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Commons Chamber

Volume 176: debated on Wednesday 18 July 1990

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 18 July 1990

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Trade And Industry

Short-Termism

1.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he intends to make any proposals to counter short-termism in British industry.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade
(Mr. Peter Lilley)

Like my right hon. predecessor, to whom I pay tribute, I recognise the importance of this issue. Companies' ability to invest for the long term is a function of their profitability. The profitability of British industry has returned of late to the highest level for 20 years and business investment has consequently reached record levels.

Can the Minister tell the House that on his appointment he was able to convey to the Prime Minister the magnitude of his task in repairing the damage that has been done to British industry because of short-termism? Does he recognise that it is also a malady which appertains to his own job? Can he again assure the House of his long-term commitment to industry?

I have a long-term commitment to industry—have no fear—although I understand that the time customarily spent in this Department is shorter rather than longer. I shall certainly do all in my power to ensure that British industry continues to be profitable and therefore remains in a position to invest for the long term, as it has increasingly done under the Government.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment to this important job. Will he consider whether short-termism is largely due to the fact that because of our tax system too much of British savings is channeled to institutions whose fund managers are subject to short-term pressures? Is not the solution to encourage individuals to save more directly in United Kingdom industry?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that he has hit upon an important point which lies behind some of the measures that we have taken in recent years to encourage direct individual saving in industry. Companies benefit from and welcome a large mass of individual direct shareholders and we are glad that there are now 11 million direct shareholders in British industry.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his new post. On countering short-termism, as the right hon. Gentleman has moved from the Treasury, does he agree with the Chancellor on economic and monetary union that

"we are all committed to this goal",
or does he agree with his predecessor, who said in his resignation letter that
"economic and monetary union … would be a disaster"?
Does he agree with the Chancellor—[nterruption.] This is about the long-term future of British industry—

Order. I am no great expert on economic matters, but surely the question relates to short-termism.

On the question of the long-term view for this country and for industry, does the Secretary of State agree with the Chancellor that the hard ecu is one possible route to a single currency, or does he hold to the view that a single currency without a single European Government is almost inconceivable—[Interruption.]

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks, and I am glad to find myself opposite him again. It should be no surprise to him that I entirely endorse the position of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, and indeed the whole Government, on the issue of the hard ecu and EMU. That should be no surprise as, until a few hours ago, I had some responsibility under the Chancellor for that policy.

Airline Competition

2.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to ensure greater competition amongst British airlines to prevent the development of a monopoly by any one airline; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend will continue to exercise his powers, where appropriate, under the Fair Trading Act 1973 and other competition legislation. In particular, he will continue to refer to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission those mergers in the airline industry that appear to raise United Kingdom competition or other public interest issues.

However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has specific responsibility for airlines in the United Kingdom. His policy, which I support fully, is to encourage a sound and competitive industry with a variety of airlines while promoting healthy competition in all markets, in the interests of consumers.

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for that answer. Given that competition invariably benefits the consumer through lower fares, more choice and a higher quality service, will he do his best to ensure that the smaller airlines are given every possible assistance and encouragement to resist the predatory and often unfair trading practices of British Airways? Despite British Airways' massive economies of scale, its prices are up to 40 per cent. higher than those of the smaller airlines. It also operates an unhealthy monopoly on the London to Newcastle route.

My hon. Friend identifies an important point. I agree that smaller airlines have an important part to play in maintaining a healthy, competitive airline industry. I am conscious of the importance of smaller airlines and small airports to the economic development of the regions which I visit in the course of my ministerial duties.

Is the Minister aware that when Mr. Michael Bishop and British Midland Airways applied for licences to fly between Glasgow and London, they stated that, if they were given those licences, they would compete fairly with British Airways in terms of price and service? Now that British Midland is no longer competing with British Airways in terms of price, it is complaining when British Airways gives a better service to passengers on flights between Glasgow and London. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman inform British Midland that, instead of trying to stop the service that British Airways provides for people travelling on that route, it should compete in terms of price? Will the Government break the pricing cartel of British Midland and British Airways?

These are essentially matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, but I shall ensure that he is made aware of the hon. Gentleman's views.

Why is it almost impossible to have deregulation in the United Kingdom and Europe? America ably achieved deregulation almost overnight. Does not the international aviation industry compete with aviation industries in other countries? Rather than encouraging competition between United Kingdom airlines, we should open the markets to all, resulting in lower fares throughout Europe and the world generally.

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am in favour of considerable competition, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that we must carry many other countries with us on the subject of further deregulation.

Rover Group

3.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to respond to the European Community's recent communication on the sale of the Rover Group.

As yet we have not received the formal decision letter from the Commission. When we do, we will reply expeditiously. We have decided, subject to any representations by British Aerospace, to accept the Commission's decision on repayment.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he ask the new Secretary of State whether he will clear up the mess created by his two predecessors and tell the House, as he must tell the Commission in due course, the details of the secret tax incentives given to Rover and British Aerospace for the shabby Rover deal? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman ask the new Secretary of State to condemn his predecessors for their deception of the House and the Commission?

The hon. Gentleman raised two points. I wish first to say something about my right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State. In this respect, I speak on behalf of all Ministers and officials who had the privilege of serving under him. We very much regret what happened. My right hon. Friend was held in the highest affection and respect by those who knew him well, and I have a low opinion of those who now try to make personal political capital out of his misfortune. As to the—[Interruption.]

On the question of taxation, our position has always been that Rover Group and British Aerospace will be treated in precisely the same way as any other taxpayer. There is nothing in the Commission decision that casts doubt on that approach. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) owes the House an apology because he spoke of hidden tax concessions and, despite very careful scrutiny by the Commission, there is no evidence whatever of that.

I thank my hon. amd learned Friend the Minister for his generous tribute to the previous Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I should like to be associated with that. Will he include in any response to the European Commission the fact that Rover had accumulated an overhang of £1·4 billion under the Varley-Marshall guarantee and had a further £1 billion investment programme? Had it remained in the public sector, there would thus have been potential for almost £2·5 billion in aid, which would have stuck a great deal more in the EEC craw than the minor sums that we are discussing.

My hon. Friend is right. He might also like to address his mind to two other matters. First, what was done has safeguarded about 190,000 jobs. Secondly, when Rover Group was in public ownership it gobbled up £3·5 billion which could otherwise have been more profitably used.

Although the Minister's Department is called the Department of Trade and Industry, does he agree that Britain is not allowed to have a trade policy because it is decided in Brussels? In view of what happened to Rover Group, it seems that we are not allowed to have an independent industrial policy either. Does the Minister agree that Sir Leon Brittan is now more powerful than he was when he was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry? Do not the Minister's civil servants tell him every day, "Minister, you cannot do this, that or the other because Brussels will not allow it", and is not that what irked the previous Secretary of State and made him rather vexed?

First, it is a pity that the hon. Gentleman was not here on 28 June 1990 when he might have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, during the statement made by my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Secondly, I understood that Labour was pretending to be a European party, but Labour Back Benchers are showing that they have an extreme dislike of the European Community. It would be interesting to know which represents the proper view in the Labour party.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that people in the west midlands are heartily sick and tired of all the accusations being levelled at Rover Group and British Aerospace? Car workers in the west midlands are anxious to get on with making the cars that are necessary for our economic improvement. In view of what the European Commission may say, will my hon. and learned Friend go ahead and tell it that negotiations between the companies and the Inland Revenue were entirely their own affair and that the benefits, if any, which might accrue from those negotiations can be set against the enormous amount of investment by British Aerospace and Rover Group in ever more credible products for the market?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. I suspect that his constituents were also interested in the express finding by the Commission that a sale price of £150 million was correct and reasonable. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East has alleged from time to time that that was an undervaluation.

The hon. Gentleman need not shake his head because I have his quotes. It is time that he apologised for being so misleading.

Before the Minister gets too carried away, will he confirm that he expects to have to give a full, written report to the Commission about the tax concessions?

The Commission has made it plain that Rover Group and British Aerospace should be treated like any other taxpayer. That is what we have always proposed to do.

Buy British Campaign

4.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received in favour of a "buy British" campaign.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Industry and Consumer Affairs
(Mr. Eric Forth)

My Department has received a number of such representations. We recognise the advantages of purchasing British products when they are competitive in design, quality and price.

Is my hon. Friend aware that our hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs will be visiting my constituency of Basildon next Wednesday to launch the "buy British goods from Basildon" campaign? Will he join me in congratulating local businesses on their initiative? Does he agree that the success that I am sure the campaign will enjoy will make a valuable contribution to Britain's balance of payments?

I am sure that the sense of delight and honour is shared equally between Basildon and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. I am sure that everyone is looking forward to the visit. My hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) has made the important point that it is right that individual areas such as his constituency should take the initiative in ensuring that local companies buy from each other wherever that is possible and justifiable. That will stimulate the local economy and the use of British goods by the British industrial sector. All of that will assist the recovery of Britain's claim in that sector, which we all want.

Has the Minister recently taken the opportunity to shop in C and A, British Home Stores or Littlewoods, and has he tried to find anything British among their stocks of shirts, underwear and suits? Is he aware that it is difficult to buy British, even if one wants to do so? With the possible exception of Marks and Spencer, almost every multiple store makes it easy for our competitors to bring foreign textiles into Britain.

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. I can speak only for myself, and I stand before the House in my British-made suit—

It is for each individual to exercise consumer choice and decide whether to buy British goods. If more of us did that, all retail outlets would have to reconsider their sales policies to meet our requirements, but it must be driven by the consumer.

Does my hon. Friend agree that although "buy British" is a well-intentioned campaign, it might be better to advocate "sell British" because the quality is best and the price most competitive? People should not be forced to buy something that is not the best. No doubt my hon. Friend made his judgment on his smart suit because it was the best and had the most competitive price.

It is worth recording that more than 90 per cent. of the goods and services bought by the Government are from United Kingdom sources. That shows that it is possible, both at the public level and in private purchasing, to strike a balance between value and cost and patriotism. Those ideals are quite consistent and not in contradiction.

