Further to my recent point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, why you are not ruling on the matter today? You have just said that you ruled on it yesterday. The long practice of the House is that the Speaker rules 24 hours later, not 48 hours later. If you know the reason for the ruling, Mr. Speaker, why can you not give it now?
I think that the hon. Member is being less than courteous. I said to him that I would communicate with him if necessary. I did not give any undertaking to rule within 24 hours, nor do I believe that it is the custom of the House that a Speaker should so rule. There are many, many cases when points of order are raised and I have said "I will communicate with the hon. Gentleman if necessary", or "I will make a statement to the House if necessary". This is a matter within the discretion of the Chair. But, as the hon. Gentleman is making such heavy weather of it, I will rule upon it tomorrow.
It is absolutely imperative that before the House adjourns for the Easter Recess the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland come to the House to make a statement on policy, first in relation to the crisis in beef production, second in relation to the crisis in pig production, and third in relation to the fuel costs which are affecting horticulture.
The action or non-action of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture since he came to office has been extremely detrimental to the industry and has succeeded in destroying confidence in a remarkably short time. Inevitably, the steps that he has taken, and those that he has not taken, will reduce production and, in the longer term, will increase prices to the consumer and will adversely affect our balance of payments.
The urgency is there for all to see. That is why it is vital for the Minister to come to the House now and explain his policy. Two or three weeks in the future will be far too late and will not do. Therefore, it is essential that the Minister comes to the House to make a statement before we adjourn for Easter. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman burying his head in the sand and pretending that there is no problem, because the problem is there and is very real.
The issue is most damaging to the beef industry. Farmers in my constituency—all farmers throughout the United Kingdom—are facing enormous losses over the production of beef. The loss on most fat beasts is £20 to £40 a head at present. This cannot be allowed to continue for one day longer than neces- sary. In yesterday's edition of the Scotsman a well-known and experienced beef farmer was quoted as losing £9,000 over fattening 200 cattle. There are many such cases. Some producers are worse off than those whom I have mentioned. This is because the Minister has knocked both the bottom and all confidence out of the market. In a very short period he has brought about a situation in which beef producers have neither a guaranteed price nor the assurance of intervention buying. Indeed, in three weeks the Minister has removed both the belt and the braces which were so long required by the National Farmers' Unions.
What money the right hon. Gentleman has put into beef from the calf subsidy has done nothing whatever to help those who have fat cattle to sell now and those who are hoping to sell store cattle in the next few weeks. Farmers are facing EEC costs but with no intervention support at all. The Minister thinks that he obtained a triumph in Brussels, but all farmers think of it as being a raging disaster.
The chaos, disappointment, despair and anger caused by the Minister is universal. He is incredibly short-sighted, and he has betrayed beef producers. The urgency is obvious. I hope that the Leader of the House will ensure that the Minister of Agriculture makes a statement before we adjourn for Easter.
The motion is of some importance, but hon. Members will go away for the next two weeks with some concern about various aspects. The aspect which I want to draw to the attention of the Government and of others is that concerning the future of Concorde.
This is obviously not the occasion on which to debate the merits or otherwise of this very important project, which is itself affected by several aspects of our national life. It is related to employment and the economy, and there is the aspect concerning the use of resources which might be used in other ways, according to what our opinion may be. There is also the aspect of the future of the British aerospace industry.
I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to Early-Day Motion No. 57, which has been signed by over 60 of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I do not intend to debate that today. I do not doubt that others will express their concern by supporting the motion. That motion asks the Government to consider the setting up of a Select Committee or a senior ministerial committee to have an impartial look at Concorde and to report to the House by White Paper or by other means.
My anxieties and those of my hon. Friends are that some decisions will be taken before Parliament resumes on 29th April and that the public and those affected will be denied a full and impartial look at the matter.
We recognise several aspects which must be considered by the Cabinet and an impartial committee, and they include the fact that Concorde is a successful aircraft which has met all the technical specifications. It has a broad lead in supersonic air transport over the United States, which decided not to go ahead, and most certainly over the USSR, which had the unfortunate crash of the TU144. We believe that if Concorde is cancelled now we shall lose this lead and that others will take over from us.
Another aspect is the effect of cancellation upon the British aerospace industry. I shall not go too deeply into the various points that I could raise, because they are matters for a future debate. I must declare an interest. I was employed in the aerospace industry in design work for over 20 years. I am a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a member of the Council of the Air League. But, in addition to that, I have many colleagues who have a stake in the industry. Also, about 24,000 people are employed directly on Concorde, and another 100,000 are employed in producing accessories and components in various parts of the country. That is a very important factor, and it affects many constituencies.
It has been stated that the cancellation of Concorde would have a major effect upon the employment position and structure of the British Aircraft Corporation's commercial aircraft division and some of the areas involved—Filton, Weybridge and Hurn. In addition, the supplier companies are dotted throughout the country. Those are the consequences of cancellation.
We also recognise the fact that in the last few years the contribution of the aerospace industry to our balance of payments has been considerable. Last year, it is estimated, the aerospace industry earned between £400 million or £500 million in exports. Concorde is the most important project for the industry generally. At a time when the future of the industry is a little uncertain Concorde has a vital rôle to play. Many of my hon. and right hon. Friends are anxious about the subject of defence cuts, but if there are cuts on military aircraft and other military projects the civilian side of the industry assumes even greater importance.
Another factor which a Select Committee or senior ministerial committee could consider is the effect of spin-off. Although Concorde has absorbed £1,000 million or more, there are many instances of other industries benefiting from the spin-off. Take, for example, the aircraft's specially strengthened Triplex glass, which is used in other ways. Another example is the sealing of the aircraft, which has led to better hermetical sealing on equipment for premature babies and on other hospital equipment. Hon. Members can give instances from all over the country of where the techniques, the research, the quality control and other aspects of Concorde's design and manufacture have benefited other industries.
We consider all these aspects to be important and we have a right to expect from my right hon. Friend an assurance that the Government will not take action before 29th April to cancel a project which affects thousands of people.
I certainly agree with that point of view but I must not press it too far because I am asking for an impartial look at the matter by a Select Committee or senior ministerial committee.
Of course, it may be that those of us who have been connected with Concorde for so long feel that it must continue. As one who has flown in the aircraft I can testify that it is a supreme example of British technology.
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop). The hon. Member has failed to make one important point. He mentioned the contribution that Concorde could make to the balance of payments through sales of aircraft. He did not mention the even greater contribution that would accrue from the sale of tickets to fly in it when it is operated by British Airways. Is it not a fact that in all the arguments on costings the British Airways' statements are the ones which need closest examination and that the House should find the time to debate them fully in the near future?
I welcome what the hon. Member says. He has helped to drive home the point I was seeking to make. I have flown in Concorde, and I agree with the suggestion that subsonic is substandard. The most important thing is to get the aircraft into service as soon as possible so that other airlines will want to buy it.
I was glad that the Group Managing Director of British Airways said a few days ago that he believed that Concorde would be readily accepted, even enthusiastically accepted, by the travelling public. He suggests that there will be a great deal of enthusiasm for supersonic services. In a broader indication of the expected Concorde economics, he says that break-even factors on both the Atlantic and the African routes will be between 50 and 60 per cent. passenger capacity. Given that external factors do not militate against British Airways, he claims that Concorde's operation could be profitable from its inception. Some may query those comments, but we believe that they need close examination.
