§ [FIRST DAY]
§ 2.39 p.m.
§ Mr. John Nott (St. Ives)
I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members will join me in expressing the wish that the visits of Her Majesty and of His Royal Highness Prince Philip to South-East Asia and the Seychelles will be happily and successfully accomplished.
I have never been more conscious of the greatness of our parliamentary institutions and of the privilege which I have of being a Member of this House than in the past 10 days, for these have been memorable times in our parliamentary history.
In inviting me to move the Motion for a loyal Address the House has accorded me a very great honour which I deeply appreciate since it also reflects on my constituency of the St. Ives division of Cornwall. Hon. Members are, of course, aware that the Cornish whom I represent are not English and do not wish to be, and that St. Ives includes the Isles of Scilly, where the Scillonians do not regard themselves as Cornish or English, so that at this time when the House has just voted to make us good Europeans it is I suppose, appropriate that, as the representative of what did become one of the last strongholds of ancient Britain, I should be chosen to commence the new Session in a brief and uncomplicated way.
It has become a precedent on these occasions for the mover of this Motion to express his love and deep affection for every one of his constituents and to describe what to any outside observer might seem to be an overcrowded, soot-infested town as the most beautiful constituency in all the earth.
In Cornwall we have a reputation for straight talking, so I must say at once 8 that love is not the emotion which springs most readily to my mind for every one of my constituents. Friendship and respect, yes ; but love, no. My virtue, which is, I think, unique in this House, is that I can lay claim to the superlative beauties of West Cornwall not by calling upon parliamentary precedent but upon a less documented virtue, namely, truth. Truth, of course, has many aspects. It depends on which side of the House one sits, but I think there must be full agreement certainly between the Leader of the Opposition, who is one of my constituents, and myself, that the rocky coastline of Lands End and the Lizard, the moors which run down past Zennor to the sea, the sheltered creeks of Helford, the Isles of Scilly, and the many fishing coves and harbours around Mounts Bay, are outstanding for their natural beauty and for their interest.
To those of us who are fortunate enough to live in Cornwall it is, however, the warmth and kindliness of the people, their great sense of humour, and their independence, which, I think, make it such a marvellous place to be, and when all our very welcome visitors have gone, and left their money behind them, then Cornwall settles back to be what it really is.
Time will not permit me to talk of my constituency's problems, which are severe, and derive from remoteness. Exeter is, in fact, closer to Dover and Calais than to the centre of my constituency, Penzance. It is, however, this very remoteness which resulted in the Cornish people's isolation, really from the departure of the Romans to the building of the Great Western Railway, from the main stream of this country's life. For centuries they earned a hard living from tin mining, fishing, and tilling the soil, supplemented here and there by a fair amount of piracy, wrecking and smuggling. Let not my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his yachting moments, metaphorical or otherwise, steer his humble coracle upon our rocks or he may find what wrecking tactics in West Cornwall really mean. Let not the Leader of the Opposition forget that his reputation locally in Cornwall rests on those 10 daunting days of personal endeavour which led to his final sinking of the "Torrey Canyon" off our shores. It shows how parochial we are that we talk of it as being the most tenacious and decisive act of his career.
9 There is not much wrecking, smuggling or piracy today. My constituency welcomes the legislation which is fore-shadowed in the most Gracious Speech, and in particular the part which talks of seekingto promote active competition and fair trading".
§ Mr. Nott:
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Fair trading is the Cornish term for smuggling, not piracy. We will. however, take its English meaning in the humble Address. I make this remark also to the hon. Gentleman opposite. It is said that a Cornishman is the only man who can buy from a Jew and sell to a Scotsman at a profit. So why should we fear competition in any form?
On the subject of local government reorganisation, my great-grandfather, an ancestor on my mother's side, I am ashamed to say represented Devon in this House and was slain, no doubt deservedly, by the Cornish rebels in the Prayer Book rebellion of 1549. Until I knew that the Government intended to preserve the boundaries of the county upon the Tamar I saw myself as a Cornish "rebel" in a fresh uprising. Now, of course, I greatly welcome local government reform.
I think I have said enough about my constituency, which I would not change for any other. Whatever may be the vagaries of politics, and they are unpredictable and many, that is where I shall live and farm and, without being too morbid on the subject, die. It is the men without roots who are the real poor of the twentieth century. My constituents may be lacking in material wealth, but they have the priceless heritage of having lived and worked among their own families, relations and friends, in the same place, for a thousand years.
I come, then, only briefly, to the Government's further programme. How less controversial, flattering and yet comprehensive can I be than to say it seems quite excellent to me. I am sure that the Opposition will come to understand its simple merits. In the unlikely event, however, that the principles embodied in the Gracious Speech will cause a little controversy, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister can rely on 10 the enthusiastic support of his right hon. and hon. Friends for so ambitious, so radical, and—dare I say—such an excellent Tory programme. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has ever heard of the Duke of Newcastle, but I recommend him unreservedly as his mentor for the coming Session.
I commenced my comments on this Motion with a reference to the greatness of our parliamentary institutions. I think this is true, but I always keep in mind the words of the noble Lord, Lord Radcliffe, who once said that constitutions and political forms are nothing but the costumes of the men who wear them.
The greatest of our State institutions is not Parliament, but it is the character of the British people who, through their moderation and their tolerance, have ensured the stability of this country for centuries. A suspicion of change, and opposition to authority may be exasperating for all Governments and earn the occasional contempt of bankers and industrialists overseas, but it lies at the heart of our democracy and our way of life. In reading the Gracious Speech no single message comes through more clearly than the need for us to use our influence in Europe to help rebuild its common institutions in the democratic image of this Parliament, and at the same time build up our industry and commerce, so that our nation merits and deserves a greater say in the wider counsels of the world.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)
I beg to second the Motion, so entertainingly moved by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott). In doing so I am mindful of the honour which is paid both to me and, through me, to my constituency.
I am delighted to see so many hon. Members in their seats, obviously attending for the sole purpose of hearing about my constituency and its problems. Late one night in the last Session I had the privilege of catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, in an Adjournment debate and raising the problem of fowl pest in Nottinghamshire, when somewhat fewer hon. Members were drawn to their seats. I am relieved to see that the few who attended on that occasion are amongst 11 the few absentees on this occasion. They have clearly passed on the good news about my part of the world to other hon. Members.
I realise why I have been selected to second the Motion, which is no doubt puzzling many other hon. Members. Whenever I proudly claim to be the Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe I am always met with a look which indicates that the person to whom I am talking has not the faintest idea where it is. As a constituency speech is to some extent called for on this occasion, hon. Members will wish to be reassured that I am representing part of the United Kingdom and that there is a Rushcliffe some-where in the country. It is necessary to go over a one-inch Ordnance Survey map with a microscope to find the word "Rushcliffe", and one needs to have been, like myself, born, educated and resident in Nottingham to know that it is part of Nottinghamshire.
Even fewer people know that the name "Rushcliffe" comes from that of a wapentake, which was an old local government area at the time of the Danish settlement of Nottinghamshire. In the proposals for local government reform, which are mercifully likely to come to an end in the Session, the wapentake is one of the few methods of local government which has not so far been proposed. It is alarming to know that wapentake takes its name from the way of resolving political problems at the time of the Danish settlement. In a wapentake assent or dissent to a Motion was shown by warriors waving their weapons on one side or the other. The whole House—particularly the Member of Parliament for this wapentake—will be relieved to know that despite the fervent appeals of, for instance, the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) for participating democracy, that method of showing political opinion has not yet come back into favour in my part of the world, and representation in this House is still regarded as adequate.
The character of my constituency around Nottingham is varied. There are old mining towns at one end and rolling farming acres at the other over which the Quorn has been known to hunt. In satellite towns of the city of Nottingham. between, Beeston and Stapleford are 12 Rushcliffe contains a great deal of industry, mostly light industry, but including mining and textile industries in which there has been difficult change and reform.
Like so many other hon. Members, I represent a constituency in which the threat of economic recession cannot leave my constituents unaffected. Even in a prosperous area like the East Midlands there are employment difficulties, and the building and machine tool industries have great problems. The Queen's Speech says that the—Government's first care will be to increase employment by strengthening the economy and promoting the sound growth of output.Rushcliffe never could and never will be represented by a Member to whom these aims are a matter of indifference. Regardless of party, I am sure all hon. Members will hope that the Government this winter will achieve success in ameliorating the unemployment position.
I have found that Nottinghamshire is best known to the outside world as the home of Robin Hood. In former times, he robbed the rich to assist the poor. I should need a somewhat longer time at my disposal to persuade hon. Gentlemen opposite that that is the keynote of the Queen's Speech. In the Queen's Speech the Government have gone rather beyond that mediaeval approach to the problem of poverty. Nevertheless, the poor are included in the Queen's Speech and the housing reforms will benefit the less well-off in my constituency as in other constituencies. This non-controversial speech on a controversial document is not the occasion on which to go into the details of this housing legislation, but I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that the aim set out in the Speech, of reforming the finance of rented housing to provide more help for public and private tenants in need, should not be controversial as a purpose.
The European issue is dominant in the Queen's Speech and will dominate our debates this Session. I hope that hon. Members will not be alarmed to know that in Nottinghamshire the police are being taught French. There are those in the country who think that the advocates of European unity may be tending to go too far. Officially, the aim is to assist French tourists stopped on the motorway. The present stage of the development was 13 exemplified on the Midlands radio when a policeman recently gave a demonstration. His tuition was at an early stage, and any Frenchman he stopped might be bewildered by what he said to them. However, if my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is stopped on the M1 he may find that he can get in useful practice with no risk of being misunderstood.
In my constituency, as in every other, passions are running deep on the issue of Europe, and I cannot claim that all or even the majority of my constituents share my convictions. They are looking to this House in this Session to give a lead in national debate on the European issue. Last Session the House expressed views on both sides of the argument in a great national debate of distinction and importance.
During this Session those passions will be translated by legislation into a process whereby each side at some stage will inflict on the other the physical punishment of all-night sittings, lengthy debate and numerous Divisions. Fortunately, the last winter Session was a mild training session for new Members unaccustomed to these ways of the House. I can only hope that this year I shall be able to match the stamina of hon. Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) who taught me a lesson in endurance last winter. When I march to the Lobby I shall do so in the belief that I am furthering the interests of my constituency as well as the national interest in entering the E.E.C., and I hope that I shall give the constituency of Rushcliffe the service which its electors deserve.
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
My first task, certainly no formality and one which gives me real pleasure, is to extend my congratulations—and I am sure I speak for the whole House—to the mover and seconder of the Motion. It is no reflection on the seconder to say that I appreciated the more the speech of the mover because I know his constituency better, as do many hon. Members on both sides of the House. What he said today in appreciation of the beautiful area which he has the honour to represent carried with it the ring of truth.
The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) referred to the part of Cornwall 14 which I know best. In the main the Isles of Scilly have a virtually classless society where everyone is equal—or else—with one feudal enclave which I think he will know well and which he visits from time to time. He almost had to face a U.D.I. on the imposition of vehicle-testing, and he has to face further pressures on both sides of the water on the effect which Common Market entry will have on Cornish and Scillonian horticulture. From memory of his meetings, which I have seen reported in the local papers, I think that is why he spoke so feelingly of his constituents' capacity for straight talking. I have seen the hon. Gentleman many times at his work and I hope he will not object if I associate with him his charming wife who is noted for her work on both sides of the water in that constituency.
I know that the hon. Gentleman is concerned, as anyone representing his area must be, by the fact that unemployment in that partial development area has risen by about one-third over the past year, and I know that the concern he feels is broadly similar to that expressed by the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke), whose constituency I know less well, apart from appearances over the years on various political and election platforms, with varying success on varying occasions. But it is noteworthy that he should have taken us a long way back into history, to the fascination of the entire House. More recent parliamentary history in his constituency has provided the first-ever lady Chairman of Committees and the first lady Member to occupy Mr. Speaker's Chair. So the House must feel that this debate has been given a good send off by the mover and seconder.
And there my tributes end. The Speech drafted by right hon. Gentlemen is complacent, obsessional and, where it is specific, wrong-headed and wrongly directed. It is complacent in that it entirely fails to measure up to the grave situation exemplified by the intolerable, and grimly growing, level of unemployment, and fails to grapple with an unacceptable degree of price inflation—both the direct consequence of Conservative Government policies, both the subject of election promises not only of immediate action but of immediate results.
The Speech is obsessional because we can see from the Speech, and as clearly from Ministerial speeches last week, that 15 this Government which 17 months ago laid claim to an infallible omniscience in how to deal with unemployment and inflation now regards entry into the Common Market, on wholly damaging terms, as an escape from reality, as the only means of solving our problems. They are clearly determined to put at risk their whole legislative programme to achieve this, and thereby deny to the House any hope of immediate and relevant action, which they do not propose to take anyway, for dealing with the nation's problems. And, as I have said, where proposals are made, they are wrongly directed, divisive and designed to aggravate the problems, and especially the social inequalities, which are the hallmark of this Government.
To the extent that adequate Parliamentary examination of the consequential—and controversial—Market legislation means, in Sir Winston Churchill's phrase, slitting the dirty throats of these other legislative proposals from housing to commercial radio, this will provide an additional incentive to all my right hon. and hon. Friends to do their Parliamentary duty in submitting the Market legislation to a thorough and unremittingly constructive examination—and to their votes—Clause by Clause, line by line, hour after hour, day after day and night after night.
We have made clear to right hon. Gentlemen, determined as they patently are to betray their undeniable election commitment, that constitutional impropriety of acting to force this decision through without now seeking the "full-hearted consent" as the right hon. Gentleman put it, of the British people in a General Election. The same applies in equal measure to the legislation projected in the Gracious Speech.
All this and value-added tax, too. I trust that Press reports are wrong which suggest that the Government are hoping that the introduction of this major and destructive revolution in our taxation system is to go upstairs. We warned against V.A.T. before and during the election. The right hon. Gentleman insisted throughout the election that it was not in his programme. But all we worried about at that time, and warned the country about, is being daily confirmed. Hon. Members will have seen the recent report presented to the Brighton Conference of 16 the Rating and Valuation Association. The Daily Telegraph headlined its report:V.A.T. will bite poor hardest".It also said that V.A.T. was… a tax on need and therefore on the needy".The conference was told that one inevitable consequence was that rates would go up.
But that is not all. I must warn the Government about any idea they may have of adopting the suggestion and hints we have read in the Press that they propose to streamline the proposed Market legislation to simple, broad, enabling Clauses for the clear and calculated purpose of hoping indecently to rush through Parliament Measures which the right hon. Gentleman must now know he cannot hope to get on the basis of the votes of his own supporters alone. The suggestion we read last weekend is that the ingenious, sinister talents of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General have been invoked for this purpose, enabling him to crown his achievements in the destruction of industrial democracy by an assault on the central authority of Parliamentary democracy.
If that is under consideration, let the Prime Minister realise that this would be a conspiracy against the whole British people—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense"] I hope hon. Members opposite are not cheering the thought that this legislation is to be put forward in such a way that this House cannot pronounce upon it. If this is the case, it will compound the arrogant refusal the right hon. Gentleman has already manifested to submit the broader issue of principle to the judgment of the British people. If this House is to be asked by this kind of enabling legislation to legislate—at a stroke—to change the whole tapestry of our system of law, so as to follow a myriad of predominantly bureaucratic European decisions, involving company law, commercial law, taxation law, immigration law, social rights, human rights, workers' rights, consumers' rights, almost the entire legal system under which our people live, and have lived—so to act would be a betrayal of centuries of the rule of law and of hard-won constitutional rights which in is a Prime Minister's first duty to safeguard and defend. Therefore, I 17 must ask him for a clear undertaking this afternoon that all the legislation surrounding entry that has been in course of preparation will be submitted to this House, for the sovereign decision of this House.
I have just referred to the democratic responsibility the right hon. Gentleman bears. I take up another reference in the Gracious Speech. He has a direct responsibility—and it is at this moment timely to point this out—to five million of the Queen's subjects in Rhodesia, a responsibility asserted, confirmed, reconfirmed in the clearest terms by successive Governments of this country, and equally by successive Oppositions now, for more than seven years. For within the legislative programme of this Government for this Session are the Orders required under the Southern Rhodesia Act, 1965.
There have been suggestions that the Government will announce this week—I do not know whether it will be today—Ministerial discussions with the illegal rÉgime in Salisbury. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will confirm today that there will not be a precipitate rush to enter into talks, if by so doing there is the remotest danger of betraying the five principles. [Interruption.] I have read the Gracious Speech. I have also heard speeches and actually seen votes by the right hon. Gentleman, who did not always vote in the House to carry out the means to the end which he had addressed in his speech. Two of these principles were enunciated by the Foreign Secretary, then Prime Minister, in September, 1964, and his correct insistence on those two principles then led to the breakdown in that year's Downing Street talks: the first, guaranteed and unimpeded progress to majority rule; the fifth requiring an adequately verified proof that any settlement was acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. On that verification, reports suggest that the idea of a genuinely impartial Royal Commission, which I put forward before U.D.I. in October, 1965, remains the basis for testing the people's will. To the extent that the details were worked out in 1966 and 1968—and not then contested—with the Rhodesian Front leaders, including our essential provisions for the release of those illegally detained and their freedom peacefully to campaign, any such pro- 18 posals will not be criticised. I think that they follow the right lines.
But there are ominous reports that the honouring of the first principle is in real danger by the elaboration of a formula which recognises the evil doctrines and the provisions of the so-called Republican constitution adopted by the Rhodesian Front rÉgime. This instrument, this purported constitution, envisages not progress to majority rule at all but the achievement of a notional parity between the parliamentary representation of the two main races at the end of the many decades required to meet the condition that total African income tax payments, currently just I per cent. of total revenue for income tax, reach at some point in the future 50 per cent. of total Rhodesian income tax revenue.
While no timetable was set by either British Government, unimpeded progress to majority rule is clearly meaningless if its time scale is measured not in years but in aeons. Introducing his constitutional proposals in Salisbury, Mr. Smith himself said that only an extreme pessimist could accept the possibility of parity being reached under the so-called constitution. Therefore, if the proposed settlement is based in any way on that constitution, clearly it is one which makes the concept of unimpeded progress to majority rule meaningless.
Reports from Salisbury suggest that, at one stage of the discussion, a time scale of as much as 600 years was involved. Perhaps that has been shortened. I hope that it has. But certainly such a formula would appear to meet Mr. Smith's repeated demand that unimpeded progress to majority rule was not to reach fruition in his lifetime. For that reason it should be firmly rejected by any British Government.
I hope that before any scheme is put before this House, it will include not merely the formality of the first principle but the time scale under which it will be reached. To accept any such proposal which gave effect to Mr. Smith's "not in my lifetime" declaration would be a betrayal of the custodianship which all of us have said is the first duty of this Government and Parliament. It would he the signal for the total disintegration of the Commonwealth. It would be a fatal blow to any influence
19 that a British Government could hope to exert at the United Nations, in the third world, and over a still wider area of nations—at any rate outside the West European Zollverein, and I trust that it would be nauseating to some members even of that organisation.
The first and fifth principles are not all. Our successive debates on Rhodesia, with the distinguished exception of the speeches of some of my hon. Friends, have not concentrated as much attention on the fourth principle, requiring progress towards ending racial discrimination. In the past five years, Rhodesian action falling within this principle has been almost consistently retrogressive. There has been a steady and remorseless encroachment on human rights, as this House has always defined them, with such evil actions as the Land Tenure Act. the expulsion of Guy Clutton-Brock and the imprisonment without trial of his African head-man, and the abrupt closure of a rare multi-racial community which for a generation had held out hope of a new approach in Rhodesia.
Even within the past days there has been a decisive involving so provocative a challenge to Her Majesty's Government and to this House as to suggest a total contempt on the part of the rÉgime not only for the principles endorsed by this House but for any Government seeking to uphold them. Before Rhodesia ever existed, Cecil Rhodes deeded land to a Methodist community for African use. Even he could not have foreseen that the racialist community he spawned could have sunk so low as to expel every African from the land that he so dedicated—because it has now been designated as land for white occuption—and that this provocative action would be taken while Her Majesty's Secretary of State was considering the terms of a draft independence agreement. So much for even the fourth principle. Even that has been breached, and worse then ever before in these past few days.
I trust that the right hon. Gentleman today will provide a total assurance to the House on this issue of the fourth principle, no less than on the anxieties that I have expressed about his interpretation of the first principle on guaranteed progress to majority rule. 20 In 1968, the right hon. Gentleman criticised from this Bench our insistence on a watertight external guarantee of any settlement. I hope that he will tell the House now that, in the light of the deterioration since 1968, especially in the move forward, or backwards, towards apartheid, and the provocative actions of the Rhodesia Front since 1968, culminating in the affront of these past days, he will reject any settlement which does not provide a total guarantee against the racialist erosion of anything that he feels that he can commend to this House.
The House will have an opportunity later in the week for debating other aspects of overseas affairs, including suggestions which we read almost every day that the Government have not finally abandoned their proposals for the supply of arms—beyond the in any case indefensible contracts for the Westland helicopters—to South Africa. They are contracts which the South African Government need for one purpose only. It has nothing to do with stemming the tide of Communism in the Indian Ocean. It is to earn the certificate of respectability that the right hon. Gentleman has fallen over himself to confer from the day that he took office and will now confer, if he goes ahead with his policy, on a Government whose achievement in the last 24 hours has been to imprison the Anglican Dean of Johannesburg for one crime only. for preaching and practising the gospel that he was ordained to preach.
The House. in the course of our foreign affairs debate, will continue to express its deep concern for the millions who are dying and more than a figure to be measured in perhaps tens of millions threatened by the tragedy in the Indian sub-continent. In this context, my right hon. and hon. Friends have welcomed the statement of the Foreign Secretary. and we shall give him full support in what he is trying to do, never ceasing to press upon him the urgency which is needed and which daily achieves a new paramountcy which he has made clear.
I turn now to the domestic proposals. This is the second legislative programme of this Parliament aimed at carrying through the Selsdon proposals which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite so unaccountably muted and went to such lengths to suppress at the General Election. Even if, as I have argued, much of this legislation is at risk because of 21 obsessional preoccupations with Common Market legislation, the House must nevertheless express a view upon the legislation in the Gracious Speech, because it carries forward the divisive and anti-social programme of which this House and the country have already seen too much.
As far as I can see, the central legislative proposal is the Housing Bill. I hope that we shall have an opportunity for debating it in the course of this week, and I shall not seek to anticipate what my right hon. and hon. Friends may wish to say. However, at this stage, we must record our objections to what is proposed.
The proposal to introduce so-called "fair rents" into the public sector will on average double the vast majority of council house rents. That is what we warned, and growing evidence reaching hon. Members from council treasurers confirms that judgment increasingly. The policy of a Government elected on greater freedom for local authorities—like school milk. I suppose—is to remove local authorities' traditional independence in rent policy which they have had for a generation. Council house tenants will have no right of appeal, least of all their traditional right of access to their elected councillors, once a "fair rent" has been agreed by a special committee drawn from the rent assessment panel.
The rent rebate scheme will mean that, for the first time, a majority of council house and new town tenants, to say nothing of private tenants, will be subjected to means testing. This will mean, as impartial local government officers have confirmed, a positive army of local officials. The rent rebate scheme will be borne largely by those tenants adjudged as being able to pay the fair rent. From all recent experience of means-tested payments under this Government, we have to assume that the take-up rate will be low. Many tenants who apply successfully for a rent rebate or allowance will—if one takes into account the loss of F.I.S. and other benefits—find themselves on a marginal rate of tax of nearly 100 per cent., in contradistinction to the good fortune of families with a hundred times their income who have benefited richly from the reduction in their marginal tax rate as a result of the Chancellor's largesse. Tenants in controlled tenancies will lose 22 their protection and face much higher rents.
The provision to allow controlled tenants and landlords to agree fair rents, so called, could, with the scales so heavily loaded in favour of the landlords in a society where the evils of Rachmanism are once again growing, lead to the exaction of exorbitant rents. So the ratepayer, as witnessed by recent statements by local government treasurers, will be called upon to shoulder an increasing burden of the costs of this proposed legislation.
These are just a few—by no means all—of the first obvious comments on the Government's proposals. My right hon. and hon. Friends—particularly those with local government experience as chairmen or members of housing committees—will, I know, produce a fuller and more devastating indictment of the most reactionary housing proposals of this generation, proposals, which, if the White Paper means anything, reverse the trend of nearly half a century of policy from Wheatley, through Arthur Greenwood and Aneurin Bevan. to my right hon. Friends who carried forward and extended so decisively between 1964 and 1970 their predecessors' pioneering contributions to make the housing of the people a national and a social responsibility.
Then, of course, there are the newly married couples, families with young children as well, who want to buy their own homes. Recently, the Building Societies Gazette reported:… 1971 has shown the greatest increase in prices ever recorded. In some South-Eastern areas the demand is so great that negotiations almost amount to 'panic buying' with prices not only 20 per cent, above last year's figures, but above the asking price of the sometimes bewildered vendor. The £10,000 barrier for an ordinary semi-detached house has already been reached in certain favoured districts.There are reports of 40 per cent. increases in ten months in house prices.
All hon. Members know—this is nothing to laugh at—of young marrieds in their own constituencies, striving and saving and skimping to get the money to put down a deposit, who find that, when they go to the building society, they are already priced out of the market and worse off than when they began saving. For thousands—tens of thousands—this is the right hon. Gentleman's promise of 23 a "Better Tomorrow ", because he said a great deal about the cost of getting a new house.
It is no good blaming the unions, as the right hon. Gentleman is accustomed to do. Houses need land. The right hon. Gentleman rushed to set the land profiteers free. In the Financial Times of 9th September, under the heading,Soaring land prices shake house building recovery ",there was a supplementary main headline, which said:In some areas land prices for private housing have risen 15 per cent. in the last four months alone, compared with a national average of only 2 per cent. during the whole of 1970.This is the reality of the Government's policies.
There is one sentence which I should have liked to see in the Gracious Speech. It is not there. I will try to repair the omission. It should have said: "My Government, having considered the response of the national community, the welfare of 3.7 million children, and the reports of nutritional experts, will introduce early legislation to repeal the squalid Measure enacted in the previous Session, to use the whole power of the State to deny milk to seven-year olds and to visit with pecuniary penalties any elected councillor who, pursuant to his concern for the children for whom he bears responsibility, seeks to provide them with milk." I think that that one legislative proposal might have redeemed even some of the worst features in this Gracious Speech.
I hesitate to go through the rest of the legislative programme set out—[Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Gentlemen will not have a chance either—because, owing to the policy of the Prime Minister, he will have to fight for every day of parliamentary time in this new Session.
Having sat in Cabinets, even as long ago as nearly a quarter of a century, having felt for the travail of Ministers in various Cabinets, seeing their cherished legislation deferred by the dictates of parliamentary time, I express my sympathy for right hon. Gentlemen opposite, even if that sympathy is tempered by rejoicing at the prospect that their odious legislation may not this Session, or ever, reach the Statute Book. 24 I think that it would be a pity if the Home Secretary, who looms large in this draft legislative programme, should be one of those to suffer, because, as we all know, he will have abundant opportunity, in the Common Market legislation, for example, to deploy, in full measure, all the enthusiastic lethargy of his conversion to Common Market entry. It will be his task to justify the legislation which will be necessary to provide for free immigration of Common Market nationals into Britain. In April I said that while this is involved in any signature of the Treaty of Rome and cannot be called in question by anyone who supports entry or signature on the terms negotiated, the right hon. Gentle-man must agree that it is totally incompatible, in theory and, indeed, in practice and in terms of Commonwealth relationships, with the Government's legislation, enacted at the end of the last Session, on Commonwealth immigration. The right hon. Gentleman will have to explain this to the House.