Does the Minister acknowledge that the policies that the Government have pursued have brought about the worst manufacturing trade deficit in history? Will he assure the House that the change of Secretary of State will result in new policies at the Department of Trade and Industry which will set us back on the road to success?

There is no reason why that should be so. I have every confidence that the new Secretary of State will wish to pursue the excellent policies of his predecessors, and so he should. It is well known to all hon. Members—except, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman—that the Department of Trade and Industry, under successive Secretaries of State, has created an economic and industrial climate in which British industry can fight back against an increasingly competitive world trading position and, indeed, improve Britain's trading position. It is only against the background of our taxation policies, our industrial relations policies and our concentration on improvement of management that we can do that. I am confident that the future will lead us further in that direction.

European Single Market

5.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many of the measures so far agreed for the creation of the single European market have yet to be implemented by the United Kingdom, and what is the comparable figure for other member states.

The United Kingdom, with Denmark, has the best record of implementing single market measures. Of the 95 measures that should by now be in force, only 13 remain to be implemented in the United Kingdom. That figure is twice as good as the average for other member states. The country with the next best record to that of the United Kingdom is the Federal Republic of Germany. I am arranging for a full list to be printed in the Official Report.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his promotion, and I wish him well. I thank him for those figures. Do not they show that we are true and honest leaders in the creation of a single European market? Does he agree that Labour would sell its soul and that of the nation over Europe—this time for a few deutschmarks, but usually for a lot less?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I thank him for his remarks. The United Kingdom was very much the first and strongest supporter of the single European market, has been consistent in implementing its measures, and is the most effective in enforcing them. We continue to take a lead in ensuring that the single European market is carried through to a successful completion. We know that the Opposition's hearts are not in it because they do not support the underlying philosophy of the single market.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new post. Does he believe that the European Commission should be extremely active in promoting adherence to the single European market in all member countries and in bringing to book any country that fails fully to co-operate, or if the Commission does so, will the Secretary of State accuse it of bullying and interference in the affairs of sovereign states?

I believe that member countries should implement measures to which they have agreed. However, I am in favour of the minimum of government at all levels.

I join others in congratulating my right hon. Friend on his new appointment. Does he agree that implementation in Europe ought to be followed by enforcement, and that that can be effective only if all the people of a country in which directives are implemented have been consulted as part of the approval process of their national Government and of the Council of Ministers? Does not that provide a clue to the way in which we can help other European countries more quickly to incorporate the directives into their own legislation and to implement them?

My hon. Friend makes an important and valuable point. It has always been a tradition in this country that laws are passed after consultation and discussion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh?"]—and we want to see the maximum consultation and discussion about European as well as domestic measures as they pass through the House.

Does the Secretary of State agree or disagree with the view of his predecessor that economic and monetary union will be a disaster—yes or no?

As I told the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown), I entirely support the Government's policy on that issue and had a hand in formulating it. One Friday morning a little while ago, I made a speech elaborating my views in an interesting debate initiated by a Labour Member who does not share the views of the Opposition Front Bench and in which we watched the divisions in the Labour party open very wide.

Following is the information

Comparable figures for other member slates are

Number

Denmark13
Federal Republic of Germany15
France21
Ireland23
Spain26
Netherlands27
Luxembourg30
Belgium32
Greece35
Portugal44
Italy55

East-West Trade

6.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what meetings he has had with his counterparts in the countries of eastern Europe in the past six months to discuss east-west trade.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs
(Mr. John Redwood)

During the past six months, Department of Trade and Industry Ministers have met their trade or industry counterparts from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary and Poland, as well as other Ministers from Bulgaria and Romania. I myself have held meetings in London with Ministers from Czechoslovakia, the USSR and Hungary, and have visited East Germany, Romania and Czechoslovakia.

Does the Minister agree that the fact that the previous Secretary of State was caught in a time warp and expressed extreme chauvinist views did nothing to enable him to encourage trade with eastern Europe, particularly with the German Democratic Republic? Does the hon. Gentleman further agree that the recent increase in premiums by the ECGD has not helped? Will he reconsider those premium levels, particularly as they affect trade with the Soviet Union?

My right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made several successful visits to countries in eastern and central Europe, accompanied by business men who were very grateful for the help that he gave in presenting their case in those countries as a source of potential business. The evidence abounds. Joint ventures are increasing, and there is a growth in trade with countries in eastern and central Europe. The time warp is with the Opposition. They are the ones who want policies that failed in east and central Europe. They want to foist back on the British people interventionism, expensive subsidies and sweeteners, at the taxpayers' expense, which would not be successful. [Interruption.] Yes, I use the word "sweeteners". That is exactly what the Labour party wants, at the expense of the British taxpayer, and it would do great damage.

The Export Credits Guarantee Department makes short-term credits available, on various terms, to all the eastern and central European markets. The implementation of the EMS will be reviewed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

I welcome the efforts that have been made by successive Department of Trade and Industry Ministers to promote east-west trade. Can my hon. Friend give some examples of joint ventures that, so far, have been successful? That is one way, together with equity participation, in which this country could benefit more from trade with eastern and central European countries.

Joint ventures span several industries and activities. There are 60 in Poland and 48 in Hungary, by United Kingdom companies that are known to the Department. There may be others. For example, there is a well-known joint venture in railway equipment in Hungary, which is very successful. A British pub is being established in Hungary. A range of consumer and engineering industries will, I am sure, make a great contribution to United Kingdom economic activity in those countries.

Ec Industry Ministers

7.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry which meetings of the European Community's Industry Ministers he has not attended in the past year.

I have attended each of the Industry Council meetings during the past year, with the exception of the 28 May 1990 meeting, which was attended by Sir David Hannay, the United Kingdom permanent representative to the European Communities.

This question was directed at the previous Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. However, I venture to ask whether the new Secretary of State will give an undertaking not to treat those vital meetings in Europe with the contempt shown by his predecessor. Does the Minister share the views of his predecessor on Europe—that Germany is trying to take over the whole of Europe?

I can suppose only that the hon. Gentleman was not listening. I made the point that I attended all the Industry Council meetings, bar one, during the past year. For completeness of information, may I observe that I attended all five of the Research Council meetings, for which I am also responsible?

In his busy schedule, will my hon. and learned Friend have time to consider one of the latest of the Labour party's policy documents, "Looking to the Future", which I understand is in its first edition? It calls for high spending and interventionist policies. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that those are the very policies that would pull our industry down and leave us looking completely naked whenever we met European Industry Ministers?

Anybody who has subjected the Labour party's policies to analysis knows that they would result in very much higher taxation, greatly increased public expenditure and a great escalation in the rate of inflation.

Order. It might be helpful to the whole House if hon. Members asked questions of the Secretary of State and his Ministers instead of asking them to agree with their views.

Electronic Equipment

8.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what proportion of electronic equipment sold in the United Kingdom comes from overseas.

The latest available figures show that 71 per cent. of electronic and information technology equipment sold in the United Kingdom is imported. This figure includes all such equipment, including components. No information is available on finished electronic equipment alone.

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. However, what steps is he taking, together with his EEC counterparts, to encourage and develop the component manufacturing industries in Britain and the rest of the EEC, given the large proportion of components of finished electronic equipment that originate from outside Britain and the EEC?

The hon. Gentleman is correct in his analysis that that is a problem we all share. When I say "we" I mean all OECD countries because, with the exception of Japan, we all have a trade deficit in information technology. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands that the good news is that the United Kingdom has a large trade surplus with the rest of the Community countries—£900 million last year—in this category of equipment. Therefore, we are positive and optimistic, as we are entitled to be. If the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends persist, as they seem to, in looking on the gloomy and pessimistic side, downgrading the performance of British industry, they must answer for that. We like to recognise success when it occurs.

Will my hon. Friend tell the House on what grounds GEC and Siemens have recently been released from many of the undertakings that they gave less than a year ago in the context of their takeover of Plessey?

Regrettably, I cannot answer my hon. Friend's question because it is not part of my responsibility. I can assure him that we shall look carefully at his point and I shall ask my colleagues to give him an answer as quickly as possible.

Rover Group

9.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the net benefit to the taxpayer of the sale of Rover to British Aerospace; and if he will make a statement.

The sale of Rover Group for the best available price brought considerable benefits for taxpayers. It relieved them of responsibility for a company which had swallowed up £3·5 billion in the past and which carried the contingent liability of the Varley-Marshall-Joseph assurances. That stood at £1·6 billion in March 1988 and was set to rise significantly over the corporate plan period. The deal also safeguarded over 190,000 jobs, mainly in the west midlands.

What is the chance of the new Secretary of State taking a leaf out of Hercules' book and cleaning out this particular Augean stable, the smell of which has ripened substantially in the past week with the revelation that eight secret meetings took place between his Department, British Aerospace and the Inland Revenue between March and July 1988 and that £411 million in secret tax concessions was offered as a further sweetener to British Aerospace? What hold does British Aerospace have over his Department, or does the Minister intend to deny that those discussions took place?

This is a continuing effort on behalf of the Labour party to impose on British Aerospace substantially increased burdens. The Commission has reviewed all those matters and reached a considered view. One of the findings was that £150 million was a fair and reasonable price. It also reviewed the tax questions. The time has come for the Labour party to tell the House whether it accepts the Commission's findings. If it does, it must eat an awful lot of humble pie.

If there was a hidden subsidy, surely one might expect the Opposition to approve of it, bearing in mind the fact that they are in favour of industrial subsidies and that they gave the British car industry billions of pounds. Is their sudden distaste for subsidies a genuine change of heart, showing that they have embraced the free market, or is it the usual mixture of hypocrisy and opportunism?

So that there is no misunderstanding on the matter, will the Minister confirm that he knows that the Commission is not yet satisfied about the tax arrangements governing that deal? Will he further confirm that he knows that it is demanding a written report on the arrangements that are made, and when the report is done, will he agree to place it in the Library so that everyone can see it?

