary of State for Industry how much in total grant he is making available to industry in the London borough of Ealing; and if he will make a statement.

Industry in Ealing qualifies for assistance under a variety of schemes run by my Department. Since May 1979, 16 individual offers have been made under the Science and Technology Act and section 8 of the Industry Act 1972 involving grants of £868,000 for projects involving innovation, energy conservation and coal firing.

Those grants are welcome. Is my hon. Friend aware that Ealing is not an assisted area and does not receive industrial grants on the same scale as assisted areas? Is he further aware that assisted areas, are drawing jobs away from unassisted areas, such as Ealing—for example, Hoover was drawn to Scotland and Wales, where it could take advantage of assisted areas facilities—and that is to the detriment of workers in such areas? Is it not most unfair?

I am aware of those problems, and my hon. Friend is very active in putting them forward. He and I have corresponded about them. I know of the efforts that he is making to retain jobs in Ealing and to achieve restructuring to provide new jobs. As a result, unemployment in Ealing is 3 per cent. lower than the national average. That is an indication of the success of my hon. Friend's efforts, and it makes it difficult to give it assisted area status.

Steel Industry


asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement about the future prospects for the British Steel Corporation.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will make a statement about the future of the steel industry.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next plans to meet the chairman of the British Steel Corporation to discuss future plans for the industry.

I have nothing to add to the full statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 20 December 1982.

Does the Minister agree that neither the corporation, the steel industry as a whole, nor the country is assisted by the current conspiracy imminently to introduce a further and major measure of steel privatisation? Would he accept that if this goes forward, evidence is or should be in the Government's possession to illustrate that such a development would drastically and seriously further reduce our steel industry capacity and also clearly lead to a major increase in the amount of steel imported into this country?

There are two problems. First, there is an excess of capacity in several areas of the products of the British Steel Corporation where they overlap with the private sector, and rationalisation is needed there. Secondly, there is a difficult area of competition between the public and private sectors. To see that the private sector is not damaged by subsidised competition from the public sector we think that an element of privatisation in those areas is absolutely essential. There has to be a clear boundary between the private and public sectors.

Is the Minister aware that, despite the decision to keep open Ravenscraig, more than 3,000 jobs in the Scottish steel industry have been lost during the past six months? Will the Minister tell Ian MacGregor that we have had enough of the steady haemorrhage of jobs from the Scottish industry and that, if further redundancies are being considered, it would be better to make Ian MacGregor redundant when his contract comes up for renewal later this year?

Obviously, I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. Mr. MacGregor has done an excellent job as chairman of the British Steel Corporation. He has given the corporation some hope for the future, which it has not had for a long time. The hon. Gentleman referred to job losses, which are to be regretted, but the corporation has been uncompetitive and overmanned for some time.

With regard to Llanwern, will the Minister tell the chairman to forget about the privatisation of essential services, if only because the previous move towards private contractors led to fiddling on a massive scale? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we need an early decision giving the go-ahead for the Concast plant, because any long drawn-out suspense on that matter can only lead to further demoralisation of the work force?

The provision of the Concast plant at Llanwern is a matter for the management of the corporation, which has not yet made such a proposition. I repeat that we have always made it clear that as much of the corporation as possible should be privatised. Had that happened earlier, there would be more jobs in the British steel industry than there are today.

Recognising that in the Government's statement before Christmas there was an instruction to ensure that steelmaking should continue at five plants rather than at three or four, when the Government receive the details of the corporate plan from the corporation, will my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Industry ensure that Mr. MacGregor's plan does not involve less steelmaking at plants that were not under threat of closure than might otherwise have been the case?

We have always made it clear that, although the statement implied that the five-plant configuration should persist for the time being, decisions about the make-up of individual plants and the steel made there must be a matter for the corporation. However, I shall consider what my hon. Friend said.

How much do the Government expect to pay to Lazards for Mr. Ian MacGregor's performance-related transfer fee? Does he agree that if Ministers were judged on the same basis, they would all be on the free transfer list and that it would be difficult to find a taker for them?

No payment has yet been made. The matter must be decided by the review body that considers Mr. MacGregor's remuneration.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, although the Government have shown great courage in supporting some of Mr. MacGregor's courageous decisions, there are still some painful decisions to be made? Does he agree that the deferment of a decision on Ravenscraig—for that is what it was—means that there is an even heavier reckoning to come?

It is correct to say that some painful decisions have been taken. I have no doubt that, unless the world-wide outlook for steel improves, painful decisions lie ahead in the longer term. However, we have taken painful decisions. Manpower has been reduced from 186,000 to 90,000. Installed capacity has been reduced from 26 million tonnes to 21 million tonnes and manned capacity is only 14 million tonnes. Although my hon. Friend's note of realism is correct, many tough decisions have been taken by the Government.

Is the Minister aware that many departments of the special steels group in South Yorkshire have been run down and demanned to the point where they cannot possibly be profitable? Is that not deliberate policy as a preliminary to the privatisation of what remains of the corporation's special steels division at a figure far below the true market value?

The hon. Gentleman is not correct. We wish to see a better position for the special steels sector, which is why we have pressed in Europe for an extension of EC arrangements on some special steels. We recognise the difficulties faced by the industry.

Does my hon. Friend agree that perhaps the most important determinant of the prospects for the British Steel Corporation is the competitiveness of our major steel-using industries, such as motor cars, shipbuilding and machine tools? Does he further agree that to try to build a future for the steel industry without considering the competitiveness of those industries is to live in cloud-cuckoo-land?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why the chairman of the corporation has said that it is wrong to believe that the problem of the British steel industry is imports. The problems of the British steel industry are high costs, lack of competitiveness and a decade of high inflation. Those problems have destroyed British industry, especially the steel-using industries. Until we become more competitive, the demand for steel will be low.

Is the Minister aware that since the Secretary of State made his statement on steel in late December, several hundred more jobs have been lost in Scotland and 600 in Hartlepool, which is one of the largest areas of unemployment in the United Kingdom? When will such bleeding of the industry stop? As my hon. Friends have said, if we do not stop it we shall not have a viable industry. I support the demand by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) for an early statement about the Concast plant at Llanwern. Such a statement must be made as soon as possible.

I have already said that the management of the British Steel Corporation has not yet put a proposition to the Government. The right hon. Gentleman is perhaps reflecting the views of the local management rather than of the corporation. We have always made it clear that manning at individual plants is a matter for the corporation, notwithstanding the Government's involvement in the decision on the five major integrated sites.

West Midlands


asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he now expects an improvement in the industrial position in the west midlands; and what increase in industrial activity is to be expected.

There are no official forecasts relating solely to the west midlands, but Industry Act forecasts predict a rise of about 1·5 per cent. in United Kingdom output in 1983, which will benefit the economy of the region.

Is the Minister aware that at least 1,000 jobs a week are being lost in the west midlands and that unemployment in that region has been rising faster than in any other part of Britain? When will we see an industrial revival and recovery in the west midlands instead of constant redundancies, closures and the return of mass unemploymentf?

I agree that industry in the west midlands is in a difficult position. The Treasury forecast is that total output this year will increase by 1·5 per cent., which will obviously benefit the west midlands. The introduction of the small firms engineering scheme has benefited the west midlands by £6 million. Much of the aid that has gone to British Leyland, Rolls-Royce and the aerospace industry has benefited the west midlands. However, I recognise that the area faces difficult problems.

Despite the measures taken by my right hon. Friend's Department, will further help be given to those who start new businesses, which are urgently required to replace older industries, in that area? Is my hon. Friend aware that bank lending is still limited and that interest rates are still quite high?

As my hon. Friend knows, a wide range of measures are available for the start-up of new industries and to help existing small businesses. Further decisions will no doubt be considered, but I must not anticipate what my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor may do in his Budget.