We look forward with sympathy and compassion to seeing the right hon. Gentleman bringing all his unbounding, gazelle-like energy and resilience to the task of justifying free and unimpeded entry to Britain for the German or Dutch immigrant, while denying it to the Australian, the Canadian or the citizen of the new Commonwealth.
Before I come to the Home Secretary's principal Measure foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech, I must refer to a major concern for which he is responsible to the House. That is, of course, the unremitting, unchanging tragedy of Northern Ireland which the House debated as an emergency on recall in September. It is a tragedy which most of us here experience when we turn on the radio, as at midnight last night, and hear that monotonous, "First, Northern Ireland", and then the sad recital, ending, as it did again last night, "Both were married and had families". That is what we here only listen to ; but the reality behind it is one of fear and tragedy.
My right hon. Friends and I have decided not to table an Amendment to the Address on the subject of Northern Ireland, but, recalling the Lord President's undertaking to restore to us, at the earliest possible moment in this Session, the 25 Supply Day which we agreed to forgo last Session, we propose to use that, with-out encroaching on Government time, to provide a full day's debate on Northern Ireland, in which we shall expect a full and up-to-date report by the Home Secretary.
On domestic legislation, the Home Secretary has secured the inclusion of the Criminal Justice Bill, to which we look forward with interest. This will be—indeed, it is commended as being—the consumation of that preoccupation with law and order which, we read in every newspaper which commented on the Selsdon Conference, dominated the conclusions of that conference. So much so, that every newspaper the following day highlighted the first priority given by the Conservative leadership to law and order as an election issue. This was so widely accepted that the present Prime Minister was immediately, within 24 hours, invited on to "Panorama", on the ground that law and order had become a major political issue, and there he entered fully into the spirit of those times, making clear to the country that he had made law and order a major election issue between the parties.
This year we have seen the consequence of this solicitude. They, who turned law and order into a partisan issue, have just published figures confirming that there has been a 13.4 per cent. increase in crimes of violence over the same period last year. For myself, not easily disillusioned about right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, even so I was surprised to read in The Times, which made so much of the law and order issue in February, 1970—I did not read it until 27th September, 1971—this comment:Although law and order dominated some accounts of the Selsdon Park meetings, the subject occupied Mr. Heath and his colleagues for only a few minutes. The disproportionate publicity served chiefly as a screen for other decisions.Perhaps the Home Secretary has found in this Bill the answer to the problem, which right hon. Gentlemen opposite were not at that time above exalting as a leading political and election issue. We may form the same view when we see the Bill. Our view at that time, while expressing concern at the effects on this country of a world-wide phenomenon, was in terms of the far greater facilities that we have given to the police, in strength, in 26 equipment, and in legislation varying from firearms and drugs control to the reform of the gaming laws which under Tory legislation were laying London and other countries wide open to infiltration of gangsterism and the Mafia.
In that controversy none at that time played a more garrulous part than Mr. Quintin Hogg, now the noble Lord the Lord Chancellor. We remember those speeches, those television appearances, those noble Roman periods, even going so far as to blame me personally for the whole of Britain's violence, including the anachronistic suggestion that I was responsible for the great train robbery, which occurred before my party took office.
While acquitting the noble Lord the present Lord Chancellor of any inconsistency, I do not recall hearing from him any comparable fulminations about the recent statistics or evidence of organised crime. As the House knows, the last thing that I would want to be is unfair to him. Perhaps he has been making speeches which I have not heard. I hope that he will equally, with his desire to be fair to political opponents, understand it if I failed to understand those speeches, owing to the crackling of the transistor radios in Baker Street.
Two or three years from now, in whatever capacity the noble Lord may then be serving the cause of law and order, he will—this is totally predictable—be thundering more and more about juvenile delinquency, petty crimes perhaps committed by the thousands of school leavers for whom this Government, with lordly disdain and in pursuance of their over-riding economic and social policies, have neglected or refused to find work.
When they made law and order an election issue we related the question of law and order to social problems. We said:The unfair society leads to the unstable society. Where law and order has broken clown in other advanced countries, this is because the authorities have refused to accept that social grievances must have social solutions. The Tories seek to disturb our society by the creation of social grievances we all thought we had got rid of a generation ago.That has proved true over these last 15 months. It was that thought, expressed by us, which called forth the thunderings of the noble Lord and the condemnation of the right hon. Gentleman
27 the then Leader of the Opposition. I challenge both of them. What is their answer—I hope we shall be told today—to the questionings of a generation. young people for the first time leaving their sheltered school life to meet the challenge and opportunities of a wider world?—[Laughter.] It is nothing for hon. Members opposite to laugh about. What is their answer to these young people when they are told that organised industry has nothing to offer them: that a Government pledged to reduce unemployment at a stroke—and that phrase "at a stroke" was used in connection with unemployment as well as prices—is content to pass by on the other side; that those who are lucky enough to find work do so in occupations far less rewarding than they should expect from the qualifications they were urged to acquire; that the apprentice-ship system is breaking down, with too few apprenticeships, with older apprentices facing insecurity—including the apprentices I met in Clydebank: and that many have returned to schools, as in my own Merseyside constituency, which are inadequately equipped to provide for them?
This is Britain 1971. This is the "Better Tomorrow" proclaimed in 1970 by the right hon. Gentleman, a Britain where right hon. Gentlemen now seek to return to the worst of our yesterdays. Last month at an emergency recall conference of the Scottish Labour Party. called because of the worst unemployment situation since the 1930s—my hon. Friends will confirm this—I heard the speech of a lady delegate from Clackmannan. not the worst hit of the areas written off by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. She spoke movingly. She was active in social service. She reported on a visit that she had paid to a juvenile detention centre. There were 200 boys of working age there. She inquired how many had jobs to go to on their release. She was told. Of 200 there, just 5 per cent. had jobs to go to. Of such is the raw material of the law and order problem of the years ahead, and right hon. and hon. Members opposite must not flinch from the implications.
There is one theme which dominates not only this debate but all public debates, and all the escapist posturings of right 28 hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot help them to deny their responsibility. This is unemployment. It is the total failure of this Government to accept the responsibility which in the war was accepted by the Coalition Government as binding on all post-war Governments—the responsibility of asserting the right to work. In the doctrinal priorities of this Government it is a right which falls far behind their declared priorities for tax relief for the rich; far behind the free market, lame duck philosophy exemplified by Rolls-Royce and Upper Clyde; far behind their refusal to consider any policy, except one dictated by selective Government power involved against public sector employees. except one dictated by the deification of profits, however earned—by land and property speculators, by Stock Exchange gamblers.
Let investments fall to levels which will weaken and impoverish industry, and leave it too debilitated to meet the challenge of a competitive world, inside or outside the Market. Let our world leaders in technology or old industries, fighting their way with interventionist State assistance, fall by the wayside or be swept aside as lame ducks. Let unemployment rise to the million level. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite will continue to pursue their ideological commitments, rewarding their friends by a Government-paid dividend on their calculated party donations. expressed in terms of the selective hiving-off of assets created by the community.
The right hon. Gentleman has got to answer for his responsibility for a million unemployed. A few days ago at Question Time the Prime Minister refused to speculate on the possible total for this winter. He was not always so coy. From this bench, and in the country, he repeatedly forecast for the winters of 1968–69 and 1969–70 a figure of 750,000 unemployed. We did not come anywhere near it. It required his stewardship to reach it, to surpass and now to be set to exceed that figure, which we never reached, by one-third.
Next week we shall ask the House to debate an amendment to the Gracious Speech on unemployment—930,000 registered unemployed today. There are many others unemployed but not registered. Already, therefore, there are more than a million out of work. Unemployment is 29 standing at 350,000 more than were registered at the time of the right hon. Gentleman's pledge to reduce unemployment at a stroke. Unemployment in the development areas is higher than at any time since the war. Just two years ago, in 1969, speaking in Dundee, the right hon. Gentleman proclaimed:We cannot tolerate the waste of human and economic resources brought about by their uneven use in different parts of this country. We refuse—this is what he then said, seeking votes—to condemn large parts of the Kingdom to slow decline and decay, to dereliction and to persistent unemployment, in pursuit of—this is what he called it—old-fangled nineteenth-century doctrines of laissez-faire.When the right hon. Gentleman spoke, unemployment in Dundee was 2.9 per cent. Today it is 7.5 per cent., with major further redundancies already announced. I do not know how soon the right hon. Gentleman will be returning.
Speaking of the time when I visited South Wales as Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman said, with glee, that I had rushed round at 70 m.p.h. and, when asked why, he said that it was because I could not go any faster. I admit the charge; I had to go round at that speed in order to open all the new factories—[An HON. MEMBER: "Joke coming."] Hon. Members would like to have the chance of laughing, but do they laugh at the fact that one had to go round at 70 m.p.h. in order to lay the foundations of the factories that we were building, to open the new facories that we had built, and the new factories which we established but which the right hon. Gentleman inaugurated in South Wales when he became Prime Minister? One had to rush round to visit the derelict land clearance sites—land which we were clearing at 1,000 acres a year compared with eight in the last five years of the 13 years of the previous Tory Government.
I understand the uneasiness of hon. Members opposite, and how jealous they are because they do not have that record. Or, if they think they have it, let the Prime Minister tell us how many new factories, providing how much factory space, his Government have started in the development areas since they came into office.
30 As for what the Prime Minister has seen of industry in South Wales since he came to office, and what he has done to improve it, if he went round opening and inaugurating new factories, he would not need a fast car; he would need a hearse, horse-propelled.
Non-development areas today facing unemployment, which had been a stranger for a generation—[Interruption.] I wish that we had television in the Chamber so that hon. Members opposite—none more than the right hon. Gentleman himself—might be seen laughing at the unemployment figures today.
§ The Prime Minister(Mr. Edward Heath)
We had better have it on record that this side of the House was laughing at the right hon. Gentleman's failure to make a joke.
§ Mr. Wilson:
The right hon. Gentleman, of course, is an authority on these things. I was commenting on one of his which misfired. He knows the difference between the situation in the Welsh valleys today and what it was when we were in office, and the hopes which people there then had.
I was about to refer to the non-development areas. Non-development areas, facing unemployment—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Wilson:
That is what I am trying to do, and I can well understand that Members of Parliament from the Mid-lands are most sensitive on this point. The Welsh have had their moment.
In the non-development areas today, which have not known unemployment at any time since the war, where no man under 45 can really have known unemployment or known what it was for his workmates to be unemployed, the West Midlands have male unemployment now at 7.4 per cent., virtually half as great again as the male unemployment rate was for Scotland in the month when the Labour Government left office. That is a great achievement. The Prime Minister has not been there. [HON. MEMBERS: "Laugh at that."] As regards long-term unemployment, there are 222,600 unemployed for more than six months, 118,800 unemployed for more than 12 months, and 31 correspondingly higher rates in Scotland and other hard-hit areas.
As for youth unemployment and graduate unemployment, at the university where I had the pleasure of conferring a degree on the Prime Minister last week-end, 15 per cent. of this year's graduates registered for and seeking a job were still seeking a job in October, with 18 per cent. in the science-based industries covered by mathematics, physics, chemistry, including colour chemistry, textile chemistry and materials sciences, and branches of engineering, especially chemical engineering.
The 150 principal employers who regularly visit the university for recruitment and who, in 1969 and 1970, provided 62 per cent. of the graduate vacancies, this year had 40 per cent. fewer vacancies to offer. [An HON. MEMBER: "Say that again."] The 150 steady employers who normally recruit from that university had 40 per cent. fewer vacancies to offer in 1971 compared with 1970 and 1969.
We shall be told that everything will be different now. We shall be told that we are on a course of expansion. This is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us in his mini-Budget of October, 1970 and in his April Budget—he said it both times—when he said:
… my aim is to raise the growth of output over the year ahead to about the rate of growth of productive potential."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1971: Vol. 814, c. 1396.]Hon. Members opposite cheered that Budget speech till they were hoarse, and they roared their disagreement when I expressed by disbelief in his claim for what he would do for unemployment. I said then:It is a Budget which willl be cheered by hon. Gentlemen opposite now.…It is a Budget which not only hon. Gentlemen opposite but the country as a whole will regret before many months are out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1971; Vol. 814. c. 1407.]Every forecast made by the Chancellor was falsified, and hon. Members opposite were avidly waiting for yet another Budget in July. In July, when he introduced his mini-Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer guaranteed expansionafter a couple of months or so".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1971; Vol. 821, c. 1043.]But it has not happened. Just before the Conservative conference which, we were 32 told, would be an anxious one, there was some new briefing from the Government—it would not be two months; it would be next spring. Then it was stretched out again, and at Brighton the Chancellor of the Exchequer talked about a reduction in unemployment "over the coming year".
All the time the margin is moving further and further from what it was originally said to be, and, no doubt, we shall hear much the same thing from the Prime Minister today. In the interstices of his pronouncements that Britain's jobs depend on Europe, which Ministers are now telling the country, he will at the same time herald the boom which always exists at the end of his Tory rainbow.
Yesterday's Financial Times survey gave the prospects as seen by business men—less employment, less investment. We shall have all the excuses and alibis from the Prime Minister today. We shall, no doubt, be told that it is all the fault of the unions, that it is all the fault of the Labour Government—
§ Mr. Wilson
After his record, I should not like to have to make the right hon. Gentleman's speech. We shall be told it is all the fault of the Labour Government. It is all the fault of the British people for believing him, no doubt. It is all the fault of the weather, or of the compulsory education of the 1890s. It is everybody's fault—"Do not blame us", he whines, "we are only the Government".
Last spring, when the Prime Minister had been in office for just a few months, I asked him a question, which he then evaded, and I ask him to answer it today. How many more years, if they were vouchsafed to him, would he have to be in office before he was prepared to take his own personal responsibility, and accept his Government's responsibility, for the state of the nation under his Government, as a result of his Government's policies—and, above all, his and their responsibility for unemployment?
What matters is not the words of the Gracious Speech, not this tedious repetition of excuses or the right hon. Gentle-man's attribution of blame to everyone 33 but his own Government, which are the hallmark of his style of Government and which we shall hear again throughout the debate. What matters is unemployment and prices; that is the reality this year. That is the reality of this annual inquest by Parliament on the state of the nation. And the first step towards a better accord with the people than this Gracious Speech provides is the frank admission of the responsibility of the Government and the willingness to submit their now undeniable failure to the free judgment of the nation.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister(Mr. Edward Heath):
I immediately join the Leader of the Opposition in offering my hon. Friends the Members for St. Ives (Mr. Nott) and Rushcliffe (Mr. Kenneth Clarke), the mover and seconder of the Motion, my warm congratulations on their excellent speeches this afternoon. They both gave us great pleasure, because they were delightful in their nature.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives spoke eloquently of his constituency. No constituency in the country can contain as many of the holiday homes of Labour right hon. Members as does my hon. Friend's, yet it continues to return him with a substantial majority and thus enables us to enjoy the wit and wisdom that he has shown us today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe has had a much shorter time in the House, but he has shown a wide range of interests, some of which he mentioned today. He omitted to tell the House the number of occasions on which he has raised the important question of his local toffee apple industry. I regret to say that he has not always had satisfaction from his right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, but we must continue to try to help him in this respect.
Both my hon. Friends are warm enthusiasts for a wider Europe and the opportunities that it will offer Britain. They have said how much they shared the satisfaction felt at the decision which the House took. I offer them our congratulations on speeches which had a freshness and sincerity which is always welcome to the House.
The Gracious Speech has set out a programme of major Measures tailored to the demands of a changing inter- 34 national scene and a changing society at home. It is a programme which does not just react passively to developments but seeks to anticipate change and to influence its course.
The Leader of the Opposition has already drawn attention to the momentous and clear-cut decision in favour of British entry into the European Community which Parliament took last Thursday. I do not propose to go over these matters again. The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of points. All I will say to him is that if he or one of his right hon. Friends had been standing at this Dispatch Box commending the terms to the House, the consequential legislation now being so damningly referred to would have been recommended to the House as a natural consequence of going into Europe—including V.A.T., which the right hon. Gentleman so frequently emphasised was inescapable if we went into Europe.
The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the forthcoming Session will be dominated inside the House, but also outside, by the preparation of the country for entry into the European Community in 1973. This preparation involves legislation. but it also involves another task which is bound to occupy the Government increasingly in the months ahead. From now on we shall be able to take a growing part in mapping the future course of Europe, and we shall do that with energy and imagination. We are not going into Europe with our eyes fixed nostalgically on the past; we are not going into Europe to fight a series of rearguard actions. From now on we shall be working not just to further Britain's interests in the Community but, even more important, to join with our partners to give a new impetus to the Community and the spirit of co-operation which gave it birth.
The right hon. Gentleman has asked me quite understandably about Rhodesia—
§ Mr. Harold Wilson:
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of legislation, could he answer—because it is a matter of great concern—the question I put to him about the form the legislation will take? Will he deny totally—I hope that he can—the stories put out since last Thursday about the Government's proposing to bring forward very narrow 35 legislation, dropping even one or two of the major provisions? Will he give a clear assurance that that is not in the Government's mind?
§ The Prime Minister:
I have so often humbly advised the right hon. Gentleman not to take notice of everything which appears in the Press. What I would tell him is that when the remaining sections of the negotiations, of which he is aware, have been concluded by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Treaty of Accession can be signed, and then I must ask him to await the form of legislation to be presented to the House. That is a perfectly constitutional position to take up, and we shall stand by that. I am not in a position to give the House details of other aspects of legislation, quite apart from going into Europe. I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to wait until the legislation is presented.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Will not the Prime Minister, who must know what his own intentions are, at least tell the House now whether there will be one or two major Bills, quite apart from detailed Bills consequential on the decision taken last Thursday?
§ The Prime Minister
I cannot yet tell the right hon. Gentleman how many major or minor Bills there will be. When the time comes to present them they will be presented to the House.
The Leader of the Opposition asked me about Rhodesia. The position in Rhodesia is set out in the Gracious Speech. Anxious as the right hon. Gentle- man is that we should be able to reach a settlement, I would ask him again not to put forward speculations on particular arrangements which may be reached in negotiations. When we deem it an appropriate moment—if it arrives—for discussions to be carried on at Ministerial level, we shall of course be free to do so in exactly the same way as the right hon. Gentleman did when he was in power. In the meantime, I ask the House to wait to see whether it is possible for us to make progress, and again not to accept the wide variety of speculation which is heard from time to time.
I want to deal with one other overseas matter—the question of help for the 36 developing world. A year ago, when I spoke at the United Nations, I said that a major task of the international community was the promotion of the economic and social development of the third world. I there reaffirmed our acceptance of the 1 per cent. aid target we agreed at the Second U.N.C.T.A.D. Conference in 1968, and I undertook that we as a country would do our best to reach it by 1975. We have in fact achieved that target in the past two years. At a time when aid elsewhere, alas, is being reduced, we can be proud of our country's contribution to the developing world. Now we shall take further measures to help in this respect.
§ The Prime Minister:
Yes, but that was the target requested of countries at U.N.C.T.A.D. and in the Pearson Report.
§ Mr. Reg Prentice (East Ham, North)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that we just passed the 1 per cent. target last year because it was an abnormally high year for net private investment, and that we slipped a little further away from the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent. for official Government aid?
§ The Prime Minister
As I have told the House before, we have never tied ourselves to a Government figure of 0.7 per cent. What is important—[Interruption.]—I should have thought that Labour Members who are concerned with the developing world would be proud that Britain has exceeded 1 per cent. I was about to say that we shall now undertake further measures which will, I think, act as an inducement to private investment to go into the developing world.
We are bringing forward legislation to enable the Export Credits Guarantee Department to introduce a scheme for insuring British overseas investment against the non-commercial risks—risks which we all know deter investment in the third world—of expropriation, war and restrictions on remittances.
At the same time the Overseas Development Administration will be enabled to provide financial support for pre-investment studies by firms considering investment in the developing countries. I am glad to say that these 37 schemes have been warmly welcomed by those concerned. This is a practical contribution to meet the point which the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) always has very much in mind.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, of course, spoke about the tragedy of Northern Ireland. We made it clear during the debate when the House was specially recalled—and we have repeated it since—that we were determined to pursue both parts of our policy with equal intensity. We shall not get a solution to the security problem until there is the prospect of political arrangements which appear reasonable to the minority community as well as to the majority. Equally, we shall not get a political solution so long as ordinary decent people of Northern Ireland are cowed and intimidated by gunmen who have no interest in a peaceful solution.
There is one comment on the political aspect of this which I feel bound to make this afternoon. Many people in this House, and on both sides of the border in Ireland, have put all the emphasis on the need for a political solution. They have done this, I am sure, consistently and sincerely. Very well. But it is reasonable to ask these same people that they should make a contribution to that political solution by their own words and by their own deeds. So long as they fail to do so the effectiveness of their argument is greatly weakened.
Last week the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland produced further detailed, constructive ideas for giving the minority a fuller place in the making of decisions in the province. At the same time, he took a notable step forward by appointing a Catholic—a man of known distinction—to his Cabinet.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman says "Too late", but these are important steps forward, and in my view it gives no encouragement to the community in Northern Ireland when they are immediately discarded as being too late and of no consequence. I do not believe that we shall reach a solution if that approach is adopted. Most hon. Members would agree that it is reasonable to expect a helpful response to these 38 moves from those who have always placed great weight on a political situation.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
The right hon. Gentleman will know that many hon. Members on both sides have urged a political solution and have condemned the action of the gunmen in no uncertain terms. Can the right hon. Gentleman now say whether we are to have any firm proposals from the Westminster Government about reforms in Northern Ireland? Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Green Paper issued by Mr. Brian Faulkner's Government sets out a situation which cannot be altered, thereby making it plain that no person who holds the view that at some time there may be a united Ireland can be appointed to any Northern Ireland Government?
§ The Prime Minister
The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has published a Green Paper. In other words, he has deliberately put the matter forward for discussion. That is what was asked of him by the Home Secretary, so that the Northern Ireland Government could make their contribution to the discussion.
The position of the Westminster Government is that we have invited those most concerned in Northern Ireland—whether in politics or not—to put forward their own proposals. We believe it right that those concerned, on the spot, should be given the opportunity of doing so. It is then for the British Government, under the chairmanship of the Home Secretary, having considered what is desired by the people of Northern Ireland themselves, to venture suggestions as to how those requirements can best be met. It is important that those in Northern Ireland should have the opportunity to put forward their ideas.
§ The Prime Minister:
No. I have given way to the hon. Gentleman and answered the points raised by him.
The blowing up of roads and the searching of houses is distasteful and disruptive to ordinary life and, of course, internment without trial is repugnant, but none of these measures would have to be continued if there were a reasonable willingness on the part of all concerned to sit round a table to resolve genuine 39 differences of interest and opinion, because a situation in which all the political concessions are being made from one side and not matched by any move from the other side is profoundly unhealthy. It is unhealthy because so long as there is no genuine dialogue there is a risk of a tragic decline towards increasing strife and civil war. But our purpose remains firm—to destroy the bombers and the gunmen, and to achieve a political solution.
The right hon. Gentleman devoted a good deal of his speech to economic affairs, and I should now like to turn to these matters. Whenever domestic economic policy is discussed, whatever policy is followed by any Government has to be operated and considered against the background of the international monetary system and trading arrangements, and it is here, internationally, that acion is most urgently required.
Her Majesty's Government have put forward constructive proposals to help towards the solution of present problems. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) mentioned these in his winding-up speech during the debate on Europe, and we shall go on trying to find an international solution to the problem.
Before 15th August, periodic crises showed frequently that the international monetary system was failing to function satisfactory, and there were two main faults—first, over the supply of liquidity to underpin trade and payments and secondly, the failure of the process of adjustment between the balance of payments aims of individual countries and their results. Because of the economic preponderance of the United States, the world moved into a position where the main source of international liquidity became the United States balance of payments deficit and the process of adjustment between countries failed. Neither the surplus countries nor the United States were under effective influence, let alone compulsion, to adjust their balance of payments.
The situation proved to be unsafe in practice, because the continuing United States deficit ensured that the dollar came to be regarded as over-valued, and consequently not a sound reserve asset. But surely in the modern world it is also 40 wrong in principle that the supply of international liquidity should be determined largely on the basis of one country's balance of payments deficit rather than by international decision on a rational basis?
The proposals which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor put recently to the International Monetary Fund are intended to build on the special drawing rights scheme, which was itself a major achievement—though it took many years —and which sprang from proposals put forward by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The aim of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposals, which I hope will not take so long, is that the special drawing rights would replace the dollar as the main reserve asset. They would be created in amounts determined by international agreement through the I.M.F. to meet the agreed need for liquidity. The S.D.R. would also be the standard against which all countries, including the United States, would express their parities. The United States would then have available an instrument of adjustment and be in the same formal position about changing its parity as all other countries.
We believe that these arrangements could provide a means of solving both the problem of international liquidity and also of adjustment. The process through which we are going cannot be easy but it is essential to international trade and the growth and prosperity of nations that this should be achieved.
It is essential that we should stem the protectionist tide which is beginning to flow. What my right hon. Friend said in Washington commanded a great deal of support. We shall now pursue this in international discussions with the object of maintaining the flow of international trade and payments, and providing a sound monetary basis for its future growth. As members—when the time comes—of an enlarged Community we can join our partners in speaking with an even stronger and more effective voice.
So I say to the House that it is against this background that the problems of the domestic economy have also to be considered. There are signs of improvement which the right hon. Gentleman the 41 Leader of the Opposition was naturally not anxious to put to the fore.
§ The Prime Minister:
The next few months will give us an opportunity of strengthening the forces which are now moving for stability. The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) mentions U.C.S. They were told at the time—and I told the shop stewards again when they came to No. 10—that there could perfectly well be a new company providing a firm basis for shipbuilding on the Clyde. That offer is still open. There is no reason why they should reject it.
The measures which the Chancellor of the Exchequer took provided substantial incentives to which we are now adding measures to promote competition. [Interruption.] Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are always opposed to any sort of competition. Subsidy is what they want. What we propose to do is radically to recast the legislation on monopolies—I would have thought that hon. Gentlemen would have cheered that —mergers and restrictive practices and the institutions charged with administering it.
Our objectives include the promotion of greater independence, openness and consistency in the initiation of inquiries, the ending of discrimination between private and public enterprises and between manufacturing and service industries, and the framing of the legislation so that it will promote competition and safeguard the consumers' interests.
§ The Prime Minister
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer forecast that output would grow by between 4 per cent. and 4½ per cent. between the first half of 1971 and the first half of 1972. Our recent information confirms this forecast. The volume of consumer expenditure is up and the main increases in demand relate to the items affected by the reduction of purchase tax and the abolition of hire-purchase control.
As to private industrial investment, the first signs of a turn-round are visible. The increase in business confidence shown in the C.B.I. survey is something which I would have thought the whole House 42 would welcome, including the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). A great deal depends on progress in containing costs, because that is what influences the view of business about profitability. If costs are controlled there is good reason to look forward to a revival of private industrial investment.
There are also signs of success in reversing the high and rising rate of wage increases which we inherited and, if we get this, to slow down inflation. In the first eight months of 1971 average earnings increased by 6.9 per cent. compared with 9.4 per cent. in the first eight months of last year. In the first nine months of 1971 basic hourly wage rates increased by 6.9 per cent. compared with 8 per cent. in the first nine months of last year. At this time last year settlements of over 10 per cent. were the rule and a number of settlements were over 15 per cent. In the last few months there have been several settlements in both public and private sectors at 8 per cent. and less.
§ The Prime Minister
Then the hon. Gentleman should acknowledge that progress is being made.