Once again, the hon. Gentleman has not been listening. I have made it absolutely plain to the House that it has always been our intention to ensure that British Aerospace and Rover Group are treated in the same way as any other taxpayer. The Commission is simply seeking an assurance to that effect. The hon. Gentleman has some answering and apologising to do. Why does he persist in alleging undervaluation when he knows perfectly well that the Commission found that it was a fair and reasonable price?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is Question Time for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Will we hear from him again?

Terrible bleats are coming from the Opposition. I fancy that they do not like being knocked about.

Manufacturing Industry

10.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he last met representatives from the Confederation of British Industry to discuss the performance of British manufacturing industry; and if he will make a statement.

Ministers and officials of my Department keep in touch with the CBI on a wide range of business matters. Manufacturing industry is stronger today than at any time in the past. Output, investment, productivity and exports were all at record levels in 1989 and have risen yet further this year.

Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that exports were up 55 per cent. in volume in 1989 compared with 1981? Do not those figures reflect the efficiency of British industry and the effectiveness of Government policy? Do not they also give the lie to the constant bleating of the Labour party that manufacturing industry is doing less well than it is?

The figures given by my hon. Friend are wholly right, as are his conclusions, but the figures are even better than he suggested. As he will know, in the three months to May this year, exports of manufactures, excluding oil and erratics, were 14 per cent. higher in volume terms than in the same period last year.

What representations has the Minister received from the CBI about the effect of high interest rates on industry? Will he put on record the fact that although our exports may have grown, imports have grown more rapidly and that by the end of the year we shall have a record deficit in our balance of trade? Is not that a failure by the Government?

As the hon. Gentleman would know if he studied these things, the CBI is bullish about the prospects of the British economy. It is concerned about the high levels of inflation that it enjoyed under a Labour Government, which it would certainly enjoy under a future Labour Government were there ever to be one, and it is firmly behind Government policy to use interest rates as a mechanism for reducing inflationary pressures.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware of the increasing number of small companies that are going into receivership, partially due to high interest rates being used as the sole weapon against inflation? Does he consider that that further damages our manufacturing base?

A dynamic economy implies that businesses both start and end. I am happy to say that the net increase in businesses has been high. Between the end of 1981 and the end of 1988, business starts exceeded stops by 238,000 or, using the current figures based on VAT registration, 1,600 more new companies start each week than close.

Will the Minister confirm that between 1979 and 1987 the annual growth of exports was lower in Britain than in any other European country? Is he prepared to meet industrialists and to discuss further the concerns that they expressed to the Department at the recent conference on short-termism because they were worried about the future of manufacturing in this country?

It is always a pleasure to talk to industrialists and indeed to anyone else who cares to talk to me or my right hon. Friend. I do not understand why the Labour party continues to poor-mouth industry. Why does not the hon. Lady concentrate on economic growth, which between 1981 and 1989 increased at an average of 3·2 per cent., while in a similar period in West Germany it increased by 2·2 per cent. only and in France by 2·1 per cent. only. Labour should concentrate on the main facts, I say.

Departmental Expenditure

11.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much his Department spent in 1989–90, expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product; and what information he has on the comparable figure for the Japanese Ministry of International Trade.

Expenditure by the DTI last year was one quarter per cent. of GDP whereas general expenditure by Japan's Ministry of International Trade proportionate to GDP was one third lower, even though its responsibilities are wider.

May I add my voice to those welcoming my right hon. Friend to his new office of state? Do not the figures that he has just given give the lie to the frequent claims by the Opposition and the academics so beloved of the Opposition that the Government do not do sufficient to help British industry? Will he reaffirm the Government's principle that the best way to assist British industry is to leave it to get on with its business unfettered by bureaucrats?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is highly significant that the only evidence that the Opposition can adduce to support their policies is the claim that a distant and rather inscrutable economy is run on the lines that they advocate. On closer inspection, the evidence refutes that, as does the experience of Labour Governments.

Does the Secretary of State recognise that the Japanese Government are clever and sophisticated in their handling of industry, and no one in his right mind could accuse the British Government of that? Does he realise that in one city in Japan there are 86 research clubs that are organised by the Ministry of International Trade in Japan, and that that cost the Ministry nothing more than the paper to call the meetings? That is an example of co-operation and leadership between Government and industry which costs nothing and which the British Government should follow.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, unlike the Opposition Front Bench, is in favour of a low level of Government expenditure. Japan spends a lower proportion of its GDP on public expenditure than Britain and most European countries; it has a lower level of tax and fewer nationalised industries. As a result of its free enterprise economy, it has harnessed the great skills of the Japanese people very successfully. We have released the energies of the British people by employing the same free market methods.

Has my right hon. Friend been able to compare the Japanese Government's policies for industry with the proposals in the Labour party's new policy document and the British Government's policies? Does not he consider that the policies of the British Government and of the Japanese Government, in promoting privatisation, competition and free enterprise, are far more successful?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Our policies and those of the Japanese Government have much in common. They are flatly contrary to the socialist policies still advocated by the Opposition, although in a new language and in a new guise. I note that Opposition Members do not seek to object to the fact that their policies remain socialistic in their latest policy document.

Kingfisher/Dixon Takeover Report

13.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much compensation he estimates his Department paying in the wake of the early release of the Kingfisher/Dixon takeover report.

I shall continue to consider claims received before the end of this month for losses incurred on the morning of 23 May by those buying Dixon shares, selling Kingfisher shares or dealing in traded options in those securities. I will then be able to estimate more accurately the final cost. Payments will be on the basis of one half of the differences between the price at which the shares or options were bought or sold on the morning of 23 May, and the prices ruling when trading was resumed shortly after 1 pm. I shall take into account corresponding gains from selling Dixons shares or buying Kingfisher shares, or from hedging positions in the options market. The Government have already apologised for that unfortunate event.

In view of the continuing enormous cost to the taxpayer as a result of the repeated incompetence of his Department, will the Minister give the House a categorical assurance that the change of leadership in the DTI will result in no more blunders over City matters? What action has he taken to prevent that from happening again?

The estimate of the maximum possible cost of the error is around £120,000, but I hope that when I see the final claims, it will be lower than that. The House must understand that the calculations are difficult and we cannot be entirely sure of the final outcome. Of course, it is a worrying sum of money and we have apologised for the mistake. I resent the general inference of the hon. Gentleman's question. A great deal of good regulation is performed by our insurance branch and by the Securities and Investments Board and the self-regulatory organisations. The hon. Gentleman should remember that most of the important regulation of City investment businesses has been given by the House, through the Secretary of State, to the SIB and SROs and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his slur on them. With regard to conduct in my Department, there was an inquiry into that and the necessary steps were taken.

Post Office Counters

14.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he expects to announce plans to privatise the Post Office counters service.

We have taken no decision to privatise Post Office Counters Ltd. The Post Office has a network of some 20,700 post offices, of which some 19,400 are already operated by self-employed agents.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, but will he draw on the experience of many other countries, including, increasingly, several countries in eastern Europe, which are trying as widely as possible to break up the monopoly of the sale of Government services, Government-supplied goods and Government licences? Does he agree that the further introduction of competition in that area can only benefit the consumer of those services?

My hon. Friend knows that we are constantly looking for ways in which we can introduce competition in many areas, to the benefit of the consumer. I am sure that he will also recognise that our Post Office is among the best in the world, because of the level of service that it provides, because it operates at a profit and because its tariff is one of the best, certainly in western Europe. My hon. Friend will agree with me on reflection that we must ensure that we always strike the right balance in those matters so that the consumer and the taxpayer gain the maximum benefit.

Can it conceivably be true that the Minister has a possibility of promotion to the Scottish Office?

That question, as the hon. Gentleman knows, must be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but I hope that he does not ask her.

Will my hon. Friend do something to encourage the Post Office to tell us exactly what is happening in the service? A post office in my constituency has been under threat for 18 months, initially of closure, but now apparently of being placed on an agency basis and another post office is under a cloud. We want a more effective post office system with a broader range of services, whether on an agency basis or a Crown basis. What we do not want is confusion.

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. I am surprised and disappointed at what he said. I hope that he will take the opportunity, if he has not done so already, although I am sure that he has, to take up the matter vigorously with the chairman of the Post Office, who is always prepared to consider such matters. I hope equally that my hon. Friend will recognise that the Post Office is constantly striving to achieve the best level of service together with profitability and the minimum burden on the taxpayer. A lot has been achieved in that direction. If my hon. Friend studies the annual report and accounts of the Post Office, which were published this very morning, he will see a healthy picture.

Financial Institutions

15.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has last made of the effectiveness of self-regulation of the financial institutions.

I am generally happy with the arrangements approved by the House in legislation put through in the past 10 years to strengthen the regulatory structures in a variety of City areas. The House has passed the Financial Services Act 1986, the Companies Acts of 1985 and 1989, the Insurance Companies Act 1982 and the insider dealing legislation of 1981. There is a big new system led by the SIB and the SROs in the City.

Does the Minister accept that self-regulation has led to a confused regulatory structure? Will he consult the new Secretary of State and take steps to avert any future collapses such as British and Commonwealth Holdings and Dunsdale Securities by changing the former Secretary of State's disastrous policies and by introducing a fair, effective and independent regulatory body?

The regulatory bodies are already fair and independent. I wish that the hon. Gentleman would withdraw that slur on the work of many fine regulators and regulatory bodies in the City. It is also misleading to call it a self-regulatory system. The system was set up under statute, with very clear powers to the regulator, and with a practitioner involvement. The point of having practitioner involvement is that we need people involved in regulation who know the business world, who get the right sort of rumours about what is going on, who know about the products, and who can help the professional regulators, who are independent and fair-minded and are paid to be so by the regulatory bodies.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is continuing public disquiet and bewilderment at the fact that no action yet appears to have been taken following the report of his Department's inspectors on the Harrods case? Does he recall that, when the previous Secretary of State spoke to the House on that report, he referred many aspects to the financial regulatory bodies? When will we have a decision from those bodies about issues such as the Harrods bank and the merchant bank that advised the Fayeds throughout?