To be fair to those who are not so keen on Concorde, there is the point that if more resources are allocated to Con- corde there will be less available for other things. However, we believe that all these factors, such as the economics of the project, the employment aspect, the need to keep a supersonic lead and the future of the aerospace industry, are matters which should be considered by a Select Committee which can go into them with great care and issue a White Paper or some other report for consideration and debate. We believe that whatever decision is taken many people will expect that. In the meantime I assure my right hon. Friend that over Easter thousands of aircraft workers all over the country will be anxious until the Government announce their decision. I only hope that when the decision is given, whatever that decision may be, the public will say that at least the matter has been examined in a proper and responsible way.
I sat behind my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) for, I think, about 20 or 25 hours as his PPS when as Lord President he replied to four previous debates on Adjournment motions. During that time I admired the ingenuity with which hon. Members were able to relate to the Question—whether the House should adjourn for the stated period—matters of great national and constituency importance. From time to time I thought how nice it would be to be in their place and therefore I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to take advantage of the way in which our procedures work to raise a constituency matter. [Interruption.] I have listened to other hon. Members who intervened and sometimes the remarks I have made under my breath from a seated position were even less complimentary than that.
I turn to a constituency point which is extremely relevant to people living on the eastward approaches to Heathrow Airport. I raise this matter particularly in view of an answer given yesterday by the Under-Secretary for Trade on a question of approach roads towards Heathrow. There was talk of a new four-lane high-way breaking through my constituency joining London with Heathrow.
The Under-Secretary's answer will cause great concern to my constituents. Any new road, any widening of existing roads, or any significantly increased flow of traffic over existing roads which have already done so much damage to the environment of Chiswick, will cause anger, bitterness, shock and resentment among the people living there. I follow my predecessor who represented Chiswick Mr. Michael Barnes, in standing up for the views and feelings of my constituents who have been so badly affected by road developments.
With the hostility the Government now feel towards the Maplin project, and with the fact that consideration now seems to be being given to new road developments between the centre of London and Heathrow, more concern is being added to the already great worry caused by the existence of the M3 motorway, which is pointing like a dagger towards Chiswick and which threatens to project another enormous flow of traffic into a road system which Layfield, when he reported on the Greater London Development Plan, said could not conceivably carry more traffic. The Layfield Report says that the evidence shows that the continuation of the M3 road by means of the A305 and A316 towards the junction with the M4 at Hogarth roundabout would be quite unacceptable in an environmental sense. It adds that the introduction of yet another primary principal road into this area, which is already so severely affected by other roads, would be unsupportable.
The point I am making on behalf of those living in and around Chiswick is that in the reconsideration of the Maplin project, which is being made in accordance with the law of the land, considerable weight should be given to the environmental problems that an extra road would cause. The Under-Secretary of State said yesterday that part of the reconsideration would consist of an examination of the roads that must link Heathrow with the centre of London.
The existing road pattern is bad enough. Many of us are suspicious of the intentions of the Government, the GLC and the borough council towards upgrading the A305 and A316. The imposition of a further road link would make conditions in Chiswick wholly unacceptable.
I do not expect the Lord President to give a clear assurance on these matters today. But I hope that he will be in touch with his right hon. Friends, and that they will give a clear assurance that the powerful feeling on the matters will be given due weight in all the consideration not only of road developments in the West London area but of a third London airport, which I hope will still be at Maplin. I hope that after consideration that project will be seen to be desirable, because, on the grounds of roads, noise and pollution, my constituents and hundreds of thousands of people living around Heathrow want to see it going ahead.
Before we adjourn for the recess my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services should make clear her views on two matters. First, she should make a statement about an early debate on the Lady Sharp Report concerning disabled drivers. I feel strongly about the matter not only from a national point of view but from my constituency point of view, because my constituency contains a whole colony of disabled drivers called Kytes Drive. They are very concerned about the report.
One aspect of the report has caused grave concern. Lady Sharp apparently wishes to give four-wheeled cars to certain categories of disabled persons—namely, those with a family to support and those who have to go to a job—but she will exclude those who are disabled but have no job to go to.
Isolation is a great affliction. If we take cars away from those disabled people who already have them, we shall cause grave discontent and prejudice them gravely. I should like my right hon. Friend to tell us when we shall have a debate in which she can explain her view on that grave paragraph in the report.
Secondly, I should like my right hon. Friend to say something about nurses who are jeopardising their health and the health of their patients because they skip their meals or have inadequate meals on account of rocketing hospital canteen prices. Those nurses cannot give the best of themselves to patients if they are hungry.
Mr. Albert Johnson, the secretary of the Confederation of Health Service Employees at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, has stated that nurses are not doing a proper job because of their declining health. The St. Albans area secretary of the National Union of Public Employees, Mr. John Power, has said that all this is a strain on young people and in the long term it is detrimental to the nursing and detrimental to patients.
First-year general student nurses earn only £709. That is going up to £823—a magnificent figure!
I have seen a front-page article in the Evening Echo, the Thomson newspaper for Hemel Hempstead, which gives great prominence to this subject. It says that most student nurses live in hospital lodgings and eat their meals at hospital canteens. They pay 10 per cent. VAT, because the Government consider this eating out. Housewives apparently have telephoned the hospital in sympathy to offer nurses meals. One woman raised enough money to take 20 student nurses out to a hotel. At that free dinner nurses refused to give their names because they stated that they were afraid of victimisation.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to press my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State very hard on the matter. I asked him before to press her, and he did, but apparently he has not pressed her hard enough. I ask him to press her very hard so that she makes a statement before we rise for the recess.
I do not wish to break a religious festival by having the House sitting over Easter, but it is appalling that we may have to wait three weeks before we can debate agriculture.
Dorset is almost the typical agricultural county, apart from East Anglia. [Interruption.] My farmers are very unhappy.
Those were precisely my words, but the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) obviously did not hear the rest, which was "in comparison with many other areas", where we are comparatively small farmers.
I recall, after that double intervention, that Dorset was once a Liberal seat.
Having had a meeting with my branch of the National Farmers Union last Saturday—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".]—Hon. Members are here to speak up for their constituents. I make no apology for that.
I should like to consider the situation briefly, product by product. Milk production in Dorset is down by 5 per cent. In October 1972 there were 1,801 producers of milk; there are now 1,613. The local view is that by Christmas next year it will be almost impossible to supply the liquid market, let alone the cheese market or anything else which we in Dorset are concerned in supplying.
Beef is probably the trigger point, and anxiety about beef permeates the entire industry. As I understand it, the result of the visit to Brussels of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is that the price of Community beef has gone up 12 per cent. The Irish price has gone up 16½ per cent. and the United Kingdom price has gone up 6·3 per cent. That means that Ireland can flood the United Kingdom with cheap beef. The farmers are dissatisfied, and they are in no way mollified by the additional £10 calf subsidy. That is no answer.
I was talking to a farmer friend of mine who is in beef in a large way. He was lured into beef from milk by the previous Government. He sold 80 steers in Sturminster market last week. He received between £25 and £30 a beast less than otherwise would have been the case. His shortfall on his cheque was £2,500, and he still has to meet a vastly increased food bill.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sorry to hear that her farmers are losing even more than mine. I understand that the loss per beast in my area is between £25 and £30. Perhaps the different climatic conditions in my hon. Friend's constituency result in her farmers losing £40 a beast. My hon. Friend's intervention strengthens the point which I wish to make. What would hon. Members say if the shortfall of their major cheque for the year was £2,500 and at the same time they had to meet higher prices for their feeding stuffs?