Has the Minister forgotten that one of his hon. Friends told us that the west midlands would see the results of the Government's policies by the end of 1979? Is he pleased with the results?

The west midlands will benefit as British industry becomes more competitive. The motor industry and the steel-using industries will benefit most from our policies to reduce inflation.

Will my hon. Friend consider the need for industry in the west midlands to become more competitive, and the means to help it to become more competitive, by removing discrimination against it in trade inside and outside this country? Will he further consider the need to give the west midlands a better technological base, with research and training facilities?

I understand precisely what my hon. Friend is getting at. We have made several changes in regional policy which benefit the west midlands by removing discrimination against it. My hon. Friend will have noticed the references made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to a review of regional policy.

I know that my hon. Friend is extremely oncerned about Spain. He knows that we regard the present position as grossly unfair, stemming as it does from an archaic agreement. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that we expect changes in the situation, and the Commission has made a fresh approach in this connection.

Manufacturing Industry


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the most recent figure for output in manufacturing industry; and how this compares with the figure for the same month in 1979.

In the three months August to October 1982 the index of production for manufacturing industry was 88·3, compared with 101·9 in the same three months in 1979.

Does my hon. Friend agree that output in manufacturing industry will rise only when the demand for its output is increased? To what extent does he expect demand for manufactured goods to increase as a result of the recent welcome change in the exchange rate of sterling?

The recent sharp drop in the value of sterling—it has dropped against the deutschmark and the French franc by about 12 per cent. in 10 weeks and by about 19 per cent. against the yen—will improve the competitive position of many British manufacturing firms that export. They must now make the most of this change in the value of sterling.

In the light of the Minister's reply and the fact that 2 million jobs have been lost in manufacturing industry in recent years, are not the Government showing scandalous complacency about manufacturing industry? Is the Minister satisfied that for the first time since the industrial revolution we are importing more manufactured goods than we are exporting?

The hon. Gentleman exaggerates. Throughout the Western world the share of each economy's output that is devoted to manufacturing is declining in terms of employment. In my view, that will continue for some time to come and it would be quite unrealistic for any Minister not to agree with that. We have many measures, in the Science and Technology Act and in the Industry Act, to support and encourage British manufacturing industry.

Will my hon. Friend say whether there is a section in his Department that keeps a close watch on our existing manufacturing enterprises being transferred to other nations by appallingly high subsidies, which appear to be in breach of almost every international agreement? Will he look, in particular, at the remarkable case of the transfer of Timex operations from Dundee to France and find out whether the subsidy offered is in breach of the rules, as appears to be the case? Will he consider having a section to watch this matter carefully?

We monitor changes of that nature, particularly dramatic ones such as the one my hon. Friend mentions. I have already asked for an inquiry to be put in hand into the nature of the incentives that were offered to part of the Timex company's operations to set up a manufacturing unit in France. If the incentives exceed those that are approved in the Common Market, we shall make the strongest possible protest.

There is to be a debate on Wednesday, when the Chancellor and the shadow Chancellor will speak. I should like to make clear that the adjustment—

—in the value of sterling creates for British companies that are exporting an opportunity to export more. To that extent, the adjustment in the value of sterling will benefit British companies that are involved in the export of goods.

Steel Castings


asked the Secretary of State for Industry to what extent heavy manufacturing industry uses steel castings made in the United Kingdom.

In 1981 heavy manufacturing industry used 116,046 tonnes of steel castings from United Kingdom foundries, equivalent to 95 per cent. of its total requirements.

Will the Minister guarantee that that will be maintained in the next 18 months to two years, because many manufacturing firms in Stockport would like to buy British but find it extremely difficult to do so? Many of those firms are extremely worried that, because of the present Government's attitude to the British Steel Corporation, it will be increasingly difficult to buy British in the future.

Currently, the steel casting industry is working at about 60 per cent. of its capacity. I should also point out that we exported about 30,000 tonnes of goods in this connection, and imported only 5,000 tonnes. The industry is coming together on rationalisation schemes, and that is very much in line with the decisions that it is making.

Will my hon. Friend say how the rationalisation scheme promoted by Lazards is progressing and to what extent it will retain capacity to manufacture heavy castings, which were once a main feature of Sheffield industry?

It would be premature to disclose the present position on the scheme that Lazards is operating. However, I can say that funds of about £800,000 have been allocated out of the total of £7·8 million that we envisage for the scheme. I shall keep my hon. Friend informed of developments that affect Sheffield.

Would not the steel casting and steel rolling industry be more protected if the Government were to reject the minority Goldstein document to the Serpell report, that suggests that the British Steel Corporation should import track products and other products relating to the uses of British Rail? Does the Minister believe that that will have a major bearing on future working in the steel industry in my constituency, as it will in the constituencies of many hon. Members on both sides of the House? Will he reject Goldstein totally out of hand, because he was not bright enough to address himself to the real issues in the steel industry and, secondly, because his fee was fat and too large?

Tempting as it is, it would not be wise to discuss the minority report to the Serpell report. That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

British Aerospace


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what recent discussions he has had with the chairman of British Aerospace; and whether the future work programme was discussed.

I and my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence have regular contact with the chairman of British Aerospace. The future work programme has been among the topics discussed with him.

How much longer is the Minister prepared to lie back and allow British Aerospace to be sabotaged by the fictitious accountancy that is now distorting prices so much that the chances of the BAC 146 succeeding are quite remote? When will the Minister write off at least £200 million of the development costs which rightly belong to his colleagues who are answerable for defence charges? Is that not the way to proceed and thus give a chance to British Aerospace?

I reject the hon. Gentleman's accusation about fictitious accountancy. I shall refer his comments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Does the Minister agree that aerospace, more than most industries, needs to collaborate and work closely with the Government of the day? Does he further agree that, with the developments in the agile combat aircraft, the airbus, the variants of the Coastguarder and the medium-range turbo aircraft for Europe, British Aerospace and its workers have fulfilled their share of the bargain, and that there now needs to be a sense of urgency on the part of the Government to give the aerospace industry a long-term perspective and a chance to compete with the Americans?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the workers of British Aerospace should be congratulated on their recent record. They have increased productivity, and they have done their best to meet the objectives that the management set for them. The hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that there are a number of areas in the aerospace industry where close co-operation with the Ministry of Defence and, on occasion, with the Department of Industry, is necessary. We have honoured our commitments, going back to 1978, on a rate of return of 5 per cent. I believe that we have also been consistent on launch aid. We recognise that there are occasions when special measures are required.

Following the failure of the Arianne launch in September 1982, and with it, sadly, the British Aerospace Marecs B satellite, for which we are the prime contractors, can my hon. Friend say when its replacement will be launched? Will my hon. Friend confirm that British Aerospace is doing a magnificent job for satellites in Britain?

The French have a problem to resolve, but we are hoping that it will be in the spring of this year.

May I take this opportunity to congratulate British Aerospace and other leading contractors on the British satellite aspects of this programme for choosing that part of the programme that has the best commercial rate of return.

The Minister is congratulating the work force of British Aerospace, but is he aware that it is now faced with considerable redundancies? I am particularly thinking of British Aerospace at Manchester, which is deeply involved in the civil airline projects. Would it be useful for the Minister seriously to consider creating some kind of window whereby British Aerospace could purchase one or two 146 planes to help the industry during this difficult period?

It would be unwise to make statements from the Dispatch Box on forward-order decisions. I agree that in recent years some parts of British Aerospace's productive capacity have been under great pressure. I know, as will the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park), that one of the sites that has been affected is Bitteswell. I fully understand the anxiety of the hon. Member for Manchester. Blackley (Mr. Eastham). However, I do not think that he will expect me to give such a commitment this afternoon.