The bank is not a matter for me or for my Department. The House of Fraser matter is sub judice, as my hon. Friend knows. There is nothing that I can add to the comments that were made to the House by the previous Secretary of State. In many other respects there has been strong follow-up action when problems have arisen, and the Government's policy is to follow up whenever there is a reasonable chance of successfully doing so.

Departmental Structure

17.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has for the future structure of his Department.

I am proud to have been given responsibility for this great Department of state. I plan to consolidate recent changes in the Department's structure, building on the fine traditions that the DTI and its precursor Departments have established over two centuries in helping markets work and promoting enterprise.

This Minister has had an easy ride in the Treasury. He has now got a difficult job as Secretary of State for the DTI. His predecessor made a bloomer—he really did—on restructuring, when he said that the best thing to do would be to close down the Department. It is no wonder he has gone. The Secretary of State has to sort out the problems of industry and of the deficit. If he does not sort them out, he will land in the river outside in a concrete suit.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his warm welcome. I know that he is a star on public service television from coast to coast in the United States. I therefore take his warnings and recommendations very seriously indeed. I shall do all in my power to avoid being immersed in concrete.

Exporters (Assistance)

18.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what resources have been provided to date to assist small firms to study the potential of new overseas markets under his Department's export marketing research scheme.

Since the inception of the export marketing research scheme in 1969 some £25 million has been expended in grants. Since 9 May 1990, firms have been eligible for support only if they have fewer than 200 employees. Details of the size of firms using the scheme before then are not available.

I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that the scheme will be immensely beneficial to dozens of small firms in the Stroud valleys in my constituency? Will he ensure that the scheme gets the maximum publicity?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for the scheme. He does much good work with businesses in his constituency. I am delighted to hear that they are taking advantage of the scheme. Question Time is another opportunity to publicise an extremely helpful scheme.

Ravenscraig Steelworks

19.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will arrange to meet representatives of the Ravenscraig steelworkers to discuss the future of the plant.

No, Sir. Representatives of the Ravenscraig work force have already met my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Now that we have a new Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, can we expect a new attitude towards Scottish steelworkers, who were treated with absolute contempt by the previous Secretary of State, who ironically stood by and watched Bob Scholey invest £100 million in Germany rather than in Scotland? In view of British Steel's failure to justify the closure of the hot strip mill and the resultant threat to the Ravenscraig plant, will the Department of Trade and Industry intervene now and tell Scholey that Ravenscraig must be retained in its entirety, in the interests of the Scottish economy and the British steel industry?

The Labour party is in no position to make such requests. Indeed, as far as I understand it, there is no difference in this respect between the policy of the Government and that of the Labour party. As my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry pointed out on 20 June, the Labour party appears not to have the slightest intention of wanting to rescue Ravenscraig, to take the power to issue directives to British Steel or to offer it subsidies. If that is the position, there is really no difference between us. Of course, there is another possibility—that the Labour party wishes to nationalise British Steel, in which case, why does not it tell us so?

Civil Aerospace Industry

20.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in what ways his Department is able to assist with the development of Britain's civil aerospace industry.

My Department provides financial support for pre-competitive research and demonstration projects and, funds major development programmes in the United Kingdom civil aircraft industry. It also provides non-financial support for the industry in a variety of ways, for example, by working for open markets in international trade.

My hon. and learned Friend will be aware of the concerns that are presently felt in west Lancashire about the cut in expenditure on military aircraft projects. He will also be aware of the efforts that my hon. Friends and I from west Lancashire are making to help to win new civil business for British Aerospace. What help can we expect from his Department in those endeavours?

I always listen carefully to what my hon. Friend says and to what is said on this important matter by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins), the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, who is in his place. They have a major contribution to make to the future of the British aircraft industry and I look forward to detailed discussions with them.

Community Care

It is, Mr. Speaker. We have a statement on community care and a debate on community care. I suspect that both are exactly the same—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I suspect that both are exactly the same. So that the maximum number of hon. Members might be called, may I suggest that supplementary questions on the statement should be short? That was my point of order.

That is a helpful suggestion. As we have a statement and a debate, in fairness to the House, I shall allow the statement to go on for about half an hour—depending, of course, on the length of the statement. I now call upon—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Two weeks ago you had to suspend the House because of the disruption caused by the Secretary of State for Health making a statement and taking up time on an Opposition Supply day. He is now doing exactly the same again. He is cutting into the time of a Supply day by making a statement on exactly the subject that we shall be debating. Opposition parties have no rights to fair play in this House apart from your protection, Mr. Speaker. May I ask what you can do to a Minister who persists in doing this time and time again?

In view of what happened the other day, I have made it my business to find out whether there has been agreement that this statement should be made. I understand that there has.

3.33 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about the Government's policies for improving care in the community for elderly, disabled, mentally ill and mentally handicapped people. A similar approach is being taken by my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales. Their plans will be announced separately in written answers today.

Our policies are aimed at improving social care services by ensuring that they are properly tailored to the needs of individual people. This requires a clear, locally determined set of priorities, and effective collaboration between public, private and voluntary agencies. Our proposals are linked to changes in the financial arrangements for people needing public support in residential care and nursing homes. Local authorities will take over a new responsibility to assess the individual needs of people and to meet the costs of residential or domiciliary care for the particular person in need.

As we have already said, the Government recognise that the local authorities will need adequate resources to enable them to discharge their new responsibilities. The Government will transfer to the local authorities the resources they would otherwise have provided to finance care through social security payments to people in residential and nursing homes. I reaffirm the Government's commitment to the totality of those policies, which have received a wide measure of support.

It has always been clear that the new policies represent a substantial new responsibility for local authorities. Before we implement the new proposals in full, the Government must be satisfied that local authorities can sensibly take on the new duties in a way that is fair both to the people who require services and to their local taxpayers.

Since I announced the Government's proposals last July it has become overwhelmingly clear that many local authorities are not managing their services and their spending so that they deliver good quality services effectively within reasonable spending limits. In many cases—[Interruption.]—as even Opposition Members must have noticed—local authorities have imposed excessive levels of community charge on their residents.[Interruption.]

Order. This statement has been foreshadowed in the press. The whole House is anxious to hear what the Secretary of State has to say.

In those circumstances it is only sensible for any additional new burdens on local government in 1991–92 to be kept to an absolute minimum. Local authorities have made it clear that the changes that we propose in community care would lead to many authorities increasing their expenditure and their levels of community charge. This would place a further unacceptable burden on charge payers.

The Government have therefore decided that it would not be right to implement all the new proposals for care in the community simultaneously on 1 April next year. Instead, implementation will go ahead on a phased timetable so that local authorities have longer to come to terms with the need to discharge their duties efficiently and at a cost which their community charge payers can afford.

I intend that as far as possible, the momentum of preparation for the new policy that has already been achieved should be maintained. Therefore, in phase 1, from 1 April next year, I propose to introduce the new inspection units within local authorities, and new complaints procedures. Next year, development work will continue on the new planning arrangements, assessment and case management procedures, and the realignment of commissioning and providing responsibilities within social services departments.

In phase 2, from 1 April 1992, I intend to implement the new planning arrangements for local authorities and health authorities and to continue with the remaining development work. The new system, including the new benefit arrangements, will be fully implemented from 1 April 1993.

The cost of phase 1 of the proposals in 1991–92 has been taken into account in the figures for the local authority settlement which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment expects to announce shortly. Help through special income support payments will continue to be available to people in private or voluntary residential and nursing homes until phase 3 of the revised programme is implemented. The White Paper proposals on preservation of benefit rights for people already in homes will also be implemented from April 1993.

Three other important developments will also be implemented straight away from 1 April 1991. First, the new specific grant in support of services for the mentally ill will start from next April. I am confident that the grant will encourage closer co-operation between health and local authorities. It will ensure that in future local authorities give higher priority to services for this group. The grant next year will be paid at the rate of 70 per cent. and will support total expenditure of £30 million.

Secondly, the new specific grant for local authority funding of voluntary bodies which provide services for drugs and alcohol misusers, which the House voted to include in the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 three weeks ago, will commence in 1991. It will be paid at the same rate a s the mental illness specific grant and support expenditure of £2 million. Like the grant for mentall illness services, this will promote the development of more services for a group which has often been afforded low priority.

Thirdly, the specific grant for training of social services staff will be increased to support expenditure of £35·5 million in 1991–92. That is £7·5 million more than in the current financial year. That will enable us to extend the support at present available to those working with the elderly and children to new groups of staff working with mentally ill, mentally handicapped and physically disabled people. It will also enable us to increase our support for post-qualification training. Together, the expenditure supported by those three grants amounts to about £70 million. That has been taken into account in the 1991 settlement for local authority spending, details of which my right hon. Friend expects to announce shortly.

The new policies for care in the community have been almost universally welcomed and they will undoubtedly be put into effect. We are proceeding on a phased basis because of the problems posed by excessive levels of community charge. I hope that everyone will take advantage of the extra time to ensure that they will be even better prepared for successful implementation over the next three years.

Does the Secretary of State recognise that his statement today will be almost universally greeted with anger for its neglect of the most vulnerable people in our community and its contempt for the broken promises it leaves behind? There will also be contempt for the cowardice with which he attempts to palm off the blame on to local authorities.

Does not the Secretary of State appreciate that nobody who works with elderly or handicapped people will be fooled by his efforts to scapegoat the very local authorities that have been working flat out to implement his plans? Does he not know that the local authority associations have furnished his Department with reams of detailed papers on how much it would cost to set up the assessment systems that he wants, to plug the shortfall on DSS payments that he has left behind and to improve the help in the community for which he has asked?

Will the Secretary of State confirm that none of his officials has ever challenged one of those figures? Which of those estimates is wrong and which one, in his judgment, is not reasonable? If he cannot get the resources from the Treasury, why does he not just put into care in the community the hundreds of millions of pounds he is pouring into his other plans to commercialise the NHS?

What will happen to the old people trapped in homes that charge more than the DSS will pay? Has the Secretary of State forgotten that the remedy proposed by his Government was for the DSS to pay the price of contracts placed by local authorities? Now, no contracts will be placed by local authorities until April 1993. How many elderly people will be put out on the streets by home owners who have given up waiting for the Government to honour their commitments? To those elderly people it will not be the local authorities that are unacceptable—it will be the Government.