As a result of the current situation in Dorset, the insemination figure for cows is grossly down and the calf killing figure is grossly up. It is estimated that there will be an acute national shortage in 10 months. The farmers of Dorset believe that it is essential, if there is not to be a collapse of the industry within weeks, that certification should be reintroduced and that guarantees should be given. No one can produce at heavy cost against an uncertain market.
With regard to pigs, the Government have announced—
The Government have announced a subsidy of 50 pence which will reduce throughout the summer to 35 pence and then to 15 pence. I am sorry that some Government hon. Members appear to be laughing at the farmers' plight. The effect of the subsidy will be to reduce the absolute loss to a pig producer from £3·50 per baconer to 50 pence No one can continue producing at that kind of loss. There is further worry that even though the subsidy which I have mentioned was announced three weeks ago it has not started coming through the pipeline.
On Saturday I was talking to a farming constituent who is losing £200 a week. Nobody can be expected to continue trading for very long under thse conditions. As a result of the conditions of which I speak there has been a reduction of the national pig herd by two and a half million pigs. That does not presage well for the housewife in the long term.
The poultry industry wants steady prices. It wonders why the supply management scheme that was laid before the Community in Brussels has been shelved indefinitely. Poultry producers, because they can expand and contract their activities quickly, are suffering from market uncertainties.
I was talking recently to a horticultural under-glass producer. He said that because of the increased cost of fuel the profitability of horticulture under glass has fallen from £3,000-plus an acre to a £3,000 deficit. That is a result of the increases in heating costs. It appears that Dutch horticulturists are heavily subsidised in that they receive subsidies for North Sea gas. That puts our producers at a disadvantage. A further small but relevant point is that VAT on cut flowers hits the early flower trade very hard.
I have dealt with almost every form of agriculture. My conclusion is that because the cost of feeding stuffs has risen and because farmers' receipts have gone down as farmers have far less collateral as they have fewer beasts than 12 months ago, almost all farmers will come under heavy pressure from their banks. Farmers need more money to pay for their feeding stuffs and they now have less collateral. I have spoken to farmers who are paying interest on arrears of interest, which is the most perilous position for any human being to be in.
I am not suggesting that my own party when in office was not culpable. Last October the previous Government made a serious mistake in not recognising the critical situation into which farmers were running. During the next three weeks, while we are in recess, the agricultural industry will run into a serious situation. The country has realised over the past three months that unless it is prepared to pay the price for coal, it will not get coal and it will go cold. An even nastier shock lies around the corner. While farmers would never go on strike, they could reach a position in which it would not be economic to produce. Whether we like it or not, we must pay the price for our food.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be grateful that at least I am not raising any point about farming or about subsidies. I am sure that farming is an extremely important subject. I am not raising such matters as I happen to be lucky in that I have no farmers in my constituency. Farmers do not normally vote Labour.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown) has said that farmers do not normally vote Labour. Has he considered how consumers will vote when they find that they have no beef?
I probably should not have made any remarks about farmers. I am not going to get involved in an argument about them.
It will be no surprise to my right hon. Friend when I say that I am not habitually an exploiter of the system of taking part in Adjournment debates. I do not criticise any hon. Member for doing so. My right hon. Friend will not be surprised that I am seeking this opportunity to make one or two brief points following the closure of the Beaverbrook Press in Glasgow. The background to that closure is well known and I shall not go over it.
It seems incredible that so much has happened within three to four weeks. It was on 15th March that the closure announcement was first made. There have been two stages of Government activity since then. The first stage was when negotiations were taking place between the unions and the management about the closure. At that time statements were made in the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. He made two statements and there was an Adjournment debate. However, the closure took place and a new situation arose.
The action committee of the former employee of the Beaverbrook Press is seeking ways and means of establishing a new newspaper in Scotland. A specific proposition is before the Government at the moment. It is the first that there has been and is modest but significant. It is a request to the Government to consider giving assistance to the action committee in carrying out a feasibility study. I do not think that anyone thinks it an easy matter to start a new newspaper at this time. Nevertheless those of us who have had contact with the committee believe that there are some possibilities, provided that marketing research is done and that there is financial backing and sound management. All these major elements associated with the problem can only be looked at in some depth if there is a feasibility study in which people are asked to give expert advice on something which is of great concern to about 1,500 employees.
The proposition has been with the Government for over a week now, telegrams have been sent to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade yesterday gave a sympathetic response to a request that a representative of his should be present at a meeting being held in Glasgow tomorrow, to which all interested parties, including the Government, have been invited. We regard this as a matter of urgency and of some concern perhaps for the political credibility of the Government on an issue which has aroused great interest and concern in Scotland.
A deadline has been given by the Beaverbrook Press on the possibility of its selling the building, with the plant. That deadline is 19th April, so there is not a great deal of time left in which to carry out a feasibility study and find the necessary backing. Press ownership is a sensitive area—and I mean that in general terms and not on issues like land reclamation. All Governments are scared of seeming to become involved in plans for public control over the Press or even of seeming to give public money to newspapers. It is undoubtedly a sensitive area. But no unreasonable demands are being made in the case of Glasgow—merely a specific request for short-term assistance on a modest level, which must be done before we look at some of the wider issues which may be involved in the future.
It has been announced that one of the wealthiest men in Scotand has joined the Scottish National Party. He owns, or controls companies which own, newspapers in Scotland. Perhaps we should not be reticent or backward, therefore, in trying to argue for something here which would give ordinary people in Scotland a greater say and a better forum in the media of communications. I hope that the Government will not be frightened off from this modest and reasonable application for help in carrying out a feasibility study simply because of the unfortunate and difficult decisions which may have to be made in future regarding the Press as a whole.
Having lived through the period when the News Chronicle closed down, I have sympathy with what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown) said, but I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him on the subject of newspapers, because I want to be brief.
First, I hope that the Leader of the House listened with great attention to the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop), who was anxious that the House should know the full social and economic cost of Concorde. In his Early-Day Motion the hon. Gentleman asks for the appointment of a Select Committee or a committee of Ministers. I certainly pray that the last thing we have is a Select Committee of Ministers. From Blue Streak to Sea Slug to Concorde, if ever a body of men has got things wrong it is Ministers. If there were a Select Committee of Members of this House, we could at least share the obloquy if the figures were wrong at the end of the day. A Select Committee of this House would be far better than a committee of Ministers.
If we look at the past coldly and clearly, it is clear that Ministers have always been wrong in these matters. We have wasted thousands of millions of pounds on defence projects which have been cancelled since the war, and there is no doubt that if we had had a proper system of committees of this House, as the United States Congress has, the nation would have had better value for money.
Secondly, before we adjourn for Easter we should have a statement from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food tomorrow about the Government's present intentions. I recognise that the farmers did not start to make a loss—such as the £9,000 of a cattle farmer in Scotland that we have heard about—at midnight on 28th February. It was not a sudden transformation. It has been a continuing decline, and the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. James) said so frankly.