As British Aerospace is the major producer of high technology, high added-value products for which there is world demand, as it has had acknowledged successes and has the prospect of more exports, in particular the A320 airbus and the agile combat aircraft, why are the Government dragging their feet on launching aid, particularly when it is well known that many jobs are now threatened in the industry, which should be expanding?

The Government are not dragging their feet on launch aid for the airbus. Britain's position is similar to that of the Germans. The French have allocated money in advance from public sector funds, but Britain and Germany are waiting to be satisfied that the project will provide a proper commercial rate of return. Britain, through the Ministry of Defence, is discussing collaboration on the agile combat aircraft with the German and Italian air forces.

Companies (Equity Purchases)


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what advice and assistance are available from his Department for managers purchasing the equity of a company which previously employed them.

My Department does not provide any advice or assistance specific to these management buy-outs. However, companies being set up in this way can apply where appropriate for assistance under the various schemes operated by the Department provided that they satisfy the standard criteria. Managers can also obtain advice and information from the Department's small firms centres.

Has my hon. Friend noted the truly excellent results of the National Freight Corporation? Is he aware that the only regret of its employees in my constituency and elsewhere about the change of ownership is that some of them did not buy as many shares as they might have done? Will my hon. Friend assure Conservative Members that he is giving every encouragement to management within nationalised industries to buy out parts of those industries?

I have indeed noted the encouraging first 32 weeks' results of the National Freight Corporation. In a sense, that was a staff buy-out rather than a purely management buy-out, and it is one of the most noticeable in the recent trends. My hon. Friend will know that, from small beginnings only a few years ago, many management buy-outs are now taking place with many advantages, not the least of which is to preserve viable units which are much better outside the nationalised sector when the employees and the management have a positive stake in the operation. He will know that changes in the Companies Acts and fiscal legislation have made it easier to achieve such buy-outs, which we shall always encourage where appropriate.

If the Minister is so keen on management buy-outs, why is he not more keen on helping co-operatives to set up and develop? Why has he cut the funding available for the Co-operative Development Agency and made so little public money available for the setting up of that particularly important type of small business?

The hon. Gentleman should realise that there are various ways in which economic activity can take place. The management buy-out is extremely important and it has produced many excellent results in recent years. Under the Government the management buy-out approach has started to take off. We had a full debate on the funding of the Co-operative Development Agency and there was a wide welcome for the new remit that I gave it, the results of which have been encouraging.

East Midlands


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what steps he is taking to improve the industrial position of the east midlands; and what increase in activity he expects thereby.

In a difficult world-wide economic climate our policies are helping industry in the east midlands and elsewhere by reducing inflation, acting on industrial costs which are outside the control of industry and encouraging innovation and the use of new technology. Appropriate areas of the east midlands also receive assistance through assisted area and enterprise zone status, derelict land clearance designation and inner city policy. Between 1982 and 1983 total output in the economy is expected to increase by 1½ per cent.

Is the Minister aware that managements and work forces in the east midlands regard the Government's efforts to help them as puny and useless? The devasting decline in industrial production in this once so prosperous area is continuing, not least in the city of Leicester, with awful effects on employment. When will the Government produce something other than the sort of platitudes that the Minister has just placed before the House?

The Government have produced a great deal more than platitudes. I mentioned specific areas of assistance. The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that since May 1979, under sections 7 and 8 of the Industry Act 1972 and the support for innovation schemes, nearly £38 million has gone to assist the east midlands. I strongly question the initial general remark of the hon. and learned Gentleman, because I find wide support in industry for the Government's main strategy of reducing inflation and other industrial costs.

Is my hon. Friend aware that in reality industry in the east midlands welcomes many of the Government's measures, especially the reduction of inflation, the cut in the national insurance surcharge and the many measures to help small businesses? Is he also aware that in a recession industry cannot cope with increased public sector costs? Therefore, will he impress upon nationalised industries and other public sector enterprises that they simply must not raise their prices this year?

I know that that is the response of many in industry. As my hon. Friend will know, unemployment in the east midlands is below the national average as a result of the efforts that have been made by industries and their work forces.

My hon. Friend will also know that, as a result of the success in solving some of the nationalised industries' problems, there will be a standstill on both gas and electricity prices this year. That is widely welcomed by industry.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory reply to my question, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.

British Leyland


asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will place an edited copy of BL's corporate plan for 1983 in the Library.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he has now received the new corporate plan for BL; and if he will present it to the House.

British Leyland's 1983 corporate plan is at present being studied and the Government's decision will be announced in due course. At that time I expect to be able to make available to the House a report by British Leyland on its recent performance and details of the corporate plan.

In view of the widespread concern at reports that British Leyland is proposing to get 30 per cent. of its components from abroad, will the Minister tell the House whether he has had any discussions with either British Leyland or the component industry? Is he satisfied that our component makers are unable to meet BL's requirements? If so, will he consider a scheme to ensure that they can produce satisfactory components?

That is understandably an issue of some controversy in the west midlands. British Leyland has taken a tough stance with the component suppliers, because it has been charged with breaking even at the earliest possible opportunity. I am delighted to say that the signs are that it will do so in 1983. Having said that, we should encourage component suppliers, not just in the west midlands, but elsewhere, to approach the Department of Industry to see whether there are any ways in which the Department's various schemes can help them to reduce their costs to produce components at a price that meets British Leyland's demands.

Does the Minister accept that his reply does nothing to reassure either management or workers in the west midlands? The long period over which they have had the corporate plan for British Leyland has given rise to considerable uncertainty, not only on the issue raised by the hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) but on British Leyland's structure. The time that is being taken is having a major effect on the work force and the structure of British Leyland—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is taking up all the time available. I was hoping to call two more questions.

When will the Minister make a statement about the projected break-up of British Leyland? When will he make an official statement, rather than issuing a statement abroad, about the Honda link?

There is no question at this stage of a projected break-up of BL. It is charged with breaking even, and hopes to do so in 1983. It is also charged with making profits and introducing private sector capital at the earliest possible opportunity.

The news is not all bad. The hon. Gentleman, of all people, should know that the increase in productivity at Longbridge has been especially spectacular and that Cowley is improving dramatically, with another 1,000 jobs being created there. Jaguar is doing excellent work in both quality and volume. We are confident that the new style of management at BL will continue and that the job prospects of its workers will be enhanced.


Legal Aid


asked the Attorney-General if the Lord Chancellor is satisfied with the working of the legal aid scheme.

The Lord Chancellor is continually taking steps to improve the working of the three schemes for which he is responsible.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware of the discrepancies in granting legal aid to defendants charged with indictable offences in magistrates' courts? Is he further aware that the discrepancies may be two or three times greater in one court than in another? Will he suggest ways in which such unfairness to defendents can be dealt with, possibly by a system of appeal against refusal to grant legal aid?

The Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and I are aware of that problem, and share the hon. Gentleman's concern. The Lord Chancellor is anxious to promote consistency of approach towards legal aid in magistrates' courts. To that end he is pursuing two separate lines of action. His officials recently carried out a survey of about 60 courts and the information ascertained is being analysed. In addition, the power included in the Legal Aid Act 1982 to introduce a power of recourse after a refusal is under active consideration. There are several alternatives. I assure the hon. Gentleman that a final decision will not be long delayed, but will not be taken before consultation is complete.

Is not the legal aid scheme vastly expensive, and becoming more so every day? Is it not liable to abuse? Will my right hon. and learned Friend order a thorough inquiry into the whole scheme?

I can put my hon. Friend's concern at rest. The main purpose of the 1982 Act was to ensure more economy, better contributions where they could be afforded and generally to seek more consistency and less abuse.