Does not the Secretary of State appreciate the irony of his making this statement on the very day that the Prime Minister is billed to make a major statement on the family? How will he explain to more than 1 million carers of elderly parents or handicapped children that, for another two years, the DSS will pay to put granny into a home, but will not pay to provide for help in the carers' homes? Does he not realise the danger that those carers will regard the chatter about the party of the family as so much cant? What instructions will the Secretary of State for Health give hospital managers about how to respond to his own delay on the care in the community proposals? Now that he has put them off for two years, will he put off for two years the flood of closures of geriatric wards around the country?

The House has today heard a shameful statement which breaks a commitment that the Secretary of State has repeatedly made to the House. In a more honourable period in the history of the House, the statement would have ended with his resignation. Will he accept that we are grateful to him for his statement for one reason: he has removed all doubt as to the priority the Government attach to elderly and disabled people—they come at the bottom of the Treasury's spending commitments. I promise the Secretary of State that we shall ensure that that message is understood by all elderly or disabled people who need care in the community, and by everyone who cares for them.

Every time this subject is raised in the House, the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) rises to his feet and puts forward with great vigour some opinion or other. I say "some opinion or other" because he has spun like a top on the whole subject ever since we produced the White Paper. He has attacked the policy; he has supported the policy; he has said that we are going too fast; he has said that we are going too slow. When we produced the White Paper he attacked it as "Thatcherism's last hurrah"; today he defends it and criticises me because I am phasing in the introduction of our policy for improving services to the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill and the mentally handicapped. He supports the policy vigorously, telling me to go faster. That is because the Labour party has no policy whatever to improve services to these disadvantaged groups.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman tosses out words about the expenditure figures that might be involved. Last week, he was reported as saying that local authorities will require £1,500 million more next year for personal social services policies—a 40 per cent. increase. He gave no explanation of where that money was going to come from. I do not believe for a moment that he had the authority of his shadow Treasury colleagues to put that view forward. What annoyed me and would annoy other people was his total indifference to charge payers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I am answering the question. The hon. Gentleman is wrong—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer".] I am answering the hon. Gentleman's question about figures.

The hon. Gentleman was wrong when he gave the reasons for the postponement. The reason for postponement is to protect the charge payer against the costs of proceeding with the policy so quickly when it will be implemented by people who are as irresponsible about public spending as the hon. Gentleman.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked me about the position of people in homes. The present system will continue for the next two years. The Government are already spending more than £1 billion, through income support, to support people living in residential homes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has uplifted the contribution from income support to such homes, and he is reviewing the system again, with the assistance of a Price Waterhouse inquiry into costs.

The Government have put unprecedented sums of money into the care of elderly, mentally ill, mentally handicapped and disabled people in private homes, and in public and private sector community care. We intend to continue to do so. My statement today is a common-sense way to proceed with that policy in the light of irresponsible behaviour by largely socialist local authorities, up and down the country, who cannot keep their polices within reasonable costs.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept from the many Conservative Members with some experience of care in the community that his announcement today that the Government now accept that the new enhanced care in the community policy requires phasing means that they are at last facing reality? Will he accept that the need out there is vast, and that neither side of the House—

Many years ago, and I have practised it for the past 26 years. Neither side of the House has the funds or the authority to commit the necessary funds to the problem—we have been raising expectations unrealistically.

What will be the new formula for care in the community within the total grant support formula for local authorities to make it possible to make progress? Making progress is the most that any of us can realistically expect to do.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is a distinguished member of the Social Services Select Committee which only yesterday commended a more phased approach to the policy, and said that it had always had doubts about our proceeding at the pace originally proposed.

I agree with my hon. Friend about the enormous extent of demand which can be met by improved care in the community policies. We have to ensure that the resources and the arrangements for management are put in place properly to meet priority needs, within the ability of the charge payer and the taxpayer to afford them. We have been giving those resources. Local authority personal social services spending is up 47 per cent. in real terms during the lifetime of this Government. We have nothing to be ashamed of in our record. We have to ensure that our new improved policies are put in place in a sensible and paced way.

Does the Secretary of State accept that those private and voluntary bodies that are lethargic or have never taken the Government's programme seriously have nothing to fear from his statement, but those bodies that are anxious to provide community care as the Government think they should, that have shown entrepreneurial skills and already have projects up and running, because the Government gave a commitment on when they could compete for contracts, are left in a no man's land? I give an example: the Vincent Harkness day care centre in Birkenhead is paying £100,000 a year out of its funds because it believed the Government's word. Will an announcement be made about extra funds so that those bodies—private and voluntary—that believed the Government and have projects up and running will not be left stranded and, in the end, bankrupted?

I do not know the voluntary body to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but voluntary bodies that are opening day centres for various groups of clients usually look to income support for most of their income. Most accept that income support cannot meet the entire cost, and they expect to top up the amount with either their charitable funds or funds from the local authority.

The income support arrangements will continue. Those voluntary bodies that rely on income support will get it for two years until the new system is introduced. A body that at the moment has a day care centre up and running without income support must be relying on local authority grant, and a local authority that makes that provision out of aggregate Exchequer grant will continue to do so. No money is flowing to any voluntary body today under the new community care proposals. I have announced a phased timetable which will enable that money to flow in due course when the local authorities can manage the policy sensibly.

I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's commitment to community care and the phased introduction, which is sensible and timely. I particularly welcome his funding for the mentally ill and his specific assurance that this will bring the care of the mentally ill into higher profile in the public eye and among those who serve them, Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that this will give the lie to those who stated that the introduction of the community charge would ensure that services to the mentally ill would dwindle and vanish? He has given that assurance and ensured that the mentally ill will be properly cared for, in a way that will certainly never happen under a Labour Government.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. There has been speculation in advance of today's statement to the effect that community care for mentally ill people was threatened by the postponement. That is not the case. We recognise the urgent need to develop the community side of services for mentally ill people and to help local authorities to give it much higher priority in their plans. We are going ahead with the new specific grant. The expenditure that it supports—£30 million in the first year—is almost double local authority spending on residential personal social services for the mentally ill which, according to the last available figure, was £32 million.

Does not the Secretary of State accept that the timing of this afternoon's announcement has more to do with the timing of the next election than anything else? Does he accept that the misery which is being imposed for another two or three years on the millions of people who require care must be added to the list of casualties that are a direct result of the introduction of the community charge—

—or poll tax? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that community care is already in operation in many constituencies? Is he aware also that, if he does not provide the money over the next two years, it will have to be found by reducing existing services?

The policy was proceeding with a general welcome—once the Opposition decided that they had nothing to put in its place and were going to support it —until we reached the problem with the community charge. The hon Gentleman is certainly not the last to say that we have a problem with the overall level of the community charge. It is producing unacceptable burdens on some taxpayers in those local authorities where the level is excessive.

Any hon. Member who proposes seriously to address the worries of his or her constituents about the community charge should look to next year when we are implementing the Children Act 1989 and the Food Safety Act 1990, which are an important part of my Department's responsibilities, and the national curriculum, which is a new responsibility for local authorities. There is nothing wrong with the charge, but there is a great deal wrong with the level of charge that has been imposed in many places. It is common sense not to add to that list of responsibilities next year and to phase in policies such as this one, with enormous implications, in order to ensure that they are introduced as local authorities become better able to deliver their duties while paying proper regard to the ability of their electors to pay for them.

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend is aware that there is bound to be a sense of disillusionment among directors of social services at his announcement, which will also demoralise social workers who have been busy preparing to implement his proposals in April in acordance with the assurances that he and the Government have given until recently. Were the directors of social services and the local authority associations consulted about the implications of the delay in implementing the proposals? If so, what was their reaction? Will my right hon. and learned Friend think again about the point made by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), that some community care schemes have been put forward and are on the point of being put into operation in anticipation of local authority funding from next April? Will they be funded from additional resources, or is there a danger of their withering on the vine?

I expect that those who have been working hard in health authorities and local authorities to prepare the new plans will be disappointed. When my hon. Friend gets a chance to study the phasing that I have announced, I hope that he will see that we have done our best to ensure that momentum is maintained and that rapid progress is made on the complaints and inspection procedure next year. If community care plans are ready now, there is no reason why they cannot be implemented without a statutory duty. Undoubtedly, the pace will tend to slow and we shall have to ensure that momentum is maintained.

Of course I am aware of the views of local authorities. Most of the social services authorities felt that they were ready to go ahead and wanted to do so. The Association of District Councils was the only local authority association that thought that we should postpone. The phasing that we have announced will revive some of the people who are disappointed. It follows closely the phasing suggested in the report published yesterday by the Select Committee on Social Services.

As I told the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), the statement will not lead to any reduction in funding for voluntary bodies from any source that is providing it at the moment. We are postponing the transfer from my right hon. Friend's budget to local authorities, and therefore postponing the introduction of the full new policy until 1993. Any increase in expenditure by local authorities next year will follow the pattern set out in the statement that my right hon. Friend will soon make about the local authority spending settlement and the overall level of the average Exchequer grant. Before this change of policy, there was a rapid increase in expenditure on personal social services and a rapid expansion of services. There is no reason why that cannot continue within the resources available, subject to what my right hon. Friend announces tomorrow.

Has the Secretary of State seen the well-argued statement issued today by the Association of Directors of Social Services, making it quite clear that local authorities are both ready and able fully to proceed next April? Is he aware that, by April 1993, six years will have elapsed since Sir Roy Griffiths was commissioned to report on community care? Is not that disgraceful? Is not it also disgraceful that crucial sections of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, more especially sections 1, 2, and 3, still await implementation four years after they became law?

The directors of social services continue to assure us that from a management point of view they are ready to deliver the new services. The right hon. Gentleman's own party has calmly said that they need £1·5 billion to do so. That is a 40 per cent. increase in their personal social services budgets, a large part of which, I assume, is expected to come from the community charge payer. For the reasons that I have given, that is not acceptable. Local authority spending has increased by 25 per cent. in the last two years alone. We can phase the introduction of community care and continue the rapid progress that has been made in expanding the services provided by local authorities, which have a good record.