First, then, there is the situation in beef production. The Liberal Party has put down a motion on this matter but it cannot be debated before we adjourn. That is no reason, however, why its sense cannot be taken into account in asking the Minister for a statement tomorrow. The fat stock guarantee scheme having been abandoned by the last Government, the Minister, in his EEC negotiations, totally abandoned any intervention price with regard to beef. We thus have the extraordinary situation that the Irish are exporting beef to this country with an export allowance of £2 a hundredweight, perfectly permissible under EEC rules, and are planning to export to Britain beef which will be below our current wholesale price. Therefore, most farmers will incur a loss of anything between £10 and £50 per beast in the market.
Whilst that is going on, there is per contra a levy on our own exports. In the case of lamb sold to France, it is 12·3p per pound, with value added tax added on to it. So we are taking subsidised imports but placing a levy on our agricultural exports. It needs little imagination to realise that this is placing many farmers in a grave situation.
Again, about £3 to £4 a pig is being lost by our farmers, which is equivalent to £30 to £40 per sow and litter. Subsidies will end on lime in July and on fertilisers at the end of May, and this will have an increasing effect on farmers' costs.
During the General Election the last Government brought in something which was relatively unheard of, and certainly unprecedented—a retrospective payment for milk producers, which was one of the most devastating admissions of the underrecoupment which had taken place during the previous year.
This, therefore, is the position of various major commodities in British agriculture, and there is genuine concern in the agricultural community. It is not merely in order that we should maintain a healthy agriculture but in order to ensure that there is not a future food shortage in the country that we expect the Minister of Agriculture to make a statement tomorrow about the Government's intentions.
I believe that the House should not adjourn for Easter until there has been a full-scale and searching inquiry into what I shall be calling the Eastbourne or South Coast scandal.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that on the first day of the debate on the Gracious Speech I raised a matter concerning the Duke of Devonshire. I was asked whether it was proper to remark upon him and his activities. I mentioned to Mr. Deputy Speaker that I had been under severe attack in another place from another noble Lord, and that I was taking the opportunity not of putting matters right but of representing my constituents and, for that matter, the constituents of some other hon Members as well.
The Duke of Devonshire, owning as he does large tracts of Derbyshire and most of County Limerick, seems also to be very much in charge of Eastbourne Borough Council. Having mentioned that fact, and coupling with it his application in another place to build a £50 million yachting marina—
The hon. Gentleman will have plenty of chance to intervene before I am done. I shall be referring to the hon. Gentleman's constituency a great deal during the next quarter of an hour, and what I am now saying is small fry to what I am going to say later. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) ought to prepare himself to make a speech, if he wishes, to defend the Duke of Devonshire, but my guess is that after he hears what I have to say he may be joining those who are exposing the activities not necessarily of the Duke but of the Chatsworth Trustees or Settlement, or trustees working for the settlement, which, to all intents and purposes, in- volves the Duke of Devonshire to a large degree.
It is as well that we preserve accuracy, and I am sure that the House would wish that the hon. Gentleman should start by being accurate and should, therefore, withdraw the statement that the Duke of Devonshire owns most of County Limerick. To my certain knowledge he does not own more than 3 or 4 per cent. of the county—that is a long way off owning over half of the county—and most of it is bog and water. We should get the facts right.
I concede that the Duke of Devonshire might own only 3 or 4 per cent. of County Limerick, but it is a pretty fair slice; it is slightly bigger than slag heaps in Ince-in-Makerfield, but that does not really matter. However, he is pretty well in charge of the affairs of Eastbourne Borough Council, so far as planning permission is concerned, if the contents of a letter which I have read are true, as suggested by the writer of the letter.
I was saying earlier that it all started as a result of £50 million being spent on a yachting marina. At a time when we are supposed to be in a serious economic crisis, when engineering workers, London teachers and NALGO workers are being told that there is no money in the country, there is £50 million for the Chatsworth Estate Trustees to spend on a yachting marina.
The exposure which I made in the debate on the Queen's Speech, on the first day we got back, received a great deal of coverage, not merely in the national Press, but also in the local Press, particularly around Eastbourne. It was as a result of my remarks being reported in the Press that certain people on the South Coast wrote to me on the matter. The first letter I received was from a man in Eastbourne who was very concerned about the marina itself. He said in his letter:
I am enclosing an extract from the Eastbourne Herald of 16th March referring to a proposed yacht harbour at Langncy Point, Eastbourne. I should like to point out that Sussex River Authority completed, a few months ago, a ramp re-enforcement programme to prevent sea encroachment at a cost of £40,000.
That is what is known as reclaiming land.
This proposal is for a harbour on the landward side of this recently completed work thereby eroding a large area of what could be future land for building purposes.
The writer was there referring to the proposed marina.
Over the past 5 years hundreds of houses have been built on adjacent land of a similar nature. I raised three questions with the local authority, (1) What increase in the present underground level of water would this project have, (2) What provisions for any increase in pollution and its effects, and (3) What impact on the rates locally. I am enclosing the reply.
The reply is from the Town Clerk of Eastbourne, who at the time was Mr. Dartnell. The letter from the resident in Eastbourne goes on:
The initial intention was to build on the sea-ward side a marina and on the land side according to the residential deeds which includes projected planning, an air-strip was contemplated.
I would add that I am surprised that with the scarcity of building land, and where efforts are made in some areas for reclamation, an erosion backed by such a vast amount of money should have almost reached parliamentary approval.
The writer is referring to the fact that a Private Bill is going through the House of Lords at present. It will at some stage reach here unless some of the other things I shall refer to put a stop to all this caper.
The writer sent me the reply from the town clerk which states:
Planning Application … Proposed Harbour on the Crumbles.
I thank you for your letter of the 11th of February which I will report to the Council's Town Planning Committee when they are considering the application. I am asking the Borough Surveyor for his comments on the point you make concerning the underground level of water.
However, I can confirm that this project is entirely private"—
it is private all right.
(it is to be carried out by the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement who have formed the Eastbourne Harbour Company) and no expenditure is being incurred from the rates. It is, of course, appreciated that there will be a considerable added burden on the services which Local Authorities provide in the area, but it is thought that this will be offset by the increase in rates which would accrue from such a development.
The resident also enclosed two newspaper articles referring to the matter, but I will not bore the House with these.
The Duke of Devonshire got out a Press statement in which he said that it was not he personally but the Chatsworth Estates that were responsible, and it was as a result of that that I became more than a little suspicious about what was taking place. I decided that I ought perhaps straight away try to find out what was really concerning some of the people of Eastbourne regarding this matter and as a result of further inquiries I received this most startling letter—
I say at the outset that I have no association whatsoever with the development company to which I shall refer. When I spoke to the managing director on the telephone this morning I made it abundantly clear that I wanted nothing to do with him. He said that he was a Tory, a disillusioned Tory, and his political views were the exact opposite of mine. He was much concerned about the nationalisation of land proposal which I suggested had gone up another rung on the ladder as a result of recent revelations, and which might go up yet another rung as a result of what I am about to say. When I get to the letter, which hon. Members seem anxious to hear —
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I have not the advantage of having been here when he began his speech and therefore, as yet, I have not been able to discover why he is making this a point regarding the Adjournment.
The reason why I think it is necessary for me to speak in the Adjournment debate is that I want my right hon. Friend to take full account of what I am about to say—the more juicy bits—and then to see that there is a full-scale departmental inquiry. Perhaps in a way I might be speaking for some other people who are not supposed to be here, up at the other end of the Chamber, so that they can send 26 reporters hurrying and scurrying down to Eastbourne to try to get the full details of the story.