Will the Solicitor-General urge the magistrates' courts rules committee to go ahead with drawing up appropriate rules so that the provision of legal aid for parents in care proceedings—which was announced by the Lord Chancellor in July last year—can be put into effect as soon as possible?

I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that that matter is also the subject of active consideration. We must get it right before regulations are made, but preparations have reached an advanced stage.

Prosecution Policy


asked the Attorney-General if he will make it his practice to seek from the Director of Public Prosecutions the reasons why, in answer to complaints referred to him, he concludes that the evidence is insufficient to take proceedings.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, following what has become known as the Burngreave incident in Sheffield, five youths who made a complaint against the police for assault were told by the Director of Public Prosecutions—as always—that there was insufficient evidence to take proceedings? Is he further aware that film taken of the incident showed that the police evidence was untrue and, in subsequent legal proceedings, the youths were awarded £2,000 plus costs in compensation? Do not such cases invite cynicism? In the absence of the discipline of having to provide reasons for rejecting complaints—on request, even if not automatically—even such cut and dried cases will never receive a fair hearing from the DPP. Will there not continue to be a yawning credibility gap among the public about the complaints procedure?

The question was whether the DPP should refer to me the cases that he had turned down. About 14,000 cases a year are referred to him. It would be impossible for me to consider each one. In cases about which he has some doubt or where he experiences difficulty, he consults me.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that it is absolutely fundamental that the DPP—whoever holds that office—should be largely independent of the Executive or any pressure group if we are to live in the sort of democracy that we currently enjoy?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his knighthood.

It is absolutely essential that the office of Director of Public Prosecutions remains free from any pressure from the Executive. Although I have the right of superintendence over him, during the three and a half years that I have held this office I have never had to tell him to do anything. We have always reached agreement about the proper course to be adopted.

As the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee has twice unanimously recommended that the DPP should give his reasons for refusing to proceed against police officers, is it not time that he and the Attorney-General seriously considered whether they may be wrong in their present attitude?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the matter has been considered at great length. We believe that we have reached the proper result, especially in view of the circular issued on 4 January.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that one objection to the proposal of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) is that if the DPP was obliged to state his reasons they may amount to no more than that the witnesses were not credible? It would be hard to make that statement, and could be damaging to witnesses.

That is certainly one reason for the present policy. Another is that there is often a public retrial of someone who would not have the protection of the courts. Thirdly, in a number of cases witnesses come forward to give their evidence in confidence. If they thought that that evidence would be disclosed outside a court of law, they would be reluctant to come forward.



asked the Attorney-General how many prosecutions he has conducted personally since May 1979.

Six. I am also expecting to conduct the prosecution in a seventh case tomorrow.

Because of the reluctance of the DPP to prosecute policemen, will the Attorney-General himself prosecute those responsible for the incident last Friday when the police gunned down an innocent man in the street? If Sir Kenneth Newman is responsible for the regulations governing the use of firearms by members of his force, should not he be one of the policemen in the dock?

The papers relating to that case are being sent to the DPP tomorrow morning, as a preliminary report. He will consider them, and if he has any difficulty he will no doubt consult me.

At the risk of causing my right hon. and learned Friend to blush, may I ask whether he is aware that those who heard his devastatingly effective cross-examination of the spy Professor Hambleton hope that he will prosecute in many important national cases,?

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. However, I cannot claim credit in many cases as the defendants pleaded guilty.

Tape Recorders


asked the Attorney-General on how many occasions tape recorders have been allowed to be used in judicial proceedings since the coming into force of the Contempt of Court Act 1981; and on how many occasions their use has been forbidden.

No records are kept of the number of occasions on which the use of tape recorders has been allowed or refused by the courts.

Does not the Attorney-General think that he should keep records on such an important issue? As it looks as if the House of Lords Judicial Committee will soon be considering another transport case that is to be brought in London, and as it refused to let me bring a tape recorder into its court last time, will the Attorney-General have a word with Lord Wilberforce and get him to change his mind?

There has been only one complaint since the Bill became an Act. As the hon. Gentleman knows, because he discussed them with me first, sympathetic guidelines have been issued. However, if he is dissatisfied with a court's refusal to grant him, or anyone else, the right to bring in a tape recorder, he should bear in mind that the proper person to speak to is not me, but my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor.

Business Of The House

3.30 pm

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. John Biffen)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement. The business for 18, 19, and 20 January has now been rearranged as follows:

TUESDAY 18 JANUARY—Remaining stages of the Water Bill.

WEDNESDAY 19 JANUARY—Opposition Day (4th Allotted Day)—There will be a debate on an Opposition motion on the economic crisis. Motions on the Welsh Rate Support Grant 1980 (Supplementary) (No. 2) Report 1982 and the (Amendment) Report: on the Welsh Rate Support Grant Report 1982 (Supplementary) Report 1982 and (Amendment) Report, and on the Welsh Rate Support Grant Report 1983–84.

THURSDAY 20 JANUARY—Motions On the Rate Support Grant Supplementary Report (England) 1982–83 and on the Rate Support Grant Report (England) 1983–84.

I hesitate to raise this issue with the Lord President of the Council, but, given the intense press speculation about the contents of the Franks report, and as there may be a statement on that tomorrow, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how hon. Members can catch sight of the report so that their questions are succinct and pertinent?

I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's anxieties to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Shooting Incident (Kensington)

3.32 pm

On the evening of Friday 14 January, officers of the Metropolitan Police, charged with the pursuit and recapture of an escaped suspect, shot and seriously injured Mr. Stephen Waldorf. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has already made it clear that this shooting arose from mistaken identity and has expressed his deep regret at what occurred. I am sure that the House will agree with me that this was a most serious, grave and disturbing incident. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Nothing like it must happen again. I am equally sure that the House will wish to join me in expressing our deep sympathy to Mr. Waldorf and his family and our hope for his rapid and complete recovery from his injuries.

The House will expect a full investigation into what has occurred, and a full report on the outcome. Immediately after the incident the Commissioner set up such an inquiry. He has reported progress to me personally this morning. As the House knows, three officers have been suspended from duty. A report will go to the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider the question of criminal liability. The Commissioner told me this morning that an initial report would go to the Director tomorrow. What I have said about the possibility of criminal proceedings limits at present what I can properly say about the details of the incident itself.

The often dangerous duties of the police require them on specific occasions to carry firearms. The Metropolitan Police rules governing the issue and use of firearms are rightly stringent and explicit. I am placing the relevant extracts from the current rules in the Library of the House. The rules say:
"Every officer to whom a weapon is issued must be strictly warned that it is to be used only in cases of absolute necessity, for example, if he, or the person he is protecting is attacked by a person with a firearm or other deadly weapon and he cannot otherwise reasonably protect himself or give protection, he may resort to firearms as a means of defence."
The rules also state that weapons are issued only to those who are authorised to have them, and under the direct and personal supervision of an officer not below the rank of inspector. The responsible chief superintendent has to be informed of their issue as soon as practicable. The rules emphasise that in planned operations where the issue of firearms is deemed necessary, the use of such weapons will be strictly controlled by the supervising officer in charge of the operation.

There will, of course, be a thorough examination of these rules in order to take account of the lessons to be learnt from Friday's incident.

Firearms were issued to Metropolitan Police officers in operations against criminals known or believed to be armed on 4,346 occasions in the first nine months of 1982. The comparable figures for the whole of 1981 and 1980 respectively were 4,983 and 5,968. Firearms were drawn from holsters in those three years on 73, 106 and 118 occasions respectively. Twenty-eight shots were fired in six incidents in 1980; six shots in two incidents in 1981, and four in three incidents last year. The figures for persons injured were two, nought, and one respectively.