Is not there a marked difference between the way that my right hon. and learned Friend is wrestling with the severe difficulties of finding the necessary cash, and the Opposition's attitude, which appears to be that there is simply no limit to the cash available?

In his statement, my right hon. and learned Friend announced that there would be £7·5 million additional funding for training of social workers dealing with, among others, the elderly. Is he aware that many Conservative Members remain anxious about the plight of the elderly in nursing homes? Can he assure us that our concern will be borne in mind because, if the elderly are thrown out of their nursing homes, will they not have to go into geriatric beds in national health service hospitals?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her opening remarks. The Opposition's attitude is quite clear—they support our policies in full and they cannot understand why we do not go ahead and implement them and put up the community charge to pay for them. That is a summation of their policy.

I understand my hon. Friend's concern for those in residential care and our constant problem in getting the level of income support right. That is being wrestled with by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security. He is obtaining further information about the cost of providing a good level of care in residential homes. He has heard my hon. Friend's remarks and he will have to make a judgment about the uprating next year.

I welcome the Secretary of State's recognition of some of the aspects of the Select Committee's report. Will he undertake to follow the rest of its advice? When will there be an announcement about Northern Ireland? I welcome the presence of a Minister from the Northern Ireland Office. Is not Northern Ireland part of the community? As there is no community charge in Northern Ireland, will the community care policy be implemented, or is the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement that it will be tailor-made for individuals simply another short cut—as Belfast people say, "see more suits"?

I shall study the remainder of the Select Committee's report with care and respond in due course. I thought that I should draw attention to the fact that, on this rare occasion, I had rather more support than I expected in the Select Committee's report. I have discussed the position of Northern Ireland with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I know that he intends to make a statement. I think that he will follow a similar process to mine.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that carers are saving the nation more than £20 billion a year and that a large number of them are quite literally killing themselves by their caring efforts? Will he give special consideration to additional resources for respite arrangements, because if we do not give a great many of those people help, and quite quickly, many of them will collapse and that will cost the state even more?

There is already a flow of additional resources into personal social services. I have already said that, overall, local government spending has risen by 25 per cent. during the past two years. In fact, spending on personal social services tends to rise twice as fast as spending on the generality of local authority services. There is no reason why local authorities should suddenly reverse that trend.

I appreciate what my hon. Friend said about the position of carers. Beyond anything provided by the statutory bodies, it is the families and the friends who carry the main burden of coping with the problems of the elderly and the disabled. Since we took office, the number of home helps has risen by 25 per cent., the number of adult training places for the mentally handicapped has risen by 25 per cent., and there has been a 30 per cent. increase in the number of day centre places for the mentally ill. We intend to maintain that progress, phasing in an even better policy of assessing people for care and delivering it.

What would the Secretary of State say to patients and their families at the East Fortune geriatric hospital in my constituency, which is threatened with closure in anticipation of further care in the community? If the hospital closure goes ahead, what will happen to those patients who have to wait for two years before suitable accommodation is made available for them in the community?

We are steadily moving away from long-term, long-stay provision in hospital wards. This country probably has finer services for elderly people than can be found anywhere in the world. Modern rehabilitation services have enabled us greatly to reduce the number of long-stay geriatric wards. Those patients are discharged either into residential care or into community care, and alternatives are provided. My ministerial colleagues and I do not approve closures in England unless we are satisfied that adequate and better services are available in place for the patients.

The same policy is followed by my right hon. and hon. Friends in Scotland. I am told by the Minister responsible for health in Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) that no decision has yet been reached on the East Fortune hospital, and I am sure that he will approach a decision on the same basis as I would with my hon. Friends.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price), who has such a deep knowledge of these matters, that it is far better to phase in proposals than to rush helter-skelter before the arrangements are properly ready. We should wait until they can be implemented without an intolerable burden on charge payers.

I welcome the specific grant for support services for the mentally ill. Can my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that the elderly people in residential homes will not face a hiatus because of the change in the arrangements that he has made to preserve their funding? That is absolutely crucial.

I am grateful that my hon. Friend accepts that it is sensible to proceed at the pace I propose. I am glad that she welcomes the increased provision for mentally ill people. The policy is totally new, because that specific grant—which will support almost double the expenditure that local authorities had previously—will be released to the local authorities by the health authorities, when the two have got together, to produce proper plans for community care of patients who either have been in hospital or might otherwise be in hospital. That is as important to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), who has large mental hospitals near her constituency, as it is to many others.

I agree that it is important to provide residential care provision for people in homes. It has filled an enormous gap in recent years. We have problems in getting the level of income support right. The transition from the present arrangements to the new arrangements will take place in 1993. We have to ensure that nobody slips in between when that changeover is made.

Is the Secretary of State not aware that, if the implementation of community care will put a large burden on poll tax payers, that is entirely because his Government intend to refuse adequate central funding? Is he not also aware that, whether implementation is in 1991, 1992 or 1993, it will require large resources? Is he suggesting that delay will enable local authorities to make that provision using buttons instead of the resources that his Department should supply?

With the greatest respect, the hon. Lady does not understand the position of her own party—or perhaps I do not. Labour is not urging on the Government—as the hon. Lady appears to do—that central Government should pay all those costs. The Leader of the Opposition's answer is, "Bung up the community charge—that is how it should be paid for." I do not believe that that is acceptable.

If the hon. Lady believes that Labour's record might be better than ours on central Government financing, I can only say that it certainly was not when Labour was in power. The Government have vastly increased provisions for personal social services, which went up by only about 2·5 per cent. a year in real terms when Labour was in power. That is far below the level of growth in services since a Conservative Government came to power.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that anyone who attacks his extremely sensible decision to phase in these proposals is paying warm tribute to the wisdom of his policies? Unless the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) gives full support to the Government in the coming debate, he will be setting a level of inconsistency that is breathtaking, even by the standards of the Labour party.

Like my hon. Friend, I wait with bated breath. The line today appears to be that the Government have a magnificent policy, the best policy ever devised for elderly, disabled, mentally handicapped and mentally ill people. The hon. Gentleman cannot understand why we do not introduce it tomorrow and just let the community charge wind up, wherever it might be. Our sensible, phased approach will commend itself both to those who look after disadvantaged people in society and to those who face the community charge bill, which has to be in line with increased local government expenditure.

The Government's policies represent a complete sell-out in terms of community care. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made excuses about the poll tax and phasing, but they do not apply to Scotland. Given that 1·2 million Scots are in need of community care, and that 250,000 of them have severe care needs, why is the Secretary of State for Scotland not here to make a statement? Why is there this bitty, piecemeal approach to community care? The whole House wants community care, but the Government have clearly failed to deliver it.

The Opposition have chosen this subject for debate today, a Supply day. I brought forward the statement from tomorrow because it seemed to be pointless to have a community care debate if nobody knew what we were doing and reliance had to be placed on newspaper reports. If my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales had followed me, we should not have had much of a Supply day.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is announcing the details of his proposals today. I understand that in the near future he will be making a statement on the Floor of the House about the community charge. All related matters can be examined then.

The community charge is not an excuse. If we had followed what is urged upon us by the hon. Member for Livingston, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would have found his community charge payers allying themselves with the Labour party for having pressed the Government to drive it up so high.

Order. I know that this is an important statement. Because of its importance, I have allowed questions upon it to continue for rather longer than I originally stated. However, there is to be a debate on care in the community. There is also a ten-minute rule motion. I propose to call three hon. Members from each side, then we shall move on to the ten-minute Bill.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his measured approach is greatly to be welcomed? Some would wish that the same had applied to the health proposals. Is my right hon. and learned Friend also aware that his decision to ring-fence the mentally ill budget is equally to be welcomed? He referred to the need for momentum in preparing for community care and for individual needs to be taken into consideration. Will my right hon. and learned Friend take it from me that, in my part of the country, individual assessment has not been carried out and that there is a great need for it, to ensure that we know which individuals should come under community care and which should come under health care? Will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that that work is done in good time for implementation in 1993?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He and I agree about the timing of the change, although I realise that he has reservations about other aspects. I strongly agree with him that there is a lot of work to be done in the next two years. Local authorities need to improve their collaboration with the health authorities. There is nothing to stop either of them producing community care plans showing how they intend to co-operate when they are ready.

We need to have a good training programme to ensure that people are able to handle personal assessment which, as my hon. Friend rightly says, needs to be done properly by those who are responsible for it. Therefore I join him in believing that the next two years could be used to great advantage to maintain momentum and to ensure that when the policy is introduced in 1993 it works better than it might otherwise have done.

Does not the Secretary of State realise that some constituencies face very great problems, particularly the St. Helens area which is part of the St. Helens district health authority? Rainhill hospital in that area has been proposed for closure and it has been offered for sale to the public at large before the patients have even left it. The best part of 1,200 people will have to be decanted into the community.

In view of the phasing in of the community care proposals, could not special arrangements be made for areas such as St. Helens, so that where a problem already exists, the needs of those who have already been decanted and of those who would have been taken into long-stay hospitals lead to special facilities and grants being provided, so that they can be cared for during the next two years? It is not fair to sell off such institutions and leave nothing in their place. I remind the Secretary of State that we have the lowest number of geriatric beds per head of population anywhere on Merseyside, and we need help now.

It can be a good, caring policy to sell off a hospital ahead of its final closure. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] If the Opposition had ever got to power recently, they would have been faced with the problem that old and decrepit Victorian hospitals cannot be closed and alternative facilities provided if we have to wait for the sale price. If there is a sale date some years ahead, one can advance some of the money, provide better care for the patients and residents and then proceed with the closure and recover the money already expended. That is a proper way of going on.