I told the managing director that I would not in any way assist him in any of his developments but that I would read out the contents of the letter he had sent me. He would then presumably follow that up as a result of the newspaper or departmental inquiries that would obviously ensue.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Before the hon. Gentleman reads the letter may I inquire whether during this debate it is open to any hon. Member to debate any matter or whether they have to refer to certain matters which they would like to debate if the House were not to rise for the Easter Recess?
Order. A wise hon. Member will make sure that his speech refers to the reasons for rising or not rising on the date proposed. No doubt the hon. Gentleman is about to come to that point.
I thought you were going to say that I was wise beyond belief, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That is not exactly true. I received this letter on 3rd April 1974. It was from a firm known as Gateway Developments Limited. It reads as follows:
Duke of Devonshire and Marina at Eastbourne."—
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman but it would help if, either from you or the hon. Gentleman, we could hear what is the relationship between these alleged revelations and the Adjournment debate. If the hon. Gentleman is able to speak in this way within the rules of order may I please go and collect some letters which I would like to read to the House?
I can make no promises of that sort. I must say to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that he must relate his remarks to the debate on the Adjournment, otherwise it is not fair to the House. Other opportunities must be sought if this is a general issue. May I remind the hon. Member that I underline what my colleague the other Deputy Speaker said about references to people in the other place. He has just announced the name of a noble Lord. I hope he will bear in mind what was said earlier.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was about to mention another duke who sits in another place and suggest that we might have a debate next Wednesday. That is a very good reason why we should not adjourn on Thursday. Perhaps my hon. Friend would care to develop that. Why should we not have a debate on the marina at Eastbourne, land reclamation and other developments by Lord Carrington and others next week? That is a very good reason why we should not adjourn.
My hon. Friend has put forward a novel idea. I want to get on to the real meat of the matter. I had referred to the heading of this letter:
Duke of Devonshire and Marina at Eastbourne.
This gentleman then goes on to say:
Having been away for three weeks, your remarks in the House as reported in the Daily Telegraph of March 13th and local papers, have only just been brought to my attention.
Your speech seems to have attracted a lot of criticism and suggestions that it was untrue to say that the Duke and the trustees of the Chatsworth Estates had Eastbourne Borough Council in their pocket.
I can give you convincing proof that the Duke does get planning permission in preference to fellow developers, like myself"—[Laughter]—"and that, over the last two years he has received planning permissions worth about £2 million in preference to other developers.
If you are sufficiently interested …".
He then suggested a meeting in which I did not take part. I rang the gentleman. His letter goes on:
I must tell you that well before your justified public criticism, our company had been in touch with Mr. Rippon"—
he is referring to the former Secretary of State for the Environment—
and the Department of the Environment on this very subject.
At a public inquiry held at Eastbourne in January 1973 the inspector, in our opinion, deliberately hushed up our allegations, and after 18-months' wait, our application for"—
Order. That is not a point of order. The House is making a rod for its own back. If the hon. Gentleman relates his argument to the motion for the Adjournment, it will help everyone.
Let me emphasise that this week the topic of discussion in this place, in the Press and the media generally has been land, land and land again. Today I am raising another matter dealing with a subject of a scandalous nature, if this letter is correct—something on a far greater dimension than anything we have discussed in the past few days. Whatever attempts are made in this House to gag me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I can assure you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I will make it abundantly plain to everyone what is in this letter. I am using my rights in this place.
Order. I am not attempting to gag the hon. Gentleman. He must seek other opportunities to raise this matter unless he can relate it to the motion for the Adjournment. I must insist that the hon. Gentleman relates this to the Adjournment motion.
I am demanding, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there shall be a full-scale departmental inquiry into this matter, maybe even a Select Committee, to establish the real facts before the House adjourns. To make the point I have to relate the facts as I have them here. I do not know what the situation is with regard to this development but I have correspondence which clearly sets it out, and the House, if it had anything at all about it, would want to know what was in this correspondence.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) a few moments ago said that during the last few days the House had been discussing land speculation. On a point of accuracy, has not the House been discussing the hypocrisy of Labour politicians?
I am rapidly coming to a conclusion. There is an "operation cover-up" taking place on the Opposition side of the House.
The letter continues:
At a public inquiry held at Eastbourne in January 1973 the inspector, in our opinion, deliberately hushed up our allegations,"—
that is, the allegations of the company—
and after 18 months' wait, our application for housing and light industrial permission was refused. This refusal was on land in the same field as land belonging jointly to the Chatsworth Trustees … and Eastbourne Borough Council which had been sold for housing in December 1972.
Our application for warehousing and light industrial permission on this land (at Lottbridge Drove, Eastbourne) was also refused, one of the main excuses being that warehousing did not
employ many people. A few weeks after this refusal, the Duke and the Chatsworth Trustees (whom one must identify as one)"—
those are his words, not mine—
received planning permission for 16 acres of land in Lottbridge Drove for warehousing.
On my writing to the Duke on these matters and accusing him and the Chatsworth Trustees of receiving preferential treatment in the matter of planning permissions whilst standing by and watching other people receive (what were in my opinion) prejudiced refusals, their solicitors, (Curry and Company), threatened to sue me for libel. On my giving them the name of my solicitors to accept service on my behalf they withdrew, saying that they begged to differ with me but that our mutual correspondence should now end.
Re the 16 acres of light industrial (warehousing) land (for which the Duke received planning permission …), the Duke made a speech which was reported in the local papers, in which he said the industrial development in Eastbourne should really be confined to him and the Chatsworth Estates … because his family had developed Eastbourne in the best possible way for many years.
To my astonishment, a few weeks later, I found that this 16 acres was for sale again, and it was sold (I believe to Town and City Properties)"—
which is now in the process of a reverse takeover by Sterling Guarantee Trust Limited—
for about £50,000 an acre.
Our companies were therefore left in the position of having no release on our housing land, and no release on our light industrial land, while the Duke had the lot.
That is the letter I received from Gateway Developments Limited, signed by the Managing Director, A. H. Mendelson, whom I telephoned this morning to confirm the contents of the letter. I have also telephoned his solicitors, to whom he referred in the letter, and they have confirmed everything that he reported to me. Mr. Mendelson said that he had been trying to get the matter raised with the Department of the Environment and the then Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), and that this affair made the Poulson affair look like a Boy Scouts' jamboree.
That is the background, and those are the facts as they have been reported to me. I call upon my right hon. Friend to set up an inquiry, the biggest that can be mounted. I suggest to the media that they have a national and public duty to get down to Eastbourne with all their paraphernalia as quickly as possible. If the Press is as impartial as it has suggested during the past week, it has a public duty to sort out exactly what has taken place in Eastbourne, how many people are involved in this scandal, whether local authority officials and councillors are involved and to what extent the Chatsworth Trustees and the Duke of Devonshire are involved. All these questions need a public answer, and that answer must be given with the greatest possible speed.
I hope that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will allow me to change the subject—which may be a relief to some hon. Members.
The House should not adjourn for the Easter Recess until it has considered the dispute between Government scientists and the Civil Service Department. I have raised this subject on several occasions. Today the Pay Board has made a report, and I wish to speak only briefly to draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the position.