The rate of increase in wholesale prices was down in August and September. Average prices of home sales of manufactured goods rose by 0.2 per cent. in August and 0.1 per cent. in September, compared with an average monthly rise of 0.7 per cent. in the first seven months of 1971. At the same time, the figures for retail prices of household durables have barely changed in the last three months for which figures are available. [Interruption.] We know the difficulties and the problems; let hon. and right hon. Gentlemen first acknowledge the progress being made.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I wonder whether the Prime Minister could help us on one point. It has always been the Government's contention that one of the causes of unemployment is wage inflation. The right hon. Gentleman has just given the House figures showing how—in his view—wage inflation is being contained. Can he tell us why wage inflation is being contained and yet unemployment continues to rise?
§ The Prime Minister
Mainly because of the time lag. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there is always a lag of prices behind wages and there is always consequential unemployment when wages go to a level which is unproductive—in other words, do not keep pace with productivity. That is what we have been seeing. It is a basic problem that the lag—
§ The Prime Minister:
It may be an old lag but it is certainly a well-known lag.
We have also to remember that the trend in exports has, overall, been moving upwards. The balance of payments has been helped by some temporary factors—by imports being stationary, or even falling as a result of the position of the economy. As there is a growing expansion again we must recognise that there will be this demand on our export strength to meet the needs of our imports. At the same time we have a continuing and substantial surplus on invisible account. The capital account has been strong, with a massive inflow of funds from overseas, and this has given us the opportunity of paying off much of our short- and medium-term official overseas debt— about 2½ billion dollars having been repaid since June last year. Rather less than 1 billion dollars is owed to the I.M.F. We have also been able to add to the reserves.
The Leader of the Opposition quite properly put the emphasis on the economic problems and the human problems of unemployment. I noticed that he was able to speak at great length on all of this without giving any explanation why or how it was brought about. He will surely realize—he must have known when in office—what process was going on, because it has been going on for much longer than the life of this Government. Industrialists, particularly those in the great industrial conurbations of the North-West, the Midlands and east of the Pennines, are saying the same thing—that what has been happening is that industry, through heavy taxation, has not had the resources to provide the investment which it requires.
§ The Prime Minister
It is loss of profitability which has prevented this. 44 This has a counteracting effect on industry producing investment goods. It also means—and it is the trade union leaders who tell me this, against what is said by some of their representatives in the House—as a consequence that men are stood down but the same production is maintained with far fewer men and women on the shop floor. It is that which produces an additional problem for us. There is not only the normal problem which comes from regional difficulties, about which I will speak in a moment, and the unemployment problem, which can be dealt with by a reflation of the economy; but we are also now facing a complete reconstruction of a great deal of British industry.
If the right hon. Gentleman would address his constructive mind to that, not only would he find a problem of great fascination; he might be able to make a contribution to the economic development of the country.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
I am a little bewildered—[Laughter.] Will the Prime Minister tell the House what period of time he intended the British public to understand by the phrase "at a stroke"?
§ The Prime Minister
I am afraid that the hon. Member really is in a state of bewilderment. I did not even refer to him, so he had no basis for interjecting. I wish that I had not given way to him.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he was afraid that our legislative Measures to deal with unemployment would be squeezed out by emphasis on Europe, but what legislative Measures does he wish to have taken? He did not mention any. What he also failed to recall was that on 20th July, 1966, he and his colleagues set out quite deliberately to double unemployment, and succeeded, whereas we have been wrestling against the situation which exists in order to find means of reconstructing British industry so that we can bring the unemployment level down.
The other point I put to right hon. and hon. Members opposite is that measures to reduce unemployment are in vain unless the jobs provided have a sound economic foundation, and will last. That is particularly true of Scotland, Wales and the North-East. If the level of wage increases and of cost inflation 45 continues to fall and if, as the evidence suggests, demand is beginning to rise, I believe that we can expect the reversal in the unemployment trend which we desire. But we shall still have the very difficult problem of the regions and the transformation of what hitherto have been taken to be the always prosperous great industrial areas—the Manchester conurbation, the North-West, the Midlands and so on.
I want to make one general point about regional policy. The core of the unemployment problem lies here, as it has lain now for more than 50 years. Beginning in the 'thirties, successive Governments have been developing more and more sophisticated instruments for dealing with this problem, but, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) said in his very interesting speech in our debate on Europe, no Government during this period have succeeded in solving this problem in the regions while at the same time attaining their overall economic objectives. So I think that right hon. Gentlemen opposite will also have to acknowledge that during their period in office the level of unemployment in the regions was, alas, higher than the national level.
The regional measures that we are using today are not a complete answer, and we are now studying the alternative options which may be open to us. But I have found again in the regions that the general view is now that unless there is a completely fresh and radical approach to the environment and the quality of life in those areas the industrial revival we want by fresh industry going there will not materialise. It is no use expecting the new industries of the 'seventies to flourish against a background which in many places is still all too reminiscent of the nineteenth century.
The right hon. Gentleman very kindly referred to my visits in the country, and I would again say that it has been impressed on me, as no doubt it was impressed upon him, that those in the North-West, those in the Midlands, those east of the Pennines believe that they too must have complete factory reconstruction; they, too, must have complete change in the environment. This is not something which concerns only the regions and the areas which for 50 years 46 have had particular unemployment problems.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
Will the Prime Minister consider, as an immediate measure, giving to firms already established in the regions the same kind of facilities that the Government are prepared to give firms ready to go into the regions—to give the same facilities to firms already on the spot which wish to develop?
§ The Prime Minister:
I have undertaken to examine that point because I know that it concerns many firms in Scotland and the North-East. They have offered to provide evidence that the absence of the special operational grant that one gets if moving more than 30 miles is deterring other businesses from expanding. We have said that as soon as evidence is provided we shall examine the matter afresh, and see whether any change is justified.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
We in the North-East are very grateful for what is being done there, but would my right hon. Friend comment on the fact that in the North-East we do not make consumer goods? That is part of our many regional difficulties, and has to be dealt with.
§ The Prime Minister:
I would not entirely agree with my hon. Friend in saying that consumer goods are not made in the North-East. I can think of many firms in the industrial estates there which are making consumer goods. We will certainly encourage more firms to go there.
It is because of this general approach to the environment that the Government have made available £160 million for infrastructure in the development and intermediate areas. That is why we are stimulating a most vigorous assault on pollution and on derelict land and wasteland. That is why, when we are increasing our support for the arts and crafts, we are putting special emphasis on building up the regional organisations for the arts, because we believe that it is in this way that we shall best transform all these areas. These policies place enormous demands on the local organisations, and particularly on local government. That is why we believe that the proposals for local government reorganisation are important and will better equip local authorities to respond to the new responsibilities we are putting on them.
47 The right hon. Gentleman pursued his normal theme on the social services. I suggest to him that it was widely recognised that the last Government's policies for the social services were not producing the standards of welfare and progress which they themselves constantly said they wanted. This was never disputed in the House, because so many on the back benches held that view. Certainly it was the burden of their speeches up to the last General Election. The proof is there for all to see.
But there are certain aspects which I should like to call to the right hon. Gentleman's attention. It was the last Government which introduced the fair rent system, and what we are now doing is to maintain that system and extend it to local authority housing. It is the system that he and his right hon. Friends introduced. It was his right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) who, when Secretary of State, wanted to see this change in local authority rent brought about. Those in the party opposite were the people who introduced it.
It was the last Government which brought back prescription charges. It was the last Government which abolished free milk in secondary schools—and with- out any exemption procedure on medical grounds. What hypocrisy it is to make the statements that they do. They acted precisely because they saw, dimly and belatedly, the need for a shift in priorities. This is what the real argument is about— priorities. It is not a matter of one party wanting to build up social services and another to destroy them, but first of creating the resources and then deciding the priorities.
What we have done is to change the priorities—[Interruption.] Yes we said that we would do it, and we have quite deliberately done it. The education programme is one of the best examples. My right hon. Friend's programme for primary schools means that we shall be improving or replacing 500 of them a year instead of 170 a year under the previous Administration. And it means that we are putting emphasis on widespread slum clearance. What I put to the right hon. Gentleman is that, first of all, this is not socially divisive, and, secondly, that better primary schools, clearing the slums, better 48 housing is really what is going to stop or reduce social delinquency and not his ranting and raving on public platforms and in this House.—[Interruption.] I know that the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. RenÉe Short) does not like it, but these policies are improving the social services for our people.
There is the hospital programme—£110 million extra. There is the special cash help which is being given to the very old, the chronically sick and the low wage earning families. By all means let us argue about the priorities. By all means let us discuss the merits of different schemes and policies which are now being produced. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite think that they can hoodwink this country into believing that they are the only people who are concerned about the social services they could not be more wrong. As the new schools and new hospitals are built, and as we bring new help in cash and care to the most needy families in the land, the rhetoric of the party opposite will indeed seem empty and shallow to the citizens of this country.
I wish to deal with a matter which the right hon. Gentleman raised several times during his speech. One could say about my two hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Address that they had a freshness and sincerity about their speeches which was welcome; but this would be the last thing one could say at any time about the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. In the context of the European debate he has repeatedly called for a General Election. He has done so again this afternoon. We know that this is an entirely spurious argument. From the right hon. Gentleman's remarks before the last election we can be sure that there would certainly not have been another election now if a Labour Government had been returned to conduct the negotiations, or if it had been a Labour Government which had presented the terms to the House. He had absolutely no intention of having a General Election.
Apart from its being a spurious and bogus claim, the right hon. Gentleman is rather ill-advised to call for a General Election at this stage. Has he considered for a moment on what platform he would fight an election, or what policies he 49 would present to the electorate? Would he still go to the electorate on the basis of going into Europe? Does he think that those Bourbons from Battersea, Stepney and Ebbw Vale would let him do that? Not for a moment. He has had 16 months in Opposition, with not a sign of constructive thought or proposals. If he needs a little advice he need not take it from me. Let him take it from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). He will take anything from him; he has to. This is what the hon. Gentleman said at the last election, and it applies just as much today:The idea that words by themselves could prevail was an example of the complacency, not to say conceit, which led us into an election fought at the wrong time on the wrong issues in the wrong style."—Could anything be more damning about the hon. Gentleman's leader than that?
The matter is summed up by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), who the other day, in a journal called "The Diplomat's World", described the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—his own leader—as a "be" man. By that he meant one who believes in being and not doing. This characterises everything that we have heard today—the belief that a "be" man could just achieve everything by words without ever putting forward proposals or being prepared to follow them with action.
The right hon. Gentleman has received his instructions from the Labour Party conference as to what the next election programme should contain. It is interesting to compare its relevance to our problems today and to what the right hon. Gentleman has been saying. The party has been instructed to prepare a number of clear and definite plans to nationalise the banks, the insurance companies and the construction industry, and to abolish tax relief for home-owners. How would that help those young married couples about whom the right hon. Gentleman spoke so movingly just now? The party has also been instructed to prepare plans to nationalise the building societies. Those were the instructions given.
They are entirely irrelevant to the problems which we face, and wholly repugnant to the interests and wishes of the British people.
50 I emphasise that the purpose of the Measures outlined in the Gracious Speech is to anticipate change and to provide a framework of policy and legislation under which the process of change can be harnessed to our own ends and advantages. The Government have a responsibility to create the conditions and institutions so that we can respond positively to new opportunities and to the problems we have been discussing. We have a responsibility to enable individuals and society to develop their potentialities. These responsibilities are at the heart of the European policy, because it is within a united Europe that we can make the fullest use of our industrial and commercial abilities, and carry greater influence in world affairs.
They are at the heart of our economic policies. If inflation can be seen to be under control we shall get better investment, new jobs and economic growth. These policies are essential if the resources of companies, management and workers are to be developed.
These responsibilities are at the heart of our social policies. By providing support where it is most needed and can do most good we can best help families and individuals to overcome disadvantages and handicaps and to live much fuller lives.
That programme has been put before the House today, and we believe that it responds to the demands which are now about to be made upon a modern Britain moving into the Community. It is a programme which we are determined to carry through this House and Parliament, and we shall be proud to do so.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
I shall not refer to "The Diplomat's World", or anything like that. After a few questions on "mapping the course in Europe" I shall refer to the economic development of particular areas, referring to my constituency.
When the right hon. Gentleman referred to mapping the course of Europe, I was concerned about the steps that the Government may take in getting democratic control of the European institutions.
§ Sir G. de Freitas:
My hon. Friend confuses the European Parliament with the Council of Europe Assembly.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) to continue to make rude interruptions of his right hon. Friend while still seated?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant Ferris)
I am afraid that I did not notice the particular interruption to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but any intervention from a sedentary position is very repugnant.
§ Sir G. de Freitas:
In considering direct elections to the European Parliament, to which Britain is committed, will the Government assure me that they will support from the beginning a system which will prevent multi-millionaires from sweeping into the European Parliament from direct elections, as they do into the Senate in the United States? If we have constituencies as large as 1½ million people—that is 36 Members divided among the 55 million people in Britain—the very cost of making the candidates' names known will be so high that unless right from the beginning we have a system such as the Germans have in their domestic elections, by which public money is used to finance these candidates. we shall be in serious difiiculty. I want the Government's assurance that they will work for democratic control of the European institutions. This is a serious possibility unless this step is taken from the beginning.
The Gracious Speech contains a reference tothe economic needs of particular areas".I wish to refer to a particular area—namely my constituency in Northampton- shire, which is concerned in the economic problems. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition raised the problem of unemployment in the Midlands. This is important because, although it is not anything like as heavy as it is in other parts of the country, it is there. It I refer particularly to one town in my constituency—Corby—it does not mean that the other towns in my constituency—Burton Latimer, Desborough and Roth- 52 well—are in any way pleased with what the Government are doing. They are not.
There are many reasons why industries want to come to Kettering and districts round there. We have good rail and road communications. However, if industries seek to come the Government turn down their industrial development certificates. My right hon. Friend referred to opening factories built at the time when he was Prime Minister. I opened a factory in my constituency in that period. I have not opened any more—not because I have not been asked to do so, but because there have not been any more to open.
We get very few I.D.C.s. The Town Clerk of Kettering today said to me that the council fully acknowledges that the real development areas where unemployment is greatest must have the greatest assistance. The council is not selfish; it acknowledges that point. However, it cannot accept the official view that this policy must be applied to firms which are already in the constituency. For example, a small firm which wants to expand cannot do so because the Government says, "If you expand in that new factory which is being built you must give an undertaking that your old factory will not be used for industrial use". As the firm does not own the old factory, it cannot give such an undertaking. I do not know whether 200 workers is a large factory force or a small one. But a firm which wants to expand to the extent of 200 jobs is not allowed to do so, so it builds its factory on the Continent and 200 jobs are lost to my constituents.
I do not know whether the House realises—the Government certainly do not—the curious position of the town of Corby. It is a New Town. The Development Corporation and the Urban District Council of Corby do not believe that the Government understand the unusual nature of this problem in Corby.
In 1950 Corby was designated a New Town. Until 1967 the task of the U.D.C. and of the Development Corporation was simple. It was to provide housing and amenities for steel workers. In 1967 the British Steel Corporation cancelled its projected expansion at Corby and said that the labour force was to remain static. The labour force has remained static at about 13,000.
53 At that moment Corby was faced with a different problem. It had to try to diversify its industries. Its population is now 47,000. The target figure was 55,000 by 1970. This is caused, not only by the British Steel Corporation's decision not to expand, but also by the refusal by the Government—the Labour Government. too, but this one has been even worse—to allow industries to develop in Corby.
Corby is greatly dependent on steel: nearly 90 per cent. of the adult male workers work at the steelworks. Each year 1,200 young people come on to the labour market. Corby is a young town. We must diversify. Last year 1,000 jobs in Corby were lost because firms which wanted to come to Corby because of its facilities were turned away by the Government refusing I.D.C.s.
There is room to support the development of a town of 100,000. The land is there—it is poor agricultural land. It is ready to expand. Fifty million pounds have been invested in Corby. It is an enormous investment, and it has nearly all taken place in the last 21 years. We are not using it to anything like the extent we should. In July of this year the Secretary of State for the Environment suddenly announced—"No more public housing". The letter which came in July of this year held out no hope of any special consideration for industrial development certificates.
The wording of the letter makes it clear that Corby's special position is not understood. Similarly, only two weeks ago, in answer to a Question which I put, the Minister returned to the old phrase that—in seeking industrial growth and diversification, Corby should concentrate on the expansion of firms already in the town…"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 111.]There are not any large firms already in the area except steel, and that is not expanding, as the Government know.
To make matters even worse, in recent years three additional New Towns and two expanding towns have come into the 30-mile radius. This is before Corby's expansion has become viable. Competition between these towns for resources of labour and industry is strong.
The Urban District Council and the Development Corporation have provided 54 houses and services—civic centres, playing fields, swimming pools, theatres, roads, sewerage water, etc.—far beyond those required by the small town which is envisaged by the Government in the Minister's letter of July, 1971. The new town centre to be completed next year is designed for a town of 65,000 in 1978. We are only 47,000. Space has been let to retailers on the assumption of that expansion. Government policy is making this population increase impossible.
At least the Government should send offices to Corby. Lord Jellicoe was kind enough to see me about this. I explained that the new town centre would include 100,000 sq. ft. of offices suitable for Government offices and offering a saving of over £700 a year per employee compared with anything in Central London. Lord Jellicoe listened attentively, but I see no sign of anything being done.
Over the last three years or so successive Governments have encouraged the Development Corporation and the U.D.C. to spend £50,000 on publicity. This campaign is now producing hundreds of inquiries. But people do not get the I.D.C.s and they turn away and leave us.
It is natural for the U.D.C., the Development Corporation and the Member of Parliament to feel that Corby has been badly treated.
What about the East Midlands Economic Planning Council? It is not tied to Corby by any feelings of loyalty. The Council has considered the huge, well-managed investment in Corby and less than a month ago it said this:The East Midlands Economic Planning Council is to ask the Government to re-examine the development of nearby new and expanding towns, making sure that Corby has a chance to reach its population targets and to become a properly balanced community.The Council feels that the expansion of Northampton, Wellingborough, Peterborough and Milton Keynes should be restrained a little until Corby's problems have eased…the Council said it made this decision because it felt the best use should be made of the millions of pounds that have been invested in Corby.The Chairman of the Planning Council, the Duke of Rutland, said…it was wrong from an economic and a national point of view …The Duke said: 'I think it is not common sense to buy acres of good agricultural land for other towns and deny Corby the right to expand to give it a diversification which it so badly needs and which it can do comparatively 55 cheaply'…Corby had already invested millions of pounds of public money and this should not be `frittered away'.I am grateful to the Prime Minister for remaining throughout this constituency speech. I want to know later in the debate what the Government's answer is to this Economic Planning Council's opinion.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I always listen with attention and respect to the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas), but I was a little sad that he chose this occasion on which to make a constituency speech when I was longing to hear his forward- looking ideas on the Common Market, a subject on which we can rely on at least that right hon. Gentleman on the benches opposite to express the sort of constructive thinking we had today from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
I do not want to become too controversial. However, I must express the hope that neither the Leader of the Opposition nor any Government Front Bench spokes- man will make us suffer an hour-long speech. This is contrary to the tradition of opening speeches on this occasion. I hope the Leader of the Opposition will not continue to deliver speeches of that length, which he has been doing recently, particularly when his remarks are sterile, destructive and repetitive, as they were today.
In contrast to his remarks we had the forward-looking and constructive approach of the Prime Minister, who developed his ideas in about half the time, to the gratification of all, not only of those in the galleries of this place but of those throughout the country who will learn of his remarks.
Frankly, I would like to make a constituency speech on the question of unemployment because Thanet has a current unemployment rate of between 7 per cent. and 8 per cent. It is one of the pocket areas in the South-East that suffers from this problem. However, this is not the moment to pursue that, though I promise to find an occasion on which to do so.
I intend to discuss one subject only, and that is the problem of the conquest of crime. I refer, of course, to the subject 56 of violent crime, an issue on which hon. Members may think I have some right to Speak. In April, 1970, the Lord Chancellor said in a foreword by him to a small pamphlet I produced:I have been of the opinion for some time that the whole subject of law and order has occupied too low a place in the agenda for legislative and administrative action.He went on:Unhappily the subject is far more technical than people are apt to suppose. Amateur solutions and bright ideas proliferate in this field. Most are old. Many have been tried and failed. More still are manifestly half-baked".That was expressed in language one expects from the noble Lord. He added:The next Parliament and the next Home Secretary will be expected to act in this field".In July, 1970 I delivered a speech to the House in which I put forward a number of ideas concerned mainly with criminal investigation directed towards an effort to cut in half, over about three years, the serious crime that dominates the country. On that occasion the Minister promised that all my ideas would be carefully considered and taken into account in the new policies that would be framed by the Conservative Government.
I did not expect action for a year or so. I hope that we shall now get that action because we have so far not had it and we must have it if we are to solve this problem. In this context, I am delighted to see a definite start being made this year, for the Government tell us in the Gracious Speech that measures are to be taken
to strengthen the administration of criminal justice.I will divide my remarks into two parts. I urge, in the first part, that we entirely reform our approach to the criminal, certainly in our sentencing policy and methods. We now have 40,000 persons in gaol. About 5 per cent. of them are serious or violent professional criminals, numbering approximately 2,000. while others are in different categories, prisoners for whom there is a future and a hope.
We must begin by ridding society of the violent criminals who perpetuate crime, including the professional gangsters who create gangs and who will remain professionals until the day they die. These men are not recoverable and must be removed from society for a long time.
57 It was a distinguished judge who said about a fortnight ago, when I raised this subject, "Of course, Billy, nothing has gone right since the abolition of Botany Bay". He said that half jokingly, but it is a fact that if we are to deal with the really serious criminal, we must have an independent institution somewhere in the Hebrides or a place like that—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
—to which those professional criminals can be sent. I am delighted to see the hon. Gentleman who represents the Western Isles (Mr. Donald Stewart), to which I referred, in his place.
Those of us who have spent much of our lives dealing with crime and criminals recognise that these permanent, professional criminals—I am speaking of the men who use sawn-off shot guns, rob banks, engage in regular attacks on post offices and make violent assaults on people, such as old ladies and others who may be in the streets; I refer also to murderers who cannot be executed but who should be in a place of safety—must be taken out of society.
Having mentioned murderers, I must draw attention to the unfortunate man who only a week ago was given a life sentence with a recommendation that he remain in gaol until the day he dies. Consider the danger of that type of man being free again or having the opportunity to be free.
That is the first aim. It will not be achieved unless we can find a place that is wholly separate from society and unless prison officers and staff are given double rates of pay—and these must also be volunteers. Unless this is done, we shall not get the staff. It is recognised that the prison service would have to do its stint in such a place, and this would mean that we could proceed to the second step, which is dealing properly with those who are not in this serious category.
I refer to criminals who can be left in open prisons a great deal more. For these, the Government can work towards a freer policy. The policy required is work, both inside and outside prison. These people must be trained so that they 58 have a chance of taking their proper place in society when they have served their sentences.
Work will enable them to expiate their offences in that they will be able to work and repay society for the crimes in which they have been involved. The first payment would provide money for their families, which would enable them to regain their self-respect from that point of view. The second payment would be a contribution towards the damage or crime they have committed. The third would provide some money so that when they are released, they have some savings to enable them to make a new start and get back to civilian work.
The policy that is required is, as it were, a hard-line, tough policy on the one hand, for those who cannot be recovered back to society, plus a constructive policy of work for those whom we feel should be given a further chance. Over the years I have spoken of this need, but unfortunately neither party has so far moved in this direction. Hopefully, we are to see the beginnings of such a move this year.
Albany Prison in the Isle of Wight is a modern gaol which was designed to cater for category B and C prisoners. These are people who, with a bit of luck, training and help can ultimately find their way back to society and lead a decent life. However, the men of Albany have no chance because of a piece of incredibly stupid policy on the part of the Home Office.
At Albany Prison now the "barons" of crime hold the power. I am speaking of certain category A prisoners, really serious criminals who are doing long sentences, usually for violent crimes. They are dressed in separate uniforms. The authorities have allowed these category A men to mix with the other prisoners and to walk to and fro down the corridors, waving their arms, on which are bright yellow distinctive armlets. The other men stand aside as they pass because these "barons" control all the rackets in Albany Prison. They control the sale of tobacco. They encourage homosexuality. They buy off and bribe the other men. They have turned the place from a first-class prison into one full of strife and emotion, and they have turned man against man. This was done 59 on the recommendation of somebody who does not understand the background of crime and against the recommendation of the Governor of Albany Prison.
It is therefore essential that we take away the recidivists and put them in a safe and separate place for a long time and start the recovery of the other men by means of hard work and training so that they may make up for their crime. This is the sentencing policy we must pursue and the administrative action we must take after the event of conviction.
I turn to the question of the position before the event of conviction. If we want to stop violent and serious crime we must have a professional organisation which is able to do it effectively. For this purpose many changes are required. Detection is the greatest deterrent. The odds against catching a housebreaker are still nine to one and against catching a car thief 100 to eight. Until we change the pattern and aim our policies in the right direction we shall not succeed.
In the forefront of this matter is the police. There are three things that we must do to assist the police. First, we must provide for them contentment in their conditions of service. Secondly, we must make them all believe—many of them already believe it—that they are able to serve society, which is what they want to do. A detective wants not merely pay but conditions of service and a sense of self-satisfaction in doing the job, which we in the House like to have. Between 1960 and 1970 indictable crime more than doubled. There were 500,000 offences in 1960. There are nearly 1¼ million today. Violent crime is up by 13 per cent. this year. The increase was 20 per cent. the year before. The increase continues year by year inexorably.
People may say, "How can the figure be cut?". I give this assurance, conceited as it may sound: the figure could be halved in three years if the measures which I have advocated were carried into effect. First, we must increase recruitment. The increase from 76,000 to 92,000 men in l0 years is nothing when we remember that crime has more than doubled. The number of detectives in London is pitiful. In December, 1968, there were 3,100—there is a few hundred more today—to cover this vast metropolis. 60 If we ask the men at the Rochester Row or Gerald Road police stations or any other police station they will tell us that they have to investigate seven, eight or nine crimes at the same time. This is not on. They have no secretaries to help them to do their work. They have no tape recorders to record what is said. They do not have the tools which we expect them to have to undertake their tasks.
Has it even occurred to people that a detective is a totally different type of character from the "copper" on the beat in a local community? It takes a certain type of man to become an excellent detective. He may be a tiny man with thick spectacles, or the sort of person one does not notice, but he may have the ferret's nature to become a first-class detective. In the main, policemen are fine men with a sense of service to the community, but only about one in 40 of them has the talent to become a detective.
There is a fear that if we do the special recruitment which is necessary for the Criminal Investigation Department the Government may create an Élite. They will in a sense do so. As I have gone round the universities speaking on this subject I have found that there are many young men and women who would like to join the criminal investigation force. They would not mind doing a period on the beat, but they are determined to become criminal investigators or leave the force. They do not want to be policemen or part of the county or local constabulary. They want to be detectives, which is an exciting and rewarding job. We must recruit immediately for more detectives. It is a sign of the times that last year only about ten university graduates entered the police force and many others who would have joined refused to do so because there was no way by which the two aspects of service could be separated.
The father-in-law of my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith), who has just taken his place on the Government Front Bench, was a very distinguished detective whose views I had the pleasure of hearing in my home. He shares my view. We believe that we must create a separate strategically directed force of criminal investigators to which we attach the regional crime squads who will have one major job to do—to conquer crime.
61 In 1966, a group of us in the House wrote a pamphlet called "Crime knows no boundaries". Our chairman was Lord Thorneycroft. In the pamphlet we said:To all these problems there appears to be only one answer, a central organisation, concerning itself with strategy, research, intelligence and supply, as well as training, on the lines evolved in Service Departments. To keep police forces under local administration should not mean conducting police thinking and strategy against crime on parochial lines.We said in terms that we must keep our local police forces, county forces and even our local criminal investigation forces. But success will come only when we have one central strategically directed force which comes under the Home Secretary. Its members must be recruited now. We need to recruit not merely young men of all classes, not only graduates and undergraduates, but middle-aged met, for the Fraud Squad in the City is hopelessly undermanned. It has not the accountants or people it needs to continue its brilliant work. The House always recognises the professional touch. I want us to think along professional lines.
