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Lords Chamber

Volume 415: debated on Thursday 11 December 1980

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House Of Lords

Thursday, 11th December, 1980.

The House met at three of the clock ( Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of London): The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Paper And Board Quota Consultations

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the negotiations with the EFTA non-candidate countries for paper and board quotas have been concluded and whether they will make a statement.

My Lords, consultations with all interests including the EFTA countries have now been concluded. For 1981 supplies of paper and board from EFTA countries we intend to open duty-free quotas 15,000 tonnes, or 1·06 per cent., larger than this year. An order setting out the detailed allocation of the proposed new quotas was laid in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade on 9th December.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that these increases have been greeted with incredulity by the industry? The word "incredulity" is theirs, not mine. Some of their other language is harsher. Is it not clear that, despite continuous appeals to Ministers, the industry is again being sacrificed to its overseas competitors? Is the Minister also aware that the largest increases have been in the areas of greatest difficulty and greatest sensitivity—for example, case liners and uncoated, wood free paper? Is it not time therefore that our home industry was supported and not put under further grave disadvantage in relation to its overseas competitors?

Yes, my Lords, but the difficulty is that more than one industry is involved. While the paper producing industry is the most important in this context, we also have to take into account the interests of the paper consuming industries—the printing and publishing industries—and also the interests of our trading partners.

My Lords, is the noble Lord not aware that the demand for paper and pulp is at its lowest ebb since 1974? Therefore it is the paper and board industry which needs the Government's support.

My Lords, of course it has our support within the limits of what we can do in the consultations which we have recently completed.

My Lords, do Her Majesty's Government have any views about the export of British timber to Scandinavian countries to be pulped over there and brought back here at very great expense? Is not this a most extraordinary economic situation which has an adverse effect upon the balance of trade and, worse still in the long run, a very adverse effect on the confidence of private growers of timber?

My Lords, that is another question; but I cannot imagine that the firms would do it if it did not make economic sense.

My Lords, yesterday a Statement was made by the Government about support for the development of domestic forestry as a supplier to the paper and pulp industry. Is not the noble Lord's Answer today inconsistent with the Statement made yesterday?

Certainly not, my Lords. As I said earlier, when we reach our decision on the size of these quotas we have to take into account the interests of all the parties concerned.

Ministry Of Defence (Bath): Contract Cleaning

3.4 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they still maintain that contract cleaning is cheaper than direct cleaning at the Ministry of Defence (Bath).

Yes, my Lords.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that brief reply. Is he aware that the contract cleaning firms indulge in malpractices? These reduce, for instance, the employer's national insurance contribution. As a result, women cleaners are being made redundant, on the basis of cost comparison. Is the Minister also aware that the Home Counties Cleaning Services Group Limited has insisted on some of its women cleaners accepting as payment for the week's work two cheques in different names to be paid into their account, thus avoiding the employer's national insurance contribution as well as income tax? The department have been given sworn statutory declarations, copies of which I have here. Further, is the Minister aware that an officer of the Civil Service Union has seen a contractor's attendance register, with such euphonious names as Mrs. Sunday, Mrs. Monday and Mrs. Tuesday? Finally, would the Minister—

This is the final point. We on this side of the House treat this matter a little more seriously than those on the other side. Would the Minister—

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would ask his question. Then my noble friend would be delighted to answer it. His supplementary is, I think the noble Lord will agree, a little long.

My Lords, the noble Lord referred at some length and in some detail to a specific case which is being investigated. Even if it proves that one contractor has behaved improperly, this would not necessarily invalidate the principle involved.

Constituency Boundaries And Representation

3.7 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is now the average number of voters in constituencies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively; which English constituency has the largest and which the smallest number of voters; and what are the numbers of voters in these two cases.

My Lords, the provisional figures for 1980 published last May show that the average number of electors is, for constituencies in England, about 67,500; in Wales 58,300; in Scotland 54,400; and in Northern Ireland 87,500. The constituency in England with the largest number of electors is Buckingham, with 110,100, and that with the smallest is Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, with 24,400.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that comprehensive and interesting reply. May I ask him whether he does not feel that the kind of disparity between the value of a vote in Buckingham and the value of a vote in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central is so large as to undermine a good deal of the credibility of our system of representative parliamentary democracy and whether, if that be so, it is not a matter of some urgency to put it right?

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that there are serious disparities between constituencies, as is shown by the figures which my noble friend's Question has elicited. This will be redressed by the proposals which are to be put forward by the commissions for the different parts of the United Kingdom.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some of the very largest constituencies, with over 100,000 voters, cover some of the largest areas and that this creates an intolerable burden for the Members of Parliament concerned? Is my noble friend also aware that, although the last major local government reorganisation took place over seven years ago, the alterations in the parliamentary boundaries which ought to have followed such reorganisation have not yet taken place? May I therefore reinforce the plea of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter.

My Lords, so far as my noble friend's first question is concerned, the rules which guide the boundary commissions include Rule 6 which specifically enjoins the boundary commissions that they may depart from the norm if special geographical considerations, including in particular the size, shape and accessibility of a constituency, need to be taken into account. I absolutely agree with what my noble friend said on that point. So far as my noble friend's second question is concerned, I must admit that I was not aware of what he said. I will certainly look into it.

My Lords, are not these the very matters which the boundary commissions are looking into? Have not these matters been notorious over the centuries? Did parliamentary democracy not survive even the rotten boroughs?

My Lords, I think that the machinery by which parliamentary democracy survives is sharpened up and generally made better if these reviews take place (as they do) between 10 and 15 years after the previous review. That is what is happening now, and as soon as the review is completed and as soon as practicable the Government will be laying orders for that purpose.

My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree that the high quality of the electorate in Newcastle-upon-Tyne fully justified the preferential treatment given to the electors there?

My Lords, I do not think even the electorate of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, would claim that for themselves.

My Lords, arising out of the question put by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, is it not a fact that all sincere defenders of democracy have been active and urgent in abolishing rotten boroughs?

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I was merely questioning the demise of parliamentary democracy which the noble Lord was so fearfully contemplating if there was no immediate change which would benefit the representation of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons?

My Lords, I do not think that the size of the largest and the smallest constituencies, with which we are concerned at the moment, will bear the interpretation that in some way a party political advantage can be construed from the reviews of the boundary commissions.

North-South Economic Relations Summit

3.11 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Prime Minister has been invited to attend the summit meeting on North-South economic relations in Mexico City in June and if so whether she has accepted the invitation.

My Lords, no invitations have yet been issued. But the United Kingdom expects to be invited to the meeting and to attend.

My Lords, while welcoming that reply, may I ask the Minister whether he appreciates how much we welcome the reversal in policy which was in the paper on the Brandt Commission; how much we would wish to congratulate the Secretary of State, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, on his influence in bringing that about; and can he give us an assurance that when the summit conference meets, an effort will be made by the Government to end the deadlock which has subsisted for seven years between North and South, by accepting the need for a new world economic order?

My Lords, the proposals for a new world economic order include, if I understand them aright, sweeping away the present economic order, and that poses some difficulties. As for the change in policy which the noble Lord thought he apprehended in the Government's present proposals, if that is what the noble Lord thinks, he misunderstood the earlier policy.

My Lords, is it not equally desirable to consider the possibility of a world political order?

My Lords, an interesting supplementary but not, I think, arising from the Question on the Order Paper.

My Lords, since this meeting arises directly out of the work of the Brandt Commission, can the Minister inform the House a little more about the proposed composition of the summit meeting? Will it be purely governmental in character, or will members of the Brandt Commission be joining in? If that is so, can we anticipate that Mr. Edward Heath will be there to join in the conversations, with the Prime Minister?

My Lords, I understand that the conference is intended to be a summit conference and therefore attended principally by heads of state or heads of Government, and therefore I cannot say whether Mr. Edward Heath will be there.

My Lords, referring to the Minister's earlier reply to me, in which he said that there had been no reversal of policy, is it not the case that in the paper issued on the Brandt Report the definite statement was made that Her Majesty's Government were opposed to the calling of a summit conference?

My Lords, I do not think that is correct at all. We have never opposed a summit conference of this nature; but we have said—and we maintain—that the ground for such a conference ought to be carefully prepared.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether the preparatory work, the preparation of the agenda and the scope and purpose of the conference is already in hand? The conference is to be held in June and will he agree that time is relatively short for the kind of work that is necessary to make such a conference of any utility at all to those who attend it?

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right in suggesting, as I have maintained before, that the conference should be carefully prepared. That preparatory work is currently being done by the cosponsors. We are not one of the co-sponsors, but we would certainly hope to be involved in the later stages of this preparatory work.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that if it be true that Her Majesty's Government oppose a summit conference they have my heartiest congratulations?—because summit conferences almost always lead to mischief. But if we have a summit conference designed to extend the aid system, will he have regard to the situation in Africa? Universally, Africa has been the great recipient of aid, and with the assistance of that aid and in spite of the green revolution, which has increased agricultural production everywhere else by double, she has succeeded in reducing her agricultural production both in total and per head.

Quite frankly, my Lords, I am not sure that what the noble Lord asks arises out of the Question on the Order Paper, or indeed from the subsequent supplementary questions. Of course our aid is aimed at those most in need of it, and that is why so much of it goes to Africa.

Energy Conservation Bill Hl

3.16 p.m.

My Lords, in moving that the House give a Second Reading to this Bill, I should like to begin by explaining why the Government believe it is important to bring forward this legislation at this time.

Energy conservation has a central and permanent place in our energy strategy. The dramatic increase in oil prices following the revolution in Iran, and the present Iran/Iraq war, have reminded us—if we needed reminding—of the vulnerability of much of the Western world's energy supplies. The heads of state and Government at the Venice Economic Summit earlier this year recognised the important priority which each of their countries had to accord to improving energy efficiency, and to reducing dependence on oil. North Sea oil and gas do not set our interests apart from those of other Western countries in this regard, not least because North Sea oil will not last for ever. The Government believe that energy conservation has an important role to play in enhancing the competitiveness of British industry and, more generally, in improving the efficiency of our economy.

The main intention of the Energy Conservation Bill is to promote the improved efficiency of a wide range of energy consuming appliances. It contains enabling powers for the Government to set, by means of orders, safety and efficiency standards for space and water heating appliances, and for gas appliances. The Government will be enabled to require that these appliances be tested for compliance with these standards either at the stage of manufacture or—in some cases—after installation.

The Government believe that the enforcement of efficiency standards under the Bill can, over time, make an important contribution to improved energy efficiency. I say "over time" because of course it will take time to improve the efficiency of new appliances, and time for users to replace existing appliances with newer and more efficient ones. But the Bill provides a mechanism to ensure that a progressive improvement in efficiencies does take place. Such improvements can save money for individual consumers and for firms, as well, of course, for the country as a whole.

Space and water heating accounts for no less than 30 per cent. of the country's use of energy; and gas appliances other than gas space and water heaters consume a further few per cent. This means that even a relatively small improvement in the efficiency of appliances of the sort dealt with in this Bill could make a significant difference to energy use at the national level. The individual consumer, of course, is not normally able to influence the design of space and water heating appliances or their efficiency directly. There are existing schemes for testing many sorts of appliances but those are voluntary, and their coverage is not universal. The Government therefore believe that this is an area where it is appropriate for there to be legislation.

That there is scope for increasing the efficiency of many sorts of appliances is beyond doubt. For many appliances, energy efficiency has become a significant factor in design only very recently. Many boilers, for instance, which are very efficient at full load are much less efficient at part-load. And, of course, many boilers are run at part-load for much of the year. British Standards relating to energy efficiency exist for some, but by no means all, categories of space and water heaters and gas appliances. But manufacturers and importers are not at present compelled to observe these standards. And there is a substantial body of informed opinion that current performance requirements in some British Standards are below the levels readily obtainable by manufacturers and desirable, therefore, from an energy conservation point of view.

The Bill is inevitably rather technical, and I should like to take a few moments to explain in untechnical language what it sets out to do. The Bill uses the term "heat generator" to describe an important group of the appliances which it covers. This is a term of European Community origin. It means appliances designed for space heating or hot water production or both. It covers appliances ranging from small domestic fires, heaters and boilers, up to the very largest boilers used for heating blocks of flats or offices, schools or hospitals, or for providing them with hot water. A "heat generator" can be powered by any form of energy—coal, gas, oil, electricity—or a combination of them; and it can provide heating by various means—hot water, hot air, steam, et cetera. The Bill also talks about "gas appliances". Again this is a Community term, deriving from a draft directive on gas appliances which I shall discuss in a little more detail in a moment. It means gas-powered appliances for heating, hot water production, cooking, refrigeration, lighting or washing. There is an overlap between the terms "heat generator" and "gas appliance". Some appliances—gas fires; gas central heating boilers, et cetera—are both.

Part I of the Bill is concerned with setting up a system of what is called "type-approval" for new heat generators and gas appliances. Type-approval is a procedure for ensuring that appliances which are manufactured and sold in large numbers conform to specified standards. For such appliances, it is obviously not practicable to test each individual appliance as it is produced. Instead, a sample comprising a certain number of appliances of each model is taken and tested. If the sample is found to conform to the required standards, then a type-approval certificate can be issued for that model, and all appliances of that model can bear a type-approval mark to show that the model has been approved as conforming to the standards.

Under Part I of the Bill, the Government will be able to set standards of safety or efficiency for such categories of new heat generators and gas appliances as they may decide. They will be able to appoint type-approval bodies to test samples of appliances to see whether they conform to the relevant standards and to grant or withhold type-approval. The Government will be able to prohibit the sale of such categories of new heat generators and gas appliances as they decide unless they bear type-approval marks to show that they conform to the standards which have been set. If the relevant standards are changed (for instance, if technical progress makes it possible to up-grade them) the Government will be able to require that type-approvals granted under the old standards are withdrawn, after a period of grace if necessary. There are also provisions in Part I of the Bill intended to ensure that once a model has been type-approved, all further production of that model continues to conform to the standards. There are also provisions which would enable the Government to require operating and maintenance instructions for new heat generators to be approved; this is important since the way an appliance is used and is maintained can often affect its continued efficiency.

Part II of the Bill concerns setting efficiency standards for new heat generators for which the type-approval I have been describing is either not practicable or would be too expensive. In effect this means very large boilers which are produced in relatively small numbers, or which may even be purpose built to a particular specification. The boilers concerned are likely to be those with a capacity of 600 kilowatts or over. We estimate that, even when the powers in Part II have been used to their fullest extent (which is very unlikely for several years) only about 700 new boilers a year are likely to be affected. For these boilers, Part II of the Bill enables the Government to set standards of efficiency, and to appoint testing authorities which will test each boiler concerned on-site after installation, to see that it meets the relevant standard. The Government will be able to prohibit the use of a boiler which is not tested within a specified period after it is installed, or which does not pass the test within a further reasonably specified period. It is unlikely, however, to be possible to anticipate in the orders under this Part of the Bill all the possible variations in individual circumstances which may arise, such as the problems of testing a boiler which is installed and brought into use before the building which it is intended to serve has been completed. For this reason Clause 10 of the Bill contains an important power which would enable the Government to authorise testing authorities to delay tests or apply modified standards in such circumstances as the Government may specify.

Part III of the Bill deals with various miscellaneous matters such as the creation of offences, the level of fines, and enforcement. I should like to draw the attention of the House to two specific provisions. Clause 15 empowers the Government to make grants for the purposes of energy advice schemes. No new policy departure is envisaged by this clause. Rather it is intended in accordance with well-established constitutional convention to provide specific statutory authority for the Government's existing energy advice schemes, such as the Energy Survey Scheme and the Energy Quick Advice Service which have proved to be valuable means of promoting greater awareness of the potential for energy conservation in industry and commerce. Clause 25(3) provides that before making any order under the Bill, the Secretary of State shall consult representatives of those he considers likely to be affected and such other persons as he considers appropriate. This represents an important safeguard, and an assurance that the views of manufacturers as well as consumers and others concerned will be sought and considered very carefully before orders under the Bill are made.

May I have a moment to talk about enforcement. It is not envisaged that extensive arrangements for enforcing the provisions of this Bill will be necessary. In the vast majority of cases, manufacturers, retailers and others concerned will have good sound economic reasons for complying with the orders which will be made under it. And Clause 5 of the Bill contains important powers—including the sanction of withdrawal of type-approval in some circumstances—which will enable type-approval bodies to ensure that a model continues to conform to standards after it has been approved. There are also provisions in the Bill for orders under Part I—that is, the orders concerning type-approval for heat generators and gas appliances—to be enforced by weights and measures authorities. In practice, we envisage that trading standards officers will make visual checks to see that heat generators which ought to bear type-approval marks in fact do so. Because this would in most cases be done in the course of visits to premises made for other purposes, there is unlikely to be any significant implication for local authority manpower. Powers to enforce orders under Part II of the Bill—that is, the orders relating to the rather fewer cases of on-site testing—will under Clause 20 be vested in persons so authorised by the Secretary of State; these would in practice be officials of central Government. However the powers in Clause 20 are regarded by the Government very much as powers of last resort.

Because the number of boilers likely to be subject to on-site testing will be small—I mentioned the figure of 700, but it might well he far fewer in a year—it should be feasible to enforce orders under Part II by the Department of Energy matching the records of the boilers supplied against records of the boilers tested, and making simply further inquiries about apparent discrepancies. Thus, the manpower implications for central Government will also be extremely small. The powers which those authorised to enforce the orders under Parts I and II of the Bill will have are set out in Clauses 19 and 20. These provisions are closely modelled on those in comparable legislation; for instance, the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

I should like to make a few comments about the European Community aspects. The Bill will enable the United Kingdom to implement a Community directive on heat generators. This directive obliges member states to ensure that all new heat generators installed in non-industrial buildings comply with minimum performance standards. The Bill will also enable us to implement two other directives which are still in draft and under discussion in Brussels. As I mentioned, one concerns the on-site testing of very large heat generators. The other concerns the setting of Community standards of safety and efficiency for new gas appliances. The Government do not believe that they can satisfactorily rely on the European Communities Act 1972 to enact the necessary legislation. There are several reasons for this: one is that the 1978 Heat Generators Directive does not state very precisely what appliances it covers; another is that the Government believe that it is desirable to cover heat generators used in industrial buildings (which are outside the scope of the directive) as well as those which are not used in industrial buildings. There is also a problem over the fact that the implementing directives under the draft Gas Appliances Directive will be optional—that is to say, it will be left to member states to decide whether to apply the Community standards or not.