For some time scientists in the Civil Service have been frustrated and angry, and much concern has been expressed on both sides of the House about this. Paragraph 19 of the Pay Board's report contains important information on the widening discrepancy between the administrative grades and the scientists in the Civil Service. In 1971 a Principal Scientific Officer was at parity with the administrative grades. He is £880 per annum behind the administrative grades, as at 1st January 1974 when the stage 3 increase was introduced. The Higher Scientific Officer is now £731 behind the administrative grades.
The formula suggested in the Pay Board's report is rather obscure. It suggests a return to internal relativities and also suggests that the salary of the Principal Scientific Officer should not differ by more than 5 per cent. from the salary of the principal grade. It will take a long time to implement the Pay Board's report and there is need for an immediate increase here to make up the discrepancy.
The dispute has been going on since 1971. I am not suggesting that that is the fault of the present Government. I have spoken many times about it, in both the last Parliament and this Parliament. I have seen the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Employment, and he would, I believe, be prepared to discuss the matter with the scientists and the Civil Service Department. Consent machinery is available under stage 3. Should not this be implemented as quickly as possible, because otherwise the Pay Board's report will take months to implement?
The hon. Gentleman has an honourable record of criticising the Conservative Government on the same grounds. I therefore ask in a gentle spirit: what is being asked for by the hon. Gentleman that is different from my hon. Friend's reaction to me this afternoon on the Pay Board report?
As I have not seen the answer to the question I am unable to reply to that. Had I done so, I should have tried to advance some constructive suggestion.
I should like to see the Civil Service Department and the Institution of Professional Civil Servants get together round the table, possibly with the Secretary of State for Employment intervening. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will take note of my remarks before the House adjourns for Easter.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As a new Member, may I seek your guidance? Is it the custom of the House that when an hon. Member seeks to raise a matter which relates specifically to the constituency of another hon. Member, he should give notice of his intention to the hon. Member whose constituency is referred to?
Secondly, is it the custom of the House that when an attack is to be made on a Member of another place notice is given to that Member of another place? Thirdly, since my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) was directly criticised a few moments ago, is it not the custom of the House that notice should have been given to him?
Three questions have been asked of me. The answer to the first is that it is a matter of courtesy, but it is not contained in any Standing Order, whether hon. Members send notes to each other that they are about to raise matters concerning each other's constituency. Secondly, I heard no attack on a noble Lord in another place. If I had heard anything which I thought to be a personal attack, I would have pulled up the hon. Gentleman concerned. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was referring to the Chatsworth trustees—
The point of order put to me related to whether there had been a personal attack on the noble Lord. I interpreted it as criticism of the trustees, and I do not know who the trustees are.
I appreciate that in this debate an hon. Member is not allowed to argue the merits of a case but must adduce reasons for saying that the House should not adjourn. I should like to put forward two reasons. First, if we were to adjourn I should not have the opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your appointment to the office which you now hold. Since we have been compatriots for 30 years, I have great pleasure in offering my congratulations to you.
I know that an hon. Member must never bring the Chair into debates, and I shall not attempt to do so. If I were to do so, I can say with confidence that the subject that I wish to bring to the notice of the House would have the approval of the present occupant of the Chair. I know that I must not bring the Chair into debates, but I know that I can call in aid my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House since in the past he has been an hon. Member of the honourable profession which I now wish to mention. I refer to the teaching profession.
I do not want the House to adjourn for such a long period of time while we have before us the grave and serious situation in London with regard to the teaching profession. If we were to adjourn, I should not have the opportunity of reminding my right hon. Friend and the Government that—although I appreciate that it is not the Government's fault and that they have no responsibility for the present shocking situation—a state of affairs has been allowed to grow up which has been accentuated by the dilatoriness and maladministration of the Conservative administration. However, since a Labour Government have taken the reins of office, they have been left to hold the baby.
It must be emphasised that in London that "baby" is in a very serious condition. In my constituency of the London Borough of Newham, every day of the week 900 children are unable to obtain full-time schooling. This breaks the terms of the Education Act, and therefore the Government are responsible for breaking it. Furthermore, in my area there is a shortfall amounting to a total of 63 teachers, and a large number of children have to be "bussed out" to neighbouring areas.
It would have been extremely helpful in this debate to have had present in the Chamber my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. My right hon. Friend must know all about this serious situation, although I do not blame him because the Labour Government in the last three or four weeks have done a wonderful job. I do not expect them in that short time to right all the wrongs and troubles created by the Conservative Government in their three years of office.
It must be said—and again I am not going into the rights and wrongs of the matter—that the Conservative Government allowed a number of Ugandan Asians to come to this country and that that policy had the support of all parties in the House. However, the Conservative Government did not take adequate precautions to see that those people were evenly spread throughout the country. That Government issued a pious appeal asking those people not to go to red areas. That was obviously a stupid comment to make because those poor devils obviously went to areas where they had friends and relatives. They went to areas such as Newham, Southall and Leicester —areas where their relatives were living. This made a serious situation much worse and it has led to many children being put in a position where they are not receiving full-time education.
There are many reasons for the present situation, although in this short debate I wish only to touch upon the question of the London weighting allowance. I wish my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to bear one important matter in mind. The Labour Government are against phase 3 and also against the Conservative Government's prices and incomes policy, but the Labour Government are now actively carrying out a policy in which they do not believe. We are told that they can do nothing about the London weighting allowance because they are waiting for the report of the Pay Board—a report that is not due until June. I am not concerned with what the Pay Board may or may not be considering. Those well-paid gentlemen on the board may take a long time to come to a decision, but I do not think the Government should worry about that decision. The Government do not need to wait until June for a report from a board which they do not support and in which they have no confidence.
The matter which I am raising has far wider effects than the situation affecting the teaching profession and school children, bad as that situation now is. We now face a situation where the whole of London government could come to a standstill. At this very moment town halls are virtually shutting up shop. It is almost impossible to telephone some town halls after five o'clock in the afternoon, and this is a very serious matter.
If one of my constituents who is an old-age pensioner or a disabled person requires some urgent attention, what am I to do? I cannot get the advice of a Minister because Parliament is in recess, and I cannot get hold of any officials in the town hall because the local government officers are not working. I do not blame those officers. Why should they be treated in this way? Other people can obtain what incomes they like, with no restrictions and no holds barred. The Leader of the House knows that I gave to the Conservative Prime Minister hundreds of examples involving company directors who, year in and year out, doubled and trebled their salaries in contravention of phases 1, 2 and 3 However, the then Conservative Prime Minister deliberately refused to do anything to remedy that situation, and that applied to all his Ministers.
I am now seriously considering refusing to vote on any matter at all in this House until something is done about the situation. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) to laugh, but this is no laughing matter. The hon. Gentleman may have been lucky enough to have had a good education, and probably his children are receiving a good education too. No doubt he has the money to provide that education, and he may well have cause to laugh. However, I do not regard it as a laughing matter that children are being deprived of educational opportunities.
I expect to hear sneers and jeers from well-paid Tories, but I am trying to raise the plight of ordinary working-class children—some of them immigrants—in my constituency who are just not being given the opportunities they deserve. I am seriously contemplating telling my right hon. Friends the Leader of the House and the Labour Chief Whip that I shall refuse to cast my vote on any matter until this situation is put right. It can be put right.