In 1955, I led the main opposition to Silverman's proposal to abolish the death penalty, and I moved many Amendments to his Bill. But it is not the death penalty which is the issue today, although many people think that it is. Although I still favour having the death penalty and think that it ought not to have been abolished, I believe that it will come back only if we go on having the kind of bomb explosions which we have had in Ulster, where there is virtually war.
But when we consider serious and violent crime, let us keep our minds clear. Today there are professional criminals who cannot he changed. Once a criminal is in such a group, the others will not let him out. The most powerful trade union in the country today is the trade union of the robbers. The criminals do not change. They have to be put in a place of absolute security out of danger to the public.
But as we deal with crime we have to recognise that crime breeds crime faster than anything else does. More than one-half of the young criminals today have family connections or associates who have been in prison, and I am not surprised by that figure. We shall not succeed unless we go to new measures. Those new 62 measures are of the type which I have commended to the House and to the country to deal with this immensely important problem of containing and reducing serious crime. We can do it if we have the will to do it and if we are willing to examine the matter objectively.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
One of the most dangerous proposals in the Government's programme of work for the coming year is the Bill to reform the financing of rented housing. What is the aim of this proposal? As I understand it, it is intended to carry into law the Tory fair rents policy.
Representing, as I do, one of the largest council house estates in the country, I regard this proposal as discriminating against council house tenants and an effort to stir up house purchasers against council tenants. There has long been false propaganda to the effect that council tenants are subsidised by house purchasers. It is not true and it has not been true for many years.
In 1970–71 subsidies though taxation to house purchasers were £302 million, money coming back in tax relief on interest on mortgages, while Government subsidies to council housing totalled £157 million. The average tax subsidy to the house purchaser is £60 a year while the average Government subsidy to local authorities for a council house is £35 a year, and local authorities often have to add a supplement from the rates to produce what they regard as a reasonable rent for council tenants.
What will this proposal for a fair rents policy mean in practice? The Leader of the Opposition said that he thought it would mean a doubling of the rents in a very short period. Certainly in the London area there will be a big and continuing rise in rents over the coming years. The aim of the Conservative Government's policy is to cover building costs, interest charges, maintenance and repairs and to make a profit from council tenants. From this profit it is intended to pay rent rebates for tenants who cannot afford the proposed increases. One would have thought that if it were right and fair for there to be rent rebates for tenants, the money should come from the people as a whole and not only from other council tenants, but the proposal is that the 63 rebates should be paid out of the rents paid by other council tenants.
The ultimate objective is plainly for the Government to be enabled to abolish housing subsidies for council tenants. It seems contradictory that another item in the Queen's Speech should mention the need to curb inflation. With these big increases in rents, how is inflation to be curbed? There will be further pressures for wage increases.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
I have been following the hon. Gentleman with considerable interest. If he considers that a fair rents policy and a system of fixing fair rents will be so damaging and unfair to council tenants, could he explain why it was right when the principle was introduced by his right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and wrong when extended by the present Secretary of State?
§ Mr. Parker:
I am not quarrelling with the principle. I am quarrelling with the policies which the Government propose in their interpretation of that idea.
Do the Government propose to extend the idea and to remove the tax subsidies to house purchasers? That would be the logical thing to do following what they have done in other respects. After all, those subsidies are an ever-increasing charge on taxation. Personally, I am not in favour of abolishing such subsidies to house purchasers and I make it quite clear that the Labour Party is not biased against house purchasers. More than half the houses in the country are now being bought through building societies or are already owned and I say good luck to people who wish to own their own house.
Certainly house ownership is a form of pleasure to many people; it gives them great satisfaction. But we have to remember that the number of people who can purchase houses or who are likely to be able to do so is bound to be limited First, they must have the likelihood of a stable income to be able to go ahead; secondly, there must be at least the possibility of a continuance of work in that area. Unless those two conditions are satisfied, no person will feel sufficiently secure to purchase his own house. 64 But at any period, not only now but in future, there are bound to be many people who are not prepared to take the risk, or who cannot do so. Examples are young people who have just married and who do not have the necessary finance, people who want to move, particularly those likely to want to move to the new or expanding towns. We are encouraging industry to move to the new towns, and people who go to work there usually move into State-subsidised houses. There are also large numbers of old people who d, not want the responsibility of a house of their own, with the troubles of ownership and its commitments, or who do not want accommodation which is too large, but nevertheless want some security of tenure.
There are enormous numbers of the least-well-off sections of the population, fatherless families, the disabled, war pensioners, and so on. There are many people who could not possibly consider becoming house owners, and all these groups are likely to be with us for some time. Any housing policy must cope with the fact that there is bound to be need for council house subsidies to meet the needs of these many people.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
Last Wednesday, the Minister of Housing told me that in the newer new towns the price of rented housing would certainly not rise and in many ways might fall as a result of this policy.
§ Mr. Parker:
I hope that that is so, but it will certainly not be true for the council tenants in my constituency who live on older estates and who fear continually rising rents under the present proposals. They greatly resent the Government's policy.
If we try to make council estates profit- making organisations, they will be run mainly on commercial lines. I believe that this is part of the policy to reduce council housing as rapidly as possible and to make rented council house occupation a smaller and smaller factor in the total of accommodation. I feel, as do many of my colleagues, that this is an ideological matter, that there is an ideological prejudice, a feeling that people who own their own houses are biased against council tenants and that chose who own their own houses vote Tory while council tenants vote Labour. That 65 is not true, and one has only to visit a few constituencies to see that it is not true. In the country as a whole, and certainly in my constituency, this proposed legislation will be greatly resented.
I am sorry to see that legislation on road safety is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech. Most of us feel that there is great danger in the use of large, heavy lorries which increasingly plough through the countryside, especially from the Continent. Whether we go into the Common Market or not, there must be adequate control of heavy container vehicles entering our ports. I would suggest to the Government that all vehicles, not only lorries, but private cars as well, should be classified by their size and weight as is done in the Army. Certain types of cars should be permitted on certain types of roads, which would mean that large lorries would be limited to the motorways and certain other roads classified as suitable for them. That is the only way of ensuring the safety of the public, whether they be pedestrians, cyclists or motorists.
This would mean that the large road haulage firms and local councils should be encouraged, if necessary by Government subsidy, to create large parking and distribution centres outside the large cities, in much the same way as liner trains collect goods from assembly points and convey them to places where they are unloaded. In that way we would prevent the tragedy of those enormous lorries trying to proceed through narrow streets and thus reduce the danger to the public and to buildings.
It is said in the Queen's Speech that the Government propose to protect ancient monuments, to give grants to local authorities to protect buildings. I am in favour of that, but surely the most important way of protecting the country- side and the environment is to control the lorry. If large lorries are to be permitted to go through small, historic towns like Ludlow and Tewkesbury, they will simply shake them to pieces and destroy them. The only real way, from the environment point of view, is to control the large lorry and the large car—the small car is not a serious danger in towns. This problem must be faced and tackled.
I turn now to another point, that of procedure. I understand that the Leader 66 of the House, when he speaks, will talk about what the Government intend to do to carry out suggestions made by the Select Committee on Procedure in the matter of Private Members' Bills. I have been interested in this question for a long time. I have had a hard time trying to get some Bills into law. The Select Committee makes a number of positive suggestions in this field. It is important that these suggestions should be given serious consideration by the Government and the House, because a good deal of frustration is felt by hon. Members interested in trying to get new legislation through. The dice are so heavily loaded against the private Member in his efforts to get his proposals into law.
Most important is the suggestion of the Committee that the Ballot should be held in July and not in the autumn. The Ballot having been held, Members would not have to select their title until the autumn. From my own experience—I won third place in the Ballot in 1953 and introduced the Bill in January—I know that there is not time to discuss the proposals in a Bill with all those interested and get it into workable form before it is due to come before the House. If the Ballot were held before the end of July, those who won places would have plenty of time to make their choice and to consult fellow Members and people outside, and to get their proposals into reasonable form before the autumn. What happens now is that pressure groups often persuade an hon. Member to take up something just because they already have a Bill ready. We have over-legislated to safeguard the interests of dogs and horses as compared with children, largely because pressure groups have been available with the necessary legislation.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I agree with the hon. Member. It is a novel suggestion, and a very good one, that we should have the Ballot at the end of July or in August. But does not the hon. Gentleman agree that representations should be made to the Government to ensure that there are available parliamentary draftsmen to carry into effect the wishes of private Members who have successfully balloted to carry out such legislation?
§ Mr. Parker
I was just coming to that matter, which is one of the other suggestions of the Procedure Committee. 67 It is in a more limited form than in the past, suggesting that the first ten hon. Members lucky in the Ballot should have the services of parliamentary draftsmen in preparing their Bills. I wholeheartedly support that. It would be unreasonable to expect everyone to have this service, especially with the shortage of parliamentary draftsmen.
The proposals for having the Ballot at the end of the previous Session in July and about the parliamentary draftsmen have been made a number of times by different Select Committees on Procedure in the House but they have never been carried through. There is a shortage of parliamentary draftsmen and the Governernment should take steps to train more. Whatever Government we have in office there is bound to be a lot of legislation in the years to come. Having taken that step, the first ten Members, or whatever number is agreed upon, should be given this assistance. One would not expect the Government to make the service available for Bills which are diametrically opposed to Government policy, but then most Bills of this nature are controversial across-party or not controversial.
I suggest that these two important changes ought to be made, and I hope that, coming, as they do, in the latest proposals of the Select Committee on Procedure—and having been made before—the Government will look at them and give us some help. The private Member has an important rÔle to play in the House. He can often raise first matters which may later become Government policy. There may be the development of ideas, and that should be encouraged. So much is done to make legislation difficult for him that he should be put in a position in which, when he does win a place in the Ballot, he has a reasonable chance of doing a good job.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)
I warmly agree with what the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) said about heavy lorries. Perhaps the "other Measures" to be laid before us will include something along those lines.
Meanwhile the restoration of order, peace and progress in Northern Ireland must be our highest priority this autumn and winter. The Government at West- 68 minster have a thankless task. I strongly support their two-pronged policy restated yet again in the Gracious Speech—to defeat terrorism and simultaneously to keep up the pressure for political progress. I hope that my right hon. Friends will be ready to take whatever new steps may be necessary and will not be deflected by prejudiced or ill-informed criticism, from whatever direction it may come.
Apart from Northern Ireland, it is overseas issues which have been upper-most in the minds of my constituents during the long Summer Recess, particularly the tragedy of Pakistan. For us at this distance, it is the sheer scale of suffering which is difficult to comprehend, yet I believe that it is matched by the concern which many of our constituents feel. The latest letter that I have had from a constituent reads:At my level, one feels so helpless. Goodness knows, we have enough trouble on our doorstep, but is anyone doing anything?Thank goodness Britain has already played a leading part in the international effort and surely must continue to do so. I was particularly glad that the first Government announcement when we reassembled after the recess was the statement by my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary of a further increase in the scale of British aid.
We all know how delicate the political situation is. All of us must hesitate, particularly those who have not recently been there to see for ourselves, before we read any lectures to Governments or peoples about what they should do. A political solution must be worked out on the spot among the people of Pakistan and between the Governments of Pakistan and India.
Plainly, magnanimity and statesman- ship by the Pakistan Government will be called for, and any steps which they take—they have taken some in a small way and I hope that they will continue towards restoring civilian rule in East Pakistan will be very much welcomed here. The same magnanimity of approach is needed from the Government of India. Her Prime Minister is here today and I am looking forward later to hearing my right hon. Friend's assessment of the prospects in our dealings with both Governments. 69 But it is about the humanitarian aspect of the problem that most of us feel even more anxious. As many have said who have seen for themselves on the spot, this is a race against time. It must be right, in this race against time, in the bringing of aid and the prevention of starvation, to rely chiefly on the United Nations. It is disturbing that there has been such a poor response to the appeal by the Secretary-General for a crash international programme. This is surely a field, especially at this time, in which the European nations collectively can do more than they have in the past few months, I hope with this country taking the lead.
The voluntary agencies have done superb work in a difficult situation. Many of us have been aware in the last few weeks of the difficulties encountered by the organisation OMEGA and some of its young volunteers. They were unwise to cross the border without permission despite the warnings given, but many of us feel that, even allowing for this, the sentences passed on them were exceedingly severe. I hope that this is an area in which there may yet be room for magnanimity from those concerned on the spot.
As the situation develops over the next few weeks and months, there might perhaps be some help from a wider-based United Nations presence, not concerned purely with the administering of aid. Possibly there may be an occasion when the good offices of Commonwealth leaders, or one or two Commonwealth countries acting together as a commission, might also he helpful.
But however events develop, I am sure that our Government will be ready to take whatever further initiatives they can —we must recognise that we have only a limited influence in this tragedy—to help improve the situation.
Turning to the prospective legislation for joining the Common Market, I believe that, in our recent debates in July and in the last two weeks, this House rose to the occasion and won some respect from the public for the way in which we tried to debate the issue. There is a risk, however. of losing this respect if, having taken the decision of principle, the House makes excessively heavy weather of putting the principle into practice through the consequential legislation. 70 In talking to the public about the European prospect, I hope that we shall now shift the emphasis from persuasion to preparation. I am thinking particularly of industry, where, although many firms and industries have done a great deal to prepare for joining, others have done far too little. Time is now short. A large number of our fellow-citizens remain sceptical, if not hostile, towards the whole idea. They will be convinced only, as many have been convinced in the Common Market. by experience over several years. So I hope that the Government will take the lead in a national effort of preparation, to make sure that we succeed in grasping the wider opportunities which I am sure will open up.
The last overseas issue on which I want to touch is Rhodesia. We have followed with interest the reports of the soundings which have been going on. Clearly, pressures from the international community, including sanctions, have had some effect over the last few years on Rhodesia. I believe that there is an outside chance—I will put it no higher— of an honourable settlement. We must fully explore this. But I am glad that the Gracious Speech. and the Prime Minister last week and today, have again made it clear that a settlement must he in accordance with the five principles.
I am also glad that the Foreign Secretary is not rushing these negotiations. They may need many months yet. Mistrust of the Smith regime is widespread and has only been increased by reports of the latest developments in land policy over the last few weeks. Many people in this country, in the House and outside. will need to be convinced that any settlement is a cast-iron settlement and particularly that progress towards majority rule will really he unimpeded.
In expressing these anxieties, I wish my right hon. Friend well in whatever negotiations he may undertake during this Session. If anyone can succeed in getting an honourable and permanent settlement of this tragic situation, it is my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.
In home affairs the new housing policy, which was fiercely attacked and, I would say, distorted by the hon. Member for Dagenham, who spoke about prejudice and bias against council tenants, surely 71 contains two features on which we can agree—the concentration of help on people who most need help, wherever they may be, in whatever kind of accommodation, and, allied to this, the extension of help by way of the rent allowance to private tenants, who are often in even greater need of help than those in public accommodation.
But granted these commendable purposes of the legislation, I hope that my right hon. Friends are listening to the anxieties which have been expressed about the detailed implementation of it. I would particularly mention two things. One is the possibility that, when the new machinery is set up, the control of local authorities by central Government may in some respects be tighter than it is today, while many of us would wish the trend to be in precisely the opposite direction. The second is the risk of extra burdens falling on the ratepayers. I question very much whether the balance between the Exchequer and the general rate fund will be a fair balance under these arrangements. I hope that anxieties such as these will be considered carefully by my right hon. Friends in the preparation and the passage of the forthcoming Bill.
One matter not mentioned in the Gracious Speech, although it, too, may be covered by the phrase at the end about "other measures", is the reform of the compensation code. How far have the Government got in their review, which I know they have been pursuing as urgently as possible ever since the General Election? I will not go into detail to delay or weary the House about the latest problem which has arisen in my constituency; I mention it only to illustrate the problems all over the country.
This is the case of a badly needed new bridge which was built after many years of argument, to the great benefit of traffic movement and of the community as a whole but to the great disadvantage of a limited number of residents who were previously living quietly in residential roads, which, because of this development, have been turned into major thoroughfares and are likely to remain so for many years ahead. The present limited scope of compensation is working hardly in cases such as this.
We are all conscious that community developments nowadays are on an increas- 72 ingly large scale, and the rights of the individual vis-À-vis the community need further strengthening. I know, and Ministers say it whenever they answer our questions, how difficult this issue is; it is much easier to see the problem than to put forward a solution which is practical and effective. But I hope that it will not be long now before we get at least tentative thoughts from the Government on how they will tackle it, and if it is not possible to have a Bill this Session, surely we can at least have a Green Paper so that the matter can be publicly discussed.
Lastly, I touch on the decision to proceed with the raising of the school leaving age, also mentioned in the Gracious Speech. I have always been in favour of this and I welcome the fact that the Government, although there must have been many pressures on then to do otherwise, have decided to go ahead in the year 1972–73. At the same time I hope that none of my right hon. and hon. Friends is underrating the lack of enthusiasm by many of the public and, indeed, by many teachers, about this step, voiced most recently a week or so ago by the Assistant Masters Association. We know that much preparatory work in such matters as buildings, teacher supply, and curriculum development has already been done by the Government and by a number of local authorities, but there is still need for more. I take very seriously the anxieties of many teachers who will be responsible—in the front line, so to speak—for putting the reform into practice. I am certain that if the reform is to go smoothly it will need in the remaining year or so a major effort of preparation and reassurance, and in this, I hope, we shall see the Government taking the lead in the months ahead.
Obviously, looking at the Speech as a whole and the Session as a whole, we have a heavy Session ahead of us. The Labour Party, by its antics over the Common Market, has shown itself utterly unfit to govern. Fortunately, we now have a Government ready to govern and to grasp nettles, however unpopular some of these may, for a while, be. My right hon. Friends will be devoting a great deal of time to this House and to the legislation outlined in the Gracious Speech, and I am sure that they will give time and effort also to telling the public frankly what they are doing and why. 73 I hope that, a year from now, by their measures outlined in the Gracious Speech, we shall have taken a big step towards the better national performance and the more hopeful national mood which we all want to see as the 1970s proceed.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, East)
There is one sentence in the Gracious Speech which commends itself to me, and that is the sentence which says of the Government thatIn developing their regional policies they will pay close attention to the economic needs of particular areas.For Wales this is a matter of prime importance.
Only yesterday we had in Swansea a conference promoted by 14 local authorities. We were of a mind to secure from the Secretary of State what would be news about attracting industry in the future. The conference, for the promotion of which I give the local authorities full credit, proved abortive in relation to news of any new industries coming to the Principality, certainly to South-West Wales, and this fact has caused deep concern and resentment. I think I am reporting him correctly when I say that the Minister told us nothing new but that he covered old ground.
The absence of new, modern, self generating industries coming to South-West Wales is causing deep concern and resentment, and it is a result of the ill-judged policies of this Tory Government that Wales is faced with an unemployment problem of the utmost seriousness. Throughout the Principality closures and redundancies have followed one another in a lamentable procession. The most serious feature in South Wales is that no alternative industry has come to replace that which has gone.
The position is worsened by the alteration in the financial inducements to attract industry. Indeed, the West Wales Area Committee of the Confederation of British Industry, meeting in Swansea a week or so ago, faced the problem and said that we needed to get the stagnant economy moving, and it predicted that at the end of the year there would be 50,000 jobless in Wales. That is a terrible commentary on the failure of Tory Government policies in the Principality. In mid-September there were 48,670 jobless in Wales, including 35,416 men.—In 74 making this grim prediction the C.B.I. said that it saw no sign of improvement for the next 18 months. Steps which it doubtless took into account were all the financial measures announced in the several Budgets which have been presented to this House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in an endeavour to prime the financial pump. I suppose the members of the C.B.I. would have taken those considerations into account; they are business men; and this was their prediction.
This total of unemployment is considerably higher than last year's, and redundancies are very much higher compared with those in the same period. In West Wales alone, from October, 1970, to October, 1971, there were 4,000 redundancies declared. Yesterday the Secretary of State for Wales told five of my colleagues and myself at the conference I mentioned before that new jobs by the end of next year would total 3,450—already a debit entry on the employment prospects ledger. It is taking place against a background of falling investment, a matter of which the Conservative Government seem to be totally unaware, but inevitably this and the worsening liquidity position are related, and the question which arises here is, do the Government realise the seriousness of the position? The C.B.I. says that the position is one of acute seriousness, and that unless something is done many firms which are already feeling the worsening financial position will find it bearing acutely on them, and that they will have to press the Government for more positive measures to alleviate this—as I see it—investment ill.
Investment grants were abolished on 27th October last year and the result was a feeling of resentment in industry, and that feeling is still there. The C.B.I. in Wales said that
many people had blamed the serious position in West Wales on the dropping of investment grants and that the area would not be in that position if they had continued.That is the Secretary of the C.B.I, speaking—not a Labour Party person. This is a purely factual comment, and it illustrates the utmost seriousness and gravity of the position.
Resentment has increased because the system of allowances which has replaced investment grants is based on profitability, and it has resulted in business men saying 75 that it is a negative position since profitability has increased by only 4 per cent. in the past year. Many small firms which would otherwise have been helped by investment grants face serious difficulties, and many firms are deterred from coming to my City of Swansea and setting up in business there because of the fact that those grants are no longer available, and so they are effectively barred from expanding business.
As a result, employment opportunities have declined. The inevitable logic of that must strike everyone with great forcefulness. The Government's policies in Wales especially have been short-sighted. The Confederation of British Industry has warned the Government. In the break-even period when a firm is struggling to establish profitability and needing all the financial help it can get there is a case for restoring investment grants.
Firms which lack confidence in the Government's measures are making a mockery of the sentence I quoted from the Gracious Speech because they are being effectively debarred and deterred from embarking on new ventures in Wales. It is equally obvious that firms outside the Principality are not seeking to establish factories there.
When the Labour Party was in Government, 200 new firms came to Wales. How many have come in the past 15 months? The shattering silence is a most effective answer. It is little wonder that the Secretary of State for Wales, the Chairman of the Tory Party, informed the Conservative conference at Brighton that the Tory Party was dismally failing to get the message across. An essential ingredient in that statement is the failure of the Government's policies. Nothing succeeds like success and in Wales Tory policies are in ruins.
The Tory Government are associated in Wales with unemployment and the Tory Party is called the party of un-employment. There is now the largest number of unemployed for 24 years, with redundancies following each other with staggering frequency. Well-established firms, apparently there for all time, go to the wall. In Swansea the Imperial Smelting Corporation, which has been established for a century, has been closed, and 680 jobs for staff and manual workers, 76 have been lost. This is symptomatic of what is happening far beyond Swansea.
Of great importance is the fact that no industry has come to redress the adverse balance. Precisely nothing has been done and in Swansea, as in Wales as a whole, we have the problem of the unemployed and the problem of attracting industry to take up the slack of those who have been declared redundant. I am an expert in unemployment because in days gone by I was one of the three million unemployed. No one knows more than I do about unemployment; very simply, I know.
We have no redress, and we have no policy to attract industry to provide work for school leavers to enable them to put down their roots in the Principality and live in the land in which they were born. The policies of the Government, as I have said across the Floor to the Secretary of State for Wales, have in them the seeds of depopulation. Unemployment is immensely serious for the adult but it is infinitely more serious for young people both socially and economically. It involves the awful frustration of the inevitable failure to secure employment.
What message have the Tory Government for the unemployed in my home city of Swansea and in the Principality; what hope is there for new industry; or is there merely to be extended unemployment? We deserve an answer. This problem is worrying the Institute of Careers Officers, which has published a paper in which it says:
The problem of unemployment among young people is not simply a special misfortune in 1971, noticed because of its scale. It is a problem which has affected too many people for too long.If this applied to the problem in Britain it would be serious, but how much more serious is it in a small country like Wales? Many school leavers in Wales do not take the trouble to register for employment, so the total number of unemployed school leavers is not known. Something will have to be done about this.
If investment does not come to the Principality, employment will be reduced. This year there has been a drop in investment of 8 per cent. and it is estimated that there will be a further drop next year. That does not bode well for industry or for employment. Uncertainty 77 of investment will increase still further if by any mischance we do not stop the Government from entering the Common Market.
§ Mr. McBride:
The hon. Gentleman may say "No", but in the Common Market there are regional aids which are described as being transparent and therefore permissible, in the jargon of the Community, and aids which are opaque or hidden and therefore not permissible. The Government's policies, in-adequate and insufficient as they are are said to be opaque and would therefore not be allowed—
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)
Has the hon. Gentleman any authority for making that statement? It has been clearly explained to our negotiators in Brussels that all the aids that we are at present giving to our development areas are regarded by the Commission as transparent and there is no possible reason why they should not continue There is no authority for what the hon. Gentleman said.
§ Mr. McBride:
If the hon. Member for Flint, West, who is pontificating, would look at the report of the Welsh Council he might have a different notion.
Against a background of falling investment and uncertainty of investment, in a proportion of four to one the people of Wales reject the Common Market. We have to consider the future of Wales and the attraction of industry there which the Government have not done. I contrast the present position with the steady stream of modern, self-generating industries that came to Wales when the Labour Party was in power. The contrast shows all too clearly the barren policies of this Government, certainly for Wales. We were aware of the happiness that employment brought to people. The right to work is an inalienable right which should be enjoyed by all those who are able and willing to work, and it is the primary duty of the Government to see that this right is afforded to everyone. This involves a person's dignity and independence and no Government should rob people of those qualities.
I charge this Government with using the bludgeoning weapon of unemploy- 78 ment. Certain important questions arise which the Government must answer. Could we be told what industry will be coming to the Principality? How will the Government achieve their aims against the falling investment totals thrown up this year and the estimated fall next year? What will the Government do to ease the cash liquidity position so effectively demonstrated by their friends in the C.B.I.? The fact is that in the next four years in my home city of Swansea the estimated total of jobs to come, as given by the Secretary of State yesterday, is 1,530. Therefore, in this huge community of over 170,000 people there is no sense of joyous expectancy and the people in the area require much more to be done. The fact is that the Government appear to be unaware of the seriousness of the position.
I charge the Government with wilful neglect in failing to attract new industry to the area. I feel that my charge is proved since it is the duty of this or any other Government to provide employment and to give security and a future to men and women in Wales and to those who come after us.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
I will not immediately take up the points made by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. McBride), though in the course of my speech I shall comment on what he said.
The present Government came into office on a policy of change, and it is obvious to all that such change has taken place throughout the last 18 months. Much of it has been disputed by many hon. Members opposite, but nevertheless these changes have been of advantage to the country. These changes have now been followed up in the Gracious Speech with other measures which will continue the process of change.
The Gracious Speech appears to be somewhat shorter than usual, but I feel this will not mean that we shall spend any less time on the business flowing from it and there may be more between the lines than there is contained in the print.
The Conservative Government came in as heirs to a legacy of inflation, inadequate growth, penal taxation and a slowing down of investment. My right hon. 79 Friend the Prime Minister came in with a reputation for getting things done. After all, he was the main architect in our winning the election and he had a reputation for getting on with the business at hand. This is what he has done. It has certainly made a change from the tactics adopted by the previous Prime Minister whose aim was "Down with business, and let us make sure that everybody else is done except myself".
Towards the end of this Session we shall be moving towards the halfway stage of this Conservative Government, and the Opposition will need to be patient. They seem to have been talking about the prospect of a General Election ever since we got back from the last one. But nobody will put out this Government except the Government themselves and their own supporters. And this will not happen—it will not happen either over the Common Market or over any other issue. Therefore, the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) will have to get on with his do-it-yourself operations in the country—operations which he does not seem to want to apply to the Parliamentary Labour Party, whatever he may want to happen in the country.