That is all I can say at present to the House. The Commissioner has assured me that, whatever the outcome of any legal proceedings, he recognises that the House and the public are entitled to have available to them the full facts of this incident. I fully endorse that and will keep the House informed.

May I first offer the Opposition's sympathy to Mr. Waldorf and his family? May I then ask the Home Secretary to understand that the nation-wide concern that has been expressed about last Friday's tragedy involves not simply the shooting of one innocent man but the practices and procedures that made that tragedy possible? I therefore ask the Home Secretary to understand that the House, like the country, expects an inquiry into the regulations governing the issue of firearms to police officers and the criteria against which their use is measured. In particular, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the regulations never allow the police to open fire on targets who are not palpably offering a threat to the life and safety of either police officers or the general public?

Is it not the generally accepted practice—and, if I have correctly understood the rules that the Home Secretary has read out, the formal regulation—that before the police open fire they must be convinced of the absolute necessity to do so and must, wherever possible, warn the target of their intention to open fire?

May I ask the Home Secretary two questions that clearly underlie the inquiry that was announced during the weekend? Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand that it is wholly unsatisfactory for the investigation of this incident to be carried out by the police force which is itself being investigated, and that that is particularly so when that police force has spent much of the weekend briefing newspapers about the causes of the incident and in part attempting to justify it? Will the right hon. Gentleman, even now, consider appointing an independent individual who commands the general respect and confidence of this country to carry out what will be seen as an objective and open-minded inquiry?

Since the Home Secretary is the police authority for London, a role which he is determined to maintain despite the increasing pressure for the constitution of the police force to be changed, will he understand that the House expects not only a report into how this tragic incident came about but an understanding from him that he must tell us how he, as police authority, proposes to remedy the problems that allowed it to happen in the first place?

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's final point is that I accept the challenge and will do exactly that.

With regard to investigations, it must be right—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree—for the legal problem to be examined in the first instance. That is why I have ensured that a preliminary report will go to the Director of Public Prosecutions as early as tomorrow morning. The right hon. Gentleman and the House will agree that that is important, quick and perfectly correct. It must, in the first instance, be for the Director of Public Prosecutions to examine the report, to get the full report and to decide if and whether legal proceedings should take place. That must be the first task. As for the next and subsequent matters, I shall bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman said.

I have read the regulations to the House, and I believe they cover the point that the right hon. Gentleman has made—[Interruption.] I was asked a perfectly proper question about the regulations. I am entitled to say what the regulations are. If, of course, they have not been complied with, that may well be a matter for either legal prosecution or disciplinary proceedings.

I should like to make one other point to the right hon. Gentleman. It is part of firearms training that warnings should be given whenever practicable. That is also crucial.

May I press the right hon. Gentleman on a point on which I believe he and I have the same view—the need to re-establish and maintain confidence? He said that a report goes to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but he did not say what is generally known in the House and in the country, which is that the report is prepared by the police force into which the investigation is being made. Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that, even in terms of maintaining confidence and understanding, it would be infinitely better if the immediate investigation was made either by another police force or by an objective organisation?

I understand that, in the first instance, what I have said must be correct and is what has always happened in the past, but I will consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that two main questions must be answered by any inquiry into this appalling accident? First, is the combination of circumstances that led to this mistake ever likely to arise again? If it is, what improvements in the procedure and safeguards for the carrying and use of guns by the police will be introduced as a matter of urgency to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again?

I have said, and I repeat, first, that I believe that the existing rules are stringent and explicit. I have also said that in the light of the reports that will certainly come and should be examined extremely rigorously I should expect to come before the House if it were proved that we had to revise the regulations in any way.

First, I should like to associate myself and my right hon. Friends in the Liberal Party with the remarks of sympathy expressed by the Home Secretary and by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) to the family of Mr. Stephen Waldorf. We sincerely hope that Mr. Waldorf will make a complete recovery as quickly as possible.

May I point out—I am sure that the Home Secretary will agree—that a person who was offering no—

Order. I remind the House that many hon. Members want to ask questions. I should like to call many of them, and I hope that those who are called will ask questions addressed to the statement.

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker.

In the event of the Director of Public Prosecutions finding that there is a prima facie case against the police officers about whom the report is being submitted, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the double jeopardy rule will not apply and that these men will be brought to justice?

In the first instance, that must be a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions. I cannot go further than that now.

I should like particularly to welcome the phrase in my right hon. Friend's very full statement that:

"Nothing like it must happen again."
If that is to be achieved, is it not unsatisfactory to concentrate solely on imposing stricter controls on the use of firearms by the police? Is it not equally necessary—indeed, more necessary—to increase the effective deterrent to the carrying of firearms and their use by criminals?

The answer to my hon. Friend's first point is that I accept that it is extremely important that the position of police officers when dealing with violent crime in our society today should be properly recognised. I believe that all hon. Members would accept that.

I know my hon. Friend's views on deterrents to crime. He has put them to the House on the issue of capital punishment as a deterrent. He did not convince the House on the last occasion, but, of course, that is a matter individually for every hon. Member. I maintain that the deterrents, apart from that particular issue, for those carrying firearms and weapons are already extremely stringent, and I hope that they will be strenuously enforced.

Before this incident, when was the whole issue of firearms, about which parliamentary questions have been asked, last discussed by the Home Secretary or his Ministers and the Commissioner? Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Commissioner to conduct a thorough inquiry into the press briefing, which went on over the weekend, in which the implication was made that though the Metropolitan Police were quite happy to apologise for shooting the wrong man, they might not have done so if it had been, in their terms, the right man?

The hon. Gentleman has placed a construction on the Metropolitan Police briefing, or what he says was the Metropolitan Police briefing. If that was the effect of the briefing, I would not accept it.

The question must, of course, be whether firearms were properly used in any particular case. I have discussed that on many occasions with the previous Commissioner. I have not discussed it with the present Commissioner since his appointment, but I have already received a report from him about his plans on policing for London. The issue of firearms was one matter which I was determined to raise with him, irrespective of last Friday's incident.

After this terrible incident, will the Home Secretary and the Home Office take more seriously their role as the police authority for London? Will the Home Secretary give a categoric answer to two factual questions? First, in accordance with the rules that he has just quoted, was the inspector in charge of this operation on the spot? Secondly, are the rules that he has quoted those in the category made by the Commissioner and notified to the Home Secretary, or in the category made by the Commissioner on his own authority? Are they made by the Home Secretary or by the Commissioner?

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's first point, I take the duties of the Home Secretary's job as police authority for the metropolis extremely seriously. Indeed, in view of some of the many incidents that have happened to me over the past few years, if I did not take them seriously I should be a remarkable person. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I most certainly do.

If I were to go into the details of particular officers involved in this incident I should stray into the field that I must not discuss because of prospective legal proceedings. Secondly, the rules are those set out by the Commissioner, who is operationally responsible, but, of course, as police authority I accept the rules that are put to me—just as police authorities all over the country accept the rules that are put to them. I consider them and can change them if I wish. I have not so wished on this occasion.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the Commissioner has handled the inquiry and investigation absolutely correctly in every degree and that the correct procedure for the Commissioner is to forward a full and frank report to the Director of Public Prosecutions? Can my right hon. Friend also confirm that under English law only the minimum force should be used to effect an arrest and that violence should be used only when the life of the arresting officer or a citizen is put in jeopardy?

As I should expect, my hon. Friend has correctly stated the position. I believe that the speed with which the Commissioner has acted, in particular in preparing to send an initial report to the Director of Public Prosecutions tomorrow morning—in probably an unprecedented short time—is what the House and the country would expect of him.