The Bill contains enabling powers for the Government to establish systems of type-approval and on-site testing for such categories of appliances as they decide, by means of orders. I can assure the House that the Government have no intention of imposing standards which are unlikely to have any significant effect in raising safety or efficiency merely because the Bill will empower them to do so. We are conscious of the need to avoid imposing unnecessary costs on industry, and the requirement to place on the market products to a higher standard will only follow after the fullest consultations have been carried out with all concerned. And, as I have already pointed out, the Bill requires that the Government should consult representatives of those likely to be affected before the orders are made.

So, the Government's intention is in the first in- stance to use the powers under Part I of the Bill to give statutory force to the existing voluntary arrangements, in many cases based on existing British Standards, which are already operated by many major United Kingdom manufacturers. These cover a large proportion of the gas appliances, the oil-fired boilers and air heaters, and the solid-fuel appliances which are sold in this country. The existing voluntary arrangements would thus be modified where necessary, extended to cover importers and manufacturers who do not participate in them at present, and made compulsory. It will, however, be important to move beyond this stage—the stage of giving statutory force to our existing arrangements—as soon as possible. We therefore intend to have continuing consultations with the British Standards Institution, with a view to reviewing existing standards of fuel efficiency for heat generators and raising them wherever this is practicable and cost-effective, and to setting fuel efficiency standards for appliances where none such exist at the moment. It is not, however, our intention that all categories of heat generator should be made subject to type-approval from the outset; it will be necessary to proceed step by step again, as I have said, in full consultation both with the manufacturer and others such as consumer organisations whose interests are crucially involved. Indeed, there are some types of heating appliances—in particular most types of domestic electrical space and water heaters—which the Government have no intention of making subject to type-approval procedures under this Bill, since most electrical heaters already convert electrical energy into heat to a high degree of efficiency.

The enabling powers relating to gas appliances are included in Part I of the Bill mainly for the purpose of allowing us to enforce the Community standards of safety and efficiency for these products when these are agreed. I have already mentioned, I think, that member states are likely to be free to choose whether or not to apply these standards. However—and I think this is an important point which your Lordships should take fully into account—the Government believe it is likely to be in the interest of the United Kingdom to implement the Community standards, since it will help United Kingdom manufacturers to export to other European Community countries. If British made appliances meet Community standards and carry a type-approval to show that they do so, the task will be made much easier. In addition, the Government will wish to consider using the powers relating to gas appliances to set and enforce standards—particularly safety standards—for some sorts of gas appliances for which agreement on Community standards is, within the Community, still rather a long way off.

Finally, the Government are in the process of consulting manufacturers and other interested groups in detail about the way in which the powers in Part II of the Bill concerning the on-site testing of large new heat generators, will be used. We will certainly consult both widely and fully before taking final decisions. However, we believe that it is important that the Bill contain these enabling powers to require very large boilers to be tested on-site, both in order that we can fulfil our present (and, indeed, our likely future) Community obligations, and also in the interests of improving the efficiency of this country's use of its energy resources. Although the number of new boilers likely to be affected is, as I have said, small, they are generally very substantial consumers of fossil fuels.

I believe that this Bill should command wide support from all parts of the House. The Government commend it both as a measure necessary to fulfil properly our Community obligations and protect our trading interests, and as a most desirable measure in its own right. Improving the efficiency with which energy is used is a matter of concern and economic interest to us all. I move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be read 2a —( The Earl of Gowrie.)

3.37 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure that we are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, for explaining the provisions of this Bill to the House. As your Lordships know, it is a Bill which is starting in this House, and I should like to congratulate the noble Earl for the way in which he has explained it and for the simple language in which he has described its various clauses, because it is a very complicated Bill.

As the noble Earl has said, the Bill is intended to enable the United Kingdom to fulfil her obligations under certain EEC directives relating to fuel efficiency standards for heat generators and for setting standards of safety and efficiency for gas appliances. As the noble Earl has also said, the Bill provides specific statutory authority under Clause 15 for the Department of Energy's existing energy advice schemes. I shall have a little more to say about that and the problem of energy conservation in general in a moment. But, for the present, I should like to say that we welcome the Bill as far as it goes, although I shall be rather more controversial later when I come to some of the Government's energy conservation policy.

I believe that the United Kingdom is a net importer of most of the appliances concerned and that the EEC is both our major market and our major source of imports, as the noble Earl implied. I understand that in the case of gas fires, refrigerators and water heaters, imports account for a sizeable share of the United Kingdom market. If we implement these directives it should help our ability to export approved models to the rest of the Community, which I am sure will be welcomed in all parts of the House.

I wonder whether the noble Earl would give me some idea of the likely cost of on-site testing for the larger boilers, as this will presumably have to be paid for by the commercial or industrial user. In the case of the smaller gas appliances, this will for the most part, of course affect the domestic consumer. If a type approval, granted under an old standard, is withdrawn after a period of grace, will that affect only models for sale and future manufacture, or will the householder be required to get rid of his old appliance and to buy a new one? If that is so—and perhaps the noble Earl will enlighten us when he comes to reply—it could be rather hard on some consumers, particularly the poorer consumers, as the prices of these appliances seem to be increasing monthly. For example, will there be financial help for people with lower incomes?

Turning to Clause 15, I note that:
"The Secretary of State may with the approval of the Treasury make grants … for the purposes"
of energy conservation, mainly, it seems, towards the costs of any survey, or for advice, But will the grants include financial help to householders—particularly poorer householders—and to the smaller businesses for installing insulation? Surely efficient domestic and business insulation is one of the best ways of conserving energy. I see that under Clause 15(2)(d) grants may be made:
"subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may determine".
Will these include grants for insulation? I realise that insulation may be the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, but may I suggest that this should not preclude the noble Earl from letting the House know the position, as in this House, as your Lordships are aware, Government spokesmen speak for the Government as a whole; and anyway we all know the deep interest that the noble Earl takes in all questions relating to energy, even if they impinge on other departments.

As has been said before in these debates—and we cannot say it too often—conservation should be the third limb, with coal and nuclear power, of our energy policy. As the noble Earl said this afternoon, North Sea oil cannot be included in any long-term planning, as it is finite and will begin to run out around the turn of the century. I greatly welcome the way in which the present Government are continuing the broad lines of our conservation policy, and that this sector at least has not been subject to cuts. I understand that the Department of Energy is providing much help to domestic and industrial consumers, and a good deal of practical advice. There is a great deal, of course, that industry in particular can do, and there is room and scope for new thinking and innovation.

Some companies are leading the way. I believe that Marks and Spencers has done a great deal of pioneering work in this field; and one company that I know—Granada TV Rental Limited—has put all its energy control charts in selected area showrooms onto Prestel, so that both central management and individual showrooms can monitor progress of performance in energy saving. It found—and I am sure that this would apply to other companies—that a modern system, such as Prestel, creates more interest and makes for more competitiveness; and I understand that this is already resulting in a significant drop in consumption. That is just one example of what can be done.

I know that the Government are funding R and D to make for better use of energy, but I wonder whether we know enough about the human factor, and why some people are more aware of the need for energy saving than others. I wonder how much social research is being done. I know that the Department of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics has carried out a social research survey on the individual energy consumer, and its report, by Peter Ellis and George Gaskell, has been published. The authors of this report found that one of the problems is that it is not clear to many people whether or not there is an energy crisis. Further, for those who are conscious of it, the term "energy crisis" has become deflated through constant use. There are other factors, such as the individual's attitude towards authority, and how people are affected by the examples set by others; for instance, how they may be affected by what is being done in local authority offices and civic centres.

There is also the effect on the individual of other social groups with which he is in contact or which he respects. It was found, for example that the lower income families were the most affected by price increases and made big efforts to conserve. The comfortably-off usually made the least effort. Those in the middle were probably the most conservation conscious of all. I know that these are generalisations, and I refer to them only to stress that it is no good exhorting people to save energy if you know little about their behaviour patterns. What do we know of the influences and ideas that a child brings home from school and the parents bring home from work, or from their community or leisure groups?

I suggest, therefore, to the Government that we need to study this aspect of conservation, and that they should consider putting in hand some social research of this kind, as a support and guide for their general publicity campaign, which I greatly welcome but which I suggest could then become more effective and less wasteful, because it would be based on more knowledge of human behaviour and would be directed into the right channels. I understand that the report to which I refer was sent to all relevant Government departments early last year, so they should have had time to study it by now.

I now intend, if I may, to be slightly more controversial within the ambits of the Bill. The Government are relying a great deal on the price factor—particularly over gas—but this is falling very severely on industry, and particularly on the energy intensive industries. I should like to remind the House that the CBI the other day said that British gas prices in the last year have risen 30 to 40 per cent., and in some cases 70 per cent. They point out that this is absolutely crippling for an energy intensive industry.

This is particularly hard on certain industries, such as the glass container industry (and here I must declare an interest) where energy costs—that is the price of oil and gas—account for 21.6 per cent. of manufacturing costs. British industry as a whole is also paying £8 per tonne in heavy fuel oil duty, which is, with Ireland, the highest rate in Western Europe. In Germany the rate is under half, at £3.55 per tonne, and in France—this is almost unbelieveable—industry pays under £1 at £0.08 a tonne, to the great benefit, of course, of French manufacture and trade.

The British Gas Corporation is making absolutely huge profits which will enable the corporation to give the Government what is virtually a loan of £400 million this year, presumably towards the public sector borrowing requirement, which, of course, may look good from the Treasury's point of view, but the effect on industry—particularly the energy intensive industries (the glass, ceramic, chemicals, paper and food manufacturers) — is crippling. Indeed, I believe that British industry is paying at least £300 million a year more for its gas supplies than it would be paying in other EEC countries. The result is heavy lay-offs, increasing unemployment and lost orders.

I am very glad to see that the whole question of energy pricing, which seems to be the main part of the Government's conservation policy, and its effect on industry, is to be investigated by the Select Committee on Energy of another place as a matter of urgency, that the Secretary of State will be asked to appear before it, and evidence will be invited from the CBI and those industries that are most affected and at risk. Therefore, as I say, we welcome this Bill on this side of the House and I shall not oppose it, and we shall do all we can to ensure that it receives a swift passage. However, I must say that it is the Government's energy pricing policy that is causing industry and noble Lords on this side of the House much concern.

3.51 p.m.

My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl for the presentation of this Bill that starts in this House. We on these Benches are pleased to give a welcome in principle to the technical parts of the Bill, which conform to one of the Liberal Party's resolutions at conference which urged Her Majesty's Government to introduce energy performance standards for domestic and industrial appliances. Also, as the noble Earl has said, this Bill is a response to the Community's legislation in this field, and although its implementation may be time expired from the Community point of view I feel certain that there will be no serious objections in its late arrival on the statute book in this country.

Our goals are very similar to what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said. Our goal is an energy efficient society, and conservation must be one of the means through which we can achieve this goal. I should like to come to this part, the conservation part of the Bill, at a later stage. We too have heard that the manufacturers of the various types of heat generator covered in the Bill are, as the noble Earl says, on the whole in agreement with its intentions, which are to lay down certain approved standards. The exceptions to this mainly arise understandably from manufacturers of open hearth type fires, which I shall come to later, and certain electrical appliances.

I also wish to follow the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stabolgi, that the difficulty is to find exactly where are the benefits to the consumers in this Bill, and again we hope to discover that they will lie in the conservation grant element contained in it. Although it is a Second Reading it would be helpful if Her Majesty's Government could clarify for the record some of the possible exclusions of the very general term "heat generator" which, as the noble Earl said, was invented by the Community. The far-reaching term "heat generator" could technically cover, so far as I can see, a combined heat and power station at one end of the scale and an outside barbecue at the other. I assume for the purposes of this Bill that both types are not included in the Government's intentions.

While it is clear that heat pumps or heat exchangers are covered by the term "heat generator", it would be helpful to know the Government's view on domestic refrigerators, which will fall of course under this category. Is it possible that refrigerators which use the excess heat more efficiently by space heating attachments would be given type approval? A refrigerator of this type, although more efficient in energy terms, would of course be more expensive. So perhaps the Government might consider a reduction in VAT on refrigerators that operate on this efficient principle.

No mention was made of solar panels by the noble Earl, but on the other hand they would presumably not fall under the category of heat generator although they are used for water heating. If this is the case this is perhaps unfortunate because a number of models of solar panels available on the market are far from efficient and should require some kind of type approval in order that the public are not deceived into purchasing expensive and inefficient energy saving devices of this kind.

Then there are the open hearth type fires, which I should imagine are almost impossible to assess for type approval as heat generators as described under this Bill. It would be self-defeating for the constructive side of this Bill to be misunderstood by the general public in their use of a non-approved open hearth fire. I have taken some time to seek clarification in these areas on the very wide powers that this Bill could have, because it clearly states in Part I "that any heat generator could be required to have a type approval plate. While it is recognised that the Government are attempting to improve the efficiency of space and water heating both industrially and in the home, many of these improvements will be self-defeating if the individual heat generator attachments or radiators have no thermostatic controls, and therefore what efficiency could be gained from the heat source would be lost through inefficiency at the radiance source.

The practical effect, as the noble Earl said, of this Bill is really that the manufacturer, once he has achieved a type approval, is able to attach a plate which is clearly visible on the boiler when it leaves the factory. Once the appliance is installed on site the plate could indeed be obscured clue to the siting of the boiler. Therefore, inspectors of this could be faced with a dilemma if the plate was not visible due to the situation on the boiler site. If this regulation is to be effective, it must be clear that the installation of such boilers should allow for access by inspectors, as the noble Earl told us. But I am suggesting as an alternative that the boiler or heat generator should certainly have a type approved plate when leaving the factory, as well as a second plate which could be made visible from outside the building in which the boiler was installed.

I mention this because I should like the noble Earl to consider another point for a moment, if we take this concept one step further towards our goal of an energy efficient society. It concerns the metering of all heat generators in terms of all energy efficiency. Why is it that all electricity and gas meters are sited often in the most inaccessible part of the domestic dwelling? This involves a great deal of time and effort and, on occasions, aggravation from both the owners of houses and members of the gas and electricity boards who have to read these meters.

Why cannot we establish once and for all that the meters can be read without having to make access into a house. There would appear to me to be powers within this Bill to insist that any new heat generator which is type approved should have this facility. Many of us consider that this would be a real saving in time and money for both the gas and electricity boards. It would also save what is often considered almost harassment quite unnecessarily to old people living alone, or to those families which all have to go out to work, and these constant approaches or constant postcards from the boards saying that they cannot read their meters.

I also have a suspicion that a percentage of those people who have been cut off, with the inconvenience that this involves, is due in part to the inability of the consumer and the supplier to agree a bill as a result of this lack of access to the meter itself. I do not wish to dwell on this point, but it would be helpful if the noble Earl could tell me that perhaps, if this is not the right Bill, what is the Government's, and indeed his department's, attitude towards this suggestion. Would the Government be prepared to look at this more seriously—if they cannot do so under this Bill—on another occasion?

There is another point. We are going on to the Weights and Measures Act which is also brought into the Bill as the operative one in which the inspectors have the various authorities to execute this Bill. Once more I wish to put forward a plea for consideration that some standard energy conversion unit recognised throughout the world would be an immense help to the consumer in his choice of what type of boiler or heat generator is best suited to his use. This, of course, is many years, if not decades, away.

But it leads me on to the type of scale that is fixed to any type approved heat generator, because we have all had the experience that a lot of these appliances do not have a proper scale on them. If they have a scale at all, it has a series of meaningless numbers. If the noble Earl could tell me, for instance, what temperature either in fahrenheit or centigrade, is the correct one to heat his bath, I shall be very surprised. I do not think many people know. Therefore, I feel that, if under Clause 2 of this Bill the Government clearly have powers to specify in detail these kinds of refinements to heat generators or boilers, I hope they will consider this, and especially about the difference between fahrenheit and centigrade scales, which is very confusing to the general public. It also can lead to accidents and to great inefficiency.

I just mention this in passing, because it is not often one has a chance except in a Bill of this kind, which is basically a technical one. I believe that the correct way to convert centigrade to fahrenheit is to multiply by five, divide by 9 and add 32. Of course we can all do this, but some can do this better than others. However, from these Benches I would suggest a more simple solution; namely, if there is no calibration on a boiler, one simply doubles the centigrade value and adds 30, which produces a near enough accurate answer. This simple short-cut is not generally known to members of the public and it would therefore be helpful to have it included in some of the department's literature, which, I might add, includes temperatures in fahrenheit and centigrade but does not give advice on how to convert.

I wish to emphasise—though I do not think it comes under the Bill—the worry businessmen have, in general and in the energy-intensive industries, about the high cost of fuel. Thts is now beginning to affect us all, directly and indirectly (I speak as an industrialist as well as a member of the public) and I hope the Government will look at this more general aspect when they are talking about conservation and the so-called benefits which the North Sea is supposed to produce for us.

We shall of course be looking closely in Committee at the civil rights element contained in the Bill to ensure there is adequate protection from abuse or over-enthusiasm by officers under the Weights and Measures Act which could undermine the good intentions of the Bill. But, meanwhile, perhaps the noble Earl could reassure the House that there will be no penalty for members of the public who unknowingly jostle their molecules in front of a heat generator of a type not approved by Her Majesty's Government; as I understand it, only the manufacturer will be liable to prosecution in those circumstances.

In connection with conservation, I question whether adequate funds have been allocated for the implementation of this part of the Bill. We as a party have been pursuing one Government after another for loft insultation, for both domestic and industrial insulation, and we still have a long way to go before we will match that of the Community. If it is the main intention of the Bill to implement EEC Directive 78/170, then perhaps a further Bill will be necessary to bring the building regulations in the United Kingdom up to the standards of those required in the Community. I suspect that members of the public will not get any money from the grants in connection with the Bill, if my reading of it is correct, in that they will get only advice, presumably written or verbal, of a technical nature too, from the Department of Energy. It would be helpful if it were stated that advice should include making more public information available about the Homes Insulation Act 1978. It is very depressing to note that the money grants for insulation under this Government scheme have not been fully taken up by members of the public, apparently through lack of advice and information. I hope that, in the context of conservation advice coming from the department, that aspect will be looked at closely by the Minister.

I wish finally to express a personal disappointment, now that we are approaching the festive season, in that there appears to be no mention either in the EEC Directive 78/170 or in the Government's "type approval" specifications in Clause 2, of chimney dimensions for private dwellings. Is it possible that both the legislators in the Community and in Her Majesty's Government have forgotten that at this time of year this mode of entry to all dwelling houses is used by a most important caller? Can the Minister therefore assure the House that there is nothing contained in the Bill that will in any way delay or obstruct the arrival of this welcome visitor on Christmas Eve? Some of us may still believe in him.