Since we are now at a point in which the Government has been in power for one third of its allotted time, perhaps it would be useful to ask what are its strengths and weaknesses. What is the profit and loss account so far? Before the last election industry and the people of this country were grossly overtaxed. I believe they are still overtaxed, but at least not grossly so. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a considerable start in easing the taxation burden both on individuals and companies.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East rightly spoke about lack of investment being a disadvantage to the expansion of industrial activity in Wales. But this lack of investment is a legacy from the Labour Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It was due to the over-taxation of the earlier period and that arises out of activities which took place in the Labour Government. The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) is smiling, and obviously does not accept what I say. But I happen to have a small company and I know what I am 80 talking about. There are many small companies in this country, and probably the small firms and industries employ more people than do the large companies.
§ Mr. Lewis:
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. It was the Labour Government who introduced the shortfall procedure that bit into the profits of small companies so that they not only had to pay corporation tax but, if they sought to plough profits back, they had to pay an added tax which took them up to a rate of almost 65 or 70 per cent. If that is not a deterrent to investment, I do not know what is. This is the reason for the hon. Member for Swansea, East being unable to get a sufficient amount of investment in the Principality.
§ Mr. Huckfield:
The hon. Gentleman surely cannot be fully aware of what he is saying, because he is advancing the fantastic proposition that taxation levied at least two years ago is responsible for lack of investment now. Does he not accept what numerous surveys in this country have shown time and again—particularly over the last year or 18 months—that lack of investment stems from a firm's failure to be confident at all about their future under the present Government?
§ Mr. Lewis
No, Sir. There is a time lag which is still having its effect as a result of the taxation imposed on industry before we came into office. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman knows that many companies do not get their full tax bill until two years have elapsed. They are now having to find money to pay for what was imposed on them in taxation by the Labour Government.
§ Mr. McBride
The hon. Gentleman mentioned that small businesses were the backbone of industry. Would he accept from me that I can take him to the Principality and show him small businesses with small investment and businesses with many million pounds of investment—all undertaken during the time when the Labour Party was in power? If that happened then, why can it not happen now?
§ Mr. Lewis
I am quite sure that it will happen, and indeed that it happens now. I believe the hon. Gentleman will find 81 that, before we have completed this period of time covered by the Gracious Speech, we shall see increasing investment in Wales and elsewhere. Despite what the hon. Gentleman says, let me remind him that, while his party was in office, unemployment in Wales went up very substantially. I do not know what the investment was all about, but that is what happened in Wales.
When my right hon. and hon. Friends came to office, they were also heir to the biggest and worst inflation that we have experienced since the war. I do not think that the Government can be certain that this has been cured. Nevertheless, they have cut it back, and there are indications that there is a slowing down. They have obtained what hon. Gentlemen opposite would have thought impossible some months ago in the shape of an agreement that price increases will not go beyond a broad 5 per cent. That has been achieved through negotiations with the C.B.I. I have not yet seen that the trade unions are prepared to match that by calling upon their members to stabilise their demands for wage increases in the coming 12 months. However, we have a great challenge in the coming weeks and months, and it is to make certain that wage increases do not add to the rampaging inflation that we have seen in the past two years.
At the General Election, the Conservative Party said that it would rephase the welfare and social services in order to get the country out of what I believe to be an indiscriminate rut. I refer of course to money being provided to people who do not need it while others who are in great need have to make do with too little. The rephasing has begun already, and there are additional proposals in the Gracious Speech. One of them is the proposed Housing Bill. Obviously the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) opposes it, and there will be considerable opposition to it from the Labour Party. However, if we are to have effective welfare and social security assistance available to those who really need it, we have to make sure, in housing as in other matters, that those who can afford to pay do so. It does not make sense that there should be two cars outside a council house and that the tenants of that house should be paying a rent which is subsidised.
§ Mr. Lewis
The hon. Gentleman knows that that is true. Many families living in council houses own more than one car. I do not complain about that. They are entitled to spend their money as they wish. But they should not be in a situation where they can do that and, at the same time, have their rents subsidised by old-age pensioners who pay rates and by others less well off than themselves who cannot afford even one car.
§ Mr. Pavitt
The hon. Gentleman says nothing about people who are owner- occupiers and who are subsidised by tax remissions. In my constituency, more than 200 families are in care, and the local authority has to hire special accommodation for them. There are 8,000 families on the housing list. The hon. Gentleman is advocating another means test because he is afraid that too many miners' wives have mink coats and too many council tenants have six cars out- side their houses. It is just nonsense.
§ Mr. Lewis
The hon. Gentleman can- not have it both ways. He cannot ask for increased help for those whom he wants to assist and spend the money that they should have on those who do not really need it.
We now have a Government who have at last brought realism to bear on the profitability of industry, whether it be private or State-owned industry. The hon. Member for Swansea, East spoke about the need for profits. It is a refreshing change to hear that kind of comment from the benches opposite. It is not the usual story that we hear. Obviously the hon. Gentleman is beginning to recognise that out of profit there come investment and expansion.
For the first time, a Government have confronted the nation with the facts of industrial life. They are that, if profits are squeezed too hard, the result is a lack of expansion coupled with redundancy, and that, if wage rates are jacked up too high, employers have to reduce their total expenditure which in turn means that they have to cut back on their total work forces, and that means redundancy. Those are the facts of life, and the nation is confronted with them for the first time.
83 Despite what hon. Gentlemen opposite may say, I think that the nation as a whole is not displeased with having been confronted with the facts of life. The people realise that, under right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, we were living in a fools' paradise and had been for far too long. In a competitive world, a nation cannot compete abroad by exercising soft options. This Government have started to get rid of soft options.
§ Mr. McBride
The hon. Gentleman talks about the profit motive. Surely it is clear to anyone with an elementary knowledge of bookkeeping that a company must secure profits in order to provide funds for development, for the replacement of obsolete plant and for contingency plans. Everyone in the Labour movement knows that.
§ Mr. Lewis
I accept that, and I am glad that hon. Gentleman accepts it.
In the year ahead, the Government must have regard to one or two specific priorities. There is no doubt that the first one is the need to deal with the level of unemployment. It is too high, and it must he brought down. I know that there are reasons why unemployment is too high. I have mentioned two of them. But it does not help a Government to state reasons for rising unemployment which are not at their door. The buck stops on the Front Bench. Despite what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given away already, this year he will have a surplus of about £2,000 million. Some of that money will have io be used to prime the pump. When my right hon. and hon. Friends are considering Government expenditure, they will be well advised to draw back from providing money to those who do not really need it and, instead, to use it for priming the pump so that the unemployment figure goes down and people are able to find jobs, especially the young.
Any Government today must be involved in industry. The Labour Party may be nationalising when we are not—
§ Mr. Lewis:
I know all about Rolls-Royce. At least we nationalised to help to preserve that company, whereas 84 many of the operations of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, rather than being productive, were destructive of the profitability of industry.
§ Mr. Leadbitter:
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that nationalisation is a virtue when the Conservative Party deems it so, whereas it is a nasty word when the Labour Party is associated with it?
§ Mr. Lewis:
If the hon. Gentleman had been a little more patient he would have heard me go on to say that, in as much as we on this side do not have in our policy the denationalisation of all that is nationalised, there is a large section of British industry in which the Government are involved. They are involved in investment, in employment, and, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in providing a stimulus to the economy. I repeat, if my right hon. Friend has money to give away he should give it away for that reason rather than providing welfare on an increasing scale for those who do not need it.
There are other lessons to be learned from the first period of this Government. I want to be brief, so I will not draw all the lessons.
First, there are extreme elements in this country who are engaged in an all-out war not only on the law and order front but on the industrial front. They are relatively few, but many of them are powerful. They are active in the trade unions, in the docks, in the airlines and in the airports.
§ Mr. Lewis:
Many of them are also active in large sections of the public service. I do not have to look for them under the bed. They are on the bed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Everybody can see them. The public know it, and the sooner we recognise that this is an out-and-out war, and the sooner the Government recognise that they must root these people out, the sooner we shall get the kind of co-operation in industry and else-where which any Government have the right to expect when they are seeking to mop up an unemployment total of over 900,000.
But good, firm, policies by the Government are not enough. The Government must appeal to the broad mass of the 85 British people who are not extremists. The people do not even subscribe to extremist speeches; they do not very much care for them. One feature which disenchants many people with politics today is the way that they listen to extremist speeches knowing that those who are expressing them do not really mean what they say.
In their next period of office the Government must find a philosophy which will appeal to the middle band of the nation. We now have media which are more effective than any we have had in our history: television, radio and newspapers, but particularly television which is looked at by millions. Yet I wonder whether the Government are utilising them sufficiently. I have heard many comments in the last few days about the broadcast by the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity on Sunday. All of them were complimentary. It was a quiet, restrained, yet effective broadcast. We need more of that kind.
The Prime Minister, because he thinks that there was an over-exposure by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, is not anxious that he and his Ministers should over-use that medium. I believe that there is a danger that they will under-use it. The various media are sometimes used by people on both sides who have extreme views. Therefore, it is necessary that the Government, in putting forward common sense policies, should make those policies clear to the people.
The British people can provide the success and stability of this nation, but they have to be led and inspired into active co-operation and participation. When politicians talk about growth they want to know, if we are to have increased growth, what it will be for. Growth is not an end in itself. If we are going into Europe people will want to know what our philosophy is and into what we shall try to guide Europe. The simple fact of going in is not an end in itself. Beating the gunmen in Northern Ireland is not an end in itself. The Industrial Relations Act is not an end in itself. Local government reform is not an end in itself. Even the promise of more and rising prosperity is not an end in itself; nor is rising prosperity entirely and totally inspiring.
The Government must involve themselves in providing some inspiration, some 86 philosophy, for the people which they will understand and follow. We must have the kind of philosophy which we used to have when we had an Empire. To do this, the Government must use the media which exist. It is wrong for Ministers, if they do, to take the view that we should use the media as little as possible. We are politicians. Even Ministers are politicians. They are not super-bureaucrats. They have a job to sell to the public what they are trying to do for the country in order that they can get the people behind what they are trying to do.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are at the beginning of a new Session. The Chair has absolutely no control over the length of speeches. Standing Orders do not permit it. However, I wonder whether the Chair is allowed to drop a hint when a speech has been going on for 26 minutes.
§ Mr. Lewis
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. I did not realise that I had gone on for quite so long. I will now draw to a conclusion.
The Queen's Speech is in line with the policy of the Government. Hon. Gentlemen may criticise the Government's policy, but it is an attempt to bring this nation to reality so that it can follow a lead which is worth following, a lead which, when it takes us into Europe, will mean that we shall be able to play our full part on the Continent.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)
I shall not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Kenneth Lewis) in his eloquent testimony to the aimlessness of this Government. It was revealing to hear him say that the Government had no long-term philosophy. It was even more revealing to hear him say that he thought that the Government should make more use of the media. I hate to think of the overtones, for, recalling France and other countries which in the past have made use of the media under their control to put across their message, one has a horrifying portent.
I should like to refer to some of the overtones of the Gracious Speech, because it may be that the aimlessness of the Government comes from the fact that they are so wrapped up and totally involved in getting this country deeply 87 embedded in Europe. So much of the Gracious Speech is tied up with getting into Europe that many of our worrying domestic problems appear to have been almost forgotten.
Before turning to some of the domestic problems worrying my constituents, I must refer to the sentiments in the Gracious Speech, particularly its lack of relevance, to the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister, when winding up the Common Market debate last Thursday night, in a very revealing speech, certainly let a few cats out of the bag. He more or less said that the Commonwealth is as good as finished. If that is the Government's policy, the kind of policy which will run through as a background to the Gracious Speech, it ought to be regarded as very worrying by many Commonwealth leaders and those of us who still believe that the Commonwealth has a meaning today.
It has a meaning. It means a lot more than trade preferences. It means a system of social justice, constitutional stability and, above all, a multiracial grouping of nations. When one sees the attitude of the Prime Minister towards Commonwealth countries, such as at Singapore, and when one sees the determination of the Government to settle with the illegal regime in Rhodesia at almost any cost, one cannot help thinking that the present Government are prepared to turn their back on those values and seek refuge in Europe. Hon. Members who heard what the Prime Minister said last Thursday are bound to agree with me.
If one listens to politicians in other parts of the Commonwealth—I have recently returned from Australia and New Zealand—one cannot help remarking that they tend to be even more concerned not just about the economic effects but about the long-term political consequences which will follow Britain's entry into the Common Market. They can see that this country, far from being internationally and open-minded in the future, will be European, introvert and closed-minded. They know that of all the other countries in the Common Market, none can really emulate what the British Commonwealth of nations stands for. None can emulate that stability of values which the Commonwealth stands for.
88 But the present Government are totally dominated by this desire to get us into Europe so quickly that we even hear rumours that they are prepared to side-step some of the legislation which ought to be placed before this House. So anxious are they to get us into Europe that they do not appear to have considered that this country will suffer some very serious losses of trade preference given to us by the Commonwealth. What about New Zealand where we have a 40 per cent. tariff advantage over the Japanese in getting our cars into that country? What will happen in these export markets where even now countries like the Japanese are almost competitive with us? What will happen to the trade preferences in the free trade area which E.F.T.A. stands for? Have the Government given no consideration to this? Ought they not to have made some reference to this matter in the Gracious Speech? Instead, what we have is an inward-looking document. We have an inward set of proposals and a preparedness to jettison many of the fine values which this country has upheld in the past.
Turning to something more domestically oriented, the issues confronting my constituents, I feel bound, like so many of my hon. Friends, to refer to the issue of unemployment. I think it was my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition who said that we who represent Midlands constituencies now have to witness rates of unemployment which are comparable with what the development areas had to suffer two or three years ago. When one sees unemployment at 7 per cent. in Midlands constituencies, including my own where it tends to be even higher, this is a very worrying situation. It is particularly worrying because we are supposed o be the seed-bed of industry to go to the development areas. If we do not have industrial expansion in the West Midlands, how are these firms supposed to set up their new factories and plant in these development areas?
For a long time I have been an advocate of a North-East Warwickshire Development Association to help my constituents. They feel particularly picked on. If the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Dudley Smith) were still here, I am sure he would agree that people living and working in the 89 Coventry sub-region feel particularly picked on. They know that the Conservative Party and the Government realise that if Coventry and the trade unions in Coventry are crushed, the lead which has been set to the rest of the country will diminish. When one sees the crippling unemployment which now exists in the engineering and machine tool industries, when one sees to tool room dispute dragging on, one cannot help coming to the conclusion, as many of my constituents have done, that Coventry is being deliberately picked on.
It has been alleged time and time again by hon. Members opposite that it is high wages and inflation which cause unemployment. Are the Conservative Party telling us that it is those people who are getting the higher wages who are being made unemployed? Have not they looked at the kind of people who are being made unemployed as a direct result of their policies? Have not they seen that it is the disabled, the people who only get jobs when the employment situation is good, who suffer because of the policies of this Government? I have a constituency case of a man who worked at Alfred Herbert's in Coventry for 38 years. He is an epileptic. He has tried all over Coventry to find other employment and he has had to take only temporary jobs. He is now without work. These are the people who suffer unemployment under the present Government, who only at the best of times can get jobs and are being made to fall by the wayside by the deliberate policies of this Government.
The Government say that it is inflation and high wages which cause unemployment. In the past only the extreme economic theorists put forward that definite proposition. If hon. Members opposite were to search through some of the writings of the economists they would find that this very definite link between the level of employment and the level of inflation has never been supported by the majority of economists. Why the present Government attach so much credence to it when economically and theoretically there is so little justification for it, I do not know.
As the result of the Government's policies the kind of people whom they claim they are helping are falling by the wayside most. It is the Prime Minister 90 who says time and again that it is lack of profits and heavy taxation which cause industry to lose confidence. Does he not realise, as survey after survey has shown, that what is happening is that industry in this country has not confidence in the future? It is that lack of confidence which stems directly from the policies of this Government.
I was saying that my constituents feel that they are picked upon. Even more do they feel picked upon when they see the proposal in the Gracious Speech to extend the fair rent principle into the public sector. Already this is causing considerable rent increases in my constituency. When the rent proposals were brought forward in Nuneaton and Bedworth recently, my constituents could see that this was a direct result of the policies which are now being applied by the Government in the extension to the public sector of their fair rent proposals.
It is all very well for the Prime Minister to maintain that things like the family income supplement and constant attendance allowance for the disabled are helpful. But one has to be in full employment to get the family income supplement. One cannot get it unless one is in continuous employment. When the Government claim that the constant attendance allowance will help, they should examine the very poor success record of those who have applied for this allowance. So far, many of those who thought that they had a cast-iron case for the granting of a constant attendance allowance have been very disappointed.
Reference is also made in the Gracious Speech—it was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies)—to the fact that it is crime and punishment which dominate our age. I was taken aback when I heard advocated from the benches opposite the setting up of a new kind of Botany Bay. Bearing in mind that the hon. Gentleman claims to be one of his party's experts on crime and one of his party's advisers on crime, I hope that this new Tory Alcatraz or Botany Bay does not become official party policy, though if I heard the hon. Gentleman's remarks aright, I think that is what he was advocating.
I cannot help feeling that the only significant contributions which have come forward during the period of office of the 91 Conservative Party for solving some of the problems which have been referred to have been the "Festival of Light" and the "Oz" trial. That appears to have been the only significant advance made in some of the theorising from the Government benches. But might there not be a good case for a serious examination of the real causes of crime? Might there not be a better case for examining some of the social causes? Also, might there not be a case for an examination of the way the police spend some of their time? I am sure that the sort of priority often accorded by police forces to stopping kids smoking pot and picking up dirty books ought not to figure among the highest priorities in the matter of police time and effort.
This is a Gracious Speech which fails to match up to the aspirations of my constituents. As far as I can see, it is a Speech which fails to do anything for my constituents, and, just as it fails to meet or express the hopes and aspirations of my constituents, so it fails to represent the hopes and aspirations of a whole new younger generation which is coming along, a generation which is highly suspicious of the results of modern technology, which is contemptuous of the values of modern materialism, a younger generation which is looking for a lot more than some of the hard materialistic values expressed or implied in the Gracious Speech.
The younger generation coming along wants more than a testimony to the uplifting of the physical environment. It wants something which this Government could give, and which even, I think, the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford was seeking for but did not find. It wants something more positive for the mental environment of Britain. Seeing, as we do, proposals for harder measures against crime and heavier punishments, seeing more testimony in the Gracious Speech to the value of direct grant schools, and testimony to the values of commercial radio, we wonder whether the things which appear in the Speech can really be intended for the sort of people who will have to live in this country in the future.
I have tried to be brief, and I shall end as I began. Living in my constituency, as I do at the weekend, I can find nothing for my constituents in this 92 Speech. My constituents want more employment and better welfare services. They want a better and more decent standard and quality of life. Representing them, as I try to do in the House, I cannot find their aspirations represented in this Speech at all.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Miss J. M. Quennell (Petersfield)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) will forgive me if I do not take up this argument, though I must say, in passing, that, while he was referring to crime and punishment, I recalled, for some irrelevant reason, a letter which a constituent sent to me. He wrote that he was interested in the study of crime and criminals, and he asked me to let him have a ticket to the Gallery of the House as he wanted to watch it at work. I am still not quite sure what he meant.
At first sight, the Gracious Speech is a modest document, but, if my accounting is correct, on pages 3 and 4 there is a collection of items which could well involve us in about 20 pieces of major legislation, quite apart from what might be involved in page 2. I shall confine myself to the modest little sentence on page 3:
Legislation will be introduced to give effect to My Government's proposals for the reorganisation of local government in England (outside Greater London) and in Wales.That heralds my right hon. Friend's intention to introduce fresh legislation to take the place of the two old Acts of 1888 and 1894 upon which our present local government structure is based.
It would not be right for the House to say farewell to those two Acts without paying tribute to the thousands upon thousands of men and women who have served the 1,200 or so councils since the end of the 19th century until, virtually, the end of the 20th, and have done so with almost a total lack of any history of peculation or misappropriation. Their standard of integrity and honesty in local government is, I believe, without parallel in the world.
It is meet for us, also, to recognise the service which the salaried servants of all those councils have given over the past 80 years. Considering the number of councils and the number of people, councillors and servants, who have been 93 involved, one can only say that it has been a remarkable record.
Most of us here—probably all of us, I imagine—are here because of the honesty, integrity and diligence of local council officials. On polling day, the polling stations in my constituency are manned by council staff. I do not know how other hon. Members are affected, but in my constituency, certainly, some of the polling stations are by no means in the category of premises which are described in estate agents' literature as having a pleasant view and possessed of all "mod. cons.". In fact, they are fairly dreary, often ugly, rather damp, and without hot food available. If it were not for the devotion and integrity of the people who sit in those polling stations for 12 hours, and for whom the count afterwards at night, or sometimes the following day, is an added burden, democracy in Britain would not be as it is. We talk a lot about democracy. Let us, in passing, recognise the debt which we owe to all those who man our polling stations and do so much to make democracy work.
If there be any criticism of the Acts of 1888 and 1894, it can probably be levelled at their difficulty of modification. Over the last 80 years or so, they have remained rather rigid statutes. Generally speaking, councils tended to lose powers either to central Government or to other bodies, but the boundaries of the local authority areas themselves hardly altered during that time. As the years went by, there were great changes of population, of transport, of the industrial and manufacturing pattern, there have been periods of peace and war, disasters, floods, and heaven knows what, there have been slumps and booms, yet the boundaries of local authorities have remained practically unchanged.
The consequence has been the growth of anomalies. Certain urban district councils have acquired populations which would have done justice to a major borough, while some boroughs shrank until their position became quite anomalous.
One consequence of the rigidity was a certain stability. Since councils owed their revenue base to dwellings, to bricks and mortar which cannot easily be moved about, they did not welcome changes in the size of their financial catchment area which would have flowed
94 from boundary alterations. When my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) spoke in passing of the relationship between central Government and rate-borne expenditure, I warmly endorsed what he said.
Also, the factor of prestige has had its influence. Understandably, no council wanted to lose either population or rateable value. Consequently, changes in local authority boundaries have been relatively few.
Although the sentence in the Gracious Speech foreshadowing the reorganisation of local government is but modest and short, I suspect that that item of legislation could well give rise to livelier debate than almost any other referred to in the Speech. People have a strong sense of local loyalty. This is quite right. It is not parochialism. It seems to be a form of local loyalty stemming from the feeling of a district in which people live, its tradition, its occupations and preoccupations, its very personality. Changes in industry and society will occur far more quickly in the coming 29 years than in the past 80 years. Changes in population and population densities and movements of industry between now and the year 2000 will be far greater than they have been since 1888.
The Petersfield division of the county of Hampshire will be one of those that will experience some of the more radical changes in population densities and in other ways. This will have an effect on its local government structure. The previous Administration approved in principle something called the growth area of South Hampshire, and the present Government have confirmed that decision. There is no dispute on the matter. A growth in population of the area over the next 25 years is forecast by the Registrar-General, on the basis of present figures. The planning authority uses those forecasts for its plans. We can say with certainty that the population of the new Hampshire district councils, as envisaged in the White Paper, will be much in excess of any figure given in the White Paper in a few years, if they are established in the next year or two on the White Paper's population basis, or they will have to be based on populations much below those figures to allow for the forecast growth. Both those alternatives are fairly unsatisfactory.
95 No one will dispute the need for reform of our local government structure, and I welcome it. I started my public life at the age of 21 in local government. But I warn my right hon. Friends of the need to create a greater degree of flexibility in the new structure they have in mind, whatever it is. If it is as inflexible as that created in 1888, we shall find it as anomalous in 20 years' time as the present structure is after 80 years. What we require is a structure that can adapt itself to changing conditions.
I have mentioned Petersfield and Hampshire, but there must be many other areas where such adaptability will obviously be necessary. Foulness comes to mind, and if we ever have what is popularly called the "Chunnel", the Channel Tunnel, there will be development in Kent. So the same problem will arise in different parts of the country. We need to be able to change the outline and pattern of local government organically without the need to reconstruct the local government structure as a whole and without the need for major legislation.
I realise that the legislation my right hon. Friends have in mind must be near its final drafting, but I hope that if it is not too late they will be able to make statutory provision for periodical reviews in response to population movements. If they can, there is a fair chance that the new legislation, based upon the fine tradition of local government established by the previous two Acts and the selfless service of many thousands of people, paid and unpaid, will be as effective for even longer than the previous two Acts.
I welcome the Gracious Speech. I appreciate that my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, is probably not in that niche in the Department concerned with local government, but I trust that my suggestion will percolate through to his right hon. and hon. Friends. May-be then we shall have the sort of structure I should like to see.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)
I hope that the hon. Member for Petersfield (Miss Quennell) will forgive me if I do not follow the line of her speech too closely, except to say that most hon. Members have a great interest in local 96 government, and that the forthcoming Bill will be hotly debated. As with the Common Market issue, most hon. Members are involved. None of the schemes for reorganisation has met with universal approval, certainly in my constituency, and there are some serious doubts about them.
I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment is on the Government Front Bench, because he is responsible for new towns. The Skelmersdale new town in my constituency has put up a strong case for special consideration to be given to its remaining inside the Lancashire County Council area, because of its problems and the investment by the County Council as well as by the Government. I am not pronouncing on that question now, but the hon. Gentleman will know of the strong representations made.
I want to speak for just a few minutes. I hope that I shall not be admonished by you, Mr. Speaker. for speaking too long. I entirely agree with you on the subject of long speeches, though I have not been blameless in the past. I have been called to order by your predecessors, but hon. Members become carried away and want to give the good message to anyone who listens to them. Perhaps I might facetiously suggest a rule that the Government could introduce to curtail speeches —or perhaps back benchers could do it, because long speeches hurt back benchers more than anyone else. I once read of how the Zulus dealt with the problem of speakers addressing their assembly for too long: they allowed each speaker only 10 minutes on two legs. He could speak for as long as he wished after 10 minutes, but only while standing on one leg. Perhaps we could have something like that. or simply a 15-minute rule—
§ Mr. McGuire:
That is true.
I want to spend a few minutes discussing that part of the Gracious Speech which says:
In developing their regional policies they will pay close attention to the economic needs of particular areas.I want to discuss the problem in the Ince consttiuency, which has the Skelmersdale new town in it. The rest of the constituency is in the Wigan travel-to-work 97 area, where we have unemployment of 5.4 percent., well above the national average. Unemployment in the Skelmersdale new town is 6.2 per cent., but that is not a true figure, because for administrative purposes Skelmersdale is linked with Ormskirk. The 6.2 per cent. is a combined figure, but in Ormskirk unemployment is about the national average, or a bit below, and so the real figure of unemployment in the Skelmersdale new town is diluted.
I have raised the question of unemployment in Skelmersdale in the past. I raised it as recently as June in an Adjournment debate, when I said that the true figure is about 8 per cent. Some knowledgeable people in the constituency claim that it is even higher. This is in a new town which is receiving every sort of development area assistance.
I appreciate that even if the Labour Party were in power I should be appealling for help for this area. I am not one of those who always blames the other chap. When the Labour Party are again in office, I shall continue to appeal from the back benches for help to be given to places like Skelmersdale.
As I said in the debate when I raised this subject, I appreciate that the Government cannot wave a magic wand and eliminate the unemployment rate. However, certain steps can be taken. For example, the Government should urgently proceed with their office dispersal programme. I have not been promised that one will come to Skelmersdale, but I have been promised that the needs of this new town will be borne in mind.
We have a real need for a big Government office department to come to Skelmersdale. The Minister will agree, following his recent visit, that great concern is being expressed in the town. We have marvellous new schools which are turning out boys and girls equipped with the skills that are necessary. They are the pride and joy of Skelmersdale, but unless jobs can be provided for them, their bright hopes will be dashed.