Does the Home Secretary agree that, to be effective, the police need the support and confidence of the public? Does he further agree that they will retain neither if they give the impression, as they did on Friday evening, that they are acting in an undisciplined fashion or that they are taking the law into their own hands and acting as judge, jury and executioner, particularly since the bullet that did the major damage was fired when the man was already disabled and on the ground?

It would be wrong for me to comment on the hon. Gentleman's last point, because of the possibility of legal proceedings. It involves something that has been printed in the press, but which I can neither confirm nor deny. The figures that I have given for the number of times that firearms were drawn and the number of shots fired in recent years and on the minimal number of people injured show that talk of gun law is wholly inappropriate. Of course I accept that it is vital that the police retain the public's confidence. Despite all the anxiety created by the incident, I maintain that the figures justify that confidence, and we must ensure that it is maintained.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that no such incident has occurred in the lifetime of most hon. Members? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that we are grateful to him for the speedy way in which he has acted? When were the Metropolitan Police rules last reviewed and in what form were they made known to us?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his first remarks. The rules are constantly reviewed. All officers are instructed in them during the considerable training that they receive before they are allowed to use firearms.

Is the Home Secretary aware that for many years responsible shooting organisations have urged his Department to form with them a joint standing committee to advise him on police weapon training and types of weapons to be used, among other things? Is it not now appropriate to reassure the public by setting up such a committee, so that the most expert advice is available to the right hon. Gentleman?

Does the Home Secretary accept that there must be some sympathy for the police in the circumstantial chain of accidents that led up to this dreadful incident? Does he agree that by no stretch of the imagination could the people in that car be termed ordinary members of the public, because at least two of them were tainted with criminality? [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful. Withdraw."] Does my right hon. Friend agree that the circumstances that led up to the mistaken identity were understandable? Is there not a wider issue—that as the retributive element in the penal code diminishes and more and more criminals carry firearms, such incidents will proliferate?

Having properly refused, in advance of consideration by the Director of Public Prosecutions, to comment on the incident, I should be wrong to do so now. Of course it is true that when people are using firearms and violence is created we place considerable responsibilities on our police force. That must be understood. I believe that the figures that I have quoted show that in the main they are absolutely up to those responsibilities. If mistakes are made, it is right that they should be examined and ruthlessly dealt with, as the Commissioner has promised.

In the light of this and other incidents, will the Home Secretary undertake to publish in full the guidelines controlling the use of firearms by the police, not just the relevant extracts?

I promised to publish the relevant extracts of the Metropolitan Police rules, and I have done that. I shall examine the question of publishing Home Office guidelines to other police forces. I have said what I thought I should do—publish the extract from the Metropolitan Police rules, as the problem relates to the Metropolitan Police force on this occasion.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the fact that the report is to be made to the DPP tomorrow. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if the DPP decides that there is no case for criminal prosecution, that will not clear up the matter? Whereas normally the reasons for no prosecution taking place are not given, in this instance would not the House want a report, either direct from the DPP or from some other source, so that there can be no question of the issue being whitewashed by the Commissioner and the DPP?

I can give the House an absolute assurance in answer to my hon. Friend. I guarantee that everything that I have said this afternoon and every action that I shall take will involve no cover up and no whitewash, in any circumstances.

Is not the most reprehensible aspect of Friday's incident the fact that it appears that the police went out intent, not on detaining a suspect, but on killing him?

It would be quite improper for me to comment on the hon. Gentleman's assertion when legal proceedings may be pending.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is only fair, on an occasion when the police have admitted a regrettable and tragic error, that we should bear in mind the majority of times when they get it absolutely right? In the light of the deep public concern and the growth in violent crime, is it not of the utmost importance that we should remind the police that they continue to enjoy public support for the proper and careful exercise of their powers?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It is true that many police successes that are well known to the House and the country go comparatively unreported. No one in public life should be surprised at that. However, there are failures. When there are failures, and serious failures, they should be ruthlessly examined. The vast majority of police officers would expect that to happen. That is what will happen in this case.

Will the Home Secretary remind the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) that not even a criminal caught in the act should be shot unless the guidelines which the right hon. Gentleman has read out have been observed and that the criminality, or near criminality, of the car's occupants has no relevance to the proceedings? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the figures that he quoted show that there is a huge disparity between the issuing of firearms and the times when it was necessary to use them? Does he agree that that shows a laxity in issuing firearms which should be considered by the proper authority? Does not the incident show that we have to re-establish proper control of the police through publicly elected police authorities?

I must not comment on details of the incident. It would be proper to argue that the figures that I quoted show a marked reluctance by the police to use their weapons even when they must have them as a precaution. It is reasonable that I should point that out. The question of who controls the police in London will continue to be argued, but I do not believe that that is central to the issue that we are discussing.

Order. I propose to call three more hon. Members from each side of the House and then to move on.

My right hon. Friend referred to the training of police in the use of small arms. Against the background of last Friday's incident does he agree that there is an urgent need to review that training and to introduce experts from outside who really know how to go about that type of operation?

Police training in the use of firearms has been carried out extremely well. The police have many experts in their use. Some of the figures that I have given demonstrate how careful the police have been in the use of firearms as a result of that training. If they can learn more from outside, I am happy for that to be considered.

Will the Home Secretary reconsider the answers that he has given and agree that the conditions under which guns are issued to the police and the conditions under which they are used are utterly unsatisfactory? Does he further agree that a large proportion of the 4,000 cases to which he has referred are ones when the police break and enter the homes of innocent people during the early hours of the morning and at gun point threaten constituents to get out of bed and have their homes searched? Does he agree that that is an abuse of police powers? Is he aware that every constituency in London that is represented by a Labour Member of Parliament has provided examples of incidents where police have entered constituents' homes and that they have been reported to the Home Secretary? Is he aware that they have been searched and threatened at gun point? Does the Home Secretary agree that it is time for him to tell the House that he will have the guts to stand up to the police and say that there will be no more gun law from them?

The hon. Gentleman has decided to indulge himself in many assertions which I do not for a moment accept.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the incident should not be used as an opportunity by Opposition Members to develop a vendetta against the police? Nevertheless, does he agree that there is substantial alarm, not only at the fact that the wrong man was hit but that implicit in the case is the possibility that the police might be allowed, in certain circumstances, to discharge their firearms in a public place that is busy with people' going about their ordinary business? Does he further agree that this is an important occasion for him and the Commissioner to consider whether the guidelines, when reviewed, should contain more positive directions on the subject? Does he agree that that would reassure the public?

I have made it clear, as the House would expect, that the first step is to have the incident examined, from the legal point of view, by the Director of Public Prosecutions. There will be other lessons to learn from any subsequent reports. They will be examined in the context of what my hon. and learned Friend has said.

Is the Home Secretary aware that the injured man worked in Lambeth and that the question now being asked in Lambeth and, indeed, throughout London, is the one that the Home Secretary avoided earlier—how many of these tragedies must take place before the citizens of London have the same rights as citizens in every other city in Britain? There should be a locally elected police authority, which will enable public scrutiny of the regulations as a matter of routine to avoid such tragedies, rather than the scrutiny that the Home Secretary is now allowing us after the event. If the Home Secretary still does not believe that that issue is central to this incident, and as he believes that he must be the police authority, accountable to Parliament, will he give an assurance that the report being prepared by Sir Kenneth Newman on the policing of London will be made public? Secondly, will he assure the House that the issue will be debated in the House before he agrees to any of the recommendations?

I still maintain that the issue of who controls the police and whether there should be an elected authority is not central to what we are discussing today.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's second point, of course I shall consider Sir Kenneth Newman's report and consider how best it might be presented to the House. If my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons is prepared to agree, I shall be only too happy to have a debate on the subject.