4.4 p.m.

My Lords, noble Lords will not expect me to be sycophantic, even when I have come to praise, and I know the whole House is indebted to my noble friend Lord Gowrie for his constant and ready attention to problems of energy that are, alas! outwith the ambit of his department. We hope that when the great reshuffle comes he will end up in the Department of Energy and not still be outside it. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth—or, if I may put it another way, do you question my assertion that conviction led conversion?

The Government are now going for a measure of administrative controls and inspection. They are also going further than the EEC directive because they are including industrial boilers—and "any" is the critical word in the Bill—when the directive relates to domestic use and mass-produced generators. This is to be welcomed. But without of course suggesting that the Government have done a mini U-turn or swerve of any sort, I must say that the Bill proves that what is said in this House is not completely wasted gas. Twice I have raised the question of testing industrial boilers and each time previously I was told that the answer lay in pricing and price signals. Indeed when discussing an amendment to the Companies Bill on 16th July of last year, I raised this matter and asked:
"Has not the time come … for equipment which assists in the reduction of waste also to be made a compulsory feature—and I stress the word compulsory'—of all new installations?"—
I was referring to boilers. I was given this answer by my noble friend Lord Lyell:
"The object of any mandatory requirements, we believe, can be achieved by the soaring costs of all forms of energy".
The answer continued later:
"Company directors are watching very carefully their energy expenditure; and I wonder whether the House would deem it necessary that there should be a further mandatory requirement …".—[Official Report, 16/7/79; cols. 1190–8.]
If that was not enough, your Lordships took part in a debate on 19th March of this year on a Motion about energy conservation and the same point arose. I said in that debate:
"There is certainly tale after tale of boiler and furnace instruments in small factories being either not maintained, or ignored if they are working".—[Official Report, 19/3/80; col. 264.]
This was the answer I got from my noble friend Lord Gowrie:
"We feel that the key to effective energy conservation is economic and realistic prices which reflect the real long-term cost of supply".—[Official Report, 19/3/80; col. 299.]
One does not want to labour the matter, but the fact is that on both occasions the point I raised and the plea I made fell upon the Front Bench with the crisp ring of an underdone pancake. I asked at that time what was the good of making speeches in this House if the Government did not seem to do anything about them, and I think today in this Bill we have the answer. The Government are clearly learning that government by monetarism and the market place is an art and not a science, and so the Government have done well to fudge on this as on other issues; it is of course never too late to mend. Somebody once said that when in practice such trifles as principle were easily set aside, the faculty of ignoring them made the practical man, so today the Government see no point in excluding heat generators used in industrial buildings, as does the directive.

What is more, the Government now accept that it would be both technically feasible and cost-effective to raise the efficiency of all boilers, this not by price but, at the end of the day, by administrative procedure. It is not juggling that is to be blamed, but much juggling, for the world cannot be governed without it. If all that is so, then does this Bill go far enough? wonder whether it would not have been prudent to extend it to include heat pumps, and air conditioning and ventilating equipment, which are also in many cases wasteful of energy and which in many cases could be subject to the same sort of procedures as are proposed here.

The Bill is a good first step, but we want to see others to follow, rather than procrastination. Many steps towards energy conservation were raised in the debate in March—points about pumped storage, about British Rail's electrification to cut the use of diesel, about the building regulations, which are still trailing behind the facts of life and the facts of energy costs, about restricting the use of cars in town centres, about the underground gasification of coal, about amending the Electricity Act 1947 in order to put heat sales on a level with electricity sales, and, finally, the encouragement of the use of petrol and diesel additives, to say nothing of energy audits.

All those points were mentioned. The only one to have surfaced so far is that relating to boilers, but for this we must be grateful, just as we must be grateful for the mood of consensus which has animated this debate. I was content to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, say that he finds that this Bill, so far as it goes—and that was his phrase, and in that I go along with him—follows the broad lines of the previous Government's conservation policy; and with that I assent.

Noble Lords will remember that in our debate on the Coal Bill in the last Session there was a remarkable area of consensus within this House. It is for consensus in energy policy that I plead. It is the Government's flexibility in moving from exclusive reliance upon price and the turn to the necessity of administrative intervention that I welcome. I consider that the Bill is a good start to the new Session, and I wish my noble friend Lord Gowrie every success in piloting it through the House.

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl one or two questions. I am sure that the House welcomes in principle this Bill for the conservation of energy, though I must say that conservation should start at home. For instance, I think that this Chamber is far too hot today. Absolutely no attention has been paid to a rise in the temperature. This is a small matter, but it should be watched more closely in many Government departments.

I want to ask the noble Earl: Just what is the extent of the operation of the Bill? The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, said that it seems to go from boilers to barbeques. But I am not sure how far it goes. The greater part of the noble Earl's speech dealt with the question of type approval. Well, everything is a "type". I am not very clear as to whether this means existing types or only new types. The rubric states "supply", but the Bill does not. The Bill simply states, "any heat generator". I am not quite certain how far that goes. I notice that the noble Earl did not mention what is perhaps the oldest form of heat generation, wood. I do not know whether or not it is intended to include wood; but the noble Earl did not mention it. I think that it is important that we should know this, since the Bill involves powers of entry. That means that any of the, I suppose, 18 million residences can be entered. I do not know quite at what point, but that power is apparently provided for and it immediately raises another point. It may be unnecessary to ask about this, but let us suppose that the heating arrangements are unsatisfactory. Would that affect the matter of insurance? I know that in Clause 17 it is stated that a contract is not affected, but it is important that it should be made abundantly clear that the insurance arrangements for houses are in no way affected. I wonder whether the wording in Clause 17 is clear enough.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to Clause 16, which contains a power to create offences. Parliament is generally fairly careful about creating offences. In this instance the offences would be created by order and would not be submitted to Parliament at all. That is my reading of Clause 16, and I wonder whether it really is the intention of the Government to do that. I know of no other instance where this is done, and I should very much deprecate such a practice. Parliament should have at least the negative procedure available to it, though in regard to creating offences I should have thought that the positive procedure should be available. I ask these questions of the noble Earl. I may not have read the Bill as carefully as I should have done, but it is not very easy to understand. I am certain that the purpose of the Bill will be welcomed, but I should like to know the extent to which it is intended, or likely, to operate.

4.15 p.m.

My Lords, I apologise for intervening in the debate without having given notice, but I should explain that it was not until today that I realised that I would be able to be present and so take part. This is a very interesting and important Bill, and I welcome its presentation to your Lordships' House. It has been particularly pleasant to find myself so frequently in accord with my noble socialist and interventionist friend and colleague, the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. Clearly we think along very similar lines, and I have no doubt at all that if Governments of all types paid more attention to what the noble Earl suggests, and what perhaps I occasionally am able to back up, as indeed is the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, our progress with energy legislation and practice would be much more rapid and much better than it has been.

There are only one or two points on the Bill to which I wish to make reference. It refers almost entirely to heat generators that are operated by fuel, not those operated by electricity or anything of that kind; and there is a very simple reason for this. If a generator is operated by electricity, there is virtually 100 per cent. conversion of the electricity into heat, whereas where a fuel is used the conversion may be down almost to zero, or, if one is lucky, 60 or 70 per cent. In certain cases that might be exceeded, but 100 per cent. is not attained. Therefore the amount of waste is enormous when using a generator heated by fuel. The Bill is important because it emphasises the fact that by proper design of appliances energy can be conserved.

However, certain points arise when a fuel is used. Almost inevitably there is corrosion. Some of your Lordships may remember the old gas-heated geysers used in bathrooms. Your Lordships might also remember the amount of corrosion involved, as well as the considerable risk to health that there was at times if the geysers were installed and operated improperly. Proper operation is just as important as proper installation and original design. With a gas-heated appliance in the course of time the jet through which the flame is produced becomes corroded, and the efficiency of the jet deteriorates. So it is important that any gas-heated appliance should be kept in proper working order so as to function as intended.

I hope that the Bill will take into account type approval and the question of a guarantee that appliances as a whole are working; though I believe that there should be closer control than that. I was a little alarmed when the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, suggested that a very small staff could deal with the whole situation throughout the country. That I very much doubt. If there is to be proper control, there will be needed a bigger, not a smaller, staff than that which the noble Earl suggested.

There is another point that matters, I think, with regard to all conservation of energy. Conservation is not just (as the noble Earl was I think suggesting) a long term programme: it is the only method by which, in the short term, we can save fuel. We cannot switch rapidly to a new system of producing energy, but we can almost immediately economise in the use of energy. Conservation is the one method which can be guaranteed to give quick results, and it is therefore one which the Government ought to encourage to the utmost. I regret to have to say—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, hinted at this—that this country is backward in spending money upon the conservation of energy.

I think I am right in saying that the total amount spent in this country, with a population which I think is about nine or ten times that of Sweden, is half the amount that the Swedes are spending on the conservation of energy. I believe there is only one country in Europe which is spending as little on conservation, and that is Italy. I think that, of the rest of the European countries, this country is spending not just a little less but very considerably less. This is a most deplorable thing, and I think the Government ought to look at this matter very urgently to see how we can improve our position with regard to conservation.

With regard to all forms of appliances, one of the things which is absolutely essential is to have good controllers and regulators. Today you can quite easily make and purchase thermostats, regulators and controllers of every type. With modern technical advances in electronics we can do almost anything in this way very much more simply than we were able to do it 10, 20 or 30 years ago—and we are not taking full advantage of this. There are firms in this country which produce these appliances, and it seems to me that it ought to become mandatory to instal them wherever one has any substantial area which is heated.

The noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, referred to air-conditioning, and this, I think, is one of the most important fields which is being ignored in this Bill. When I was in America some time back I was informed that the consumption of electricity in New York City is greater in the summer than it is in the winter, and the reason is air-conditioning. The amount of electricity consumed by the air-conditioning of New York is so enormous that they use more energy in the summer to cool the place than they do in the winter to heat it and to run it. This means that we need to look very carefully at all forms of air-conditioning in order to get the maximum efficiency out of them. With those few comments, I should like to approve of the Bill as a small step forward, but showing that the Government are prepared to learn, and I hope they will now begin to learn very quickly.

4.24 p.m.

My Lords, I apologise for not having put my name down on the list of speakers, but I did not know until one o'clock that I was going to be here today. The subject of energy conservation is an admirable one and we are all in favour of it. As to whether this particular Bill is necessary for that purpose, I have grave doubts myself; but if it is necessary for us to be able to sell our machines in the Common Market, then so be it, let us have the Bill. The great waste that is going on, as the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, has just said, was started off by the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Bill—a good old Conservative nannying Bill—and since then all the young men in offices have always worked with their coats off, they are so hot. What is more, in the case of almost every shop you walk into, after 10 minutes I want to go out again because I am completely overheated. How the unfortunate assistants stand it, I do not know; but that is where savings are to be made. Also, of course, one goes into the City of London today and sees these hideous jungles of blocks of concrete inhabited by international bankers, all of them air-conditioned and putting a very heavy load on the electricity grid.

This Bill is not dealing with those things at all, so far as I can make out. It seems to me to be dealing only with new heating systems. When, a few years back, I was connected with an industry in which we used a great deal of heating and steam, our chief engineer was always coming along and saying, "We have an old Lancashire boiler, and if we install a new oil boiler we can pay for it in four years". Of course, those were the days when we were borrowing money at about, probably, 12 per cent. It was very well worth doing then, and we did an awful lot of it. I have no doubt that at the moment they are hastily converting to coal. But think of similar people today, particularly small people, who probably have to pay something like 20 per cent. to borrow money from a bank, if they can get it. It does not become a proposition. They have a good old wasteful boiler that ticks over; they do not want to burden themselves with a lot of debt for many years, in paying it off at 20 per cent. interest; and this situation is just stultifying the whole of industry.

I have mentioned to your Lordships before (and I apologise for doing it again) that I have always had the theory that the price level in this country depended very largely on the price of energy. If only Her Majesty's Government would pay a little more attention to that very plausible theory instead of swallowing the wilder assertions of Professor Milton Friedman, we might get out of the mess we are in now.

4.27 p.m.

My Lords, I cannot resist repeating a remark I was forced to make to the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, yesterday that among the sternest critics of the Government's policies at the moment is Professor Freidman. However, happily that is not connected with energy issues. When I was receiving my briefing for this debate I made a gentleman's small bet with officials that at some point in the debate the energy activities or the energy contents from use of your Lordships' House, in a physical sense of the word, would be raised, and I was very anxious as to whether under the Bill it could be described as a heat generator or a gas appliance! Of course it is not covered by the Bill, not being by any stretch of the imagination a new product or appliance, which is where the Bill is designed to fall.

I also took a small bet that I would be gently chided by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale for being in the Ministry I am and not in the one that he very kindly would like me to be in. Normally it is conventional on these occasions to say that I will bring this or that to the attention of my right honourable friend. I do not know whether it is proper for me to repeat this, but not a million miles from this debate—and I have watched him attending most assiduously all the way through—is the Minister responsible, so your Lordships have even a hotter line than I am normally able to provide.

I thank your Lordships for the general welcome that has been given to this Bill and I will try to spend the few minutes remaining to me to deal with some of the specific points rather than the general philosophy which your Lordships have raised. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked about the likely cost of the testing of on-site large boilers. I pointed out that, though this represents quite a section of the Bill, in real life it will probably represent only some 600 or 700 very large appliances in any given year. One is thinking about schools, hospitals, special appliances and this kind of appliance. Of course it is difficult to give a precise answer here, and we still have to consult representatives of manufacturers and users, but our estimate is that the cost of any test may be around £500. This, in our estimate, is liable to be 1 per cent. or less of the annual cost of fuel used by a typical large boiler; so that on-site testing will need to result in only a relatively small improvement in average boiler efficiency to be thoroughly cost-effective. Could I say to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, while the point is in my mind, and to other noble Lords who were anxious about the position of consumers, that most consumers, as individuals, are not affected; one is thinking of the manufacturers. But the consumers' associations with whom we have consulted have widely welcomed the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also asked whether householders would have to change their appliances when a standard is changed. I think that this was also behind some of the anxieties expressed by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. This would not be the case. I can assure the noble Lord, and my noble friend Lord Hawke, that the Bill relates only to the supply of new appliances; appliances in use would in no way be affected. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked whether grants under Clause 15 would include help for poor householders, including grants for insulation. The clause is concerned only with the provision of advice on energy conservation and does not provide for the payment of grants for domestic insulation because such powers already exist. The Government already pay grants under the provisions of the Home Insulation Act 1978 for loft and hot-water tank insulation. In August, the Government introduced a special extension to the homes insulation scheme to enable elderly people on low incomes to get grants of up to 90 per cent. towards the cost of loft insulation materials and insulation compared with the normal ceiling of 66 per cent.

While on the subject, on the wider question of help for poor householders, I may say that the Government have accepted the responsibility for protecting those least able to help themselves in meeting higher energy costs. A general scheme of assistance was announced in another place in March which will provide worthwhile help with fuel costs this winter for those in most need and will provide the basis of protection against future fuel price increases. The package includes, as I have mentioned, special help for pensioners with insulation needs. Some two million people will benefit from the measures and expenditure on help with fuel bills will exceed £200 million this year. These measures are more generous than any provided in previous years to help with fuel costs.

The noble Lord, Lord Stabolgi, referred to Ellis and Gaskell's Review of Social Research on the Individual Energy Consumers. The Government agree that this is a useful report which provides a good insight into the attitudes of domestic consumers to energy conservation, and the Department of Energy has already been involved in discussions on the report with the authors, with the fuel industries and consumer bodies as well as with manufacturers of control devices. I can assure the noble Lord that research on public understanding of and response to our energy conservation information campaign is carried out and we study the results with care. But I agree that there may be scope for further research and we shall be glad to give consideration to the point mentioned.

The noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi and Lord Tanlaw, referred to the effect of gas prices on energy-intensive industries and my noble friend Lord Lauderdale talked about our attitudes towards price signalling. I think there is no change here. At a time of rising world energy prices, the Government continue to believe that economic energy pricing is essential if consumers are to receive reliable signals about the continuing cost of energy on which to base their decisions on fuel choice and energy conservation investment.

For industry in general, the energy bill is only 4 per cent. to 5 per cent, of their total costs, and this means that a 20 per cent. reduction in industrial energy prices, supposing that we were in a position to grant that, would cost £1,000 million, or more than a quarter of North Sea revenue, and yet would reduce total industrial costs by only some 1 per cent. I do not think that that would be an economically efficient way of helping energy-intensive industries which might be in trouble. I would draw noble Lords' attention to the greater proportion of costs which can be saved by concentrating on wage claims, or wage claims granted in excess of productive capacity—as I know from the work within my own department.

The British Gas Corporation have, however, recognised the difficulties currently experienced by their customers and have tempered recent price increases to those users who are tied to gas and who cannot readily switch fuels. It must be recognised that the systematic and indefinite under-pricing of gas relative to competing oil products would lead to a demand which could not be met. Oil contributes at present 37 per cent. of heat supplied to industry, and gas 28 per cent. In no way, therefore, could gas replace all the oil used by industry.

I note that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred to the duty on heavy fuel oil. Though not the highest, the United Kingdom duty is relatively high by EEC standards and has been criticised recently by the CBI and others as contributing to high United Kingdom heavy fuel oil prices. Our duty inclusive heavy fuel prices were high for some months earlier this year, but I would point out that for many years up to 1980 our heavy fuel oil prices, duty inclusive, were closely in line with other European levels and that in recent weeks, I am glad to say, as other European prices have increased in response to the high spot market, United Kingdom duty inclusive heavy fuel oil prices appear to have moved well towards to the bottom of the price league.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, raised the general conservation issue. It is difficult to quantify precisely how effective a given conservation campaign is in the short term, but I can say that in the period from July to September this year the total primary energy consumption in the United Kingdom was 8 per cent. lower than in the equivalent period in 1979 and consumption of oil fell by 11–2 per cent. A very large part of these reductions was due to the fall in the level of economic activity, but I do not think, given those figures, that one could seriously argue that our energy conservation activities are having a negligible impact. We have always—again may I say this to my noble friend Lord Lauderdale in this context—intervened or spent money on energy conservation matters—about £120 million in the current financial year—a large part of which is being spent on conservation in the public sector.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, asked what the exclusions would be. Would refrigerators be excluded? Open hearth fires were mentioned by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. He asked also whether the Bill would cover combined heat-and-power generators as well as barbecues. There are real difficulties in testing manufactured open hearth fires. We intend to consult fully about the possibility of setting standards for such fires, for despite the difficulties, they are, as the noble Lord recognised, very widely used. We do not regard refrigerators as heat generators at present and I would refer the noble Lord to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, about the efficiency of conversion from electricity appliances. We agree that they might become so in future. The Bill gives powers which we could use if appropriate, after consultation. Apart from this, I can confirm that we would cover combined heat-and-power generators, but we do not at present have it in mind to cover barbecues in summer or Father Christmas in winter.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, asked whether it would be possible to prosecute ordinary consumers or purchasers of appliances for buying non-type-approved appliances. The answer is a clear no. It will be an offence to sell or to supply appliances which ought to be type-approved but which are not; but the consumer is the innocent party in that. He also asked whether the Government would require electricity and gas meters to be sited where they can be read easily. We have discussed this with the fuel industries. There are many problems of safety, cost and practicality affecting the siting of meters. I am glad to say that the industries themselves have a good record of siting their meters in the best places.