That brings me to my next point. We do not know what is happening about mortgages. We are getting Press statements and leaks. We are hearing suggestions and hints that the Government may lend hundreds of millions of pounds to the building societies in order to enable them to grant mortgages to would-be house purchasers. Unless we have a chance to debate this, we shall not know the truth. I am not saying whether the proposal is good or bad. I should prefer the Government to release some of the assets which the building societies have to keep in liquid reserves and to allow the societies to use that money for mortgage purposes. But if the Government can lend hundreds of millions of pounds to the building societies, why cannot they give a few million pounds to my school teachers and enable them to take jobs in Newham rather than go for the better jobs in areas such as Bournemouth, Boscombe, Bath, Eastbourne and such places?
We are suffering in a number of ways. Our teachers have classes of 60 and 70 children. They have immigrant children, and they have to learn four or five languages. Their classes are overcrowded. They cannot get houses. As a result, they will not take the jobs. I suggest that if the Government can lend this money to building societies, they can make some available to areas which are now hard pressed because of the low level of the London weighting allowance.
There are one or two other matters which need emphasis. One of them is that our Labour colleagues on the GLC are equally worried about the situation. As for the present shortage of teachers, that assumes a greater dimension than just the rewards to teachers. There is acute parental concern, and all that is needed is an interim monetary arrangement to create a sweeter atmosphere.
My hon. Friend has stolen my thunder. I hope that his local paper picks up his intervention because he has campaigned about this for a long time. He ought to get the credit locally that he deserves. Not only does the GLC support my hon. Friend. Every local authority in London wants to pay the money.
I cannot understand why this Government should do the dirty work of the former administration, whose policy was disowned by the electorate. This Government appear to be carrying out that despicable policy of the former Government which is the cause of the present situation.
As I said just now, I am seriously considering refusing to give my vote to the Government on any Division in this House. What is more, I am contemplating starting a campaign among all London Members urging them to withhold their votes from the Government until something is done to put right this serious wrong.
This situation becomes even more serious when one remembers that it is in the week after Easter that the Inner London Education Authority and the outer London boroughs will begin to recruit new teachers from colleges. No young teacher leaving college can be expected to teach in London without some certainty about the London allowance, which we are not being given at the moment.
I think that my hon. Friend has put the position very clearly. He was a teacher and he can probably deal with this matter much better than I can. I hope that others of my hon. Friends will take up the point.
There is another matter which we shall not be able to debate if we adjourn on Thursday. Today on the one o'clock news I heard a disgraceful announcement. I anticipate the laughter which I know will come from the Opposition benches. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite can laugh because the news item to which I refer means nothing to them. I heard that tomatoes brought into Covent Garden were being sold in the market for 50p a pound. It was said that lettuces were only—only—l5p. The commentator said that the price of salad stuff was being forced up deliberately, and it was boasted that prices were always increased at weekends, especially just before Easter.
This is a situation which should not be allowed to continue. I shall not deal with it in detail now. I hope to raise it later in the day when we consider another item on the Order Paper. However, I ask the Leader of the House to watch the situation carefully. I do not intend to allow our Government to carry on as the previous administration did, making excuses for a continuing situation of this kind.
Earlier in my remarks I made a brief reference to mortgages. I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell the House what is to happen about mortgages. Will there be an announcement? Do the Government intend to lend money to the building societies? I hope that, rather than making loans or granting capital to the societies, my right hon. Friends will temporarily amend the Building Societies Act which says that societies must keep so much of their assets liquid. Let us have a system whereby for a period the banks underwrite the liquidity of the building societies and let the societies use some of their £2,000 million of reserve for mortgage purposes. I do not see why that cannot be done to help overcome the present mortgage difficulty.
Another matter that we shall be unable to discuss if we adjourn for such a lengthy period concerns the serious situation which will develop in coming weeks in the engineering industry. I do not intend to go into details or to touch upon the sub judice issue. But I am amazed how we in this House, where almost every other Member is a lawyer, continue to tolerate a legal process in which it can take months and even years to bring cases before the courts but where, if a matter arises which affects workers in trade unions, cases can be dealt with speedily resulting in the most vicious fines and penalties. In such cases, action can be taken almost overnight, but in cases involving criminal offences no one seems to worry. What is more, I can quote cases where criminals have been fined and have refused to pay their fines. No action has been taken. But if a trade union is involved, the full penalty of the law is imposed immediately and viciously and in many cases in a biased manner.
I hope that the Leader of the House will be very careful. If the Government propose to carry out the former Tory Government's policy of viciousness and vindictiveness towards the trade union movement, they will be heading for trouble.
I know that I must not attack our judges, but it is strange how many of them are Tories and former Tory candidates. It is equally strange how many of them seem to be biased against the trade unions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Smear".] I am not attacking any individual judge—[HON. MEMBERS: "Smear".] Generally it is true, and I know that it is true. I can produce evidence, although I know that. I am not allowed to produce that evidence—
Order. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis has been keeping the rest of his argument to his reasons why he feels that we should not adjourn on Thursday. If he will relate this point to his argument to the same question I shall be grateful.
I was about to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if it were not intended to adjourn on Thursday or if it were proposed to return earlier, I could have responded to the shouts of Opposition Members and given chapter and verse of where there is this bias. However, I have made my point. Everyone knows the facts of the situation.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is a more general one, and it will not be possible to deal with it in detail if we adjourn on Thursday. It concerns the lackadaisical attitude of Government Departments. In saying this, I am not smearing any individual. I am attacking the departmental administration. In doing so I must pick out the civil servants concerned. However, I appreciate that it is Ministers who are ultimately responsible. Therefore, I blame Ministers, particularly former Ministers.
I have three years' evidence on this matter, as have my hon. Friends. Having written to a Department, I found that it takes a week or 10 days to be told that the letter has been received. It takes another week or 10 days to say that the letter is receiving consideration and it is hoped to send a reply. Then, if one is lucky, after three or four weeks one gets a reply which is invariably that which one knew when first writing.
It is about time that we got Ministers to reply to letters written and matters raised by Members of Parliament with reasonable speed. If Members of Parliament, who are supposed to get priority, are treated in this manner, I wonder what happens to the ordinary member of the public. The ordinary taxpayer pays our salaries, including the salaries of Ministers and civil servants. It is disgraceful that one should have to wait as long as 12 weeks for a reply. It made no difference when I used to ask the former Prime Minister every week to deal with the matter. I got no satisfaction at all. He refused to get his Ministers to act.
This leads me to a point which I cannot make next week unless I oppose the motion.
I am just coming to that. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman raised that matter. I will deal with this point right away. I asked a previous Minister for the cost of the switch-on campaign during the election. Unless I can get the recess postponed for a week I shall not be able to raise this issue. I suggest that we should postpone the recess or perhaps come back a week early. If we come back a week early I shall be able to raise this issue. The issue to which I refer concerns being given false information by a Minister. Whether it was a previous Minister I am not sure.
However, the right hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) knows me well enough to appreciate that I do not care which Minister or party is in office. I go on the principle of the issue. I asked for the cost of the switch-on campaign. It was kept back. But on polling day I received a letter from the previous Minister saying that the cost was £750,000. The present Minister has informed me that the cost was £2 million.
The point is that for about five weeks I have been pestering Ministers to give me the facts. I think that five weeks is too long to be kept waiting to ascertain whether it was a previous Minister or the present Minister who misled me.