We have introduced a generous new capital loans scheme to meet the same problem. Areas with particular problems can borrow money out of our capital allocations which they use to provide better facilities to replace the old rundown ones. They can repay the loan when they are able to sell the redundant buildings.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend join me in deploring the irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric of the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) in talking about grannies on the street and old people being thrown out of their homes? Does he agree that, given that there is a review of costs in progress and that income support will be reviewed regularly between now and 1993, the only thing likely to result in grannies being ejected from their homes is the scaremongering and deliberate spread of misinformation that we have heard from the hon. Gentleman?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Livingston is never knowingly undersold. He works up such fiery rhetoric on every occasion. Sometimes he flatly contradicts the position he has taken on previous occasions and, as my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, he sometimes causes alarm and damage.

On 25 June, when the Secretary of State obviously knew what the levels of poll tax would be in England and Wales, he wrote to Mencap to say that he had not been convinced by the arguments for delay and was convinced that he and his colleagues would be arguing for resources for community care. What has happened since that time to make him change his mind?

I am always in listening mode when developing policy. I pay most attention to those who are complaining about the excessive levels of community charge they are facing. It is also the case that organisations such as Mencap share the views of many others that it would be advantageous to phase in the policy. Once the dust has settled—I do not think that the hon. Member for Livingston will raise much of it—he will find that most people working in this area will accept that the policy can be improved by phasing it in.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the two-year delay will place an additional burden on income support? Can he give an assurance to those who live in Sussex and other parts of the south of England where income support is insufficient already, that it will be increased sufficiently to make up the difference?

The new grants I have announced will be an increased burden for the general taxpayer. My statement included announcements of increased expenditure to be taken account of in local authority settlements. I accept that this is likely to lead to an increase in income support, but we cannot anticipate exactly how much. The care element of that income support will be transferred to local authorities at whatever level it has reached in April 1993.

I agree with my hon. Friend that an important issue to be addressed over the next two years, particularly by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, is reviewing the levels of income support to ensure that they reflect changes in cost, about which more information is being sought. This is always a difficult matter. No Government have ever claimed that income support can always meet the full charges, let alone the full cost, of every residential care home.

Apart from lacking resources, my local authority was ready in every way for the implementation of the policy and it had not anticipated the prevarication of the Secretary of State. We are concerned not about apportioning blame but about the fact that many old people may find their lives shortened because of the hiatus that has been created. I trust that no hon. Member on either side of the House is in favour of that sort of involuntary euthanasia. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman pay attention to the patients he has now put in an impossible position? They are often the most disadvantaged in the community.

The hon. Gentleman's reference to involuntary euthanasia, or however he described it, is breathtaking. I have announced increased provision for care in the community and three new specific grants totalling £70 million; I have not announced a reduction in service or provision. I accept that the hon. Gentleman's local authority may have been in a position to go ahead. I have no idea what view it would have taken on how much it would spend or how much its community charge payers would be asked to meet. Many people in Bolton will appreciate the need to get the new system under control and to get the community charge properly managed before we go ahead with the full policy. To suggest that I have announced something that will kill old people is to take political rhetoric to absurd extremes.

Order. I have received notice of one point of order from a Front-Bench spokesman, but before taking it, may I repeat that I am not responsible for the timing of statements, although I understand that there was an agreement on this one? Today is an Opposition day, and some hon. Members who have been rising will be called in that debate; others will be remembered.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the circumstances, I intend to be extremely brief.

The Secretary of State for Health has made a statement dealing with the position in England and Wales. I presume that Scotland again is being treated by the Secretary of State for Scotland as something of an afterthought to be fobbed off with a written answer.

I understand that in Scotland, too, financial confusion about the poll tax is the root cause of the Government's retreat. The position in Scotland, whatever it may be elsewhere, is that local authorities are willing and ready to go and organised and determined. I know from personal contact today that the announcement that has been made will be a bitter disappointment. Scots will want to know why the most vulnerable in our society will, in effect, be victims of the Government's own poll tax blunders.

There is no obvious opportunity, despite what the Secretary of State for Health has said, to question the Secretary of State for Scotland between now and when the House rises. A statement will be made by the Scottish Office on overall head totals of the revenue support grant settlement, but that will not enable us to consider in detail the policy behind community care. I simply want, through you, Mr. Speaker, to express my disappointment and dismay that a major matter of policy is being passed without an opportunity for scrutiny on the Floor of the House.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State for Wales has proffered not an oral statement to the House but a wretched written answer on the important matter of care in the community.

I seek your guidance, Sir, because, besides not making a statement to the House, the Secretary of State for Wales has attacked the local authorities of Wales, and he has used an unjust and disgraceful means to do so.

Wales has a higher proportion of disabled people than other areas of Britain because so many of our people worked in our coal mines, foundries and steelworks. Disabled and elderly people and carers have been treated shabbily. I ask how you, Sir, may bring the Secretary of State for Wales to the House to make an important statement on the most vulnerable members of our community.

I am aware of that, but not one hon. Member from the Yorkshire region was called. There are many chronically sick and disabled people in Yorkshire. We should have been given an opportunity to make our point.

I am afraid that there are many disappointed hon. Members, and I regret that the hon. Gentleman is one of them. As I have already said, I am not responsible for the timing of statements or of the Opposition day. I must do my best to ensure a fair balance. I have already said that some hon. Members who have not been called will be called in the coming debate. It would have been unfair to call them on the statement as well.

The matter raised by the Front-Bench spokesmen is not a matter for me. I have allowed complaints to be made and they have been heard by the Government. There will be other opportunities before we rise, such as the debate on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill and the summer Adjournment motion.

Abolition Of Fox-Hunting

4.24 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make the hunting of foxes with hounds illegal.
Given the depth of feeling on the subject, I am quite surprised that this appears to be the first time such a Bill has been attempted since the last war.

In my lapel is a badge depicting a badger. I wear it to remind me of the Protection of Badger Setts Bill which was introduced through the ten-minute Bill procedure. That Bill aimed to protect badgers' homes against the activities of those subhuman perverts who gain pleasure from baiting badgers with dogs. Because of a stroke of fortune and some deft footwork on my part, the Bill received an unopposed Second Reading and was debated fully in Committee. There were no representatives of the badger baiters on the Standing Committee, but there were Members of Parliament who represented the interests of fox hunters. Because of the fragile nature of the procedure that I am trying again to adopt today, I was forced to make a number of significant concessions. I shall not rehearse the arguments and the concessions, but they turned out to be a vain attempt on my part and on the part of the supporters of the Bill to buy off the opposition of the fox hunters.

We failed to satisfy the hunters because they demanded an absolute right to interfere with a badger sett in pursuit of their so-called sport. The end result was that the fox hunters killed the badger setts Bill and in doing so probably condemned many more badgers to death at the hands of those sick characters who bait badgers.

In Committee I was accused of using the badger setts Bill as part of a strategy to deal with fox hunting. I denied that then, and I deny it here in the House this afternoon. I said in Committee that I would approach fox hunting head on at an appropriate time and I am trying to do that. That is why I am seeking leave to introduce a Bill to make the hunting of foxes with hounds illegal.

Fox hunting was memorably described by Oscar Wilde as,
"the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.".
Perhaps the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), who is a prominent hunter, is the exception that proves the rule. He is certainly not unspeakable and, although a fox might be uneatable, the carcass of the hon. Member for Crawley would provide many a jolly banquet.

The great majority of people in Britain oppose fox hunting. It is not an issue of town versus country as it is often caricatured by supporters of fox hunting. In a 1987 Gallup poll based on a large sample, 68 per cent. of people canvassed said that they would support laws forbidding fox hunting. I might add that 73 per cent. of people supported the banning of stag hunting, which was the subject of another ten-minute Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), and, in the same poll, 72 per cent. supported an end to hare coursing. None of those barbaric and cruel activities have been banned, precisely because of the behind-the-scenes pull of the hunting lobby. It is significant in the House, but it is behind the scenes. I believe that on a free vote, the House would be able to end all such activities with a massive majority.

I remind the House that the Labour party promised to do just that in our 1987 election manifesto. Unfortunately, we lost the election; we shall win the next one. This afternoon, I am not authorised to commit the Labour party to such a promise. I only wish that I were, but, knowing the opinions of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and the feelings in the Labour party, I feel quite certain that the same undertaking to end all forms of organised hunting with hounds will be repeated by the Labour party at the next general election. If only small furry creatures had the vote, Labour would never be out of office.

I confess that I do not understand the psychology of those who derive pleasure from hunting small terrified creatures to death. The hon. Member for Crawley, to whom I referred earlier, is an affable sort of fellow. I can not understand why affable fellows like him can do that sort of thing. There is a great gap in understanding.

I would not describe the hon. Member for Crawley in such a disgraceful fashion. However, there is a gap between us which I cannot bridge.

The great Samuel Johnson wrote:
"It is very strange, and very melancholy, that the paucity of human pleasures should persuade us ever to call hunting one of them."
People who go fox hunting actually say that they enjoy it.

Mr. Johnson could never have got on a horse.

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) says that hunters enjoy riding horses. I can understand that. I enjoy that pleasure myself from time to time when I go donkey riding on the sands at Blackpool at party conference time. However, for the life of me I cannot understand how hunting small furry creatures adds to the pleasure of riding through the countryside on the back of a magnificent horse.

For hon. Members who do not know the details, fox hunting starts in November with hunts usually twice a week. Hunters tell us, and I hear this so often, that they are quite glad when the fox gets away. If that is the case, they still do a great deal to ensure that it does not get away. All the escape routes around the earth are blocked and that includes badger setts which brings us back to the point that I made at the beginning of my speech.

The hounds flush out a fox and the entire hideous circus which accompanies the fox hunt sets off in pursuit. The fox is not a natural prey species and it has therefore not evolved physically for prolonged pursuit. It naturally soon becomes exhausted. One small terrified animal is pursued by a pack of hounds plus a bunch of red-coated wallies on horseback and a column of ghouls in motor vehicles. That hardly seems like an even match to me. After an hour of so, not surprisingly the fox is exhausted and is either savaged to death by the hounds or, if it is very unlucky, upon finding an unblocked subterranean refuge, it falls victim to the terrier and spade brigade which follows every hunt.