In spite of the appalling and inexcusable nature of this tragic case, is it not appropriate for my right hon. Friend to remind the citizens of London that they are better policed, better protected and less the victims of trigger-happy policemen than the citizens of any other major city in the world?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The whole House knows that that is true. I hope that the whole House will recognise that and reassure the Metropolitan Police accordingly today.

In his statement, the Home Secretary made it clear that arms would be issued to the police only with the permission of a senior police officer. What is the rank of the police officer who agrees to issue arms to those members of the police force to use them in the type of circumstances that we are discussing?

The general rules provide that only an inspector may allow the issue of firearms and that the issue must be reported immediately to a chief superintendent. It is not right for me to comment further on the present case.

Timex (Redundancies)

4.5 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the employment and industrial implications of the Timex cutback in Dundee".
In the late afternoon of Friday 7 January a company called Nimslo, with which Timex had a contract for the development and manufacture of a 3D camera at Dundee, announced that the contract had been terminated. The announcement, which was made in London, was not communicated to the work force, although it meant the likely loss of 500 jobs. The manner of the announcement and the untrue and damaging remarks that were associated with it caused anger in Dundee, especially when it was learnt that the camera, which had largely been redesigned by Timex to make it a viable proposition, was to be produced in Japan.

The injury was compounded on Monday 10 January when Timex announced 1,900 redundancies which covered the watchmaking side of the business as well as that concerned with the loss of the Nimslo camera. Timex intended to retain 2,300 jobs in the city for work on computers and some remaining aspects of watch production, but as events developed it became clear that those jobs could also be at risk.

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that under this type of application you must be satisfied on three counts. First, the application is specific. It refers to a crisis where 1,900 and possibly 4,200 jobs are in danger. It addresses itself to the employment and industrial implications that arise from the ease with which multinational companies can transfer business away from a factory without being accountable for their actions. A debate would allow the House to consider those implications against the background of the experience in Dundee which has found that it is relatively easy for another country—Japan—to pirate the 3D camera that has been developed in Dundee. It is also facing the loss of other business to another Timex associated company—Besancon—which is heavily subsidised by the French Government.

Secondly, the subject is obviously important. The threat that faces Dundee is proportionately similar to the impact that the closure of British Leyland would have on the English midlands.

Thirdly, the matter is urgent. On Friday, 14 January the Secretary of State for Scotland held an emergency meeting in Edinburgh. He assured me that the Government would consider deeply a financial package that might help. However, newspaper reports that were published the following day gave the opposite impression of the Government's attitude. It is natural that the House cannot be party to negotiations that are carried out between management and trade unions, but it can impress on Ministers the need to emulate the French Government and ensure that Timex, Dundee and its employees do not fall victim to unfair competition and practices. A financial package could be an important element in securing a solution to avoid catastrophe.

I hope, therefore, that you, Mr. Speaker, will find it possible to allow the application.

The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) gave me notice before 12 o'clock midday that he might seek to make an application under Standing Order No. 9 this afternoon.

The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,
"the employment and industrial implications of the Timex cutback in Dundee".
The House has listened with deep concern to what the hon. Gentleman has said in submitting his application but he and the House know that under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take account of the several factors set out in the order, but to give no reasons for my decision.

I do not decide whether a matter should be debated. The decision is taken by others. I merely decide whether there should be an emergency debate. I must rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

Metropolitan Police (Accountability)

4.11 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the accountability of the police in the Metropolitan police district".
Twice within the past 17 days matters of considerable importance concerning the policing of the metropolitan district have become headline news. There was the tragic incident at Trafalgar square on new year's eve and the horrifying mistaken shooting of Mr. Stephen Waldorf in Kensington last Friday night. Both incidents caused much disquiet among my constituents and the general public. They have also renewed the clamour in many circles for legislation that will make the Metropolitan police more accountable to the electorate.

A number of questions regarding both incidents have already been asked by hon. Members and the general public. Questions have been raised outside the House about the efficacy of crowd control and the suitability of Trafalgar square as the only venue in London for new year's eve celebrations.

Last Friday's tragedy, as we have heard today, filled hon. Members with horror. Hon. Members and the general public have questioned strongly the use of firearms and their deployment within the Metropolitan police district. Many people, whose motivations are directed not solely to the democratic accountability of the police force, have used the incidents as excuses to pillory the police and call for political control.

If you were to grant me leave to move the Adjournment, Mr. Speaker, the debate that would take place would serve to increase public confidence in the Metropolitan police when that confidence is not at its highest. Furthermore, the outcome of the debate would be of great assistance to the Home Secretary in this important matter. Therefore, I stress that the matter is specific, urgent and important.

The hon. Gentleman gave me notice before 12 o'clock midday today that he would seek to leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the accountability of the police in the Metropolitan police district",
for the reasons that he has outlined in his application.

As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the order, but to give no reasons for my decision. I listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman, but I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order. Therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

I should like the House to know that I am deeply grateful to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), who had intended to make an application under Standing Order No. 9, for acceding to my request not to pursue it. I thought that the House should know that I am grateful when an hon. Member co-operates in that way.

House Of Commons (Demonstration)

4.14 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am seeking your guidance about a peaceful demonstration this afternoon at 3.30 by a number of supporters of the Greenham Common women's peace camp. Amongst the demonstrators were a number of my constituents. When I last saw them, they were being dragged by the police from Central Lobby down the steps to Westminster Hall, where they are now, together with about 100 other young women, surrounded by policemen. I cannot find out how long they will be detained in Westminster Hall and what charges are being levelled against them. Will you use your influence, Mr. Speaker, to persuade the Leader of the House to make a statement about the demonstration—[Interruption.]

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Like some of my colleagues, I witnessed the whole affair. I wish to ask "What next?" About 70 of those women are cordoned off in a corner of Westminster Hall. What will happen to them? I was grateful to the Serjeant at Arms. When the women were dragged along the floor of Central Lobby, there was no trouble because the surface of the floor is polished. However, when the police started dragging them down the steps into Westminster Hall, some of the police—not all of them—acted roughly. The Serjeant at Arms intervened on the women's behalf to ask some of the police to be more careful.

I understand that sometimes the names of such people are taken. They are not allowed to come into Parliament again for five years. Those women have not interfered with the conduct of the House—I regard the women who made a disturbance in the Strangers' Gallery as separate from the women to whom I am referring. Those women did not act violently. They sat down. They did not interfere with the proceedings of Members of Parliament.

What action do you think can or should be taken, Mr. Speaker, against those women? After all, it is our House of Commons. It is we and you who decide. A reprisal may come. I do not want to see any reprisals. Those women represent millions of people. I appeal to you to use your influence to see that those women do not suffer because of a brave action, even if not all Members of Parliament agree with it.

Order. I shall listen to the hon. Gentleman, but perhaps he will allow me to say something first.

I have listened with great care to what has been said about the incidents this afternoon. The House is aware that those who carry out responsibilities for us in ensuring freedom of movement within this building have a difficult task to perform, especially if anyone tries to prevent proceedings in the Chamber from taking place. That is an offence against our democracy. We cannot allow anyone to try to stop the proceedings of Parliament. If that were to happen, it would be the end of our democracy.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. While entirely endorsing what you said and while finding the unhelpful noisiness from the Gallery not really a matter that helps the argument in the House, may I ask why some of those ladies should not be allowed to make their representations in the Central Lobby, if they so wish, through the green card system? It seems to me wholly unacceptable that, if they want to make a protest to individual Members, they should not be allowed to do so.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I agree with my hon. Friend's comments. I should like to draw to your attention the fact that the women in no way interfered with hon. Members going about their business. Their action may have been precipitated by the fact that a number of hon. Members to whom they submitted green cards did not come to speak to the women, so the women felt put off. The women took part in a peaceful protest in the Central Lobby and were then dragged across the floor. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) that, in most cases, the police tried to make sure that no injuries were sustained by the women, but one or two women were bumped downstairs. I ask you to bear in mind, Mr. Speaker, the specific points that have been raised.