We do not think it appropriate to be "nannying", if I may use the term used by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, about this at present, but we will keep an eye on it. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, also raised the question of powers to improve the insulation standards of buildings. That goes wider than the Bill and I can give the assurance that these powers already exist under other legislation: for example, the Homes Insulation Act 1978.

The noble Lord raised the question of controls and he was echoed by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. The Bill will enable the Government to require conformity with prescribed standards. These could include requirements for adequate controls to be built into appliances where this was necessary for the safe and economic running of the appliance itself. But the Bill does not provide powers to deal with heat distribution systems or such associated controls because the Department of the Environment already have adequate powers to deal with such controls, although the problem is not one of powers but of defining what is necessary and cost effective.

My noble friend Lord Lauderdale asked whether the Bill should not cover heat pumps and air-conditioning. Heat pumps are heat generators and are therefore covered by the Bill. It is possible—again I refer to the answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, in connection with refrigerators—that at some stage the Government might wish to set efficiency standards for air-conditioning, but that is not at present the situation.

My noble friend Lord Selkirk asked whether using an unapproved appliance might affect someone's home insurance policy. The answer again is, no. It would be an offence to supply an unapproved appliance for which type approval was required, but it would not be an offence for someone to use such an appliance. This also covers his anxieties about powers of entry. There is no power in the Bill to enter domestic premises without a warrant, and we are assured that justices of the peace would be extremely reluctant to grant warrants without proper cause.

My noble friend asked me about Clause 16. The purpose is to allow the Government to be less oppressive rather than more so, and the alternative surely would be to specify in the Bill that all breaches of orders would be offences and all punishable on conviction. The Government do not think that it would be sensible to make all breaches of orders punishable offences. For instance, if an applicant for type approval breaks the provision of an order he will not get the type approval that he is seeking. There is no point to, as it were, penalising him further by taking him to court. The power in Clause 16 is therefore intended to allow the Government to specify in orders which breaches of orders are to be offences in law and which are not.

My Lords, we are all very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, back in the House. He asked whether the Bill provided control over servicing of fuel-burning appliances. The Bill is not intended to provide powers to control the servicing. Such powers would have major implications for staffing, as the noble Lord pointed out, as well as raising issues of the rights of entry to premises which my noble friend Lord Selkirk: mentioned. These issues are very wide and require serious consideration indeed before we lay anything before Parliament in that regard.

I am grateful that nearly all the speakers in the debate welcomed this Bill and supported its objectives. I believe that this reflects the general recognition of this House, and, indeed, in the country, of the importance of conservation in the broad perspective not only in energy policies but of our general economic objectives. By the end of the century the industrialised countries will need to have effected a substantial transition in their energy economies. They will need, as the Venice summit recognised, to break the link between economic growth and growth in oil consumption. Breaking that link is a hard task for us all, but we have certainly been forced to start upon it.

In this task, in this transition, energy conservation has a vital role to play. There are no quick and easy solutions, of course. Energy is used by millions of consumers in many different ways and we have all become used to easy consumption. Apart from the use of the price mechanism, there is no single measure which the Government or anyone else can take which will affect more than a relatively small proportion of the changes which we all know will be necessary. We have instead to look at the individual areas in which energy is used and see what can be done in each of them.

In that context, this Bill is a significant and useful measure. It aims at the progressive increase in the efficiency with which energy is used in one of the most important single sectors: space and water heating. The Government commend this Bill to the House not only as a piece of legislation intended to fulfil our Community obligations, not least in the interests of our trade, but also as a valuable conservation measure in its own right and in all our interests.

My Lords, when an appliance gets a type approval can the consuming public assume that it is an economic manner of operation? A case in point is heat pumps about which not a great deal is known in regard to domestic premises. If a type approval is given, can one assume that this is an economic appliance?

Yes, my Lords. However, my noble friend will see from the Bill that we are also flexible in terms that this may need updating from time to time as technology advances. The aim is to give the public and the user a clear signal that this is an energy-efficient appliance.

My Lords, could the noble Earl say whether he would look kindly upon proposals to expand the Bill to cover—if it does not already cover them—air-conditioning and ventilation equipment? They are energy-consuming appliances of great importance in factories and shops.

My Lords, I will certainly look into that and notify the noble Earl.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Appropriation (No 3) (Northern Ireland) Order 1980

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 26th November be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order is being made under paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 1974. The draft order provides for the appropriation of the autumn Supplementary Estimates of Northern Ireland Departments. I shall indicate some of the general features of the Estimates before drawing the attention of the House to one or two of the major items which they contain. Further information can be found in the Estimates volume itself, copies of which have been placed in the Library, and in the explanatory memorandum which has been circulated to noble Lords who have participated in recent appropriation order debates. The circulation of an explanatory memorandum on draft appropriation orders is a new arrangement which I hope will assist noble Lords in preparing for these debates.

The first general objective of the draft order is to provide additional cash to offset the effects of inflation on those votes which are exempt from cash limits control. This, as noble Lords will be aware, is one of the main purposes of Supplementary Estimates. The draft order also includes provision for the main 1980–81 Civil Service pay awards, for which no provision was made in the main Estimates. Thirdly, the draft order provides for the normal process of reallocation, both within and between Votes, which departments find necessary as the year progresses.

Noble Lords will be aware that the reallocation of Northern Ireland's public expenditure resources which was announced on the 6th August last entailed some very difficult decisions. I can only emphasise what has been said on previous occasions, that the spending plans of the public sector have to take account of the overriding need for the nation to live within its means. With limited resources, decisions on priorities are inevitable, and even with the addition of £48 million to Northern Ireland's allocation, it would have been quite impossible to respond to the greater demands which arose on the industrial and energy fronts without incurring some reductions on other programmes. It is the Government's view that the considerations which dictated the reallocation of resources earlier this year, essentially the need to create and sustain employment in the productive sector of the Northern Ireland economy, both explain and justify the action taken.

There are a number of points on the figures quoted in the autumn Supplementary Estimates, and in the schedule to the draft order, which it might be helpful to mention at this stage. A simple addition of the net totals of the 1980–81 main Estimates and the autumn Supplementary Estimates would overstate the total amount of cash Northern Ireland Departments will actually spend this year on voted services. This is because the conventions which govern the presentation of Estimates to the House do not always permit savings or reductions to be shown. The explanatory memorandum lists the services on which such savings are expected to arise. Northern Ireland departments will, of course, take account of these planned savings in the day-to-day management of their voted expenditure.

It is also important to note that not all the public expenditure additions and reallocations announced during the summer are reflected in the Estimates. The principal reasons for this are that some of the services concerned are not borne on Vote, some cannot be dealt with until the spring Supplementary Estimates stage arrives and, some are undertaken by the Northern Ireland Office and, as such, are outside the scope of this draft appropriation order, which applies to the NICS.

Passing on to more particular aspects of the draft order now before the House, I should like to direct the attention of your Lordships to the additional provision sought for services administered by the Department of Commerce. As the department with primary responsibility for the maintenance and creation of jobs in Northern Ireland, its Votes are the main destinations of the resources which were made available from the Contingency Reserve and from other Northern Ireland programmes in the reallocation I referred to.

In Class II, Vote 2, subhead A1, provision is sought for an additional £13.1 million to enable a loan of £14 million to be made to De Lorean Motor Cars Limited in respect of their project at Dunmurry, which could employ up to 2,000 people. This loan is necessary due to increases in costs which have arisen since the project began.

Under subhead A4 of Class II, Vote 2, the increase in the provision for industrial development grants again reflects the decision taken during the summer to reallocate funds in favour of Northern Ireland's economic programme. The intention in this case is to enable the Department of Commerce to sustain its commitments to firms under existing agreements and to enable it to enter into new agreements aimed at maintaining employment. Noble Lords will appreciate the crucial importance of putting the Department of Commerce in a position to accommodate the higherthan-anticipated level of demand which has arisen for these grants. Under subhead B2 of Class I, Vote 2, there is provision for a further £8.2 million for Harland & Wolff Limited, which at present employs over 7,000 people. The yard simply could not continue to function without Government support.

I now turn to energy. Under Class II, Vote 3, provision is sought for a grant of £20 million to the electricity service. Noble Lords will be aware that the service depends heavily on oil for electricity generation. The rises in world oil prices in the last year or two have caused major financial difficulties for the electricity service and, without Government intervention, would have necessitated tariff increases well in excess of those in the rest of the United Kingdom. The additional provision now sought will compensate the electricity service for limiting its tariff increases in the current year to the levels of increase applied in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Still in the energy field, under Class III, Vote 1, provision totalling some £9 million is sought for funds to facilitate the orderly run-down of the gas industry. Noble Lords will recall that the Government's Energy Statement on 23rd July 1979 indicated that financial support would be made available to assist the orderly run-down of those gas undertakings which decided to close, and that the position of consumers needing to convert their appliances would also be taken into account.

I have confined my remarks to those aspects of the draft order which relate to the industrial and energy sectors, as these are the main features of the autumn Supplementary Estimates to which the draft order relates. I am sure, however, that noble Lords will wish to raise other matters as well, and I am grateful to those who have given me advance notice of their intention to do so. I shall attempt to answer as many questions as possible at the end of this debate, and of course those which remain unanswered will be dealt with in correspondence later. I commend the draft order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 26th November be approved.— (Lord Elton.)

4.56 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his detailed breakdown of the financial elements in this appropriation order. I should also like to say that I am grateful for the arrangements making available the explanatory memorandum. I found it most helpful. While this is the third order in the annual cycle of orders to appropriate funds for services which are supplied to Northern Ireland and administered by Northern Ireland departments, it gives this House an opportunity to deal with the wider economic and social aspects of life in the Province.

If I may use art analogy, it enables us to ask those at the helm whether we in Northern Ireland who follow in the wake of the United Kingdom ship of state are on a set economic course, whether we are drifting, or whether indeed we are not slowly sinking as an industrial community. To help find whether we are on a set course, I would refer to words spoken by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Humphrey Atkins, on the 8th June last year, when he declared:
"Our basic objective will be to put life back into the economy by creating a climate which is conducive to growth. I fully realise that the Northern Ireland economy has special problems. The significantly higher level of unemployment is one. This will be taken into account when framing new policies. On the public expenditure front, preference will be given to cuts which do not create unemployment".
This was, as I understand it, a set course to bring life back into the economy. For some indicators along the way, we have the statement made by Mr. Rossi, the Northern Ireland Minister of State who on 22nd July 1980 declared:
"The Government remains committed to its economic strategy, which is designed to create the basis for real national growth and prosperity. We are, of course, sensitive to the particular problems of Northern Ireland and this has been shown by the considerable success in creating both new manufacturing jobs and also protecting employment".
"Considerable success"—I am afraid that few in Northern Ireland recognise this as a success story.

The noble Lord, Lord Elton, speaking at the Fermanagh College of Further Education on 29th November, said:
"Unemployment is at a figure which gives very great concern to us all and must loom very large in the lives of some young people".
The noble Lord went on to declare that the indications were that:
"…the tide of economic depression was beginning to turn".
Again, the noble Lord, speaking at Magherafelt High School on 3rd December, just two or three days ago, referring to industrial incentives, said this:
"We have made a good start in this connection in that some 5,460 new job promotions have been achieved in the first nine months of this year".
In passing, I should like to say that we have to be very careful when people mention jobs negotiated or jobs promoted. These are not at all new jobs created and therefore I look askance when the noble Lord refers to 5,460 new jobs promoted.

We are aware that only yesterday this order was debated at some length in another place, when many aspects of the Government's economic strategy were questioned. During a debate on the Queen's Speech on Thursday, 27th November, I made known my views on the degree of concern publicly expressed by many of us in Northern Ireland about the current economic and social deprivation in relation to jobs, housing and social conditions. I am compelled to ask: Is there any real evidence that the Government's policies are succeeding in creating economic growth and prosperity?

I do not wish to impute wrong motives to the noble Lord, nor do I wish to imply that he is deliberately misleading in his pronouncements. Indeed, I have the greatest sympathy with the Minister and with the Secretary of State, and his ministerial team, in tackling the difficult and deep-seated problems of Northern Ireland. But the fact is that we have over 16 per cent. unemployed, and one in every five of the male working population is looking for jobs. It is certainly not in accord with the facts of life in Northern Ireland even to whisper, in words of hope or encouragement, that the tide of economic depression is on the turn.

I would ask, in trying to see whether we are on course: is life being put back into the economy? Is a climate conducive to economic growth being created? Have the public expenditure cuts been given preference, so as not to create unemployment? Can we claim that the sum total of 5,460 new jobs promoted in nine months is a considerable success? It is with these declared objectives, and with the stated indicators in mind, that I approach this Appropriation (No. 3) Order and inquire just where we are. Are we on course or, at worst, is our economic and industrial base, as some would suggest, slowly sinking?

May I now turn to Schedule 1 to the order? As I understand it, and as I think the Minister has indicated, the six headings in Class I are all for pay awards. There is no new money requested to promote public works in the rural areas. So may I ask the Minister what is the present position and policy concerning the Urban and Rural Improvement Campaign—commonly known as URIC? In the Estimates for Services, published in June 1980, the vote was for an amount of £2,570,000, which was a reduction of some £½ million compared with the 1979–80 expenditure on this proven, very useful rural improvement and employment scheme. Could the Minister indicate how many are now employed under this URIC scheme? Are there any plans to revitalise this campaign to undertake much of the necessary drainage work and useful improvements in rural amenities, as well as providing urgent employment outlets in the more remote areas of the Province?

In Class II Vote 2, under the heading of General Support to Industry, an amount of £39 million is required. I should like to indicate to the House that I warmly welcome and support monies that are considered helpful in conserving existing productive employment and in creating new jobs. But can the noble Lord indicate what amounts of this £39 million are earmarked for existing approved projects that are coming on stream, and what are the amounts designated to reinforce the Department of Commerce's industrial development efforts?

In this connection, it appears from recent statements by Ministers, especially during their visits abroad to stimulate investment in Northern Ireland, that the Department of Commerce has a clear and difficult role to attract suitable productive overseas investment. This calls for the strengthening of the DOC's industrial promotions division, especially in North America, Germany, Japan and the Middle East. Could the Minister indicate what measures are proposed to develop this important industrial promotional work? What are the numbers of officials and staff in the industrial branches of the industrial promotions division?

Some concern has been expressed about the developing administrative role of the Invest in Britain Bureau—commonly known as the IBB. It has been mooted that United Kingdom regional development organisations are being subordinated, perhaps unduly, in their oversea initiatives by the directive approval machinery of the IBB. Can the Minister indicate that the terms of reference, or the remit, of the IBB include Northern Ireland? Can we be assured that the Department of Commerce will be encouraged independently to seek out suitable projects for Northern Ireland anywhere, at home or abroad, and, if and when, necessary will be appropriately assisted by the IBB?

Under Class II Vote 2, there are a couple of points which I should be grateful if the noble Lord could explain. The points arise under Section A, Selective Assistance to Industry, and Section C, Other Support Services. Monies for loans and grants for industrial modernisation and reorganisation have been severely cut in this appropriation order. Loans and grants for firms in the inner urban area have been seriously curtailed. Support services, including market research, the energy enterprise scheme, the mineral exploration programme and the provision for factory buildings have been cut, decreased, curtailed or postponed. There has been a decrease of over £6½ million in these various industrial regeneration schemes. I respectfully ask the Minister: Do the Government consider that this is consistent with "creating a climate conducive to economic growth"?

I am pleased to note from recent press statements that the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland is seeking to amend the Planning (General Development) Order of 1973. This should enable the use of suitable premises of up to 2,500 square feet for small industrial and warehousing enterprises. May I ask the Minister what factory buildings—above this small premises facility—suitable for immediate occupation by a modern manufacturing enterprise, are available in the Province? Could the noble Lord also indicate what is the Government's present advance factory building programme in respect of new buildings, factory warehouses and factory refurbishing?

On page 13 of the autumn supplementary estimate, there is an item under Section B2, headed Assistance to the Shipbuilding Industry and Item 3, is Legal and Professional Fees. The amount voted in the June estimates was £22,000. The supplementary requirement is an additional £50,000, making a total of £72,000. The amount in the 1979–80 appropriation was a mere £10. As I understand it, this vote is in connection with the Governments appointment of an independent review team to investigate the possible additional uses of the skills and facilities available in Queen's Island. These proposed uses may be either in the form of joint ventures with Harland and Wolff, or completely separate enterprises.

If I am correct in assuming that the vote is for this review and the consultancy work involved, may I ask whether the report and recommendations will be available by next April as publicly indicated? Have the consultants been appointed and will there be an opportunity given to the trade unions and to others directly concerned to be acquainted with the general terms of the report and recommendations? I should add that I welcome the fact that Mr. Alex Cooke, the acting chairman of Harland and Wolff, is a member of this review team and, certainly, I know that he has support from this side of the House in the difficult task that he has with the shipbuilding enterprise of Harland and Wolff.

On Class II-3 and Class III-1, to which the Minister has already referred dealing with electricity and gas supplies, the question of energy supplies is, perhaps, the most long drawn-out saga in Northern Ireland's economic history. In my view, the monies requested in this appropriation order for electricity and gas do nothing to indicate that we are "on course" and putting life back into the Community. The Government's history of involvement in fuel in Northern Ireland is not a happy one. The investment in enormous oil-fired over-capacity generation of electricity at Kilroot power station has, in a small and isolated energy system, imposed a severe burden on the Northern Ireland public. The failures some years ago to connect the Province to supplies of electricity and natural gas is an instance of poor decision-making in both economic and political terms. Of course, I support the vote for £20 million to enable the Northern Ireland electricity service to avoid tariff increases, which are at present 25 per cent. greater than the highest rates in Britain. I find it difficult to understand that again we are waiting for the completion of a major review of future electricity arrangements in Northern Ireland. I understand that a major review took place five years ago.

