§ 3. Mr. Rooker
asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects his Department to conclude the first planning agreement.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Gerald Kaufman)
The Department is having informal discussions with leading companies about the possibility of introducing planning agreements into certain key sectors of manufacturing industry. My right hon. Friend hopes to begin formal planning agreement discussion shortly, but at this stage it is not possible to make a precise estimate of the likely date when the first agreement will be concluded.
§ Mr. Rooker
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is some concern on Government Benches about the delay in concluding the first planning agreement? Will he give an assurance that his Department will at all times "keep its finger out" on this matter? At the same time does he agree with the editor of the Sunday Times Business News of yesterday in condemning as totally irresponsible the antics of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) on the aspect of planning agreements?
§ Mr. Kaufman
Any condemnation of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) will draw general consent in this House.
With the Industry Act on the statute book for only a few weeks, and implemented for only a few days, I hope that my hon. Friend will give us a little more time. We are pressing forward with planning agreement discussions because we share the views of all hon. Members on the Government side of the House that through such agreements we can get the kind of sectoral programme that is needed.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I am sure that the Under-Secretary would like to confirm that the planning agreement procedures 1231 are entirely voluntary and that the speech that I made, as opposed to the account of it which was included in the Sunday Times of yesterday, pointed out to industrialists only what must have been quite apparent if they had carefully read the voluntary statements made by Ministers of the present Government.
§ Mr. Kaufman:
Of course planning agreements are voluntary. That has been reiterated again and again by Government Ministers in the House.