When the Government plan a new town—and I remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that it was a Conservative Government who established Skelmersdale, and all credit to them—they must will the means to attain the end, and the end in establishing this new town is the crea- 98 tion of a prosperous area. We in the North-West are already short of office work. This lack in Skelmersdale is particularly great.
The Government should, next, make a critical examination of the serious imbalance in skills among the working population of this area. In other words, we have very few skilled jobs in relation to the total population of Skelmersdale. This imbalance could be overcome. It is mainly on the skilled people of the area that the town will be built up. But because the employment there is based primarily on the semi-skilled and unskilled, it is the first to be badly hit when a recession comes along.
The Government should also announce the start of a new hospital there. The requirements are obvious and have been reiterated by the local district board, which has made it clear that Skelmersdale should be the base for a new hospital. If the Government would get on with their office dispersal programme and send a really big office block to Skelmersdale, and at the same time announce the start of a new hospital in the area, the new town would be given a boost and the citizens would begin to believe that there is a real future for them in the area.
People may ask why Skelmersdale, with an unemployment rate of about 6 per cent., should be singled out for special treatment when there are many worse off areas and when the town already gets development status aid. "If it cannot manage on that, it will have to put up with it ", they may say. But let us not lose sight of the fact that since 1945 both Labour and Conservative Governments have set about creating a richer, fuller life for the people of the older, congested areas like London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. With this in mind, new towns have been created.
The people of these older areas were told that in the new owns there would not be pollution and a bad social environment. Young people moved to Skelmersdale after being promised a better life. They have had children and now we are faced with a tremendous school leaving problem, for it is clear that in the near future not only will there not be jobs for the fathers and mothers, but school leavers will not be able to find work, either. The Government of the day, be it Labour or 99 Conservative, have a special responsibility to the citizens of the new towns. They must redeem their pledges in a practical way, and I have mentioned a few practical steps that could be taken.
I come to the other part of my constituency, which is included in the Wigan travel-to-work area. Wigan and this part of the constituency was in the van of the Industrial Revolution. It suffers from a bad environment, obsolete buildings, dereliction and obsolescence generally. The incredible thing about the Wigan travel-to-work area and South-West Lancashire in particular—leaving out St. Helens, which has development area status—is that it has received not one penny piece of Government assistance.
When the Hunt Committee went into the problems of the grey areas, and Lancashire in particular, it recommended that my constituency should receive Government aid in the form of having intermediate status. I agreed with that recommendation. It also recommended that Merseyside should be descheduled and receive grant based only on intermediate area status and not on development area status. That was ignored and, rightly, Liverpool retained its present status, but South-West Lancashire did not get a penny piece.
The Wigan travel to work area has a tremendous problem of social dereliction, but not a copper of Government aid is received because Government assistance is based on unemployment figures. If an area has intermediate, special development or development area status, it gets assistance to deal with the very problems about which I have been speaking. To pretend that such problems exist only in areas which, because of their designated status, get Government aid, is nonsense, and this applies particularly to Manchester and other areas in the North-West.
I am not making a case for Manchester but because I am a North-West hon. Member, I am interested in the problems of the North-West generally. In other words, in areas in this part of the world which have the worst record, very little Government aid has been received. We have a little in North-East Lancashire, in the Merseyside development area, but that is all. I believe that in view of the problems of Lancashire, and in particular 100 of the North-West—it will be seen, from what I have said, that this applies especially to the area I represent—to deny assistance from the Government on the basis of these areas not being designated special development or intermediate areas is utter nonsense. We have the same problems, including the problem of land reclamation, for which we get only the normal 75 per cent. grant. I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that if my party were in power I should be making precisely the same appeal. If an area has special problems they should be dealt with. It should not be told, "We cannot give you anything because you are not a special development area or an intermediate area ". It should be given assistance on the basis that it needs it.
I wish to pay the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment a compliment. The members of my new town corporation, who do not easily give compliments to politicians—I have never known them to give one to a Tory politician—said to me that they were impressed by the way in which the hon. Gentleman sat down with them and the members of the urban district council of Skelmersdale and Holland to resolve a certain problem, one of those things which crop up between development corporations and local authorities. We have all been in this position ourselves with one not wanting to give way to the other. Some bad feeling was created and the hon. Gentle-man resolved the matter. Naturally the people who agreed with him thought that he was a smashing chap, and I agree with them. He was willing to listen and decided that justice demanded that the matter should be put right.
I ask the Under-Secretary of State to look at this question of giving aid. Leave out the question of unemployment. Wigan has made a case concerning the Wigan travel-to-work area. There is a special problem, apart from unemployment which must be dealt with. Benjamin Franklin said that he was never impressed with the morbid rage of debate. He thought that if people's minds were to be changed they would be changed in quiet moments of reflection. I hope that that will be the case with the hon. Gentleman.
I return to the question of Skelmersdale New Town. I ask the Minister to town development corporations. I do pay attention to the composition of new 101 not want the majority of people living in new towns to serve on new town corporation boards, for obvious reasons. But to have only one man who is living in the new town serving on the board, as in the instance which I have in mind, is equally bad. One of the "in" words today is "participation ". It is as much on the lips of Tory Party politicians as it is on the lips of Labour Party politicians. I believe in it. I practised it when I was a branch secretary at a pit.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will send me a note and that we can have a chat about this matter. I urge him to consider it. Let us have some demonstrable form of participation. That is not demonstrated by having only one man who lives in the area serving on the new town development corporation.
The Gracious Speech, with all that it implies, means very heavy weather for my constituents. I do not think that they have anything to look forward to at all.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
I listened with considerable interest to what the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) said about the great need for more jobs in his area. I am glad to note that one of the main themes running through the Gracious Speech is the attention which the Government intend to give to this very important subject. The Gracious Speech states:At home my Government's first care will be to increase employment by strengthening the economy and promoting the sound growth of output ".I am not making a party point, but the last Government left an economy in which there was accelerating price and wage inflation. Against that background, it is understandable that the trade unions should press for large wage increases to make good the standard of living of their members. But the effect of this in many cases has been that men have been priced out of their jobs because their labour has become too expensive for the firm in which they work.
When a firm suffers, as many have suffered, from a squeeze on profits, falling profits and the need to put money by for future investment it very carefully considers economies in labour. As wages have increased the balance between labour-saving machinery and labour has 102 altered. As labour becomes more expensive, labour-saving machinery which was not previously an economic proposititon becomes an economic proposition. This has a considerable head of steam behind it.
I am very concerned about the unemployment problem, but we should not pull the wool over our eyes by believing that there is an immediate solution. From 1968 to 1970 there were virtually three years of nil growth. But they were not three years of nil investment. They were three years in which investment was taking place in industry, although not at the pace that one would want or for which economists had been calling. One of the effects of that has been to increase the underlying potential of productivity in the economy by about 3 per cent. a year. There is an accumulated potential for increased output which can be taken up without having to take on extra labour. This is why the problem is much more difficult than sometimes appears from speeches made on both sides of the House.
I was particularly glad to see from the Gracious Speech thatproposals will be made for developing training facilities to meet future manpower needs".It is extraordinary that in many instances people are unemployed and yet vacancies are advertised which employers are finding it difficult to fill. Retraining can play a greater part in enabling people to move more easily to other jobs.
I wonder whether my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department of Employment are giving consideration to the possibility of linking their new proposals for developing training facilities to the training boards. There is a way in which the training boards should perhaps be contributing to the retraining of people coming from other industries into their own industry to make available a supply of skilled and trained labour within the catchment area of their own training board.
I welcome the comment in the Gracious Speech that
My Ministers will continue to encourage the efficient expansion of agriculture…I hope that the responsible Ministers are alive to the considerable need for in-creased working capital if agriculture is to increase its output.
103 I note that legislation will be brought before us
to promote active competition and fair trading and to extend customers' protection in the sale of goods ".I hope that this will be clarified. Obviously it refers to monopoly legislation. There is a totally different concept of a monopoly in the Common Market.
Many companies which have been monopolies within the protected single market of the United Kingdom will cease to be monopolies if taken as part of the larger Common Market itself. I hope that we will have some clarification from the Government to indicate that they have recognised that this is so and that they will have to change the definition of "monopoly" to take account of it. We shall otherwise not be getting some of the gains in terms of company size and economies of mass production which entry into the Common Market will otherwise give us.
It is the duty of a Government to look further ahead than the next 12 months. The House is justifiably concerned about jobs, the level of wages, standards of living, standards of education, the levels of pensions, the prosperity of our people in the years ahead. It is therefore right that throughout the whole of the next parliamentary Session we are to spend much time with a major question, that of Britain and the Common Market. There are undoubtedly dangerous years ahead as protectionism becomes more apparent in the United States. One sees in Denmark an automatic move towards protectionism as a sort of reflex to balance of payments problems.
There is no doubt that there is a substantial risk of the world moving into a more protectionist atmosphere if not protectionist changes in the course of the next few years. We will be enormously affected ourselves and enormously influenced by changes in inter-national trading regulations and so on, and it is of immense importance that we should ourselves have an influence on what those changes are. If we are neither in Europe nor economically strong and powerful, we shall become the victim of events instead of having a hand in shaping them.
I make no apology for asking myself, "What are the essential needs of the 104 country's modern great exporting industries if they are to make a success in the world?" There are four that are of primary importance: first, the ability to spend money on research and development, to design a product ahead of one's competitors and to keep it ahead ; secondly, large capital investment, for many of the projects which do not require large capital investment can now be made in Commonwealth countries and places of that sort which formerly used to come to us for them ; thirdly, long production runs so that overheads may be spread over many articles and to secure economies of scale ; fourthly, and perhaps most important, an uninterrupted and uninterruptible market into which to sell, where we can prepare ourselves and our production lines for selling in the assurance that we will not suddenly find that restrictions are put up against us when we are in the middle of the production runs and the investment has been made.
§ Mr. Leadbitter:
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned capital investment: has he any comment to make on the statement last Thursday by a Parliamentary Secretary that capital investment and industrial expenditure in the second half of 1971 was calculated to be less than that for the first half and that there would be no improvement on the figures in 1972?
§ Mr. Mitchell:
My only comment is that I am sorry that I used some of my precious time for addressing the House to give way to the hon. Gentleman. He knows as well as the rest of us that there is a considerable time-lag between changes in the economy and the time when investment decisions are translated into orders for equipment. I was talking about the essential needs of industry —continuous and expensive research and development, large capital investment, long production runs, uninterrupted and uninterruptible markets.
We used to get all those advantages from the old British Empire and Commonwealth in its funny way. When I was at school, one learned how we brought raw materials from the Empire, manufactured them and sold them back to the Empire, with a spill-over to third world markets. All that has gone ; all that is no longer true ; the changes have 105 not been of our making, but profound changes have taken place.
Hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield), speak about the Common wealth as if they are blind to what has happened in the last 25 and 30 years. Rising educational standards mean that they make many of the very things which they used to buy from us. I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether your gown was made in Hong Kong or Lancashire. I do not know whether the shirts of my hon. Friends, or those of hon. Members opposite, were made in Lancashire or Hong Kong, but it is as likely to be Hong Kong as Lancashire, and that was not true 30 or 40 years ago. Rising educational standards mean that our traditional customers in the Common-wealth are increasingly making the very things for which they used to come to us.
Economic nationalism plays a part. Every country seems to have to have its own national airline. There are balance of payments problems and every country wants to save money. Good examples are India and Pakistan, which have difficult balance of payments problems. So they want to save imports and produce more themselves.
But more important than either of these factors is the situation in, for example, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada which are trying to build up their populations. Building up a population means building up jobs, and building up jobs means that they must have viable industries. More employment cannot be provided with sheep farming to absorb the numbers Australia wants to take into her population.
So local industries are set up. But industrialists go to the Australian Government, for example, and say, "We are being undercut by competitors from abroad who have the economies of large-scale production and we must have protection from that ". From whom are they protected? Us. It is the British manufacturers who are the people who are undercutting the Australians and against whom protection has to be given.
I got the Library to prepare for me a list of the 20 largest export products of the country along with a table showing the tariffs paid by British exporters selling to Australia. The tariff on passenger motor vehicles is 35 per cent. ; on bodies, 106 chassis and frames, 27½ per cent.; distilled alcoholic beverages, 5.65 Australian dollars ; engines, 27½ per cent. ; textile machinery free, but tractors 12½ per cent. ; aircraft engines, 25 per cent., medicine, 17½ per cent. I will not detain the House by reading the whole list. The point I am trying to make is that the competition to our manufacturers is not coming from our competitors in Europe or our competitors in America, but from competitors in Australia, in the developing countries and in the Commonwealth where there is protected local industry.
So we have a situation in which the Commonwealth markets are drying up on us and at the same time the Economic Community countries have got together to create for themselves in Europe the very advantages which we used to have and which we have now lost, to create for themselves a situation in which there is a large uninterruptible market in which to sell and where it is possible to raise large sums of capital and where it is possible to afford to expend on research and development.
I have listened to hon. Members talking about employment. It is all very well to talk about employment looking at this or next month's figures, or last month's figures, or those for six months from now, but it is the duty of the Government to look at employment prospects in five years and in 10 years. Major trends are at work and if we deny ourselves the sort of market in Europe which our manufacturers need, we shall be denying the prospects of full employment in the years ahead.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I have given way once to the hon. Member and regretted doing so.
As one looks through the Gracious Speech, one sees recurringly the need for measures and the intention of the Government to take measures to help maintain full employment. It is right and proper for the Government to look further ahead than tomorrow, to look further ahead than 12 months' time, to look towards the next generation and the assurance that there will be employment for it.
107 It therefore seems to me to be right that we should be taking these steps towards entry into the Common Market. There are many other comments I should like to make, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am conscious of your suggestion that hon. Members should shorten their speeches. I hope that I may be successful in catching your eye on a future occasion. I would only add that I hope that in my references to the Gracious Speech I have reflected the views of my constituents.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Doig (Dundee, West)
Before referring to the Gracious Speech I would draw attention to one matter which is not in that speech but which I believe ought to have been there. The Conservatives, in a previous election when the Prime Minister was in Opposition, produced a document called "Action not Words ". This document set out a blue-print for Parliament. It promised that they would… speed up and give more punch to the Monopolies Commission.I can find nothing in the Gracious Speech that refers to the Monopolies Commission. This is most unfortunate. I should like to quote two examples.
§ Mr. McCrindle
I intervene from the point of view of accuracy. The hon. Member says that there is no reference in the Gracious Speech to the Mono-polies Commission. Would he look at page 3 and the first full paragraph at the top of that page and say whether what is projected there was not projected in that document?
§ Mr. Doig
The hon. Member is refer-ring to the part beginningLegislation will be brought before you.I shall deal with that point later, but there is no mention there of strengthening the powers of the Monopolies Commission.
I shall now proceed to give the two examples to which I referred earlier, and which illustrate why there is a need to strengthen the Commission. Both cases came to my notice in my constituency.
108 One is the case of a small newsagent who depended to a large extent on his sales of publications from the proprietors and publishers of the local newspaper. The publishers ceased to supply the news-agent for a very trivial reason. It is not the first time this has happened. They adopt these tactics every now and again. I know of three firms who have had this happen to them. The publishers stopped supplying the newsagent because they said he could not get reliable delivery boys. It is a very serious thing for a newsagent to have his supplies of newspapers and magazines cut off. It can drive him out of business, and in three cases of which I know, that has happened.
I wrote to the Board of Trade drawing the matter to their attention and received a reply to the effect that, as this firm did not supply one-third of the total United Kingdom output of newspapers, the Board had no power in intervene. This situation ought to be amended, so that, even in a case where a publisher does not supply more than one-third of the total output for a local area, the Board is entitled to take action.
The second case relates to a shoe shop which had dealt with a national shoe manufacturer—Clarks Ltd.—for over ten years directly and for some 15 years before that through a wholesaler. The shoe shop sells—and I have their permission to reveal the figure—an average of £2,500 worth of shoes a year. The owners of the shop received a curt letter from the manufacturers stating that unless they could guarantee to buy £8,000 worth of stock a year their supplies would be discontinued. Their supplies are to be discontinued an 2nd June next year.
This matter, too, I took up with the Board of Trade and received the same reply, that this could not be referred to the Monopolies Commission because Clarks Ltd., although one of the largest manufacturers in the country, did not manufacture one-third of the total United Kingdom output of shoes.
Since the Board of Trade appeared to be a useless avenue, I decided to try something else. I wrote to Clarks and told them that unless they changed their mind in the matter I would raise it in Parliament at the first opportunity. This is the first opportunity. In their letter, 109 Clarks Ltd. stated their reasons for cutting off the supply of shoes:
In the interests of the public and in support of our advertising claims, our policy is to endeavour to see that when a customer goes into the shop that sells Clarks' shoes he or she is offered a reasonable range of footwear in sizes, fittings and style. At the level of his purchases over the past few years, Mr. Guild would be unable to offer such a service.That decision would appear, on the face of it, to be feasible until one stops to consider that Mr. Guild has been selling Clarks' shoes over the past 25 years.
In regard to the question of supply of equipment Mr. Guild is not the first person to be so treated. A large firm in Edinburgh has already experienced the same thing and I know of one other, in my own constituency, which is about to receive the same treatment. This sort of thing happens time and again: what the manufacturer is saying to the small shop is, "You must become our agent." In order to guarantee that a small shop would sell £8,000 worth of one firm's shoes, that small business would have to reject every other supplier. "You will sell only our shoes or we shall stop your supplies", is what they are being told. If the small shopkeeper agrees to this pro-position, he is thus jeopardising the future of his business. After all, what is to stop the manufacturer, after £8,000 worth of shoes have been sold, saying to the small man that he must now sell £20,000 worth of shoes?
This seems silly, but there is a logical explanation. In certain areas manufacturers are going over to retailing their own shoes, but they do not carry such good shoes as these small shops, who thus attract people from other areas. In such cases as those I have quoted, the Monopolies Commission ought to have powers to investigate. It is highly desirable that the Prime Minister should go back to his election programme of 1966 and insert into his present programme those things in which he presumably still believes. This is one of the matters about which he ought to have second thoughts. Let him put it back in the programme.
The Prime Minister made a speech in my constituency, in the Caird Hall, Dundee, in 1969, in which he made a number of promises. On two of them, he undoubtedly won the last election.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
Before he leaves the question of shoes, would the hon. Member take note that shoe manufacture is one of the most diversified of operations in Britain, with a vast mass of different competitive manufacturers? If his constituent cannot be supplied by Clarks, there are many other manufacturers who would be only too ready to take advantage of this additional outlet.
§ Mr. Doig:
I assure the hon. Gentleman that my constituent is well aware of this and that he will be doing just that, as others have done before. I am merely pointing out the action of large firms who, by the definition of the present monopolies legislation, cannot be investigated when they do things which would outrage any normal person. The Government should change the legislation so that incidents like this can be investigated: they are much more widespread than hon. Members might think.
The Prime Minister won the election—not in Dundee or Scotland, whose people are not so easily taken in—on two things that he said. The first was that he could reduce prices "at a stroke". This is a favourite phrase nowadays, but he actually said it. How did he set about doing it? First, he abolished the Prices and Incomes Board, the only body to which the Government could refer unnecessary price increases, which left them with no power to interfere. Second, he abolished the Consumer Council, an independent body which made reports on unnecessary price increases and other sharp practices. He said that it would all be solved by competition.
We know what has happened since then. Far from stopping increases in prices, they have gone up faster than ever. Unnecessary increases have happened to such an extent that the C.B.I., of all people, stepped in and said, "Look, lads, you are overdoing this. You had better agree to make no more increases for a year. You have had a bonanza and it is time to put a stop to it."
We should not wait for bodies like the C.B.I., who represent those who are putting up the prices, to control the situation when the Government say that they will control it. We should have action by the Government. Even the last Government 111 did not take the necessary action to prevent unnecessary increases or to enforce possible reductions.
What is required for this is a Government costing department with access to the books of firms to see that they are not making unnecessarily high profits or charging unnecessarily high prices. One may say that this will increase the number of civil servants—
§ Mr. Doig:
The Prime Minister, at Caird Hall in Dundee, said that he would decrease the number of civil servants, but we now have more than we have ever had. It is surely better, if we are to have the extra civil servants, to have enough of them to control prices. It would not mean many. Any firms of any size now have their own costing departments. If private firms, some of them comparatively small, can afford such a department, so can the Government. There would be nothing to stop them checking, if they had access to the books, whether the prices being charged were unnecessarily and unreasonably high. This could reduce prices at a stroke ; it is something which the Government should seriously consider.
The most important thing for me is the question of employment. My constituency has a record of very high unemployment. At one stage, over 40,000 people—half the working population—were unemployed. In four different years in the 1930s, over 30,000 were unemployed. So we know what high unemployment is. We also know, from bitter experience. that when it reached a certain level, it had a snowball effect. So many people are not earning wages and so cannot buy as they otherwise would and the process becomes impossible to stop. The only way in which we stopped the high unemployment of the 'thirties was by means of a war. I doubt whether we could have stopped it in any other way. We do not want another war and we do not want high unemployment.
In 1945, the Government decided that they had to prevent this from recurring in other areas than Dundee, but particularly in Dundee. At the end of 1945, they passed the Distribution of Industry Act, which brought to Dundee two Indus- 112 trial estates and many firms and provided us with virtually full employment.
This was done in two ways—the positive one of financial incentives and the negative one, a couple of years later, of industrial development certificates, which prevented firms from starting in the already overcrowded South-East and Midlands. This caused a number of them to move to other areas, one of which was Dundee. We were one of the finest examples of how a regional policy can be successful.
Unfortunately, since then, there have been changes in Government policy. I have here the evidence given before a Scottish Select Committee on which I sat. This shows that I asked questions of Board of Trade officials about why they thought this policy of industrial development certificates was so successful under a Labour Government and so unsuccessful under a Conservative Government. They admitted frankly that it was because the Labour Government wanted this policy to work. That is all that this official said, but he repeated it over and over again, because I kept asking him repetitive questions to get the answers. The evidence is all here if anyone wants to examine it. So I.D.C.s and regional policies will work only under a Government who want them to work.
As well as all the normal high unemployment which every area suffers under this Government, we in Dundee have had an unexpected jute recession which creates a very special problem. It means that school leavers have little hope of a job and must go elsewhere for work. Disabled and handicapped people have the utmost difficulty in finding a job.
It also means, of course, that many able-bodied people cannot find jobs. Unemployment has risen again. This is what worries us, because of our past record. It has not been under 6,000—which is 7.5 per cent.—for at least six months. That is a fleabite compared with the position in the 'thirties, but we know that if it ever gets to the stage of the 'thirties, the Government will never be able to solve it. So we say to the Government, "Give us fair treatment now which will allow us to solve it."
A further handicap we suffer is that, whereas we used to be at the top of the list of development areas for incentives, now a number of areas can offer greater 113 incentives than we can. The first to be given such treatment was the Glasgow area. We did not object to that, since they were in a bad way, too. But then it was decided to give this status to Wales, then to the North-East, then to all the new towns. So if anyone is compelled to move from the South, the incentives are greater not in any one place but all over the place. The incentives are greater not in one place or two places but in many places, and this means that now, when we have the jute recession, we have unemployment increasing month by month, and in spite of that we find that the Government are refusing to give us special development area status which would put us on the same plane as other places.
It was suggested by one speaker from the Government Front Bench earlier that if we could improve the environment we could attract industry, which would not go to places with a bad environment. Let me say, on the basis of our past experience, that that experience proves that there is nothing wrong with the environment in Dundee. We were able to attract industry there before. There is nothing wrong with the environment. What is wrong is that we are not given incentives which are allowed to other areas. This is the problem. So we require this special development area status.
We have had deputations going to the Secretary of State for Scotland and to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and they have been composed not only of Labour people or union people but of chambers of commence, of business people—of all sorts of people of every shade of opinion, and have included a Tory lord provost. We have had deputations so representative going along to Ministers because our case has been so sound that it has been backed by everyone. We have a Petition which is being prepared to be presented to Parliament, and I hope that it will shortly be presented to Parliament.
It would appear that not only have the Government failed to solve our unemployment problem but they are shutting their eyes to the lessons of history. The quicker they open their eyes, the quicker they give us the status of a special area, the quicker shall we solve our problem.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)
While the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) was speaking I could not help reflecting that it was fortunate for him that his hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) had left the Chamber, because the hon. Member for Dundee, West was arguing that the I.D.C. policy must be pursued more effectively than it is now being pursued, and I am quite sure that an hon. Member from a Midlands constituency must be beginning to doubt the benefits which arise from this policy of the I.D.Cs.
I begin by saying that because I want to follow the line which was deployed by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire)—who has, unfortunately, now left the Chamber—in what I thought was a very fair-minded, reasonable and thoughtful speech. I want to look at some of the anomalies which arise from development area policy.
I must say that the Gracious Speech is elliptic on this question of regional policy. I derive a certain negative comfort from this because I believe that the whole concept of regional policy needs really radical rethinking, and not only as regards methods. If we are honest with ourselves we shall admit that nearly all the party disagreement which there is between the two sides of the House on regional policy relates to methods, with one side saying that we should have investment grants and the other side saying that we should have investment allowances, but there is very little questioning of the purposes of regional policy.
It seems to me that there is an absolutely indisputable case, at one extreme, for the maintenance of certain communities. The obvious ones are the hill farmers, certain fishing communities, communities at the peripheries of the United Kingdom, the extreme West Country, the North of Scotland, West Wales, Communities which require subsidies to enable them to maintain their way of life, a way of life which enriches the national fabric very much more than the sheer cash increment which they contribute to the gross national product.
However, the moment we leave that area of absolute certainty it seems to me that the aims of regional policy become very much more ambivalent. What began 115 as a policy of aid to outlying regions has become a policy of aid to regions of high unemployment. On this basis Merseyside qualifies for and receives a certain measure of assistance, but, if Merseyside, why not the West Midlands which, temporarily at any rate, have high unemployment as firms begin to draw the conclusions from excessively high wage claims?
What has happened is that over-generous award of development area status, special development area status and intermediate area status has had two very undesirable results. In the first place, it has greatly reduced the effectiveness of the special status. In the second place, it has inflicted real hardship on certain areas which are adjacent to or, in some cases, entirely surrounded by other areas which enjoy certain special advantages.
I have the honour to represent one such area, the County of Flintshire, which is largely—not entirely, but largely—excluded from any kind of special incentives while virtually all the areas around us have either development or inter-mediate area status. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is shortly going to receive a deputation from the County of Flint-shire which will set out a very powerful case for reviewing the status of Flint-shire. I do not want, in what I mean to be a really brief speech tonight, to cover the ground which that deputation will cover. I would say in passing that in the Rhyl employment exchange area we have reached unemployment which is even higher than that in the City of Dundee, and the opportunities for school leavers, the fragility of employment, even in those areas of the county where the unemployment rate is less high. is notorious.
I want to make three brief points. The first one is special to my constituency. A firm which manufactures agricultural machinery—balers—is about to close down because the American parent firm finds that there is a recession in this particular market and wishes to pull out, and has sold its factory to a British firm manufacturing balers, which, understand-ably, wants to rationalise production and concentrate it elsewhere. In consequence an excellent factory, with a work force of some 300 really hard workers, who 116 have never had a strike, never had a serious industrial dispute, who have an average of 12 years' service with their firm, will find themselves out of a job. Ministers have been very helpful over this one and I am reasonably hopeful that it will be possible to save the jobs of these 300 workers, but the fact that Mold. where this factory is situated, is not in an intermediate area and is entirely surrounded by intermediate areas will make it that much more difficult to attract someone to come in and to provide work.