In connection with Class III, Vote 1, an additional £9 million is asked for to facilitate the orderly running down of the gas industry. We learned on 5th December that Mr. Giles Shore, the Minister for Commerce in Northern Ireland, had new information about gas supplies which may enable him to call a halt to the proposed further dismantling of the gas industry. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, may be able to indicate when there will be definite and specific decisions about the future of electricity and gas supplies in Northern Ireland. I hope he will be able to indicate when the review will be completed, and what arrangements are likely to be made suitably to inform and consult the public about the way ahead for energy.

I should like to refer to the absence from Schedule 1 of any reference to Class IX Votes. There must be good reasons for this, but I find it difficult to understand why the Votes under Class IX for health and personal social services are not required in the Supplementary Estimates. Class IX is the largest element of public expenditure in the Northern Ireland Estimates for Services, entailing an amount of over £450 million. The programme covers Vote-borne expenditure on hospitals, community health, personal social services and family practitioner services administered by the four health and social services boards. The Department of Health and Social Services was required to surrender some £10 million during the internal reallocation of resources in Northern Ireland carried out by the Government in August of this year. This meant a decrease, by over £6 million for current expenditure, by health and social services boards and a decrease of over £3½ million for capital expenditure.

In my opinion, this draft appropriation order does not reflect the publicly expressed views of members of the health and social services boards, nor of the trade unions in the personal and hospital services. I will mention only two aspects where I believe that Government policy is widely off course. The first relates to the abysmal conditions under which the mentally handicapped in Northern Ireland are compelled to exist and which they are required to accept. There is an urgent need for improvement and for the allocation of funds. Secondly, there is the utter waste of resources, apart from the human hardship and suffering created by the Government's decision not to use for the present the new and fully operational maternity hospital at Downpatrick. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to answer this point, if the information is available to him, this evening or, if not, at a later stage.

I will refer only briefly to the Vote under Class X.4. A request is made for £500,000 to cover the increased volume of printing and stationery. May I ask whether this is a side effect of the changed administrative arrangements arising from the transfer of the functions of the Supplementary Benefits Commission?

I should like to compliment the department upon their timely issue of the new guide to social security benefits. This is an excellent document and comes at a time when a great amount of information is required. In connection with the heading International Subscription, may I ask the noble Lord why the amount is not stated? While I welcome the voice of Northern Ireland being heard in international fora, it would be useful to know the full implications of this international subscription. The cuts relating to the Linen Hall Library is a matter which I have raised on a previous occasion. May I ask for the Minister's sympathetic understanding of this worthy institution which is part of Ulster's life.

I should like to ask the Minister about publicity, which is dealt with under Class XI.7, Section B. It is with a twinge of regret that I note that the Northern Ireland Government's information magazine, Ulster Commentary, is to cease publication this month. It has been in existence since 1946 and over the years I have found it very useful, particularly when I was in full-time trade union work. The new format is, I understand, designed to reach a wider public and to be more effective. I hope that this publication will not be prevented from doing a necessary and important job because of cheeseparing financial constraints over production and distribution.

From this side of the House I wish to indicate support for the Appropriation (No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Order. I hope that the first issue of the new information publication will provide us with real evidence that Northern Ireland is on course for economic growth and general prosperity.

5.17 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for the way in which he introduced the order. I listened with great interest to the critical questioning by the noble Lord, Lord Blease, and I was surprised that at the end of his speech he said he supported the order. I thought he was on the other side.

May I put just a few questions to the noble Lord, Lord Elton. The first relates to Class II Vote 2, subhead B.2: assistance to the shipbuilding industry of £8·2 million, to which the noble Lord, Lord Blease, has referred. This does not seem to be a great deal of money. I realise that it is only a subsidiary appropriation, but is this sufficient to keep Harland and Wolff going in the present difficult economic climate?

My second question relates to Class II, Vote 3, subsidies to the electricity tariffs. The noble Lord, Lord Blease, mentioned the problems over the way ahead for energy. I understand that at present consumers are unable to pay their way and that we are having to subsidise them. I think we might be given some credit for this by those people on the other side of the water who say they have seen enough of us. This subsidy may be essential. However, I should be grateful if the noble Lord could give further information about the tariffs for electricity and gas, and about how he sees the way ahead for energy and how the problem can successfully be solved.

Turning to Class VI, Vote 2, the improvement of the environment, there is total expenditure of only £1,000, compared with expected economies of £2·9 million. I realise that things are difficult. However, may I make the point that I made on a previous occasion when I was contradicted by the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, who I am sorry is not here today. I said then that the improvement of the environment was a very important matter. A great deal is happening in Northern Ireland but there are still many areas which could be improved. I accept that this economy may be essential, but it is very sad if we cannot do all we possibly can to improve the less satisfactory parts of the environment.

There seem to be two economies which will be of very short-term advantage and which may lead to more necessary expenditure in future. Class I, Vote 2, shows that the provision for expenditure upon the eradication of brucellosis is being reduced by £1·3 million. I tried to check what exactly brucellosis is, and I was very surprised to find that the Oxford dictionary did not give it. However, I believe it is a disease from which cattle suffer and as a result of which they either die or have to be exterminated. If the disease is allowed to carry on, one will be faced in the future with continued compensatory expenditure. The second economy which I question relates to Class II, Vote 1, road services. This speaks of a reduction of £6·7 million on the operation and maintenance of roads. This may be inevitable, but I know that in my home county the roads are deteriorating extremely fast and that if there is a hard winter they will be in quite a bad condition. To put them right will be very costly. Following on the noble Lord, Lord Blease, and his extensive questioning, those are the few questions which I wish to put.

5.20 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to start by thanking my noble friend for his explanatory document, which I found here when I arrived. It is a very readable document and I have been able to read and understand it between the time that I arrived and now, and I thank him for its very good description.

I should like to deal with only one subject. I find these appropriation orders difficult because there are so many things that one wants to say, but it takes too long to develop the argument and therefore I am inclined to stick to one particular subject. The noble Lord, Lord Blease, raised the question of the course of the economy in Northern Ireland. Whatever my support may be for the financial policy of the United Kingdom as a whole, I have to make it absolutely clear that for Northern Ireland the high rate of interest and the high value of the pound is leading to a totally disastrous situation. That view is supported by industrialists and by everybody else. Nobody should think anything else but that so far as Northern Ireland is concerned, isolated as it is with a water barrier, this is an appalling situation. Our textile industry was the largest concentration of artificial fibres in the United Kingdom—probably in Europe. It is being destroyed and it can never be resuscitated. To resuscitate it would cost an enormous sum. I feel that it is necessary to make that point.

I am a supporter of the general policy that we must live within our means, but when it comes to Northern Ireland, we are told that we must share and share alike with the rest of the United Kingdom. Let us share 6 per cent. unemployed; let us not share anything more than that. Let that be the basis of our sharing because that is our problem—unemployment, bad housing, and so on.

Having said all that, I must welcome this appropriation order. Unfortunately, it does not show us that there are other parts of the United Kingdom which, if they were isolated and separately accounted for, would be costing every bit as much per head as Northern Ireland. Therefore, so far as I am concerned I do not feel that we are accepting charity.

I should like to deal with agriculture because that is in an exceptionally difficult situation. In the new account for use in negotiation in the price review it will be found that the net income of farmers is down by 70 per cent. That is a catastrophic figure for our greatest industry and, if I may particularise, it is on the pig industry that I wish to fasten attention. This industry is efficient by any terms, it is enterprising, it has been revolutionary, it has led Europe. Its marketing has been—not beyond criticism, but certainly quite excellent so far as its past history is concerned. Its plight today is not due to inefficiency.

The whole point has been that the weaker industries must fall by the wayside. But this is an efficient industry. Its plight is due to two separate decisions. The first was a failure to negotiate properly to protect the industry when we went into the EEC; and the second, by the Government of the other side and by our Government, was a failure to renegotiate and save our industry. Those are the decisions of Government, not the failure of our industry. The basic fact is that the industry was built up on cheap grain from America. The granaries were efficient, the industry was efficient. The whole thing was tied up on that, and it enabled our small farmers to extend their acreage and made it a viable business. As I have said before in this House, the position today is that grain is £15 a ton more expensive in Northern Ireland because of duty and because of transport problems. If we were to sell to Japan, for instance—and there is a market for us in Japan—in fact there are further handicaps which act against us as the bacon leaves our country, because duty is charged on the incoming grain to keep the EEC price up. We would normally expect to get what is called a restitution, as the whisky manufacturers get a restitution for the extra cost of their grain; but the method of calculating the restitution grant for our bacon is not realistic as compared with the extra cost. So the Government should renegotiate the method of calculating restitution.

Today in the press we see that there are large exports of food to Poland. These stocks are being sold from intervention. Before grain goes into intervention the transport of that grain is paid for by the EEC until it gets to the stores. What about the Government arranging for intervention stores to be in Northern Ireland if it is illegal for us to pay subsidies on the price of grain, because that is where it has got to be? If that is illegal under the CAP, why not have intervention silos in Belfast and Londonderry? That would overcome the problem and I believe that there would be great sympathy for it in the EEC.

The Government are in fact paying a feed grant at the moment, but in the 1980 price review there was an undertaking that the processing industry would receive a large injection of capital. This was to happen in June; then it was to happen this month; it is now not to happen until 1981, and we know that the price review in the EEC never finishes until about June or July, and then probably we shall be off again. In the meantime, confidence is diminishing and the industry is becoming much smaller. Ways and means must be found to save this very important industry of ours.

It is far cheaper to preserve the 5,000 jobs which are at stake in the bacon pig industry and to have independent people than it is to spend £28,000 on one job with De Lorean. I maintain that there is real discrimination. When the £48 million was redistributed, surely some of it could have been taken for the pig processing industry, which is part of the industry of Northern Ireland. So I hope that the Government will find some method of saving our pig industry.

5.28 p.m.

My Lords, following what the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, has said, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord on the Front Bench for having given us in advance an explanatory memorandum on this order. I entirely agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, has said about agriculture. It occurs to me to wonder why in fact in Class 1, Vote 6 there is an increase of over £1 million for expenditure by the department on administration, in view of the fact that the service to farmers seems to be in the process of being curtailed—and I thought that was with a view to staff reductions, but it may be an inflation factor.

None the less, dealing not just with agriculture but with the situation as a whole, I have a nasty feeling that tile Government cutbacks in public expenditure and the squeeze on credit are tending to hit the soft targets rather than the hard ones. By the "soft targets" I mean people like the farmers, people like the small industrialists who perhaps employ 20 to 30 people and also people like those voluntary organisations such as Women's Aid, Age Concern, the handicapped, and so on.

The soft targets are not able to hit back. The farmer will not go on strike, nor will the man who runs a small industry in a rural area. When times get tough that man has his entire stake in his farm or his industry and therefore he will not let it go. He will forgo his holiday; even if his car is five years old he will put off changing it for another couple of years. He will work a 15-hour day, if necessary, to tide his farm or his firm over the rough period. And the chances are that his labour force, such as it may be, will be with him on that, because they realise that his job is their job, and that if his business goes to the wall that is their job lost, and there is no one going to bale them out. That farmer or small industrialist cannot clear off to America; there is no one going to bale him out.

My Lords, not for a moment do I wish to say that I in any way begrudge the money that has been pumped into the Belfast shipyard or into De Lorean, or the money that was pumped in to start up big multinational branches such as Courtaulds, or indeed the firm of which I am chairman, Carreras Rothman (Northern Ireland). No, I do not begrudge this at all. But it would seem that, in view of the fact that it would be a very difficult political decision and would create an international uproar if the hard targets were allowed to go, therefore the soft targets are suffering.

I do hope that Her Majesty's Government will take due note of that, and make sure that such people as a neighbour of mine, for whom I have been fighting for two years to get a small factory—he has been working from a corrugated iron ex-gospel hall and would provide more jobs if he had decent premises—will get more consideration, because they are the salt of the earth in Northern Ireland; they are going to be the people who will stick with it through thick and thin, and no boardroom decision in Detroit or in London or in Amsterdam is going to make these people pull out until they have really reached the end of the line. Furthermore, their workforce is going to pull out every available stop to help them to make a go of it.

My Lords, it has already been mentioned that our industries in Northern Ireland are at a disadvantage on account of the higher energy costs, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Blease, said, this is something with which we have all had to live for a very long time indeed. But why, when we have surplus capacity for generating electricity in the North and it looks as though in the Republic of Ireland there is going to be a surplus of gas available, cannot we sell them electricity and let them sell us gas. I agree that the inter-connector has been blown up three times. Is this the sort of stuff that we are made of? Who rules in Crossmaglen and that area? Do Her Majesty's Government rule on one side of the Border? Do the Republican Government rule on the other side of the Border? Or is this no-man's-land, bandit country, where a few unfortunate electricity workers sent to repair the interconnector are chased away by gunmen and told not to come back? Could we not put the line underground? Could we not even put it under the sea? This would be a tremendous saving to both countries. Quite irrespective of politics, Ireland is geographically an island and the British Isles are geographically an entity.

I would further ask why, in the light of the Cooper and Lybrand Report, in the light of a report presented by civil servants some time ago, both of which supported the gas link between Scotland and Northern Ireland, Her Majesty's Government continue to propose spending large sums of money on the rundown of the gas industry, which is not only going to cost money directly but also is going to cost money as a result of the amount of jobs that will be lost by those workers in the gas industry. Is it not absolutely plain that it is far better to save jobs than to create them? Is it not clear that the expenditure on maintaining the gas industry and providing the electricity link would be money much better spent in paying unemployment benefit or compensating people for having to change their heating appliances?

The same really applies to the housing situation. It is much cheaper to save jobs than to create them. Economising on construction of houses for the Housing Executive and on the maintenance of houses, I respectfully submit, is false economy. Unemployment in the construction industry is, I think, as high as, if not higher than, anywhere else. Furthermore, the Housing Executive's stock of houses in need of repair but whose repairs are being postponed will either have to be repaired or replaced one of these days, and then it is going to cost even more. Similarly, as I think the chairman of the Housing Executive made clear, if finance available to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive is not increased at this stage, the housing stock in general is going to deteriorate and more money still will have to be found in the future.

There is, further, the matter that from a social point of view bad housing, together with unemployment, is a very real factor indeed. It could well be that the violence which has been so much deplored and regretted by us all in Northern Ireland in recent years may be as much a protest against bad housing, bad environment and unemployment, frustration, boredom and the destruction of the human spirit, as a political protest. Therefore, I sincerely suggest to Her Majesty's Government that, in view of the fact that one in four houses in Northern Ireland is statutorily classified as being unfit, and whereas it would take £154 per capita of the population to bring the housing stock up to the Great Britain level, the present expenditure is £135 per capita, this is something that Her Majesty's Government should look at very closely indeed next year, because I appreciate that it is probably too late to do anything about it this year.

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, I might be able to deal with this point better at the end of the debate if he told me where he got these comparative figures from, because they do not agree with mine.

I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. I was given those figures by my political research unit, who perhaps were in error. I accept it if the noble Lord has authentic figures which I do not have.

I will check that anyway, my Lords. If I may say a brief word on education, a proposal has been made in the Chilver Report that the teacher training colleges should be amalgamated. This, I think, would be a useful economy as well as a valuable step towards social fusion in Northern Ireland, as indeed I think integration of schools, a subject about which I have spoken before in your Lordships' House, would not only be socially valuable but would also save money.

Generally, to wind up, your Lordships will be aware that Northern Ireland is a special case because it is disadvantaged, first, by its previous dependence on traditional industries, agriculture, shipbuilding and textiles. When the late Lord Faulkner saw the rundown of the linen industry taking place, I think he was absolutely right to encourage man-made fibres, and no one at that time, in the mid-1950s early 1960s, could have told that man-made fibres would run into the difficulties that they have all over the United Kingdom today.

That is one of our problems. Another is the higher fuel costs, to which reference has already been made. Another is remoteness from the markets of the products that we manufacture, and the cost of travel which is a very substantial factor indeed for representatives of firms who have to go to London, Manchester and even across to the Continent. The extra journey from Northern Ireland is a very significant factor.

Therefore, we are more dependent on public sector employment and, perhaps, the service industries, than the rest of Great Britain. And I cannot help feeling slightly anxious that too high a proportion of those working in Northern Ireland are engaged in the service industries rather than in the manufacturing industries which are wealth-generating. Even so, it must be recognised that there is bound to be a greater dependence on public sector employment. Indeed, it was said to me by someone the other day: "It is more socialist policies that we require in Northern Ireland than Conservative ones". I hope that the noble Lord will not take offence. Also, there is the social danger of mass unemployment. I think that it is extremely risky to allow the situation to reach a stage where there is long-term unemployment. People can become completely dispirited, their morale is shattered and the will to work eventually becomes eroded. That is another reason, I think, why Northern Ireland is a special case.

So I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will do all in their power to attract what assistance they can from the EEC. There has been some confusion about that, and I think that the noble Lord recently clarified the position. If he has anything to add today I should be glad to hear it. However, I hope that the Government will attract the maximum assistance from the EEC for stimulation of the economy and of jobs in Northern Ireland, and also to give as much incentive as they can for private enterprise—whether it be tax incentives or whatever. However, it is the generation of wealth and the provision of jobs which are needed, and I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will not be unaware of those two priorities.

5.43 p.m.

My Lords, in this time of financial stringency I welcome this order and, in particular, the £20 million subsidy for electricity tariffs, which will be of undoubted assistance to industry, commerce, agriculture and, in particular, the housewife. In regard to the provision for a further loan for the De Lorean car company, I should like just to remind the constant critics of this project that in America there is widespread interest, indeed enthusiasm, for this project. Furthermore, this House should remember that the market place for this car is in America, not in this country.

As the Government's political initiative in regard to devolved government has duly run its course, I believe that it is not only opportune but essential for the Government, and in particular the Northern Ireland Office, to focus maximum attention on the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in Northern Ireland which in itself is a grave cause for concern. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that this deteriorating situation represents a severe threat to the stability of the country. That viewpoint was expressed forcefully recently on television by the chairman of the Economic Council, Sir Charles Carter. Therefore, an economic initiative is not only opportune but, I believe, vital. In the context of the prevailing economic situation in the United Kingdom, it would, of course, be irresponsible and inequitable to suggest any further significant public expenditure for Northern Ireland, but the deteriorating situation calls for the implementation of original and radical policies.