I hope that all hon. Members will bear in mind that demonstrations within the Palace are entirely different from demonstrations outside the building. I have said that I shall consider the matter. I shall consider with sympathy the points that have been raised. A primary task of every Speaker through the ages has been to ensure that no one within this building tries to bring undue pressures to bear on the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I entirely share your concern about the maintenance of democracy and freedom of expression in this Chamber. However, I should like to invoke your assistance as a servant of Parliament as distinct from a servant of the Government. Time after time, Opposition Members have pressed for a debate on disarmament as opposed to defence, and time after time this has been refused by the Leader of the House. If you could use your influence to secure time for such a debate, it would be of great advantage and might relieve some of the frustration felt by many of these women and millions outside the House.

It would be a dangerous time for the House if the Speaker sought to intervene and decide what subjects ought to be debated by the House. From time to time hon. Members would be so indignant that I should prefer not to come into the Chamber.

Bill Presented

Dog Licences (Miscellaneous Provisions)

Sir Anthony Fell, supported by Sir John Langford-Holt, presented a Bill to require the attachment to collars of dogs of visible indications of the date of issue of licences; and to increase the fee for dog licences: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 6 May and to be printed. [Bill 55.]

Statutory Instruments, &C


That the draft Statutory Sick Pay Up-rating Order 1982 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Cope.]

Transport Bill (Allocation Of Time)

4.22 pm

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. John Biffen)

I beg to move,

That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill:


1. The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 25th January 1983.

Report And Third Reading

2.—(1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in one allotted day and shall be brought to a conclusion at one hour after midnight on that day; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of that day as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.

(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their Resolutions as to the proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those proceedings and proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the third day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.

(3) The resolutions in any Report made under Standing Order No. 43 may be varied by a further Report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) above, and whether or not the Resolutions have been agreed to by the House.

(4) The Resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.

Procedure In Standing Committee

3.—(1) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.

(2) No Motion shall be moved in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.

4. No Motion shall be moved to alter the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in that order.

Conclusion Of Proceedings In Committee

5. On the conclusion of the proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

Dilatory Motions

6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be moved in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra Time On Allotted Day

7. (1) On an allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for three hours after Ten o'clock.

(2) Any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of three hours.

(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of three hours.

Private Business

8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.

Conclusion Of Proceedings

9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say—

  • (a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
  • (b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
  • (c) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is moved by a member of the Government;
  • (d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
  • and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

    (2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

    (3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock—

  • (a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time;
  • (b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.
  • (4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

    Supplemental Orders

    10.—(1) The proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

    (2) If on an allotted day on which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.


    11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall

  • (a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or
  • (b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.
  • Re-Committal

    12.—(1) References in this Order to proceedings on Consideration or proceedings on Third Reading include references to proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of re-committal.

    (2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.


    13. In this Order—

    "allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day or is set down for consideration on that day; "the Bill" means the Transport Bill;
    "Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;
    "Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.

    I have announced the selection of the amendments to the allocation of time motion, but the House should be under no illusion that when the three hours are up I shall be able to put the Question only on the amendment before the House.

    The House will readily appreciate the importance of the Transport Bill and its role in the Government's legislative programme. I should therefore like to indicate the Government's broad case for this legislation. The Bill is needed for two main reasons. First, in the past year or so, major uncertainties have arisen about the legal powers of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan authorities to give subsidies to their transport executives. The GLC had to abandon its "Fares Fair" policy after the House of Lords judgment. Following challenge, Merseyside was able to continue its policy, but the West Midlands, when challenged, changed its policy. Now, once again, the GLC and London Transport are to explore in the courts the legality of their proposed policy. These uncertainties about the powers to provide subsidy must be resolved.

    Secondly, there is the rapid growth of subsidy. Over the past three years subsidies in the conurbations have more than doubled from less than £200 million to more than £400 million and forecasts for next year predicted an increase to about £700 million. The Government support subsidies and have accepted £283 million revenue support for 1983–84 for the purposes of transport supplementary grant, but the Government cannot support excessive subsidies, which are likely in any case to lead to further challenges.

    The Bill aims to solve the problem of legal uncertainty within the context of a reasonable national total subsidy. Authorities will be able to choose the legal protection that the Bill will provide for a reasonable subsidy. Alternatively, they may risk challenge if they decide to exceed the protected level.

    The Bill also aims to increase the efficiency of the transport undertakings in a number of ways, including improved financial and operational planning and careful assessment of the value for money to be obtained from subsidies. It is not for me to comment on the details of the Bill, but I have described its aims in order to show that it is about important matters.

    The Government naturally hoped for useful consideration and improvement in Standing Committee. Indeed, the House will appreciate that the Select Committee on Transport, which includes hon. Members from both sides of the House, in its Fourth Report said:
    "we believe that the Government is right to seek some reduction from the levels of public transport revenue support which occurred last year".
    In moving the allocation of time motion, I draw attention to the way in which the Bill, which received a majority of 284 to 224 on Second Reading on 15 November, has been treated in Committee. The Standing Committee has now spent more than 80 hours on the Bill. It has met on 14 occasions and the Official Report of its proceedings runs to 832 columns—about 500,000 words. The Committee sat until midnight on two occasions and until 5 am or later on three further occasions.

    The House will wish to know of the progress made. It is a moderately short Bill with only 12 clauses. In all this time, the Committee has dealt with clause 1—a short definition clause—and two groups of amendments to clause 2, which deals with a new common financial duty of London Transport and passenger transport executives. Clauses 3 to 12 are untouched. The heart of the Bill—clauses 3 to 6—has not been reached. Those clauses set up a new system for the executive and authority to prepare three-year public transport plans. They also provide for the Secretary of State to confer his guidance on the protected level of expenditure. Similarly, clauses 7 to 10 and the schedule, which deal with organisational reviews, tendering, repeals, commencement and transitional provisions, have not yet been considered. Nor has clause 11, which deals with the National Dock Labour Board debt.

    The Government wish the Bill, which was endorsed by the House on Second Reading, to be in place for the next financial year. The Standing Committee has had ample time for its consideration. The Government must now consider the need to provide reasonable time for the remaining stages. The order provides that the Bill be reported to the House by 25 January, with proceedings on Report and Third Reading being concluded in one day thereafter at one hour after midnight.

    As the Leader of the House has given so much detail about the Committee's work, will he tell us how many times closures were moved? Did not the Government simply allow the Committee to record hours with the specific intention of taking no notice of it until 80 hours of exchange of ideas and views had been reached and of bringing in a timetable motion on the Floor of the House?

    I understand that the closure motions were applied on procedural issues. Otherwise, the Government were anxious that there should be uninhibited debate. I am sorry that the Government's generosity was not reciprocated by a correspondingly constructive approach by the Opposition.

    I am sure that the Business Committee will allocate the remaining time in such a way as to ensure that the Standing Committee gives some attention to the matters that it has not yet considered. The Government have played their part in trying to ensure adequate discussion of the Bill and have been ready to accept worthwhile amendments.

    The tactics adopted by the Opposition become clear when I describe the treatment of one group of amendments. After nearly half an hour of debate, the Under-Secretary of State said that he was willing to accept the principle of the amendments, but the Opposition then took a further 75 minutes discussing that group of amendments before moving on. I refer to amendments Nos. 26, 27 and 19, which were discussed on 25 November.

    The Opposition are perhaps to be commended on the dedication with which they have sought to achieve their objectives by speaking with such stamina and procedural skill, but that process cannot continue indefinitely.

    Mr. Biffen