Secondly, a rather disturbing trend has emerged—that it is now being considered whether the areas which qualify for special help because of high unemployment should also get other forms of help. There is a discrimination against areas which, because they fail to qualify for help on unemployment grounds also failed to attract help for investment, for example, as in my case, in the hotel industry, or for building improvement grants. We are getting to the ludicrous situation that the more generous the measures of assistance which the Government devise to assist those areas which have high unemployment, the more those areas which just fail to make the grade will find themselves discriminated against in other matters as well. This is the clearest example of from those who have not shall be taken away even that which they have.
Thirdly, we shall shortly join the Common Market. In the coming years within the Common Market there will be a vast expansion in the Community financing of regional development, to the point that regional policy will come to bulk very much larger than the common agricultural policy. One of the side effects of this is that the United Kingdom will become a net beneficiary from the Community finance—
§ Sir A. Meyer
Because the effect of the C.A.P. is little by little to reduce the size of the agricultural population within the Common Market, and therefore this is a diminishing operation, but there is a vast future for an expanding regional policy—
§ Mr. Leadbitter:
The hon. Gentleman is referring to the consequences on regional policy of our joining the Common 117 Market. Will he tell us how regional policy will be benefited on the principle of the free flow of capital with no direction of capital to the regions?
§ Sir A. Meyer: I
am tempted to expand on that, but I promised to be brief. I will make one short sharp reply. There is every reason to suppose that the free movement of capital will be of net advantage to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom, being an area in which there is a pool of skilled labour and under-utilised factory space, is manifestly attractive both to European and American companies as a member of the Common Market and, therefore, entry into the Community will provide the incentive necessary to invest in the United Kingdom as a base from which to sell into the Community. This is one of the most powerful arguments in favour of British membership of the Common Market.
§ Sir A. Meyer
No, I cannot give way. I intend to be brief and I am nearly at the end of my speech. Once we are inside the Community it will be difficult to re-draw the boundaries of development areas, intermediate areas, special development areas and so on. Once we are inside the Community regional policy becomes a matter of Community policy. It is likely that whatever definition of aided area now applies will continue to apply once we are inside the Community. It seems to me, therefore, that this is the moment at which we as a nation must make absolutely sure that we have this right. Thereafter it will be much more difficult to alter it. If we go in as at present with certain areas unfairly disadvantaged we shall get an enormous accumulation, and the process described by the hon. Member for Ince of an ever-increasing discrimination against those areas which fall just outside aided status. Not only will national regional aid be denied to them but also Community regional aid, and this seems to be grossly unfair.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who, if the Queen's Speech is anything to go by, will clearly have a cushy year, will employ this year of leisure to give serious consideration to the objects of regional policy, and that he will come up with a 118 system which is less rigid and fairer than the system which prevails at present.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Willesden, West)
I hope the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) will forgive me if I do not follow him too far into regional policy although I have an unemployment problem in my area. In the last three or four years more than 40 factories have closed down, and only this week 200 men have been affected by possible redundancy at Associated Automation.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of employment and the Common Market, but even before going into the Common Market the firm of Triplex Glass in my area has closed down, producing 300 redundancies. The Department of Trade and Industry has given me a figure showing an eight-fold import of toughened glass for windscreens from the Continent in the year before last, and this has led directly to the closing down of the Triplex factory.
It will not surprise the House to know that my remarks will be concerned mainly with the National Health Service, but before coming to this I should briefly like to comment on the part of the Gracious Speech which refers to the possibility of a settlement in Rhodesia. The speeches of both Front Bench spokesmen referred to the likelihood that we shall be faced with this problem in the next few months. I have tabled a Motion today, not as an Amendment to the humble Address to Her Majesty but as an Early Day Motion, as follows:That this House does not countenance talks and would refuse any settlement with the rebel regime which has usurped control in Rhodesia unless the Land Tenure Act which designates land into black-occupied and white-occupied area is repealed, and in particular would regard the Rhodesian plan to evict 3,500 African tenants from a British Methodist Church settlement, the Epworth mission's 9,000 acre estate, as proof that Her Majesty's Government could not with honour accord any recognition to Mr. Smith's rule if such evictions take place.If there is eviction and the division of lands into black and white in this way, whatever assurances may be given to Her Majesty's Government will not be worth either the paper they are written on or the breath spent on giving them.
I wish to refer to the omission of certain health matters from the Gracious Speech. The Annual Report of the Chief 119 Medical Officer of the Department of Health and Social Security for the year 1970 states, on page 4:It is necessary to repeat that cigarette smoking is the largest, single, avoidable cause of death in Britain today.I emphasise "avoidable".… the bulk of deaths due to smoking may be attributed to three causes—lung cancer, bronchitis and coronary heart disease—and the proportion of deaths ascribed to each of these causes can be calculated with greater certainty than the proportion of all deaths due to smoking, particularly in the younger age groups ; at a conservative estimate, and if these three diseases alone are taken into account, one-in-eight of all deaths among men aged 35-44 years, one-quarter of those aged 45-64 and one-in-five of those aged 65-74 are due to smoking.In the last Session the Secretary of State for Social Services moved some way towards meeting this terrible scourge, in agreement with the tobacco manufacturers, by arranging for a warning notice to be placed on each packet of cigarettes. What is happening is that more cigarettes are being sold and the rate of increase is still continuing, resulting in some three additional deaths every day added to the 80 each day last year from lung cancer alone. I notice that within a hundred yards of this House there is a huge advertisement for Rothman's cigarettes, but on the packet reproduced there, which is some 6 ft. high, one sees no warning such as that laid down by the Government. The decision is such that it conforms with the letter of the agreement and avoids its intention.
I had hoped that in the Gracious Speech there would have been a follow-up of developments in combating smoking, and indeed I hope that something will still emerge. I am not opposed to smoking if one could find some alternative and safer method. Imperial Chemical Industries have recently produced a new smoking mixture which the Chancellor of the Exchequer will tax at the same rate as ordinary smoking mixture, and this will not give much encouragement to people to switch their brand. Although I am not against smoking if we can find a method which does not cause death, I would point out that it is the Government's responsibility to act on this matter and it is a grave 120 omission that nothing has been included in the Gracious Speech on this topic to prevent the holocaust.
Last Session the Government rightly enacted an Act of Parliament dealing with the abuse of drugs. I wish to touch upon one issue on which the Government are not facing up to the spread of drug addiction. I refer to the amphetamines.
A number of local medical committees have already come to voluntary agreements that no general practitioner will prescribe amphetamines in his area. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Money) in his place, be-cause his local medical committee is one of those which have taken a lead in this direction. As much as I have pressed the Secretary of State to do something about this matter I cannot get him to put any further pressure on other medical councils to follow Ipswich's lead. I have been somewhat distressed at an exchange I have had with Smith Kline and French, one manufacturer which has failed to stop manufacturing this product. Another well-known company, Nicholas, have already done so and I thought that Smith Kline and French would follow that lead.
One of the tragedies I saw when I was a member of the North-West Regional Hospital Board was that one of the drug addiction clinics which we had to establish was in Welwyn Garden City where amphetamines have a very large production. This is one of the lines of escalation in the abuse of drugs. People start on pot, go on to amphetamines and then take acid L.S.D. and then go on to heroin injection and so on. It is the amphetamine part of the chain on which I regret the Government have not seen fit to take further action. A number of countries have banned them and indeed the World Health Organisation has asked countries to ban them. Our near neighbour, Ireland, has banned them already. I do not see why Her Majesty's Government cannot move in the same direction. I demand a complete ban on amphetamines.
There is another grave omission from the Gracious Speech. This relates to the passage:Legislation will be introduced to give effect to My Government's proposals for the reorganisation of local government ".The hon. Lady the Member for Peters-field (Miss Quennell) made an interesting 121 speech on this subject. However, the passage goes on to sayA Bill will be laid before you to reorganise the health services in Scotland.We have had already three consultative documents, two Green Papers, and last year this Government's document out-lining a complete reorganisation of the National Health Service. Such a reorganisation is very much overdue. We know now from the Government's statements that such reorganisation must take place simultaneously with and alongside reform of local government, because the areas to be reorganised and administered must be co-terminous with those brought about by local government changes. We are now in a situation where local government will be changed, but there is no indication that the National Health Service will be changed at the same time.
It may well be that the consultation which has been taking place has yielded some curious results. In my view, the consultation has been inadequate, and nearly every organisation which so far has published its submissions to the Department has been against the proposals as put forward in the consultative document. I hope that in the ensuing debate somebody on the Front Bench will give us some information on this matter. We must realise that there is involved, working in the National Health Service, around 750,000 people, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and a whole range of other people, and they have been in a state of uncertainty ever since the first Green Paper appeared four years ago. It is unfair to those devoted people who have given so much of their time to the Health Service still to be left in limbo not knowing precisely what will happen.
§ Mr. Ernle Money (Ipswich)
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that one grave difficulty that has to be overcome is the fact that, when a local hospital board sells off some of its assets in the form of land or buildings, the finance raised by that action goes into a central fund and is not available to the local board and there is no incentive for the local board to rationalise?
§ Mr. Pavitt
The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on yet another omission in the Gracious Speech. Everybody knows that the 1961 hospital building pro- 122 gramme is no longer valid on the assumptions which were then made. We also know that the working party for very many years has been studying the whole question of how to organise the hospital provision. Personally, I feel that we must move from hospitals to domiciliary care, more health centres and so on. However, the hon. Gentleman is taking me a little farther than I would wish to go since there are other hon. Members who want to take part in this debate.
I want to conclude by mentioning one other aspect which affects my constituency very much indeed. There is no mention in the Speech of an extension of urban aid to those areas with very difficult social stress conditions. My own area has the highest number of coloured children born in this country and twice as many immigrants as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has in his area. It also has a very large intake of people from Ireland—and we are proud of the work they are doing in rebuilding and slum clearance operations—but unless we get further help I must point out that we are expecting some 1,350 families to come to our area from East Africa in the next 12 months to live in the London Borough of Brent. This means many more school places, nursery schools and all kinds of extra demands on the social services. At the moment we have 8,300 people on our housing waiting lists, some of whom have been there for 15 years. We have people who, frankly, are at the end of their tether.
A family which visited me at my advice bureau last Saturday morning is breaking up because the son and the daughter and two children are living with their parents. They occupy two rooms, but I predict the wife will soon go home to her mother if the conditions are not improved. That marriage is almost certain to break up because of lack of space for the family. One in five of the families in my area share lavatories and also bathrooms, and two-thirds of the population in the area are in multi-occupied premises.
Therefore, unless we can get massive support in the form of an urban aid programme mobilised by the borough council in my area, it will be extremely difficult to cope with the tremendous social 123 and human problems with which it is faced.
There is always an interesting passage in the Gracious Speech:Other measures will be laid before you ".This passage covers a multitude of sins, and one can only hope that, Common Market legislation permitting, time will he found for legislation on the lines I have outlined. I hope that my constituency, with all the problems it faces, will receive not only total support but massive financial help from the Government.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Derbyshire, West)
I am glad to be called immediately after the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt), since I started my political learning in his constituency and well understand the problems to which he referred about overcrowding, which I saw at first hand when I was canvassing there 15 or 20 years ago. It is sad that it still continues.
The hon. Gentleman is well known for his interest and zeal in pursuing National Health Service questions, and I agree with him about smoking and drug-taking. I have to confess to being a heavy smoker. I hope that, very soon, the Government will take measures as a result of which to be a non-smoker will become the norm and a smoker will have to find a special place in which to indulge the vice to which he is addicted. I am delighted to see the increasing number of non-smoking carriages in our trains, for example. I hope that the Government will continue along the lines of discouraging—particularly in public places—those of us who, unhappily, are addicted to the habit.
The hon. Gentleman's second point referred to drugs and amphetamines, and I agree with him entirely. Drug abuse is one of the dangers facing us all, no matter on which side of the House we are or in which part of the country we live. There is an increasing danger, and those of us who are parents are especially conscious of it. The hon. Gentleman has done a service in raising the point with such clarity.
I turn from the hon. Gentleman's points about the Health Service and allied matters to the one or two brief points that I wish to raise. I was unfortunate 124 enough not to be able to get into the Common Market debate, and I have no intention of rehearsing the arguments for and against British entry. It is well known that I voted with the Government to join, and all that needs to be said concerning the reasons why my right hon. and hon. Friends and I did so has been said.
There are two matters which I wish to mention briefly, and the first was touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer), who spoke about the switch from agricultural aid from the central funds of the Common Market to a regional development policy. Having gone round Europe a great deal in the past two years and having taken part in many European Assemblies, such as Western European Union and the Council of Europe, it is my firm belief that there is an increasing awareness in Europe of the need to diminish the amount of aid being channelled into agriculture for the purpose of restructuring the agricultural systems of the Common Market countries and to concentrate more and more on the development of regional policies which, until now, have been the Cinderella of Common Market philosophy. One is encouraged by the answers from the Council of Ministers—
§ Mr. Donald Stewart:
How does the hon. Gentleman envisage this improvement in terms of regional policy in the Common Market countries taking place when we know that, for example, the Belgian Government have been ordered to discontinue their aid to a specific region of Belgium?
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
The Council of Ministers is busily engaged in reforming the Common Market's regional policies. At the moment, it is up to national Governments to define and execute their policies of regional development, and they are allowed to make their own arrangements provided that they do not interfere with Common Market philosophy. The idea is to try to develop a policy whereby increasing aid can be given to regions whose industry has lagged behind in the past. However, the process has not gone very far. At the moment they are giving more and more thought to the development of the social and industrial aspects of these policies 125 and I hope that we shall be able to play an increasing part in it.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department has left the Chamber, because my second point on the Common Market concerns its staff in the years ahead. I have no doubt that we shall be joining, but little thought appears to have been given to the sort of staff who will go from Whitehall to take up jobs in Brussels. We have a large pool of experienced British people who have devoted years of service to the various European organisations. I hope that such people will not be overlooked, as was suggested in a letter published in The Times on Saturday, when it comes to making appointments to posts in the Commission but indeed given priority.
It is also essential to do all that we can to help to establish a European Civil Service with proper grades, pension and redundancy rights and career structures. The initiative this summer of my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Common-wealth Secretary, as Chairman of the Council of Ministers of W.E.U., in setting up a special committee with a mandate to examine all the co-ordinating organisations in Europe was extremely heartening. I was extremely sorry to see the lack of favourable response coming from the other organisations and countries in Europe, including some of our future partners. I hope that this will be over-come in the not-too-distant future.
Here at home, there are three points that I wish to make. The first concerns the promise of agricultural legislation contained in the Gracious Speech. I see that the legislation is intended to simplify the administrative procedure and to improve agricultural services. That is to be welcomed, and it follows up what was said originally by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food last year when he was reorganising the various advisory services.
There is one matter in this connection which is causing anxiety in farming areas. There is the danger of a top-heavy organisation coming into being in which there are too many generals and not enough private soldiers on the ground in an advisory capacity. I am certain that this danger is in the mind of my right hon. 126 Friend, and I hope that he will see that it is dealt with in the legislation promised in the Gracious Speech.
Then there is the proposed housing legislation and the introduction of fair rents. The Leader of the Opposition made a great deal of the way in which the fair rent system will raise the rents of a great many council tenants. Ten days ago, I held a meeting on a council estate at Matlock in my constituency. It was arranged by the tenants's association with the object of discussing the fair rent legislation. In the course of the meeting, we worked out exactly what the legislation would mean, taking a reasonable assessment of what a fair rent would be the type of council house in that part of England. We came to the conclusion, bearing in mind the rent rebates which it will be mandatory on local councils to bring into practice, that not very many of my constituents living in that estate will be worse off. In fact, it became clear that, as long as they were working, many of them will be better off as a result of the legislation. I am entirely in favour of giving whatever benefits of subsidies there may be to people rather than to bricks and mortar. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing in this Measure.
The only point which I find difficult in the assessment for rent rebates concerning council tenants is that gross rates of pay are to be taken into account. The question whether overtime is included and to what extent it is included is vital. It is not clarified in the White Paper. I hope that it will be made clear that over-time which is not done regularly week in, week out, will not be taken into account when assessing the rent allowance.
My last point, which has been exercising hon. Members on both sides, concerns unemployment. Derbyshire is perhaps fortunate in comparison to others in the incidence of unemployment which it has been experiencing. At the beginning of the year we had the traumatic shock of the Rolls-Royce failure. I do not wish to expand on that. How-ever, I believe that in recent months my right hon. Friend has done a brilliant job in keeping Rolls-Royce going and finding the funds to enable the RB211 to go into production, thus ensuring the jobs of men working not only for Rolls-Royce, Derby, but for the sub-contractors supplying that great company. 127 Nevertheless, Western Derbyshire is in a difficult position. It is not a development area. Indeed, it. has no right to be. Nor is it a grey area. Yet we have a gradually rising level of unemployment. We have a static population. We do not have industry coming in. When one industry closes down, as happened at Bakewell in the spring through bad management, there is great difficulty in finding even a replacement, not an addition, for that particular industry which may be the backbone of a particular town's life. This has happened. So I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to bear in mind that this problem arises not only in the development areas but in other more prosperous areas.
Unemployment is equally depressing and urgent in areas like mine bordering on grey areas. It cannot be ignored. A man living in Matlock—a so-called white area—is just as unhappy and depressed when out of work as a man living in the most highly specialised development area in the country. To him this matters not a damn ; he is out of work and has not good prospects of immediate re-employment.
I believe that the measures being taken, particularly the decision which we took as a House of Commons on Thursday of last week in sweeping away the uncertainty about the Common Market and our joining it, will go a long way to clearing some of the doubts concerning investment and expansion by industrialists and manufacturers.
Of course, there are problems and difficulties. If one wanted to niggle, one could ask why this or that has not been included. However, on balance I am satisfied. I believe that the Common Market legislation and all the other Measures outlined in the Queen's Speech are going along the right road to putting this country in the forefront not only of Europe but of the world.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
I want to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) in reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Donald Stewart) about the right of the Government to carry out their regional policy should we become a member of the E.E.C. 128 During the recess I led a delegation of Labour Members of Parliament to Germany. We were not all pro-Marketeers. I have always been an anti-Marketeer, and I voted with my party on Thursday evening. I do not wish to continue that argument. We met many interesting people. One was a Minister for Finance of the German Government. He admitted that there had been a refusal of Ford's application to go to Antwerp because Antwerp did not have the unemployment figures, as it were, to allow Ford to go there ; nor did it have the skilled labour to deal with that industry.
It can be said that that is a reasonable answer to give to a question posed by myself ; but, whether we like it or not, it is an encroachment on the sovereignty of any Government. Consequently, the Belgian Government were not allowed to pursue a policy which had been deter-mined by the Belgian Parliament. It also means that the Treaty of Rome has never at any stage been enacted by any of the Six. But there is, of course, a tightening up of the agreement, and consequently if we ever become members of the E.E.C. there is a distinct possibility that we could easily become involved in the backlash arising from the Treaty of Rome.
I come now to the reference in the Gracious Speech to the building of primary schools. I have to concede that there has been an upsurge in the building and replacement of primary schools in my constituency. Nevertheless, it must be recognised that this has been done at the cost of depriving children over the age of seven of free school milk. It has also been done at the expense of increasing the cost of school meals. Those of us who come from development areas realise how much this means to parents of schoolchildren. During the recess I visited many of the schools in my constituency. In Bellshill, which is the industrial part of my constituency, I went into a classroom of children aged seven and over. In that class only one child was receiving free school milk, and five were purchasing the milk at the price laid down by the Government. In another class four of the children were receiving free school milk, and two were purchasing milk. I asked the headmaster who accompanied me around the classes what the situation was with regard to the 129 rest of the children. It was as I had expected—that the other children cannot understand why some children are receiving free school milk and they are not.
Much as we recognise that the poverty-stricken families receive some sort of consideration in relation to meals, no consideration at all is given to these children in relation to milk. Consequently the father who is not working or who is on a low income is unable to buy the milk which is so essential for his children. If the Government do not do something about this, the result may be catastrophic to the health of our citizens of the future.
That brings me to my own County of Lanarkshire, where 8.9 per cent. of the insurable population are signing on at the labour exchange. Only a few days ago I tried to get Mr. Speaker to agree that we should have a debate on the unemployment situation in Scotland, where, as hon. Members may be aware, we have 136,436 unemployed, which is a post-war record, being the highest figure since the hungry 'thirties. The highest figure previous to that was 136,030 and that was in 1963, also under a Conservative Government. It is very easy for politicians to talk about percentages of unemployed. I believe that we—and I include myself in this category—talk about these things rather carelessly. We seem to forget the social consequences flowing from unemployment and the redundancies now looming up.
The numbers which I have given take no account of the redundancies coming forward, redundancies in U.C.S., the closure of many steel works in Lanarkshire, and so on. It was understood and accepted that, because of the stepping up of technology in the steel industry, there would be a contraction in that industry if we were to survive and capture not only the European markets but world markets. Incidentally, we pride ourselves in Lanarkshire on producing the finest steel in the world. Nevertheless, it is a callous approach to determine that men will become redundant—the fancy word for unemployed—before other jobs are there for them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) rightly referred to the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, under which many industrial estates were established throughout the United King- 130 dom in order, as a matter of urgency, to give jobs to returning soldiers and jobs to the people moving from wartime production to peacetime production. That was a successful policy. In my constituency, there are three or four such industrial estates.
In fairness to the previous Government, it should be said that they started a new industrial estate in Bellshill, though this was envisaged by the previous Conservative Government. On the other hand, there has been a departure from the policy of building advance factories. Advance factories acted as a stimulus to bring industrialists to the development areas. The present Government should realise that and institute a policy for the building of advance factories to en- courage industrialists to go to areas with high unemployment.
The point I am coming to now has been made many times in the House, not only from this side but from the Government benches, and it has the support of the C.B.I. in Scotland, the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, the Scottish Trades Union Congress and all the people who matter or who participate in Scottish industry, if not in British industry as a whole. I refer to the departure from investment grants. Whether the Government like it or not, those of us who take the trouble to visit the many industrialists in our constituencies know that all of them, without exception, say —they have certainly said it to me—that the departure from investment grants was a retrograde step, and the present policy does not in any circumstances give inspiration to an industrialist either to expand or to come to a development area.
Now, the question of industrial development certificates. Under all Governments, including my own, it is assumed that, once an industrial development certificate has been given to an industrialist, his industry will bring, say, 200 jobs to a particular area. But there is never any follow-up to find out whether those jobs in prospect become an accomplished fact. I can prove beyond doubt in my own constituency that, although industrial development certificates have been granted and the land has been allocated on an industrial estate, the factories have never been built and, as a consequence, the jobs have not been forthcoming. 131 The Government should follow these matters up to find out whether the certificates are being taken up and, if they are, to ensure that they are creating the number of jobs stated to be in prospect at the time of the application. Glasgow Chamber of Commerce has made representations to the Secretary of State for Scotland about existing industries which want to expand within their own development areas. An industrialist in my constituency who wanted to expand and receive all the grants given to the special development area was told that he could not receive them there, but could go to Irvine, only 30 miles from Bellshill, in my constituency. He was told, "If you move 30 miles from a development area where 8.9 per cent. of the insurable population is unemployed, to another development area, you can get all the grants given to the special development areas ". Because of the many representations made to the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Prime Minister, I fully expected that the Gracious Speech would say that the Government would try to do something about the matter.
There is nothing in the Gracious Speech for the people I represent. Under no circumstances in the lifetime of this Parliament can I see jobs being provided for many of those with the skills and the necessary willingness to fill them and do useful work for the community. I hope that the Government will act on the representations made by many of my hon. Friends, to which I am trying to add.
I also expected that in the Gracious Speech we should learn of an immediate increase in old-age pensions. I do not say that to gain favour. It is all very well for Conservative hon. Members to shake their heads, but they should be in the areas from which we come to discover that many of our old people find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. I criticise not only the present Government but the last Labour Government. It is reprehensible that old-age pensioners have to go to the new Department of Health and Social Security, because they are being means-tested. When the increase was given in September, many single people did not receive the full £1 but received only the 60p, because they were in receipt of the supplement and had received an increase a few 132 months before. Government figures show that since June, 1970, the purchasing power of the £has decreased by 10 per cent. The cost of living in the same period has increased by 11.3 per cent. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that by the end of this year, or at the latest next spring, the increase granted to old- age pensioners will have been eaten away, and they will be entitled to a further increase if the Government are to carry out the policy they have stated they will carry out if we become members of the European Economic Community. I do not see why we should wait until then ; we have a responsibility to do it now.
I expected in the Gracious Speech to learn not only of an immediate increase for the retired citizen but an annual review of his pension to ensure that it kept pace with the amount he is receiving now.
My only comment about the proposed legislation on housing is that I sincerely hope the Government will depart from their White Paper proposals for Scotland We have proved beyond doubt that for many people on £16 a week with three children at school—people entitled to rent rebates, free school meals for their children and those who pay the lesser amount for the stamp—there is no incentive to seek a better job If they succeed in getting a job which gives them £20 a week, they are £1.15 worse off.
The people of Scotland now appreciate this, to their sorrow. They did not, of course, return a Conservative Government. Nevertheless, they are entitled to fair treatment from the Government of the day. My hon. Friends and I will take every opportunity to point out this anomaly until the Government agree to depart from their White Paper proposals.
I think I see the Under-Secretary shaking his head in dissent. I assure him that I speak for the people of Scotland on this. I congratulate him, however, on his appraisal of the training centre situation for the United Kingdom as a whole. Nevertheless, does he appreciate the situation in Scotland?
We are told that, because the slack has not been taken up, new training centres need not be established in Scot- land. How can we be expected to have the skilled craftsmen to fill the new jobs that we have been promised if another 133 training centre is not established in Scotland, and particularly in Lanarkshire?
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)
The hon. Gentleman will agree that until the slack is taken up in the present available training centres, it would be absolutely no use building a further one.
§ Mr. Hamilton:
The amount of slack is negligible. The number of people seeking retraining in new skills outnumbers the number of vacancies. In this technological age the Government must he progressive and forward thinking, and I hope that, on reflection, the hon. Gentleman will agree that a new training centre should be provided.
I welcome the Government's intention to increase the school leaving age to 16. but I hope they will take note of the representations that have been made by the various teachers' organisations. Although they must not drag their feet over this, the Government must accept that raising the school leaving age will mean that heavier burdens will fall on teachers and will, therefore, require more teachers and more schools. When we discuss this aspect in detail I trust that the Government will have specific facts to give us.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)
The hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) spoke with real concern about the old-age pensioners. He is not alone in expressing concern on this matter. He said that it was no use hon. Members shaking their heads. I saw no one on his side or on this side of the House shaking his head. The whole House is deeply concerned about this problem.
I have just returned from a tour of North-West Europe which I visited as a commissioner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I spoke to a number of English people working for the Commission about the problem of the old-age pensioners. It warmed my heart to hear them say—and whether they be right or wrong is perhaps a matter of debate— that one reason why they were pleased to know that Britain was trying to get into the Common Market was that the rate of pension paid to old-age pensioners in North-West Europe was in excess of that 134 paid in this country. They hoped—and I am sure that the House will join them in their hope—that the present Government and future Governments would follow this example.
I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do not persist with that theme because I wish to welcome, and I am grateful for the opportunity of welcoming, the declaration in the Gracious Speech that theGovernment acknowledge and share public concern at the growth of violent crimeand undertake to introduce measuresto strengthen the administration of criminal justice.That means that we are to have a Criminal Justice Bill which, I believe, will be aimed at dealing with one of the most critical social problems of the last part of this century. The scale of crime and the skill with which it is committed have increased beyond all experience and expectation. The House and the Government must do something effective about it.