Because fox hunters face a mounting barrage of opposition in the House and elsewhere, they know that they have no moral standing. There is a moral bankruptcy to their arguments. Therefore they are resorting to spurious arguments and cite conservation as a defence for their so-called sport. For example, we hear the accusation made about foxes that they kill livestock and are pests. Many supporters of fox hunting make that claim. The fox is a carnivorous predator and a scavenger. That is precisely how nature made it. However, the great majority of foxes live largely on beetles, frogs, rabbits, wild birds and carrion and they are the biggest destroyers of rats and mice.

Although foxes do not constitute a pest, if they were pests surely far more efficient and humane methods would be available to trap or shoot them if that were necessary. Of the estimated 300,000 foxes killed each year, fox hunting accounts for about 7,500 adult foxes and cub hunting for a further 8,500. That is hardly a major contribution to fox control even if such controls were needed.

All the attempts at rationalisation by the fox hunters will not hide the unpleasant fact that they are indulging in a primitive blood lust. That is what fox hunting is all about. It also causes much damage to the countryside and hunts are often resented by rural residents. So much for the town versus country argument.

William Cowper described fox hunting as:
"Detested sport,
That owes its pleasure to another's pain."
I believe that the days are now surely numbered for that detested sport. I seek the leave of the House to introduce my Bill in the certain knowledge that substantive legislation is not now far off. It is the turn of the fox hunters to be hunted and I suggest that they will not enjoy the experience.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Tony Banks, Mr. Michael Foot, Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, Ms. Dawn Primarolo, Mr. Elliot Morley, Mr. Andrew Bowden, Mr. Steve Norris, Ms. Diane Abbott, Mr. Peter Hardy, Mrs. Alice Mahon, Mr. Alan Meale and Mr. James Lamond.

Abolition Of Fox-Hunting

Mr. Tony Banks accordingly presented a Bill to make the hunting of foxes with hounds illegal; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 20 July and to be printed. [Bill 188.]

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Given that the Bill that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has introduced has received a unanimous First Reading and that not a single voice was raised in opposition to it, may we suspend the normal procedures and practice of the House and immediately proceed to Second Reading, Third Reading, and all stages to ensure that it is passed this afternoon?

As far as I know, the gill-has not even been printed yet. The hon. Gentleman has had leave to bring it in.

Opposition Day

[19TH ALLOTTED DAY]

Community Care

[Relevant reports of the Social Services Committee: second report, Session 1989–90, Community Care: Future funding of Private and Voluntary Residential Care (House of Commons Paper No. 257); third report, Session 1989–90, Community Care: Funding for local authorities (House of Commons Paper No. 277); fifth report, Session 1989–90, Community Care: Carers (House of Commons Paper No.410); sixth report, Session 1989–90, Community Care: Choice for Service Users (House of Commons Paper No. 444); eighth report, Session 1989–90, Community Care: Planning and Co-operation (House of Commons Paper 580-I) and the Government's reply to the second report of Session 1989–90 (Cm. 1100).]

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister. In view of the late start, I appeal not only to Back-Bench Members, whom I hope will limit their contributions to 10 minutes, although I have no authority to impose that rule, but also to Front-Bench Members to have some consideration for those who are waiting to speak.

4.35 pm

I beg to move,

That this House recalls the repeated assurances of the Secretary of State for Health that provisions to strengthen the local authority role in community care would take effect in April 1991 and that adequate resources would be transferred through the revenue support grant to support the new responsibilities of local authorities; records its concern at the statement last week by the Leader of the House that implementation now depends on the availability of resources; is aware of the desperate need of growing numbers of elderly and disabled people in the community for more help in their home and of the carers who look after them for more support; notes that the solution adopted by Her Majesty's Government to meet the shortfall in Department of Social Security payments for claimants in private residential care depends on local authority contracts being in place next April; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to proceed with implementation of the full community care programme in April 1991 and to ensure adequate funding to enable local authorities to improve on the social service support for elderly and disabled citizens in the community.
I anticipate that some objection will be taken to the motion.

It is now almost four years since the Audit Commission began the present chain of reform in community care, with a report that recommended to the House:
"If nothing changes the outlook is bleak."
At that time in 1986, fewer than 700,000 people in Britain were over 85. It is now more than two years since Sir Roy Griffiths presented to the Department of Health his report entitled "Community Care", with a sub-title that now reads rather ironically, "Agenda for Action". Sir Roy Griffiths recommended:
"Merely to tinker with the present system would not address the central issues."
It took Ministers in the Department of Health longer to respond to Sir Roy Griffiths's report than it took him to write it. Nevertheless, last autumn the Secretary of State presented a White Paper to the House. In that White Paper the Secretary of State observed that progress on community care

"has been slower than the Government would like."
Today, after his announcement to the House, we are left with the conclusion that progress is to be even slower than the Government promised. We have now to wait until April 1993 for the central changes that were recommended by Sir Roy Griffiths in 1988.

By April 1993 almost 1 million people in Britain will be over 85. During the seven years that it has taken the Government to get their act together since the publication of the Audit Commission report, the number of people over 85 will have increased by more than one third. Every day of delay brings social service departments across Britain another 30 elderly people who need whole-body bathing. That is the urgency of the problem and the urgency of the human need that has to be measured against the timetable that was announced by the Secretary of State today.

It is only three weeks since the Secretary of State wrote to the coalition of community care campaigners on 25 June. The Secretary of State said:
"I am not at the moment convinced by the arguments made for delay."
Plainly a moment is a long time in politics. Is the Secretary of State really convinced by those arguments now? Should we perhaps send round Dominic Lawson to inquire into his private thoughts after lunch? If he is convinced, when was he convinced, and what was it that convinced him? The Secretary of State has told the House that he has been convinced by what he referred to in a reply to one of my hon. Friends as the problem of the poll tax, which, it would appear, we are to believe the Secretary of State has noticed only since 25 June.

The Secretary of State cannot get away with pretending—as he has pretended so far this afternoon—that the problem of the poll tax has been invented by the local authorities, as if they thought it up. The local authorities had the poll tax thought up for them by the Government. The Government imposed the poll tax on the local authorities. The Government chose the poll tax deliberately because they wanted to impose the most painful and unpopular tax that they could think up to stop local authorities spending money.

The problem with the poll tax is that if local authorities are stopped spending money, they are also stopped improving their local services. I predict that the Secretary of State for Health will be only the first of many Ministers who will have to come to the House and admit that the real price of the poll tax is worse public services.

In the light of the Secretary of State's statement, I must ask, whatever happened to local accountability? Whatever happened to the principle that the poll tax would enhance the accountability of local authorities to their electors, thus making it possible for the Government to take a more relaxed view of local authority expenditure?

Mr. Thomason, the chair of the Association of District Councils, has put a figure on the impact of the community care programme on the poll tax. He has priced it at 15 per poll tax payer. It seems perfectly rational and reasonable to ask local electors to choose whether they are prepared to pay an additional £15 a year so that the old people in their community can be properly looked after and so that they themselves, when they are old, can be looked after properly. If local electors are prepared to make that choice, what possible logic is there in the Government saying that they will deny the electors the opportunity of making that choice?

There is a gaping hole in the logic that the Secretary of State advanced to the House this afternoon—that delay is necessary because of problems with the poll tax. Local authorities will have to add the cost of community care on to the poll tax only if they do not get the resources to pay for community care from central Government. The Secretary of State always denied that this would happen. In my 16 years as a Member of this House and in 11 years shadowing the Government, I have never been involved in debating an issue on which Ministers were so generous with their promises of resources. Only three weeks ago, when we were debating the Lords amendments, the Minister for Health assured the House:

"we have always said that adequate resources will be available".—[Official Report, 27 June 1990; Vol. 175, c. 440.]
Indeed, she had said that—I am glad to receive her agreement on that point—as did Lord Henley and Baronness Hooper in another place. Indeed, so did the Secretary of State because his letter of 25 June continued:
"On the issue of resources, Virginia Bottomley and I have constantly reiterated our commitment to ensuring that resources will be adequate. I repeat that assurance now.
I hope this is reassuring."
It is perhaps unfortunate that the Secretary of State did not add to that sentence the phrase "for the moment" that he used earlier in the letter, and conclude, "I hope this is reassuring for the moment."

What happened after 25 June? What happened to render inoperable the assurance in the letter of 25 June and the assurance that the Minister gave the House on 27 June? It is not that the Government were suddenly struck by the problem of the poll tax and noticed that it was high in many local authority areas. No—the Department of Health had a meeting with the Treasury, and when the Treasury saw the size of the cheques that it was supposed to sign, it bounced the Secretary of State.

When we last debated the matter three weeks ago, it was in connection with the Lords amendment relating to ring-fencing the grants for community care. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that our case for ring-fencing was that it would force Ministers out into the open. It would oblige them to come clean about how much or how little they were prepared to put on the table to pay for community care. If ever there was a case for ring-fencing, that case has been made by the shameful and shifty way in which those Ministers are now sliding out of the commitments that are only three weeks old.

Against that landscape of speeches strewn with broken promises, we are now asked to believe that this roll of bounced cheques cannot find the resources to improve the provision of social services before the general election, but that once polling day is out of the way the Government will buckle down and find the resources. Anyone who is capable of falling for that one really forfeits his right to the franchise—

Yes, indeed, here he is. I shall give way to the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) on this occasion, but I am conscious of the strictures of Mr. Speaker, so this must be the last time that I give way.

The hon. Gentleman keeps asking Ministers to come clean, so will he come clean and say how much a future Labour Government would put on the table? If there is a total of £24 billion-worth of unpaid voluntary care, will a Labour Government pick up the whole of that bill, half of it or a quarter? Will the hon. Gentleman now come clean and give us a figure?

No party could commit itself to replicating the £24 billion-worth of effort that is made by informal carers in our community. Indeed, I have not met a carer who has asked the Government to take over the entirety of the effort made by those informal carers. They have asked for a reasonable degree of support from the state for the efforts that they make. That £24 billion-worth of effort on their part is likely to fall through the floor unless we provide the respite care, training, help and relief that they need. That is what the hon. Gentleman's Government are proposing to postpone for two years.