Before putting forward suggestions for consideration by the Government, I would say that it is essential to remember that successive energy crises have resulted in spiralling freight rates across the Irish Sea which, as a result, have reduced the consumer market for Northern Ireland goods to a localised market of £5 million within the island of Ireland. Furthermore, as a result of the strength of sterling and the dwindling value of the punt Northern Ireland trade to the Irish Republic has become complex, difficult and disadvantageous, particularly affecting the Border areas—areas of traditionally high unemployment.

Secondly, let us briefly examine the success story of the Irish Republic Industrial Development Authority who, in this extremely difficult year of worldwide recession, have promoted some 40,000 new jobs. Although Northern Ireland has undoubtedly an image problem in regard to industrial promotion, the Industrial Development Authority continues to enjoy significant advantages over Northern Ireland in the promotion of industrial development. First, as previously stated in your Lordships' House on two occasions, the IDA can offer incoming industry a tax-free holiday on all manufacturing exports, and now, as from next month, a stabilised rate of corporation tax at 10 per cent. until 1990. If Northern Ireland shares the same geographical peripheral disadvantages as the Irish Republic, then surely Northern Ireland should be entitled to have parity with the Irish Republic in regard to fiscal incentives and the removal of unnecessary red tape. As it is vital to attract long-term viable industry to Northern Ireland, I believe that fiscal incentives are just as important as grant inducements.

I understand that the Community regulations in themselves do not preclude the possibility of regionally differential levels of taxation. Perhaps my noble friend Lord Elton, when replying to this debate, could indicate if and when the Government intend to make representations to Brussels in regard to a corporation tax concession for Northern Ireland.

Secondly, the IDA in the Irish Republic, enjoys a track record of minimum red tape. One of the few disadvantages of direct rule is that it has resulted in a dramatic increase in bureaucratic red tape. In fact, a local businessman deciding to start up a new enterprise has literally to navigate a minefield of bureaucratic red tape prior to launching his project. Apart from the urgent need to roll back recent bureaucratic encroachment, the Government should seriously consider how the philosophy of encouraging able young people to make a career in industry can be converted into reality by creating and providing the right structure to improve the links between education and industry, since Northern Ireland desperately needs to attract its best talent into industry. I believe that if the Northern Ireland Office could take the lead in this direction, Northern Ireland could lead the rest of the United Kingdom in this vitally important concept.

Again, the links between industry and universities could be closer in the development of high technology. One can foresee the need in Northern Ireland for a Sanford University type of industrial enterprise on one of the university sites. I believe that the new University of Coleraine has just started a highly successful industrial unit. It really is essential for every vestige of talent in Northern Ireland to be encouraged and exploited to the maximum.

To encourage entrepreneurial development in Northern Ireland involves high risk investment, and I believe that the Government should encourage and allow private individuals to invest part of their income, free of income tax, in developments and ventures of this type. In this critical economic climate I hope that the Government will review yet again the right structure for the job promotion agencies in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has a population of only 1½ million, yet there is a proliferation of job-creating agencies; namely, the Department of Commerce, the Local Enterprise Development Unit and the Northern Ireland Development Agency, with back-up support from the Economic Council, the Low Cost Automation Centre, the Wolfson Signal Processing Unit, Manpower Services and several other excellent organisations. Surely this proliferation must result in a duplication of time, effort and talent which will inevitably obstruct the most effective and efficient method of job-creation in Northern Ireland, as this country must be equipped with the most efficient job-creation agency in Europe. If this deficiency is the considered opinion of many in industry, and I believe the trade union movement and the Economic Council, then surely the Northern Ireland Office should review once again the current situation.

In recent weeks the Ulster Farmers' Union has, as always, articulated the problems and concerns of the agricultural industry, as farming is in deep depression. As is the custom of this House, I should like to declare a vested interest for I am involved in farming and also in a wood-processing industry which supplies material to the farming community. I believe that the time is opportune to reassess the significance of agriculture to our economy, and how and where production could be improved, thus providing direct and downstrean employment; in other words, further employment in the food processing industry.

In counties Tyrone, Fermanagh and Londonderry there are literally thousands of acres of unproductive land requiring reclamation. Surely the Northern Ireland Office should encourage the reclamation of this land by acting as a vehicle for the European Investment Bank to lend long-term loans at fixed rates of interest to progressive farmers who want either to increase their existing acreage or to purchase these run-down farms, which have a viable potential, for their families. A European Investment Bank loan, currently at 11 per cent. including exchange risk cover, would assist farmers to plan reclamation expenditure without having to contend with fluctuations in the MLR. Perhaps, naively, I am attempting to persuade, if not cajole, the Northern Ireland Office to adopt a more initiating role to assist our economy. But as competition in Europe for new job-creating investments has become so severe—in fact, it has become a vicious, competitive, international battle—drastic action in a drastic situation must be taken.

5.55 p.m.

My Lords, it is always easier to open a debate of this nature than it is to wind it up. I shall endeavour not to fall between the two stools by speaking too long to secure your Lordships' attention or by speaking so briefly that I do not answer your Lordships' questions. I hope that your Lordships will bear with me. I have endeavoured to pick up most of the gauntlets thrown before me in some profusion, and occasionally some confusion. I shall try to set matters to rights.

The noble Lord, Lord Blease, who gallantly welcomed the order at the end of his very unwelcoming speech, raised a number of matters and set the debate in a somewhat sombre context. He reminded us of the acute social and economic difficulties of the Province. I would not want to belittle those difficulties; nor would I wish to leave us with an exaggerated impression of them, or a diminished impression of what Her Majesty's Government are doing to alleviate them.

I should like to start with the reference to 5,460 new jobs. I may say that I am deeply flattered that the noble Lord has read the speeches which I made at two of the many educational institutions which I have attended in the last few months, and in future as I draft those speeches I shall always consider not only the shining faces of the young at the front, but also the wise and critical eye of the noble Lord at the back, as if he were there. He referred to 5,460 new jobs, to which I referred in my earlier speech, as having been promoted in the first nine months of this year, and asked whether, in fact, they were real jobs. These are the result of an orchestrated effort carried out by the Department of Commerce, the Northern Ireland Development Agency and the Local Enterprise Development Unit. It includes a number of enterprises entirely new to Northern Ireland, such as the Learfan project, which will provide 1,250 jobs; the C.P. Trim Company, which will provide over 400 jobs; in addition, it includes new Northern Ireland projects and expansions of existing Northern Ireland enterprises, such as Glen Electric at Newry—about which, again, the noble Lord will have read in the same paper as he read my speech—which will provide a further 150 jobs. These are events that would not otherwise have happened.

I believe that the tide is turning because it is possible to bring them in. There is an outflow, but we are combating a process that has gone on for a number of years and which has accelerated and gained momentum over a number of years. It takes time to turn the tide, but I think that it is slackening in one direction, and I remain confident that, in fact, it will rise again.

The noble Lord, Lord Blease, went on to pick up a number of points in which I shall try to follow him. He was anxious about the absence of the DHSS Class IX Vote in the Estimates. The reason for this—and it may not allay his alarm or anxiety—is that the effect of the summer reallocations was to reduce provision in Class IX below the main Estimate level. As I explained at the beginning of the debate, there is no machinery for showing reductions in the Estimates. Therefore, the reference to them appears in the Explanatory Memorandum, and I am grateful to noble Lords for welcoming this. I thought that it would give me fewer questions to answer, but, quite clearly, it has given me a great many more.

The noble Lord referred, as did a number of noble Lords, to Harland and Wolff—which is something of a monument in the middle of Belfast—and to the difficulties of that company. Like him, I give the best wishes to the new chairman of that company. The review which is at present under consideration is not quite the statutory affair that he seems to think it is, but what is under consideration is any means of diversifying the operations of the shipyards so that they are not tied to a single type of product. Indeed, some of that has already been evidenced.

The noble Lord turned to the urban and rural improvement campaign and expressed some concern about this. This is a campaign of the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland. Some 1,300 jobs provided by the department in minor drainage works and forestry and fishing amenities under this campaign will be phased out by March 1981. But these are temporary jobs, as I believe the noble Lord is aware. Arrangements to implement this policy decision have been agreed upon with the trade unions concerned through the mechanism of the department's Joint Industrial Councils. The need for further reductions in public expenditure continues, and additional reductions in the size of the DANI industrial labour force may therefore be expected.

The noble Lord then quoted a number of votes and classes in the matter of reallocation, starting with extra provision in Class II, Vote 2, sub-heads A1, A4 and B2, and asking whether this was financed from new money. The increases in these three sub-heads form part of the extra £48 million which was allocated to Northern Ireland during the summer, and the £50 million internal reallocation process. He asked whether the £98 million referred to in the 6th August announcement was used for new industrial investment projects. That is really to quantify in terms of money what I have just given in terms of jobs. The Department of Commerce's share of the £98 million is being used mainly to hold down electricity tariffs and for industrial support. Some £7 million is earmarked for Harland and Wolff and about £14 million for De Lorean. I am grateful to the noble Duke, the Duke of Abercorn, for reminding us that the motor car which is sometimes looked at rather lightly on this side of the Atlantic is the subject of great interest on the other side of the Atlantic, and dollars are very welcome. The remainder of the provisions for industrial support will mainly be used to enable the Department of Commerce to accommodate the higher level of expenditure required for industrial development grants.

The planning and formulation of certain projects for which provision has been made under loans and grants under A2 and A3 are not being taken up by industry for the reason that the projects are not coming on and being completed as quickly as anticipated. Some of the projects are now under way and will involve payment of the same grant in later financial years. Therefore, this is a question of timing and not of totality. The postponement of the ecological survey programme and the delay in introducing the mineral exploration programme, to which the noble Lord referred when talking to the provision for mineral exploration and grants, is a necessary consequence of the Department of Commerce's contribution to the reallocation of resources to which I have referred. It is not thought to have affected seriously the mineral exploration programme of companies already prospecting in the Province, but the matter is being kept under review.

The noble Lord referred to the market research grant scheme. The main purpose of this scheme, which was introduced in October 1979, is to assist in raising the standard of marketing by encouraging Northern Ireland firms to engage in well planned market research programmes. There has been no cutback as such in the scope of the scheme, or the rates of grant paid. The reduction reflects an ability to predict more accurately the cash requirements of the scheme in the current financial year as a result of the experience of claims received to date. To put that in plain English, we thought it would get taken up quicker than it has.

The noble Lord asked whether the provision for energy saving interest relief grant has been reduced. The scheme is demand related and the provision again reflects the anticipated uptake by industry and commerce. No change of policy is reflected in the figures. As to the provision of energy enterprise schemes, the noble Lord asked whether that has been reduced. Energy conservation is receiving and will continue to receive high priority and we are moving forward on a number of fronts. We recognise the importance of this. We are continuing to exert ourselves to achieve savings, but our overriding aim is to reverse the trend in unemployment, the tide to which the noble Lord referred. That has to be the priority for expenditure, and it has to some extent to get its money from this source. It is a small indication of a change of emphasis in the Government's programme.

Several noble Lords are interested in gas and electricity. In regard to electricity, the whole matter of electricity supply is currently under review. The implications, both for industry and for domestic consumers, of the high cost of electricity in Northern Ireland compared with that in Great Britain are important factors in the deliberations of the review team. The work has a high priority, but the team has to consider complex matters and I cannot say when the outcome of the review will be known. It will, however, be completed as quickly as possible and there will be appropriate arrangements for public consultation and discussion.

In the case of the gas industry, its future has been the subject of a number of close studies which took account of a number of options, including the supply of natural gas by pipeline from Scotland. I have to tell the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, that the recommendation of the Civil Service review was not that this should proceed. On the basis of that and other studies, the Government have concluded that this is not a viable option and that the continuation of subsidies for the industry could not be justified. It is, however, prepared to assist those undertakings who have decided to run down as a result of this decision.

I should mention, and noble Lords have raised it already, the recent talks which Mr. Shore had with Mr. Colley on the possibilities of the supply of natural gas from the Republic of Ireland. These covered the proposals for developing gas extraction from the Kinsale field. It has been agreed that the next step is for the South to provide more detailed information on such matters as price, quality and of any supply which might be on offer to Northern Ireland so that an evaluation can be made. I must make two points on this matter. First, the information from Mr. Colley is new and it would be wrong to adduce a firm prospect of supply until it has been fully evaluated. Secondly, such supplies, if they do materialise, will not provide alternatives to the existing operation of all 13 gas undertakings in Northern Ireland, and would not therefore avoid closure in all cases. Work on the preparation of rundown plans must therefore continue. A further statement will be made as soon as a clearer picture of the way forward emerges.

My Lords, would the noble Lord permit me to interrupt just for a moment, when he is dealing with that subject? In the event of worthwhile quantities of gas being found off Rathlin Island, would it alter the noble Lord's attitude towards that? Or even if there were a likelihood of gas flowing in the other direction, would it alter his view towards having a link between Northern Ireland and Scotland?

My Lords, if circumstances change judgments change, and I could not tell what the circumstances would be if the noble Lord's hopes turn to be fact; but they certainly would be considered.

In order not to delay too long, I will note what the noble Lord, Lord Blease, said about the Linen Hall Library, without giving a résumé of the case of this interesting and ancient but independent body. Miscellaneous expenses increased under Class X, Vote 4, by £460,000. This provision reflects the costs of the reform of the supplementary benefits scheme amounting to £413,000 and needs the printing of new codes of operational instructions, leaflets, and forms. I think your Lordships were content with the proposals. This is what their contentment costs. I think those are the noble Lord's principal points.

May I now turn to the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, who spoke next? I should like first to thank him for welcoming this order, and secondly to reply to the points he raised. On the question of brucellosis eradication, the noble Lord is right to say that it is a disease of cattle and a damaging one. The reason why the Class I Vote 2 reduction is there is largely because the campaign has succeeded better than expected and the result is that there are fewer cases to treat.

My Lords, the Minister spoke of a programme for the eradication of the disease and then spoke about treatment.

The noble Lord is quite right, my Lords, and perhaps I was tempted to go too fast; "treatment" is perhaps a rather Orwellian word for "elimination". The noble Lord also spoke about support for electricity and the necessity for it. I would point out that domestic tariffs are currently 22 per cent. and not, as the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, said, 25 per cent. higher than the average comparable tariff in England and Wales. I doubt if the noble Lord would wish the Government to have permitted a further rise without careful consideration; it is a very considerable difference and constitutes one of the special features of the predicament of the Province which the Government recognise in making their allocations of funds.

While not disagreeing with that policy, my Lords, is the noble Lord aware that all I am saying that we should give credit where credit is due?

My Lords, I was about to say that a great deal of credit is due for what the Government are trying to do to alleviate this special condition. The noble Lord referred to the housing grant. Revenue expenditure by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive on salaries and management costs, maintenance of the housing stocks and loan charges on borrowing to finance capital programmes exceeds the income it receives from rents. This deficit is met by housing grant paid to the executive and it is anticipated that this will amount to £102.2 million in 1980–81; I shall return to housing later.

The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, told us—it is tempting to coin a phrase—first that small is beautiful and then that pig is beautiful. I accept his points. Having failed to get agreement in Brussels to a feed price allowance scheme or to the extension of the Italian levy abatement scheme to Northern Ireland, the Government are attempting to secure a European Community scheme under which approximately £8 million is to be made available over a four-year period to help relieve the difficulties facing the pigs, poultry and feedingstuff industries in Northern Ireland.

My noble friend the Duke of Abercorn asked whether the Northern Ireland job promotion organisation was adequate to cope with the present situation and whether it ought to be reviewed again. I would remind my noble friend of the review the Government undertook earlier this year of the main industrial development institutions in Northern Ireland; that is to say, the Department of Commerce, the Northern Ireland Development Agency, the Local Enterprise Development Unit and the industrial training responsibilities of the Department of Manpower Services. Following that review, it was decided that the Department of Commerce, NIDA and LEDU should continue to contribute to the industrial development effort in Northern Ireland but that new and improved coordination arrangements between these institutions should be developed at both policy and operational levels.

That has been affected through the setting up of a consultative forum chaired by my honourable friend Giles Shaw, who has responsibility for the Department of Commerce, and by regular meetings of the chief executive officers of the industrial development organisations. The forum comprises representatives of the Northern Ireland Economic Council and the heads of the industrial development bodies and provides Government with the benefit of the views of representatives of a variety of business and community interests on different aspects of industrial development policy. I am pleased to say that these new arrangements are working effectively. I recognise however, as does my noble friend, that the arrangements for industrial promotion are a vital instrument of Government economic policy in Northern Ireland and I reassure him that their effectiveness will be the subject of continuous monitoring to ensure that they are fully appropriate to the task.

That brings me directly to the question of the promotion of interest in, and connection between, schools and industry. I am very conscious of the need for strong links in this area and that young people should be made aware of the full range of opportunities open to them when they leave school. I believe there is a false tradition that we must combat; namely, that there is something dishonourable in professions which do not have a brass plate screwed to the door and somebody with clean hands behind them. We must defeat that if we are to become a wealthy nation again.

My department has approved additional teaching posts in post-primary schools to strengthen the provision of careers education; in-service courses for careers teachers have been organised; each of the five boards has appointed a careers adviser; and as part of the careers education programme and in co-operation with local employers, most schools organise visits by pupils to places of employment, and pupils from over half the schools in the Province are now participating in work experience schemes. In addition this year some teachers from all board areas have benefited from a two-weeks' secondment to industry. In June, the new Northern Ireland Science and Technology Regional Organisation, SATRO, was established in the Northern Ireland Polytechnic and this will provide a further vehicle for active co-operation between schools and industry.

Another new development which I warmly welcome is the initiative by the main Northern Ireland business organisations in setting up an education co-ordinating group. This group is bringing together the heads of Northern Ireland industry and commerce, schools principals and education and library board officials, and initially it is concentrating on the Belfast area. The institutions of higher education in Northern Ireland are also well aware of the importance of links with industry and have taken steps to develop and formalise these links in many areas of work, including the low cost automation centre and materials testing station at Queen's University, the teaching company and the innovation and resource centre of the Ulster Polytechnic, and pollution management and translation and interpreting services of the New University of Ulster. I am not painting a picture of an ivory tower separated from industry. Does my noble friend wish to intervene to tell me I am? I have a rule that I give way once to each noble Lord and I think I see my noble friend wishing to intervene.

I am obliged to my noble friend, my Lords, and I wish to refer back to the question of the job creation agency. When the Government decided not to restructure the job creating agency in Northern Ireland there was widespread criticism among industry, I believe I am right in saying among the trade union movement, and from the Economic Council. I urge my noble friend to reconsider who is right and who is wrong. Can the Northern Ireland Office be right when industry, trade unions and the Economic Council all criticised this decision?