The difficulty of catching the criminal is formidable enough, but the difficulty of knowing what to do with him once he has been caught is even more formidable. I hope that the House will forgive me if I mention that within the last few weeks a committee of the Society of Conservative Lawyers—it might have been a committee of any other group of people—has made a number of proposals for the improvement of our penal system. Before I make criticisms about what I believe my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary may be leaving out of his Criminal Justice Bill, may I be allowed to congratulate him and the Government on apparently including in the Bill policies which the Society of Conservative Lawyers recommended in its proposals.
There are on both sides of the House —there may be few, there may be many —right hon. and hon. Members who opposed the abolition of capital punishment. I was one of those who argued for the retention of capital punishment for the murder of policemen and prison officers. I recognise and acknowledge that those who hold that view are in a minority in this House, but in the country, I am equally satisfied, we are in a majority. I believe that it is not politically possible to bring back capital punishment, but I am concerned and the country 135 is concerned about the present punishment for murder. I add to that concern my anxiety, which is shared by many, about the punishment for violent crime. The punishment for persistent violent crime and the commission of murder deserves the Government's urgent and immediate attention.
There are those who say that there is a simple way in which to deal with the violent persistent criminal and with the persistent criminal—to put him in prison and impose on him the harshest conditions one can think up and to leave him there. It will be of interest to those who hold that view that the Victorian concept of an uncomfortable life in prison has been improved on. The Victorian prisons were built with cells intended to hold one prisoner; today, crowded into those cells there are as many as three prisoners. There were no lavatories when those prisons were built and there are no lavatories in them today.
When Dr. Samuel Johnson said that half the people in prison ought never to have gone to prison, he had not gone soft in the head, any more than the committee of the Society of Conservative Lawyers, which reached the same conclusion, had gone soft in the head. When the learned doctor added that half of the people in prison ought never be allowed out, he had not lost his sense of compassion any more than this committee had lost its sense of compassion when it recommended an alternative sentence for those who could safely be given a sentence alternative to a prison sentence.
One of the things which has to be realised is that a confirmed and violent criminal is sentenced to imprisonment not only as a punishment and a richly deserved punishment, but to provide a protection for society against the perils of allowing freedom to people who are dangerous when they are free in society. Whatever our views about the punishment for murder, most of us would recognise that the present and only punishment for murder, life imprisonment, which is supposed to fill the vacuum left by the abolition of capital punishment, is wholly inadequate for that function.
Life imprisonment does not mean what it says. Whether it is argued that life imprisonment is an average of nine years, or nine and a half, or ten years, the fact 136 remains that for most people life imprisonment means an early release on licence, and that gives rise to an absurd and unnecessary anomaly, namely, that a person who commits murder may spend less time in prison than a person who has committed the offence of manslaughter.
In the present circumstances, it seems to me, and it seems to the Society of Conservative Lawyers, that one way of dealing with this—one sensible, reasonable way of overcoming the present lacuna which is obviously there—is to give to the trial judge the discretion to impose upon a person convicted of murder a long sentence of imprisonment. I recognise that if one compares the advantages—if that is the right word— of life imprisonment with a determinate sentence, one can rightly say that if and when a person who is sentenced to life imprisonment is put out on licence, he will always be under the control of the Home Secretary, who can bring him back if he misbehaves.
I would like to see a new sentence for murder which would enable the trial judge, in appropriate cases, to impose a determinate sentence, a fixed sentence. At the end of that sentence the person who had been sentenced in that way would still be under the control of the Home Secretary. There would still be residual power in the Home Secretary to bring him back if he misbehaved.
Furthermore, I would like to see this new sentence applied to crimes of violence which are persistently committed so that a person who goes to prison for a violent crime, when he comes out, will still be on licence and, if he again misbehaves, can be brought back at once.
This would be an improvement on the powers of the trial judges. Trial judges initially have the decision of what to do with a person who commits a crime, and the decision whether a man or a woman shall be deprived of his liberty should be left to the trial judge.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Does the hon. and learned Member think that, at the present time, all trial judges are sufficiently experienced in criminology and penology to impose this determinate sentence? Does he go along with the unpublished Justice report which suggests that there is a need for training judges in these spheres? Many of them come from 137 divisions quite unassociated with criminal work.
§ Mr. Gardner:
I agree that judges and those who have the awful responsibility of deciding what punishment shall be imposed on someone who has committed a criminal offence should have the widest experience and the best training available.
I am pleased—I am sure the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis) is equally pleased—by the steps being taken now to get judges of all grades together for conferences at which they can hear the best experts on penology and exchange views. This is a step forward. There is no doubt about it; it is a universal view that the more training that can be given to the judiciary, the more experience they receive of this kind of teaching, if that is the right word, the better.
I would rather not be drawn into the question of what was in an unauthorised version of a report which was never intended for publication and which never came out under the name of Justice. People with independent views are entitled to express them in print or any other way. but Justice should not be praised or blamed for that report. I would approve of training which would assist the judiciary in this very difficult task.
I would only ask, what training has the Home Office to decide what should be done to an offender? What experience there is superior to the experience and the wisdom of the judiciary? If it is seriously to be argued that the judiciary should no longer be able to exercise their discretion at a trial, the whole problem and burden of sentencing could of course be pushed over to the Home Office. Is that what is wanted? It would be wholly bad and retrograde. We should think quickly about new ways of punishing people and of giving those who deserve it a better chance when they have committed crimes.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport)
The hon. and learned Member for South Fylde (Mr. Gardner) spoke of his experience as a member of the War Graves Commission and talked in glowing terms of the enhanced pensions which are apparently obtainable in Northern Europe. Many of those employed by 138 the War Graves Commission are members of my union. The general secretary has spoken disparagingly of the wage rates paid out there and the fact that they have to be so considerably supplemented to meet the high cost of living on the Continent.
The speech which touched me tonight was that of my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield), who spoke of the critical situation in Coventry. I speak with a little authority of that famous city, because before I came to the House I was a member of its city council and an officer of my union. When I left it nearly six years ago, it was a most prosperous go-ahead city. It is indicative of the havoc that this Government has caused to our industrial and social life that Coventry is in its present state.
Unemployment is spread all over the country at present. In a special development area like the Rhondda, there is, and has been for a long time, high unemployment. There is a fair measure of unemployment in my constituency, which is in a so-called grey area. But there is also unemployment in previously prosperous areas like Coventry and the West Midlands generally.
The problem of unemployment is of long standing in Wales, and we have had a good deal of experience of it in the last few years. Our economy is based on the steel industry. As soon as this Government came to power, there was a great deal of consternation in that basic industry. This is so both as regards future investment policies and the question of hiving off of various sections, where there was a measure of redundancy, and the position is as yet by no means resolved.
Redundancies have not been confined to the steel industry. I know that in my own constituency at the moment we have recently had an announcement that British Aluminium is to close its factory, and 400 male jobs are at stake. At Alvan-Booth the labour force in the last three years has been reduced by several thousand. There was a statement last week by a very high executive of Alcan-Booth which indicated that there are likely to he further cuts in the productive capacity of that large international company in the fairly near future. In my 139 own constituency, again, we recently had 250 people made redundant in the Black Clawson factory, and nearby, at the I.C.I. nylon factory, several hundred have been made redundant. Close by, too, there has been the closure of a G.K.N. works where 1,000 jobs have been involved.
In addition to all this there is the vexed problem of the school leavers. There are very few vacancies to absorb them, certainly very few in Wales. One could say quite fairly that in the days of the Labour Government many new factories were brought to Wales, and it would be fair to say, too, that if it had not been for the rundown in the mining industry during those years of the Labour Government the economic and employment situation in Wales would be very much happier today.
We discussed last week this great issue of the Common Market. During that debate we naturally had reference to value-added tax and we had it compared with the selective employment tax. Of course, there is a vast difference between them, but with selective employment tax at least the money came to the British Exchequer and helped to provide inducements, in terms of employment, in areas like Wales, whereas in the case of value- tax the money will not go to our Exchequer but will be handed over to the bureaucrats in Brussels.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Kershaw)
The hon. Member is quite wrong.
§ Mr. Hughes:
I would say that there is certainly an urgent need for more investment and new development in areas like Wales in order really to tackle this vexed question of unemployment.
The second point in the Queen's Speech to which I want to make a passing reference is—
§ Mr. Kershaw
Will the hon. Member allow me? He should study the V.A.T. more closely than he has, because it is quite wrong to say that the proceeds of it are to be handed over to Brussels.
§ Mr. Hughes
There have been so many interpretations of what is to happen. The impression I certainly got was that this is what is to happen.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
I wonder whether my hon. Friend will allow me to interject for a moment. During the debate on the Common Market it was made clear from the Front Bench on this side of the House that import duties and customs duties and value-added tax would be handed over to Brussels, except that in the latter case 1 per cent. would be retained for the collection of charges. That was not refuted during the debate. If the Under-Secretary of State is questioning the point which my hon. Friend has made, perhaps he will say now quite emphatically that he is wrong, or, otherwise, withdraw.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am aware of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) who, from his experience as Chancellor of the Exchequer, knows about these things and actually introduced S.E.T.
I want to deal with the reference in the Gracious Speech to giving effect to the proposals for the reorganisation of local government in England and Wales. The late Aneurin Bevan, in saying how difficult a subject this was, suggested that one should put forward proposals and then run away and hide. I think there is some truth in this. In the last few years we have had no fewer than three different sets of proposals. In 1967 there were proposals on which a large measure of agreement was obtained throughout Wales. Unfortunately, to my personal regret and that of many other people, these proposals were not implemented, although I feel that they would have served Wales well.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) was Secretary of State for Wales he introduced in 1970 a further set of proposals. These turned out to be controversial in character, and the General Election ensured that they were not implemented. Early this year the third and most controversial set of proposals was introduced by the present Secretary of State for Wales. In 1970 the proposal was for a unitary system of local government in South Wales, but the newest proposals have reverted to the two-tier principle. Under both plans the number of councillors would be drastically reduced and I feel that this would be a most retrograde step.
141 I listened with great sympathy to the point of view put forward by the hon. Member for Petersfield (Miss Quennell). She referred to our great democratic traditions of local government and the voluntary service given over many years, and I very much agreed with what she said.
A criticism of the Welsh proposals is that they slavishly follow the English proposals. We think that our problems of local government are rather different. When the proposals were announced we referred to the Crowther Report and the constitutional questions relating to the whole nation which could affect both local government and parliamentary boundaries. But the real indictment of these present proposals was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris) on 16th February when he described the document we were considering as "politically motivated gerrymandering ". Many Welsh Members of Parliament feel that the local government boundaries have been organised as a preliminary to parliamentary boundary reorganisation.
We could cite evidence of this in Swansea and South-East Wales. Gathering clusters of voters together in coastal areas would eventually benefit the Conservative Party in parliamentary representation. There is evidence of this gerrymandering in other parts of Wales. too. We know that the Conservative Party has always fared badly in Wales, so that when this document was described earlier in the year as a consultative document many people felt that the only consultation had been with the Conservative Central Office. We realise that the Secretary of State for Wales also happens to be Chairman of the Conservative Party. Is it any wonder that the Welsh Council of Labour should describe the document as "most unsatisfactory ", a sentiment with which I agree?
The real question is: when will the Bill be published? There is a rumour that it is to be published on Thursday of this week. We also want to know whether our proposals will be incorporated with the English proposals. We feel that if this is to be the case, it will be something of an insult to Wales which in matters of local government reorganisation has always been dealt with separately. 142 We also wish to know whether the proposals are to be referred to a Committee upstairs and whether, indeed, they will be discussed in the Welsh Grand Committee. We also wonder whether the Committee, to ensure a Conservative majority, will be packed with English Members. We feel that this is essentially a domestic issue for Wales and that Wales and Welsh Members of Parliament should be paramount in deciding the matter. We shall certainly oppose these proposals for all they are worth when they are debated in the House.
In conclusion, I must point out that from the point of view of both local government and the problem of unemployment, the proposals in the Gracious Speech cause me grave apprehension and I fear that the immediate aspirations will not be fulfilled.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernle Money (Ipswich)
The House listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Roy Hughes), but since his remarks dealt mainly with the Principality he will forgive me if I do not take up the points he made.
I wish to deal with the theme developed by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane), namely, the serious situation in different parts of the United Kingdom on the roads, with particular reference to the problems caused by container traffic and the heavy lorry traffic associated with it.
My constituency is the closest in the United Kingdom to Rotterdam, to the mouth of the Rhine and to what has been called the golden triangle of the Common Market. Over and again I have received letters from constituents who are not so much concerned about the Common Market as such, but about one side effect of it as a result of the enormous build-up of container traffic coming through what are commonly called the haven ports, the container port of Felixstowe, Ipswich Dock itself and Harwich. I remember as a child being taken to Felixstowe, which was then a small coastal resort. It now handles more container traffic than Rotterdam itself. Since every single one of those lorries has to come through Ipswich, and through the so-called bypass which was built to carry traffic of no great 143 weight, the effects on my constituents are obvious.
Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I sought to canvass the views of my constituents on the Common Market in various ways, including the holding of public meetings. One meeting was held by courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce in my constituency during which a film was shown entitled "Two Minutes to Europe"—a film made by the British National Export Council. At the end of the film an opportunity was given for any member of the audience who wished to ask a question to do so. There was, as is usual in East Anglia, a gap of some minutes during which people waited until we knew whether any questions were going to be asked at all. At the end of it one questioner asked. "If it takes two minutes to Europe, why does it take me 35 minutes to travel from Ipswich to Wickham Market," a distance of between 10 and 15 miles up the Al2, a so-called main road. The reason in fact is obvious, because even the Al2, a road on which large sums of public money have been spent over the last few years, has become unusable.
Perhaps I might make a personal confession in this regard. I live just off that road, some distance into the constituency of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison). As an ordinary local, I find it far more convenient not to use the main road but to travel across it and through the villages. They are villages which should not be used by traffic at all, and certainly not by heavy container traffic. But I take that route because it is much quicker that way.
The situation is a most inconvenient one both for those living in the villages and those using the roads. It will be even more inconvenient for those who will be importing and exporting through the haven ports.
I take that side of the situation no further since my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development has indicated that Ipswich is soon to have a transportation study. We look forward keenly to the results that may spring from it in particular with regard to a bypass. I mention it with regard to the general problem facing all parts of East Anglia and other areas which 144 have contact with the coast. We have heavy container lorries passing day and night through towns and villages in the area. We have six-car transporters heading to and from the ports. Every now and then the unfortunate inhabitants, for whom one is bold enough to think that the land was meant, have to scuttle like rabbits across the road.
The situation is made worse by the build-up resulting from the cutting down of local railways. So many areas which have been served adequately by railways that are now proving expensive are threatened with the extinction of their lifelines. I was relieved to hear what was said by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport Industries in this regard. I hope that the future of our rural railways will be treated as a real social question and not merely as a matter of statistics. They involve far more than the number of passengers who use them and the expenditure on their upkeep. They have to be seen also in terms of the freight that they carry, the cars that they keep off the roads and the social amenities that they provide for the villages.
I believe that British entry into the Common Market will benefit the people in my part of the world in a way that they deserve but have not experienced for many years. However, they will not be able to take full advantage of it until these real problems of transportation and the amenity difficulties that go with them are faced. I hope that the Government will now give East Anglia the special attention that it has lacked in the past few years.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I wish to make two brief points on the Gracious Speech. The first concerns the omission of anything about the reorganisation of local government in Scotland. The speech states:Legislation will be introduced to give effect to My Government's proposals for the reorganisation of local government in England (outside Greater London) and in Wales.Scotland had a report similar to the Maude Report. I have spent 20 years in local government on both town and county councils. I never regarded local government as absolutely perfect, but I do not recall any great agitation to have it altered. Taking the Wheatley Report 145 as a whole, I regard the reorganisation of local government as a retrogressive step into a bureaucratic set-up. I should be pleased if the Government would confirm that the preferential treatment in leaving Scotland out of the reorganisation of local government is to continue.
My second point concerns unemployment. Many hon. Members have stated figures for their constituencies. The figure for my constituency is 25 per cent. It has been at that level for over two years and at times it has reached 30 per cent. Hon. Members will appreciate what this would mean in their constituencies. This figure does not include many weavers who are not on the register. They are self-employed and therefore do not qualify for the dole when unemployed. We also produce many teachers, seamen, policemen, nurses, hotel workers, and so on. Therefore, a great proportion of our population is working out of the constituency and is not included in the unemployment figures.
The Highlands and Islands Development Board has come under serious criticism in my constituency and throughout the Highlands. I should like to ask the Government, particularly the Secretary of State, to look at the Highlands and Islands Development Board to see whether it has sufficient finance to carry out the work which should be going on to put new life into the Highlands and whether the spirit of adventure is still moving the Board because, in the Western Isles and in the Highlands generally, its efforts have produced very little effect on depopulation and unemployment.
The Gracious Speech makes no reference to the oil finds within Scottish territorial waters which, if Scotland were self-governing, would produce wealth accruing to the Scottish nation. I should still like to hear from the Government what proportion of the revenue from these oil finds will accrue to Scotland to redress the enormous balance to the debit of Scotland in the present set-up in the United Kingdom.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Bedford)
I listened with considerable interest to the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Donald Stewart). The hon. Gentleman said that there was no statement in the Gracious Speech referring to oil dis- 146 coveries off Scotland. I think that he is referring to the discoveries of Esso, Shell and B.P. On page 3 of the Gracious Speech the hon. Gentleman will see,for assisting the exploration of our mineral resources".I think that would probably apply to the oil and gas industries.
§ Mr. Skeet
If that is right, then it could apply to the more general mineral industry where something really should be done. I refer to granite, limestone, clays, and so on.
I will point out some of the points which I have in mind. The parent Act goes hack to the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923, which laid down four conditions if a mineral under-taker wanted to work the minerals. I hope that the new provisions will cover anomalies in these conditions. I think that they could conceivably cover oil and gas. Perhaps the Minister will at a later date indicate exactly what is covered.
The four conditions were:Under the earlier Act, which has now been consolidated within the last two years, mineral rights could be secured. Unfortunately, they are freely available only for certain non-ferrous metals and not for those minerals which are in use for road construction and building houses. The Government should not find it difficult to bring in a Bill to deal with this. A one-Clause Bill would be sufficient, so that they are introduced in exactly the same way as these favoured minerals. The condition, which is the hard one—that the applicant must have an interest in the mineral or minerals adjacent thereto—could be sidestepped and an application made direct to the court and the mineral rights granted, particularly where the owner of the property is not prepared to sell the property with the minerals in it. There are other difficulties, but perhaps they can be left to a 147 later occasion when the Bill comes forward.
- "(1) There is danger of minerals being left permanently unworked.
- (2) The applicant has an interest in the minerals or in minerals adjacent to them.
- (3) It is not reasonably practicable to obtain working rights by private arrangement.
- (4) It is expedient in the national interest that the rights applied for should be granted."
I should like to mention the value-added tax, to which reference is made in the Gracious Speech. An observation was made earlier that the whole of the value-added tax proceeds would be handed over to the Fund. But, of course, this is not so. The intention is that this tax shall replace selective employment tax and purchase tax. We are obligated under Article 99 to adopt a value-added tax system, and it is appropriate to say that 10 countries in Europe have such a tax and that, therefore, it cannot be a bad tax to exercise here—a low-rated tax and one with fewer anomalies than selective employment tax and purchase tax.
On 11th April, 1967, a directive extended it to all States, but we have it on record that five out of the six members of the Common Market have adopted it and the last member to adopt it has suggested that it should have an extension of time. I recommend that before the Government introduce a value-added tax here they must be clear about the system which they intend to use. If the system is wrong or too cumbersome it could be extremely hard on the citizens of the country. It is indispensable to carry out the undertaking which the Government have given to the electorate that food will not be included or that, if it is included, it will have a zero rating. In Europe, food is included in all countries concerned in the Six, but it is right that just as we regard food as indispensable for our livelihood, educational literature and newspapers as well as one or two other items should be exempted. Those items of food which are already covered by purchase tax would have the value-added tax attached to them. That was introduced under the Labour Government, and I do not see any objection to that system continuing. But the main items of food should be zero rated.
There are one or two points which should be borne in mind, the first of which is this. We understand that the Bill is to appear probably this month. When it goes through its stages by Easter next year we shall hear at an early date of the regulations to be made thereunder to indicate the coverage. The coverage 148 is absolutely vital. What is going to be included? Is it gas, electricity and rents? Is it all services, like going to the tailor and paying for a taxi? I should like to know what is to be the coverage and what is to be left out.
What is important for all retailers to know now is this. Is there to be one rate or are there to be two or three or four rates? In Europe, the following is the situation. Belgium and France have four rates. In France the highest rate is 33⅓, the lowest is 7.5 and the standard is 23. In Western Germany and the Netherlands there are two rates. Luxembourg has three and the Scandinavian countries have only one. For the sake of simplicity—I make a strong recommendation on this ground—we should have two rates, possibly with the zero rate as the lowest rate. It will enable companies to claim back certain tax paid, which would not be the case if food were exempted.
I hope also that, when he publishes the Bill covering the value-added tax, the Chancellor will include, for the notification of industry, retailers and others, a statement whether there will be two or three rates of the tax. That would be most helpful. It would enable people to get ready and make the necessary adjustments. I hope, also, that we shall be told soon about the coverage. We know that the tax is to be introduced in 1973 at the appropriate rates.
It is essential to bear in mind also that, when the currency was decimalised, there was a rise in prices. If we metricate—if, for example, butter is sold by the kilo instead of by the pound—there will be an opportunity for unscrupulous persons to put up prices again. In Europe, there has been some experience of prices rising simply because of a move over to a new form of taxation. I hope that this will not occur, and I want the Government to take all steps possible, even at this early stage, to ensure that there are no excessive price rises as a result of the implementation of the tax.
I am keeping a close eye on the time, as I want to give other hon. Members an opportunity to enter the debate, so I shall add only a few further words about the value-added tax. In Belgium, the tax covers all buildings, including houses. 149 and the imposition there can be quite heavy, at a rate of 14 per cent. Land is exempt in that case. In France, it covers buildings, and the rate is 17.6 per cent. Again, this could be a heavy penalty on a person owning a house. While there is no harmonisation in the rates or in the extent or coverage of the tax, one hopes that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not introduce such terms here. I should like to feel that that would be quite out of the picture.
Now, one or two other points on the Gracious Speech. I greatly regret that there is to be no noise abatement Bill. Such a Measure would be of great value to an area such as mine, where the training of B.O.A.C. pilots is causing great agitation and annoyance to people round about Thurleigh.
I have read with interest what is said about our going into the Common Market, and I support this proposal. There is a good deal of rumour now that very comprehensive legislation will be required. For my part, I suggest that an instrument of accession would be enough. If we agree to join the Common Market under the terms of the Treaty of Rome, much of our present legislation inconsistent with it would be sidestepped, and it would be unnecessary to repeal it. It would not be necessary, therefore, to have comprehensive legislation passed by the House. In much the same way, our own Acts of Parliament which are to lapse can he scheduled. This could be done at a later stage. In all humility, therefore, I suggest that, although we can go about it by the extremely difficult route, we could do it by a much simpler process in that way.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
The closing remarks of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeet) were rather sinister, for they evidenced a desire on his part, and, perhaps, on the part of others of his party, to avoid further debate on the details of the Common Market legislation. I hope that that will not come about and that the Government will enable the House and the country to voice their views on this vital matter.
I wish to direct attention to the paragraph in the Gracious Speech dealing 150 with foreign affairs and, in particular, to the statement that the Governmentwill work…for peace in the Middle EastIt seems to me that the Foreign Secretary's recent incursions in that field are not altogether encouraging. On 13th September, in Cairo, he made a statement calling for the withdrawal of Israel from the so-called occupied areas. In making that statement he went further than any previous Government had ever gone, and further than Resolution 242 of November, 1967. He has evinced a very pro-Arab attitude by the Government ever since he made his Harrogate speech.
It is no use having a limited cease-fire in the Middle East as a basis for negotiations when all the demands are imposed upon one State. It would be dangerous, possibly even fatal, for Israeli security if Egyptian forces were allowed to cross the Suez Canal while Egypt continues to call for total withdrawal, while it speaks only of a piecemeal settlement, while it offers no real security for Israel's future, yet the Foreign Secretary seems to be giving overt support for that concept. To seek to impose a solution, to seek to erode the position of Israel, which is very difficult in a very sensitive area, shows no comprehension of the problems that beset Israel.
In the Foreign Secretary's statement calling for total Israeli withdrawal, he made no mention of the Golan Heights. It is unthinkable for Israel to give up those Heights, from which for years the kibbutzim below were shelled incessantly. The right hon. Gentleman made no mention of the other strategic points, but it seems to me that the attitude he has adopted, which was warmly received in Cairo, and which has been regarded in Jerusalem as "perfidious Albion", is dangerous for the whole security of the Middle East.
My belief in the State of Israel arises not only from the fact that I happen to be Jewish but also that I am a democratic socialist. I believe it to be the only democratic State in the Middle East, and I want to see it nourished and sustained. It is only in that way that real peace can be brought to the Middle East together with real hope for the deprived masses of that area.
151 I cannot understand how the Government can say in good faith that they will work towards
"a settlement of the Rhodesia problem in accordance with the five Principles"
when we consider the nature of the legislation passed by the illegal rÈgime over the past few years. They have under-taken a deliberate course of eroding African liberties and African dignity. Is the legislation they have introduced, to bring Rhodesia further on towards apartheid on the South African pattern, to be revoked? Is that to be the Government's demand? Anything short of that is utterly valueless.
We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) about the Land Tenure Act, under which Africans are to he evicted from land which is theirs, and how they have been exploited. and are being exploited day in and day out. What have the Government to say about that? It is no use just talking about the Five Principles when those very principles are being betrayed daily by the illegal rÉgime.
I turn from foreign affairs to housing. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) has rightly described the Fair Rents Bill, which it presumably may be called, as the "Higher Rents Bill". It has been estimated by the borough treasurer of Hemel Hemp-stead, who is an authority on the subject, that on average rents will be doubled. There is to be no appeal from a decision of the rent assessment panel by tenants of local authorities. All this is to be accompanied by a huge reduction in Government subsidies.
I believe that the whole design of these proposals is to create the impression that to live in local authority accommodation is to have a stigma attached to one. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to exclaim, "Nonsense ", but that is the clear view of a large number of local authority tenants, and certainly of a large number in my constituency.
Many local authorities will be forced to charge rents far in excess of their need. Balancing the housing revenue account will no longer be a requirement. Some local authorities will, therefore, make a profit on the housing revenue account, and this is to deny the whole 152 purpose of local authority housing as we see it as being an integral part of the social services.
It is interesting to note that of the surplus which some local authorities may accumulate, and which the Government will acquire, only 50 per cent. will be handed back towards the general rate fund, yet the Government talk about their proposals benefiting the ratepayers generally. In effect, therefore, we shall have another form of taxation, but this will be taxation of local authority tenants. How can hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about one nation?
The Government also talk about democratic control in respect of local authorities. This has for long been the slogan of the Conservative Party, but we know that there is to be no democratic control. There will be no discretion under this new system.
In the private sector there is to be a deliberate undermining of the rent legislation of the Labour Government. A landlord and tenant will be permitted to agree a rent instead of going to the rent officer. I believe this to be a passport to harassment, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said earlier.
We in the Labour Party fought bitterly against the Tory Rent Act of 1957 and everything it stood for, and our fight was eventually successful. It was successful when people realised the tyranny that was exercised by certain landlords and which was depicted in the Milner Holland Report, but which those of us in the stress areas of London knew was happening long before that Report was published We will fight these proposals and we will win because tenants throughout the country, and in particular those in stress areas. will recognise that hon. Gentlemen opposite are introducing legislation which is designed to demean them, to worsen their status and to impose financial penalties upon them. In the end they will not stand for that. The next Labour Government, which will not be long in coming to office, will repeal this iniquitous legislation.
Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Hawkins.]
Debate to be resumed tomorrow.