My Lords, I take note of my noble friend's feelings and will convey them to my honourable friend who has responsibility for these matters. I will not repeat what I said; my noble friend will read it in tomorrow's Hansard, but I will also see that my honourable friend reads what my noble friend said.

I have spoken for 22 minutes, my Lords, and have already given way. Familiar faces opposite are beginning to look a shade impatient and I must get on, referring finally to another point raised by my noble friend the Duke of Abercorn, who wanted us to consider making arrangements for the Department of Agriculture to administer European Investment Bank funds or to set up a public sector body for a similar purpose. Facilities are available through the Department of Commerce already for the provisions of EIB loans to processing projects in the agricultural sector. No parallel arrangements have been made and none are at present being considered for agricultural production projects, which are normally on a much smaller scale than industrial projects.

Projects involving the manufacture or processing or agricultural products can qualify for loan on the same basis as other manufacturing projects from the EIB Exchange Risk Guarantee Scheme. The scheme does not, however, extent to loans for farm development and improvement projects, where I should remind my noble friend that generous rates of capital grant, up to 70 per cent., are available from existing agricultural schemes for land reclamation and drainage.

The criteria for obtaining an exchange risk guarantee is as follows. The scheme is primarily for manufacturing industry, but service industry projects may also be considered. All projects assisted under the scheme must involve either the creation of new jobs, or the safeguarding of existing ones, and meet the criteria for selective financial assistance. The scheme has recently been extended to tourism projects. The EIB has excluded certain difficult industrial sectors, particularly those suffering from over-capacity within the European Community, such as man-made fibres, and has indicated that projects in other sectors would require special attention.

I shall weary your Lordships too much if I go on longer. I repeat what I said at the beginning, and I repeat what I said in the school in the speech to which the noble Lord refers. I recognise that these are difficult waters. I realise that there is a tide that we have to turn. I think that that tide is slackening in the one direction. The noble Lord has 2 per cent. off interest rates since I last spoke to this House. There are many other factors, some against and some for, but I believe that what the Government are doing will bear fruit. What we need now is a steady nerve and as much compassion as we can afford. If we drown in compassion, if we do not put our money into new jobs, but spend it on helping even more those who are not in jobs, the fact is that there will be no jobs for anyone in the long run. We depend on our wit, our muscle, and our resources. It is the Government's intention to see that, using those, we come again to the proud and secure place in the world economy to which we have been accustomed for so many generations.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1980

6.22 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 26th November be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1980 be approved. This is a further order in a series, which has been enacted at intervals of approximately two years, to deal with miscellaneous matters of a financial nature. The last order was the Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1978. The main purpose of those orders is to increase, as necessary, limits imposed by Northern Ireland legislation on certain financial transactions, and to deal with other matters with a financial content. They do not deal with the appropriation of cash for public services.

I propose to deal very briefly with the content of the main articles. Article 3 and Schedules 1 and 2 deal with two items in respect of which issues may be made from the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund, the issues having a statutory limit placed on them. The first item is for capital expenditure for industrial development, where it is proposed to increase the present limit on aggregate issues from £550 million to £560 million. The second relates to issues to enable rebate payments to be made to employers from the maternity pay fund, where it is proposed to increase the present limit from £250,000 to £750,000. It is anticipated that these increases should accommodate estimated expenditure until mid-1982.

I have other details of the order, but I think that your Lordships would rather proceed to the next business, and so formally I beg to move that the order be agreed to.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 26th November be approved.—( Lord Elton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuing) (No 2) Order 1980

6.24 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 3rd December be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) (No. 2) Order 1980, which was laid before the House on 26th November, be approved. In the six months since we last debated the renewal of the emergency provisions for Northern Ireland I am pleased to say that the overall level of violence in the Province has continued to decline; yet death and violence still occur, bringing tragedy and grief for the victims and their families. The terrorists and their violence are now more alienated than ever from the people of Northern Ireland, whose economic, social, and political needs are made worse, and pushed further from realisation, by the division and destruction wrought by terrorism.

As we progress towards normality we must expect the path to be rough in places. The terrorists will not easily abandon their discredited cause. We must expect them to seek any desperate means to revive their flagging fortunes. One way is to create fear and suspicion within and between communities. The Provisional IRA has attempted to do this with a ruthless campaign of murder in the border areas around South Fermanagh and South Armagh; and in recent months so-called loyalist terrorists have carried out a number of equally abhorrent murders. I condemn totally all those who commit these dreadful crimes, for which there can be no possible justification. Furthermore, let no one be in any doubt that the security forces will continue to act with determination and impartiality against all who break the law, whatever their political or religious persuasions. The same applies with equal force to those who take the law into their own hands, as some have recently threatened to do.

The return of normality is shown most clearly by the way in which the security forces are dealing with terrorism. They are not using the draconian measures advocated by some; they use the due process of law. This involves painstaking investigation, the gathering of evidence, the bringing of charges, and the proof of those charges in courts. This process, which is undramatic but relentless, is the very essence of policework, and it is increasingly the Royal Ulster Constabulary, supported where necessary by the Army, who are pressing home this fight against terrorism. It may not make many headlines, but it is a most effective form of attrition, gradually eating into the heart of terrorism. So far this year 539 people have been charged with terrorist crimes, including 62 with murder.

I know that this House would wish me to pay tribute, as we have done before, to the professionalism, courage and dedication of the men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and RUC (Reserve), the Regular Army and the Ulster Defence Regiment, who daily continue their fight against violence and inhumanity on behalf of us all. I am also encouraged by the continuing number of successes against the terrorists by the security forces in the Irish Republic. Cross-border security co-operation is an essential component of our counter-terrorist effort.

Your Lordships will know that we are debating the renewal of these emergency provisions in the face of another threat of violence from the Provisional Irish Republican Army. It is the threat posed by the hunger strikes. That threat is not only to themselves; it is to the community from which, for a horrific list of crimes of violence, they have properly been banished. They seek by this means to force the Government to concede the legitimacy of their evil cause and to grant prisoner-of-war status to the convicted and sentenced republican criminals in prison. In this of course they must inevitably fail.

Thus failing, the terrorists hope to use the threat of the hunger strikers' deaths to precipitate widespread violence and bloodshed in the Province, and thus to promote the chaos and fear on which they thrive. This is a callous and ruthless exploitation of human life, to engineer confrontations within the community and with the security forces. So far the demonstrations in support of the hunger strikers have been peaceful. The Government believe that this support is misguided, but while the demonstrators behave lawfully their right to protest will be protected. The police will continue to control the demonstrations with the tact, discretion and common sense which they have demonstrated so far.

However, we must take account of those who at some time will seek to create violence from these peaceful demonstrations. I would ask the demonstrators to think hard about those who may try to manipulate their sincerely-held feelings for evil and violent objectives. As tension rises, let us hope that the suffering and endurance of the last 11 years, and the positive gains which have been made, will not be swept away by the hypocritical rousing of emotions by men who regard death as a mere tool in their workofdestruction.

As for the hunger strike itself, your Lordships will be aware that seven men are in the seventh week of refusing to take food at the Maze Prison and that they were moved to the prison hospital on 2nd December so that closer medical surveillance could be maintained over them. Three women prisoners at Armagh also began to refuse food on 1st December. So far no one's condition is giving cause for concern, but if they persist in their fast, it may not be long before we begin to see signs of deterioration in the health of the men.

My Lords, this is not the time for a lengthy discussion of these issues. Let me make them clear once more. The object of the protesting prisoners is to secure political status. The Government cannot, and will not, concede that status. But the Government are ready to consider constructively any genuine ideas for further improvement for all prisoners in a regime which is already enlightened and humanitarian, as my right honourable friend's Answer to a Question in another place last Thursday, 4th December, made very clear. The prisoners' claim for political status within the prisons is only part of a wider attempt to discredit those measures which the Government have been compelled to introduce to protect the very fabric of society from terrorism. We are here today to debate those measures and, I hope, to renew them.

However, my Lords, the Government do not seek renewal lightly, without having weighted up carefully the advantages and the disadvantages of each of the emergency provisions, and taking into account the comments and recommendations of responsible bodies, particularly the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, who are rightly wary of the use of temporary emergency legislation. The Government welcome the constructive advice of those who have the same objectives as we do—the return to normality. The terrorists themselves could most quicklybring about the dismantling of the emergency legislation by giving up violence and pursuing their aims by legitimate democratic means. But they dare not. The sterility of their creed of violence is all too evident, and yet by still pursuing it they push continually further out of reach the legitimate aspirations of those they claim to represent.

As I have said earlier, we are making progress towards normality, and a significant step six months ago was allowing the power of detention without trial to lapse. We are continuing to look for further opportunities as the position gradually improves. The measures to be given the closest scrutiny today are all provisions in the Act associated with the functions of the courts. They consist of the terms on which judges consider applications for bail in the High Court, in Section 2; the constitution of the so-called Diplock courts, in Section 7; and the rules governing the admissibility of statements by suspects in the case of allegations of ill-treatment while under interrogation, in Section 8.

So far as Sections 2 and 8 are concerned, we have discussed the arguments in detail in these debates over the last 18 months, and I know that the Govern- ment's case for retaining the provisions in their present form for the time being is well known. Suffice it therefore to say that the position on bail has not changed, except that I notice that the High Court does indeed grant bail to suspects in a considerable number of scheduled cases. Again, I notice that the courts from time to time find reason to stop trials on the grounds that the prosecution have not fully discharged the obligation placed upon them in the Act to disprove the allegation that ill-treatment took place. It is clear to me that the spirit of the concern expressed in this House and elsewhere about Sections 2 and 8 is being taken into account by the courts, which therefore protect the defendants.

When we examine the constitution of the Diplock courts we should do well to remember their genesis. They exist because terrorists sought, and still seek, to pervert the course of justice by intimidating juries from doing their duty. They exist because, in the face of violence, they were, and are, the means considered by eminent jurists to be the most likely to ensure that justice is done in providing the protection of the law for those who are threatened with, and subject to, violence. If that violence and its threat, though diminished, have not been totally removed, then it would not be wise to remove our safeguards. We have managed to make things better, but it would be foolish to think that the job had been finished.

The other provisions of the Act are also safeguards against the use of force to overthrow democratic institutions. They are the minimum weapon required in our armoury to resist the terrorists, who stop at nothing to achieve their purpose. At this particular time, when we see the terrorists making a desperate effort to turn the clock back to public disorder, brutality and sectarian violence, I have no compunction about asking this House to maintain these safeguards and to renew the emergency provisions as they stand. Steadfastness now will bring us closer to the day when we can cast aside these unwelcome but necessary aids in protecting the lives of peaceful citizens against the brutality of terrorism. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 3rd December be approved.—( Lord Elton.)

6.35 p.m.

My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord for his helpful and considered explanation of this Emergency Provisions (Continuance) Order, I would wish to repeat my support for the bipartisan approach to security matters in Northern Ireland. I join with the noble Lord in his tribute to the security forces and their work in Northern Ireland. I think it will be accepted that I am a frequent and, indeed, persistent critic of the Government's economic and social policies, which, as has been stated earlier this evening in this House, are having profound effects on Northern Ireland; but I feel I would be untrue to myself, and indeed to the people of Northern Ireland, if I engaged in nit-picking or a kind of mealy-mouthed support for the Government in any sincere attempts to deal with a very serious and potentially disastrous situation at present existing in the Province.

I support the Government in their attempts to find an acceptable way of resolving the H-block issue. I applaud Mrs. Thatcher for going to Dublin, as I applauded her for having the courage and the commitment to visit the security forces in Northern Ireland, and especially at Crossmaglen, when she became Prime Minister. I cannot stress how important it is for it to be seen that the Prime Minister and her senior Cabinet colleagues are personally committed to finding reasoned and acceptable solutions to the problems of Ireland. Although I share the disappointment of my friends in another place at the way the Government have handled their communications following the meeting with Mr. Haughey, the Irish Prime Minister, I regard this as simply another example of how poorly the Government perform in this field—the field of sensible human and public relations. It is an example of poor communications, rather than an indication that the policy being pursued is at fault.

My Lords, in this House and throughout over 45 years of work within the trade union movement I have advocated closer cross-border and Anglo-Irish co-operation as being in the best interests of the communities of these islands, and I was glad to hear the noble Lord making remarks along those lines. If the day ever comes when Ulster people turn their backs on practical common sense economic matters, such as co-operation on energy, industry, agriculture and many other aspects of life and social problems, they will have betrayed an important Ulster characteristic.

I have also advocated political change by persuasion and peaceful methods, for I believe firmly that the rule of democratic law is paramount. I share with His Holiness the Pope his view on the sacredness of human life and the inescapable truth that "murder is murder". I also accept the democratic principle that Governments must govern, and that despite any undue criticism this Government, I am convinced, like their predecessors, are sincerely striving to find a just and lasting basis for peace in Ireland. I believe we can best help towards these ends by giving support to this part of the Government's work within the context of the parliamentary processes.

As to the relative necessity of renewing this order, I agree with the noble Lord that we must not become complacent, nor deal with it as a mere rubber stamp exercise. However, perhaps the time is coming when we ought to look at the setting up of a judicial review of the Act, as has been suggested on other occasions. Other noble Lords who live in most difficult areas of the Northern Ireland Province may well wish to speak, so I would conclude by saying that in supporting this order I at the same time feel we cannot ignore the past 11 years of cruel and violent acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland, much of which is still continuing. My Lords, for these reasons I support the renewal of the proposals in this order.

6.39 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, should again like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for introducing this order, and I welcome very much what he has said. I should also like here to refer briefly to the subject which is so much in the forefront of the news today, the hunger strikers in the Maze Prison. I want to add my support and the support of my party to the way the Government are handling this matter. With my honourable colleague in the other place, Stephen Ross, I visited the Maze Prison earlier this year, and following this may I say how amazed I was to read in a report in The Times yesterday, under the heading,

"Time running out for hunger strike",
that,
"The Maze Prison sprawls across several acres of rich farming country …".
My recollection is that it is a vast complex covering in toto, as we were told, more than 100 acres. This highlights the ease with which the truth can be distorted, unintentionally (as I am sure was the case here) as well as by deliberate fabrication.

The first point that I want to make is that we left after our visit fully satisfied that conditions for prisoners are extremely good, better than in many of the older prisons in the United Kingdom except where, in the Maze, prisoners deliberately choose to make them otherwise. This cannot be said too often. When groups of demonstrators chant "H-Block, Hell-Block, Britain's concentration camp", they are guilty of pure fabrication and an evil perversion of the truth. Such behaviour does nothing but exacerbate the tense situation in Ulster today. The second point is that when well-meaning people plead for more reforms at the Maze "on humanitarian grounds", they are falling for the deceit that I mentioned just now—the implication being that the protesters "on the blanket" and those now on hunger strike are subjected to inhumane and degrading conditions. That is not the case. I join in repeating that the grievous discomforts they suffer are self-inflicted.

In an extremely tense situation, the Government must be seen by all who do not deliberately shut their eyes to be both fair and firm. It has been suggested to me that the so-called Diplock courts, to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has referred, might be helped if two judges sat instead of just one. None the less, I hasten to declare my great admiration for the courage of those men who undertake the present task. I would also pay tribute to the way that the prison staff continue to carry out their duties in dangerous and frustrating circumstances. I should like to join in the tributes already paid to the troops and to the Ulster Constabulary. One point which made a deep impression on me at the Maze was that over vast areas the prisoners and staff alike are starved of contact with any growing plant or tree. I find myself wondering whether in prisons in general the beauty of nature might not act as the necessary catalyst to break a bitter mood. I recall the words of Oscar Wilde about Reading Gaol:
"The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
Are what they give us there;
For flowers have been known to heal
A common man's despair".
I would describe it as concrete, corrugated sheeting and barbed wire; but the message is the same.

On the general position in Ulster today, I can only repeat my conviction that the bitterness and prejudice will take a very long time to heal. Everything that is possible must be done to bring the two sides together; for this is, of course, a problem which in the end the people of Ulster alone can resolve. We must not become impatient too easily if the path proves difficult. Finally, I should like to say that I was depressed to see on television some of the principal speakers after the recent Cambridge Union debate unable even to agree whether it was better to look forwards or to look back. I should have thought that it was clear that while we must certainly look forwards, it is likewise essential to look back—to look back and to try to understand. For true understanding brings forgiveness, and reconciliation is the only solution to the problems of Ireland, Ulster and the Republic, today.

6.42 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to join in the tributes to my noble friend Lord Elton on his introduction of this order and to say how impressed I was with the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Hampton and Lord Blease. I think that together they covered an enormous amount. The speech by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, was filled with compassion, sincerity and a good deal of determination. I appreciate that very much. I should like to join with my noble friend—and I hope that when he refers to me in his speech this time he will still call me his "noble friend", for I noticed the omission; but I feel it was a sin of omission rather than of commission—in assuring the House that so far the size of the demonstrations by the H-block supporters, the "Smash H-block" people, has been very small. There have been occasions in real Republican areas where only 50 people have turned up. This is a great tribute to the leaders in the area. Nobody knows, unless they go to those areas, of the intimidation and the appalling pressure that people in those areas are under. It is a very finely-balanced position at the moment. Every-thing should be done to make sure that there is no confrontation and nothing to produce a different frame of mind. I should like also to join with others in paying tribute to the forces, to the judges and to those who administer the law. They have a dangerous task and they do it with great fortitude and can be subject to no criticism.

Statistics show an improvement; but murders are still continuing and therefore that makes this order essential. There can be no relaxation and my noble friend has made it clear that there will be no relaxation. But in our area the problem still is very acute, with people able to come across the border for about 12 minutes—and that is about the limit at the moment. Last Friday, I had something to do with the evacuation of a farmer of 400 acres which he abandoned because of fear. That is the level to which the terrorists have succeeded in their prime intention of terrorising; that is the purpose and object of a terrorist. I shall probably appear to be not quite as hopeful as others about this; but I feel that it is right in this House to put the matter in the perspective of those—to use that horrible phrase—"at the grass roots", those totally involved in the local community, a community under attack but also with a considerable involvement in the business world, my friends in the whole of Northern Ireland.

There really is major tension in the Province of Ulster at this moment. It is not a figment of anybody's imagination. It is a tension of anticipation in case something goes wrong. I should like to start off by welcoming the initiative of the Prime Minister in trying to improve the links between the South and the North. To that extent, I welcome it very much. Let nobody think that this is a new departure; it has been going on for over 50 years. The Unionist Governments of Northern Ireland have co-operated in many, many economic and industrial spheres. There is no question about the welcoming of measures of this sort.

My Lords, without wishing to be too acrimonious, why then was it necessary for a Conservative Government to bring Stormont to an end?

My Lords, I can only tell you that I think that that was one of the tragic mistakes of a misguided Government. That would be the opinion of many people. I should like to feel that at the meeting of the Prime Minister and Mr. Haughey the question of extradition was raised, because a very serious decision was made in the courts of justice in Dublin. Noble Lords will remember that we passed a Criminal Jurisdiction Act and, under that, the idealists believed that a man who committed a crime in the North of Ireland and was apprehended in the South would then be tried by those courts. We had a case which went before the courts, one only, and that case, before it went down, was examined by the Attorney-General and by the DPP in Northern Ireland and was passed to the Attorney-General and the DPP in the Irish Republic. The evidence was there, as far as they were concerned, for a prima facie case. It came before the judges who dismissed it without even going so far as to try it. I am not suggesting that the men were guilty, but I am suggesting that what the judiciary said in Dublin was, "No matter what the Government have done in passing that Act, we will not work the Criminal Jurisdiction Act". My Lords, something should be put in its place to achieve the same effect.

I am glad that the noble Lord restated that the people on hunger strike are convicted criminals, some of them proud of the crimes that they have committed. And in their name other crimes are daily being committed. We in Ulster, who have been the victims, feel that some publicity should be given to the horrific injuries that have been committed on our people. I welcome most sincerely the Government's intention, which is becoming clearer and clearer, to stand firm against the hunger strikers. It is far less dangerous to stand firm than pursue any other course. But there is no denying that there is tension in the two areas of Northern Ireland, the two communities—and I wish to God there was only one community, everybody united in loyalty to Ulster!

In the Roman Catholic community the issue is: Can the IRA intimidate the population there to support the H Block people in a way that can produce a sectarian clash? In the Unionist population there has been and is a genuine distrust of the operations of the Northern Ireland Office. On three separate occasions since the beginning of the hunger strike that suspicion has been fanned. The first one was on the announcement that prisoners could wear civilian-type clothes. The Northern Ireland Office somehow managed to mislead Cardinal O'Fee, Bishop Dailey, myself and lots of other people that this was not a concession against blackmail. It was so close to the start of the hunger strike that it is difficult not to say that it looked like a concession. Now things are being made clearer; but at that point—supporting the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Blease, on communication—it was bad communication.

The next thing that happened was the Written Parliamentary Answer by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. It was represented as an initiative. Dublin accepted it as an initiative. Certainly the leader of the SDLP accepted it as an initiative. But nobody was present in Northern Ireland to go on to the media to explain exactly what was in that statement. It was published here and everybody had a chance of smashing it before it could even be read. Certainly so far as I was concerned I rang up at an early stage to find out what it meant, because what I believed it to mean was disastrous. In point of fact it turned out to be nothing of the sort. That is the second question. The misinterpretation is due to bad preparation, and that is not a good thing in the state of Northern Ireland.

I should like to say how much I welcome the appointment of Mr. John Concannon, the right honourable Member for Mansfield, and his remarks, in which he said in "Yorkshire government" terms:
"It is time we spoke plain English".
In Northern Ireland we do rather long for the plain English of the former Secretary of State and the Minister. It seems to me that the language is being couched in terms which are subject to misunderstanding.

I believe the problem is tied up not in what the Government are doing but where they are aiming their information. I believe that at the present moment they have been too worried about the reaction in Dublin, the United States of America and London. Too little thought has been given to the reaction to their statements in Northern Ireland. This has produced increasing mistrust. In the summit meeting, Mr. Haughey has been repeating, time and time again, that the institutions which are to be examined will lead inevitably towards a united Ireland. It is not unreasonable for us to contend that, when we have the present silence about what was discussed, this situation again feeds our suspicions.

Something requires to be done to reassure the Unionist opinion, and I believe that the Government now have to repeat the assurance under the 1949 Act with a further definition to say that no kind of diminution of the sovereignty of the Westminster Government over Northern Ireland will be considered or contemplated without reference to a referendum. I genuinely believe that this is necessary and it has a great deal to do with the stability at this particular time.

The fear and apprehension is very bad and can lead to violence. That fear and apprehension is based on a lot of experience. We have only to remember that our feeling in the North of Ireland is that the Foreign Office, which has been called by somebody a nest of vipers—and I certainly would not put it that way, but I think the honourable Member for South Antrim called it that—would like to slip, slide or in some way move us into an inevitable position of a united Ireland. This is why the Member for North Antrim, the Reverend Ian Paisley, can feed on these fears. It is therefore important that this position should be put right with a repeal of the 1949 Act. If he is to be prevented, the Government have Rot to take a firm stance.

My Lords, I see that the time is going on. I consider that the Dublin Government and the media are quite wrong at the moment to fan the fear that there will be sectarian violence. There will be no sectarian violence if the Government take a strong, clear line, as they appear to be doing at the moment. But they must speak with an absolutely clear voice in order to make sure that there is no sectarian clash. All of this will help the place where the real battle is, and that is a battle for those Roman Catholics in the Republican areas who are being subject to such intimidation and such pressure from the IRA and their associates. Let us keep absolutely calm. Let us have no more initiatives until this thing is out of the spotlight. If we are firm, if we are quiet, there will be no sectarian violence.

6.58 p.m.

My Lords, I had not intended to speak tonight. I do so since I cannot remain in my seat because the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred in the course of his remarks to the discredited cause of the Provisionals, and later to what he called the evil cause of the Provisionals. This focuses attention on a problem that is felt by many of us who believe in that cause but who condemn violence with all the strength at our disposal. After all, the cause of the Provisionals is a united Ireland.

My Lords, with respect, the prime aim of the Provisionals is the overthrow of the Government on both sides of the island. The unification of the island is incidental to that. The noble Lord should make it clear which is the cause to which he gives his support.

My Lords, I think that I made it absolutely clear. I said that the cause to which I gave my support was that of a united Ireland, the achieving of a 32-county Republican Ireland. That is a cause which I support and which I do not believe to be either evil or discredited, although I condemn with every strength of feeling that I can express the methods that are being used for its achievement. Having said that, now I am on my feet I will only add that I deeply hope that violence will continue to decrease and that this may be the last time on which this temporary order of 1978 will again have to be renewed.

7 p.m.

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, and other noble Lords present—perhaps not a majority tonight or on most occasions in this House—I certainly share the ideal which I have expressed many times in this House and elsewhere, of a united Ireland. I condemn, as I have condemned many times in this House, all violence from the Provisionals or the UDA. Perhaps I could just call for the attention of the noble Lords opposite—could they listen to me for just a moment? I should like them to bear in mind that the UDA, who are still a legal body by some odd quirk of the arrangements, have committed many murders, so do not let us talk as though all these murders were committed by the Provisionals. All murders on whatever side they come—and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Elton, condemned all murders— should be condemned.

There are other things I can agree with including the tributes paid to the Security forces. I am not saying any of these things for the first time. I agree reluctantly with, and I share the hope of, the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, that this will be the last time it will be necessary. I agree with the tributes paid to Mrs. Thatcher on her expedition to Dublin. I agree with what I hope will be the outcome. We can all agree with what we hope will be the outcome but none of us knows what the outcome will be and therefore we can cherish these hopes.

Now I come to the terrible issue, this tragic issue. I did not think there was enough sense of tragedy in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. It is a tragic question, the question of these people. I agree that political status should not be conceded. It is a great pity that a man for whom I have great respect in this country, the Conservative Minister at the time, conceded it originally. But I agree that it cannot be conceded now. On the other hand, if these people die it will be a tragedy which will not be forgotten perhaps for centuries. I do not think the noble Lord should take too happy a view of what victory would amount to in this case, supposing the course of the Government prevails and these people simply die on hunger strike. I did not notice in the House tonight sufficient recognition of what that is going to mean in the long future.

The Government have made some attempts to introduce more humane methods. I do not want to quibble, but if they introduced more humane methods presumably that meant that methods were not humane enough before, otherwise there would be no need to introduce more humane methods. But there is still room for still more humane methods and I hope they will be explored. I am not saying that the Government are not doing all that is possible: I do not know. I just do not know what they are doing.

I am very glad that some official went there yesterday to try to explain the situation, and I hope that everything possible will be done to avert a tragedy. But I get letters, as I daresay do other Lords—for example, the noble Lord, Lord Blease, who knows so much more about Northern Ireland than I do. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, will also get letters. Some of them are from parents and relatives of people in the H block. And I join my words to those of many much more respected people, for example, the leading clergy, who implore these hunger strikers, and particularly their relatives to try to persuade them, to give up the strike.

My words may not be of a great deal of importance, but I should like the noble Lord, Lord Elton, to realise that the sort of language he used, if it were ever retailed to the parents, would stiffen the resolve, probably produce a good many more on hunger strike. The noble Lord, with his historical knowledge, must realise that there is an element of nobility when people are willing to lay down their lives for a cause, even if it is a bad cause; and if the noble Lord cannot realise that he is not the sophisticated and civilised man I think he is—

May I just finish my remarks? There is plenty of time and the noble Lord may go on talking afterwards as long as he likes and I shall be pleased to listen to him. I am saying that the noble Lord should realise that there is an element of nobility in what these people are doing at the moment. They are dying for a cause and I do not think one should despise them for that. I say all that, and at the same time join my words, which are likely to be slightly more effective, if I may say so, than the words of a Minister who spoke about them in the way the noble Lord has spoken about them. I join my plea to their parents to persuade these young people to give it up.

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, he said there was an element of nobility in people who were prepared to die for a cause even if it was a bad cause. Would he say the same about Hitler's Wehrmacht?

My Lords, I should think that was probably true, yes. I think there were a great many brave men who fought in the German army.

7.5 p.m.

My Lords, may I reply briefly to this interesting debate? I should like to thank the noble Lord for his welcome for what I have asked the House to do and for his confirmation that the party opposite intends to pursue a bipartisan policy in this direction. The noble Lord, among his remarks, wondered whether the time for a judicial review of the powers was not approaching. My principal concern, as I have made clear already, is that the resolve of the Government in this situation should be apparent. That has led me to a strength of language which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has regarded as intemperate. I will return to it. I should like to echo the congratulations of the noble Lord, Lord Blease, on the courage of the judiciary, congratulations which were also echoed by others.

The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, also provided us with an extremely welcome intervention and spoke with the authority of somebody who is not in Government but who has actually been there and seen the prison and the conditions which, he rightly says, are better than many elsewhere in the United Kingdom and indeed in many countries in Europe. He reminded us that the conditions from which the prisoners are suffering, whether relating to the blanket, the "dirty protest" or the hunger strike, are self-inflicted.

My Lords, may I intervene? The noble Lord made it extremely difficult for me a little while ago to visit the Maze prison. It was only after persistent efforts that I was allowed in. I was allowed to see the prisoners in the H block but I was not allowed to see the conditions; so it has been made extremely difficult for noble Lords to see what has been going on.

My Lords, I can only regret the noble Earl's feelings on this matter. I am not aware of the circumstances. My noble friend Lord Brookeborough then widened his view to Fermanagh and drew attention to the question of extradition. He referred to a particular case but, as he will understand, the judiciary in the Republic, as in the North, is quite independent of the Executive and it would be wrong for me to comment on their decisions. The decision on whether or not to mount a prosecution is, of course, entirely one for the appropriate authorities in the Republic. I am sorry I cannot follow him further in that.

Really, we are talking about two things: a sense of confidence in the Government's resolve and their clarity of vision and the question of humanity in dealing with a passionately difficult situation. I have to reiterate, in spite of what the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has said, that the people in prison have committed crimes which it is difficult for any humane person to condone. Of course one must respect the courage of somebody's convictions if they are prepared to follow them to the lengths that they do. That does not alter the fact that the convictions are utterly mistaken and bear the most terrible fruits—
"and by their fruits shall ye know them".
I do not take a happy view of what might ensue from what the noble Earl imputes to me, regarding it as a victory if these people were to die. What triumph is there in that? The victory we seek is that of humane common sense, enjoined by the clergy of the church to which the noble Lord belongs and endorsed by all of us. But this is not the way to pursue either reconciliation or victory. If we are talking about the unification of the island of Ireland, then let us stop talking about victory, because nothing sets it further away than violence, my Lords. Every effort of these people puts their declared objective further afield, and that is why I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, that the avowed aim, the ultimate aim, of these people, is the destruction of the State—and there is nothing worthy in that. So though I respect the courage of conviction, I cannot respect the use of violence, death, maiming and other reprehensible proceedings in proceeding down a course which self-evidently will destroy the objective it sets out to gain in the public eye. The public eye, that sees in this a great triumphal march towards the unification of an ethnic Ireland, does not only overlook the ethnic claims of the majority in the Province. It also overlooks the ineluctable logic of history that, by the clash of arms in this situation, you only determine and strengthen the resistance of those who feel threatened by it.

The danger which we seek to avoid is that those threatened people—and they are threatened on both sides of the divide—shall not feel it necessary to take violence into their own hands for their own protection. It is the function of the State to protect its citizens, and for that protection it is necessary to renew this order, and to renew it with an air of resolve, which I think your Lordships will endorse.

My Lords, may I just point out to the noble Lord that I, myself, had to spend five years of my life engaging in violence at the behest of the Sovereign of this country, who decorated me for what I did, and that when it comes to violence in this case I condemned it as vociferously as he did.

My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's wish to make his position clear. I am aware of his gallant past. I do not wish to belittle him or his achievements. But there is a difference in the violence of a State, or of two States, which is the delegation to the nation, or the State, of that which is evil in the hands of the individual, and which is the justification for the protection of that State's existence. But when elements within that State, whatever party they belong to, break that monopoly and take it into their own hands, that is a crime, and if we do not accept that it is a crime we destroy society. I think your Lordships were on the point of coming to a decision on this matter.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Harbours, Piers And Ferries (Scotland) Act (Variation Of Financial Limit) Order 1980

7.12 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 25th November be approved.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, and I hope that we come to much calmer and more peaceful waters. The underlying purpose of the order before the House is to increase from £200,000 to £600,000 the cost limit within which the Secretary of State for Scotland can authorise, without recourse to detailed parliamentary scrutiny, the construction or improvement of fishery and transport marine works mainly in the Highlands and Islands.

The present statutory position is as follows. The Harbours, Piers and Ferries (Scotland) Act 1937, as amended by the 1972 Act, gives the Secretary of State powers to authorise a local or harbour authority to undertake work by means of the relatively simple and expeditious procedure set out in the 1937 Act, only if the estimated cost of the work is £200,000 or less. Should the estimated cost be above £200,000, the authority concerned normally has to petition the Secretary of State seeking a provisional order under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936. This is a lengthy and time-consuming process. The only alternative to private legislation procedure is for an authority to ask the Secretary of State to make a Harbour Revision Order under the Harbours Act 1964. But even this, though quicker than private legislation, is more onerous than the corresponding procedure under the 1937 Act.

The proposal now before the House is that it is reasonable for this limit to be raised to £600,000. Perhaps the main argument in favour of such an increase can be summed up in one word: inflation. Indices show that the £600,000 proposed is equivalent at 1980 prices to the £200,000 limit set by Parliament in 1972. It is a measure of the problems facing this Government that this is the case. The delays involved with these alternative procedures have drawn criticism from local authorities, shipping operators, fishermen and all islanders who stand to benefit from the new provision. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has made strong representations to have the limit increased in line with increases in the costs of construction.

But your Lordships should not be left with the impression that proposals under these arrangements are not subject to public scrutiny. It is not uncommon for proposals to provide or redevelop piers and harbours to attract local opposition. The 1937 Act provides for the authority proposing the development to give public notice of its intention, and for the Secretary of State to consider objections before taking a final decision. Increasing the Section 7 limit along the lines proposed in this order will help ensure that necessary minor improvement schemes are not delayed for long periods because of the need to use inappropriate procedures. I therefore commend this draft order to the House for its approval. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 25th November be approved.—( The Earl of Mansfield.)

My Lords, I welcome this Motion, and in no way do I wish to delay the House on this matter. This is a sensible step and it certainly has the approval of the Opposition.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Fishing Vessels (Acquisition And Improvement) (Grants) (Variation) Scheme 1980

7.16 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Fishing Vessels (Acquisition and Improvement) (Grants) (Variation) Scheme 1980, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th November, be approved. The purpose of this instrument is to extend for a further period a scheme of Exchequer grants towards the cost of constructing and improving fishing vessels. The scheme provides fishermen with a grant of 25 per cent. of the approved cost of projects, and it is administered by the White Fish Authority on the Government's behalf. As has been the practice in previous years, it is proposed that the scheme be extended for one year only: in this case, therefore, to the end of 1981.

It will, I think, be common ground in this House that our fishing fleet must be continuously adapted and renewed, if it is to operate effectively and economically. The grants scheme has played a valuable role in encouraging this adaptation and renewal and the Government consider that it remains appropriate to provide this financial assistance as the fishing industry continues to adjust to future fishing requirements. Your Lordships will be aware that in the negotiations on a common fisheries policy, which we hope will shortly be concluded, there is the prospect of financial aid from the Community for restructuring the fishing fleets. Among the financial proposals under discussion is a scheme for grant aiding the construction and modernisation of vessels. It would clearly be prudent to provide for our current scheme, which has an identical purpose, to remain in force until the Community arrangements for grant aid are settled and implemented. At that stage, the Government will wish to review the form of the scheme to judge what amendments would be appropriate to ensure that it fully complements the EEC measures.

I would not wish to anticipate parliamentary proceedings on the Fisheries Bill which was recently introduced in another place, but your Lordships may have seen that it provides for the abolition of the White Fish Authority, together with its sister body the Herring Industry Board, and their replacement by a single new statutory body for the fishing industry, called the Sea Fish Industry Authority. As your Lordships would no doubt expect, the Bill contains provisions intended to ensure that the administration of the grants scheme before us today can be smoothly transferred from the hands of the White Fish Authority to its proposed successor, if Parliament so approves, so that the effective operation of the scheme is not prejudiced. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the scheme laid before the House on 26th November be approved.—( Earl Ferrers.)

My Lords, may I say to the noble Earl what I said previously. I think that this is right and proper. After all, our fishing industry needs to have support. We had a major debate not so long ago, as the noble Earl will remember, in which the future of the fishing industry was discussed at great length and in great detail. This will complement it, in the sense that this is something to be done, with financial aid to be given. This is a case where subsidies of the kind which can be given are necessary to the industry because the industry has been in difficulties.

With these few words, I wish it well. I am certain that all parties will back the scheme.

On Question, Motion agreed to.