If the House goes into recess on Thursday, I shall not be able to raise matters in the House and I shall not be able to have matters dealt with by telephoning Departments. One just does not get any satisfaction. Three or four weeks ago I telephoned the Home Secretary's private secretary and asked him to advise the Home Secretary about certain matters that I wanted to raise on the Floor of the House. If I phone that same person tomorrow and say that I want to raise a particular issue on the Floor of the House next week, I shall not be able to raise it. We are being deprived of time during which we could raise important issues concerning maladministration and neglect on the part of civil servants.
It is the duty of the Leader of the House to look after the interests of Members, irrespective of their parties. I suggest that he must ensure that Departments do the jobs for which some of the staff are extremely well paid.
I assure the right hon. Member for Lowestoft that I certainly shall see and write to the present Prime Minister, that I shall raise questions on the Floor of the House and that I shall attack the Ministers concerned—I hope it will not be necessary—if they take 12 weeks to inform me that a letter needs a postage stamp. These are the kind of matters which should be dealt with quickly. Simple replies could and should be sent within a few days. Unless there is some improvement in this situation I shall try to create a stir on the Floor of the House.
I trust that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) will forgive me if I do not follow his line of argument. Clearly, time is getting short.
I want to return briefly to a subject raised earlier by a number of my hon. Friends—the agriculture industry. Before doing so, I should declare my interest in it.
There is a strong feeling of worry and uncertainty running through the industry. It is true of beef producers, of pig producers and of milk producers. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. James) referred to the fall in milk production in Dorset, but that fall is not limited to that county alone; it is nationwide. So bad is the fall that for the first time in post-war history, I imagine, there is a real danger and possibility that there will be a shortage of liquid milk supply by next Christmas.
My hon. Friend also referred to cheap beef flooding into the home market from Ireland. A look by any beef producer at the situation today in Ireland will reduce the British producer's confidence still further. Earlier today I was told that in Ireland last week no fewer than 50 per cent. of the cattle slaughtered were put into intervention. Yet in this country there is no intervention. What effect will that have when it is known amongst home beef producers?
On 25th March, following his statement on the meeting of the Council of Ministers in Brussels, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in reply to a question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), said amongst other things:
I am satisfied that this award and the proposals which I have put forward will give confidence in parts of the industry where there was some neglect.
I do not accept that there was neglect. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman clearly appreciated the need for confidence. Indeed, he emphasised this point
again in reply to a question that I asked when he said:
I believe that the industry needed confidence by the injection of a direct subsidy. I have done that with calf subsidy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March 1974; Vol. 871, cc. 42–45.]
Both those points clearly show that the right hon. Gentleman realises the need for confidence within the agriculture industry if it is to maintain its current rate of production, let alone to expand it. I should point out that the industry is maintaining its current rate of production only because of the encouragement given to it in the three and a half years of the Conservative Government. The fact is that, despite the Minister's desire to instil confidence, he has not succeeded.
Only a few days after that statement the leading article in Farmers Weekly of 29th March, under the heading,
Farming loses in Peart's roulette",
began: "Minister of Food"—Minister of Food, not Minister of Agriculture—
Minister of Food Mr. Fred Peart dealt farming a foul blow at the Common Market price review when he ripped market support from under the feet of beef producers.
A few days after that the President of the NFU sent a long telegram to the Prime Minister expressing the serious state of the agriculture industry, and among other things he said:
Confidence throughout the whole agricultural industry is now at its lowest ebb for many years.
The hon. Gentleman is fair-minded, and I have listened to him over the years. I hope he will think that I, too, am fair-minded. It may be because of their way of life and their constant battle with the elements, but does the hon. Gentleman accept that farmers sometimes tend to look on the pessimistic and gloomy side of life? Can he tell me any Government in which the farmers have had confidence? Is it not contrary to all philosophy and to what one might term attitudes to life that farmers often have more confidence in a Labour Government than in a Conservative one?
I do not for a moment accept the last point made by the hon. Gentleman. On the other hand, I agree that farmers tend to grumble. Because of that, when they are really in difficulty as they are now, their problems are not heeded to the extent that they should be. The fact is that the situation is extremely serious. We are concerned not just with the confidence factor in the industry but with, ultimately, the effect of a lack of confidence on the production and supply of home-produced food. If there is no confidence, there will soon be an increasing shortage of supplies. I am convinced that if the Minister does not make a statement—about beef in particular, but also about some of the other aspects of agriculture—before the recess confidence will deteriorate still further, and that could have an increasingly adverse effect on production trends.
I said earlier, emphasising what had been said by the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), that there is now no beef guarantee and no intervention. It is all very well for the Government to think short term and to rejoice in the possibility of lower beef prices to the consumer, but what possible good will short-term thinking do if, before a year or 18 months are up, there is a vast increase in the price of home-produced food and a shortage of supplies? I hope that the Leader of the House will express strongly to the Minister of Agriculture the need for a statement before the recess.
Turning from farming to industry, I rise to oppose the Adjournment of the House for the recess on the ground that we should not go away until at least inquiries have been started and a statement has been made into the problem of Japanese penetration into the ball and roller bearing industry of this country.
When I raised this matter at Question Time on 25th March, my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Industry confirmed that the NSK Company of Japan is to build a factory in the North-East of England for the manufacture of ball bearings. As one who represents a northeastern constituency and has constantly pressed for the provision of employment in the North-East I am not for a moment opposing the provision of jobs in that region, but I make the point that the jobs would be very much better provided by British rather than by Japanese industry.
The indications are that this could be the start of a process that could have grave implications and threaten the provision of jobs not only in the ball bearing industry in the North-East but in the country generally. On 25th March the Minister of State for Industry said in answer to my supplementary question about this factory that there was no question of competition with British industry and especially with the Ransome Hoffman Pollard plant at Annfield Plain in my constituency. I have to put it to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that that is not accepted by my constituents and that in that works, which are of crucial importance as they employ nearly 2,000 people, there is great concern about the future of this Japanese development not very far away.
I am to visit the works at Annfield Plain on 26th April to meet trade unionists and the management to discuss this matter, and I must have something to tell them. That reinforces my case that there must he at least an interim statement in the House before that date. I therefore oppose the motion to adjourn the House for the recess until such time as that statement has been made.
The development that is taking place in the North-East is following the classic pattern by which the Japanese penetrate the industries of other countries, and perhaps I may make three short points to substantiate that.
First, there is in Japan a highly protected home market, and it would not be possible, for instance, to build a British-owned factory there. Secondly, it has been the practice of the Japanese to select a particular line in the market in a country and flood that market with products at below the market price. That has happened in the ball bearing industry in this country.
Thirdly, the pattern is extended with the establishment of a Japanese-owned works with the object of providing a base from which expansion can take place to undermine and even destroy the native-owned industry. That has happened even in the mighty United States of America, where the great electronics industry of that country has passed out of the ownership of American hands. That is the threat that is presented to the ball and roller bearing industry. The development has reached its present stage as a consequence of the previous Government's folly in encouraging this type of Japanese development within Britain.
I understand that the present Government have come to some sort of an agreement—I presume with the Japanese company, but it may be with the Japanese Government—about certain conditions to be followed. I put it to the House that we should not adjourn until the terms of that secret agreement, whatever it is, are made public so that their value can be assessed by those whose jobs are threatened in my constituency and in the country generally. I must press my right hon. Friend to accept my view that a searching inquiry must be started and that a statement must be made about what proposals are in hand. Are the proposals in this agreement satisfactory? If not, what is proposed to contain this threat to a vital section of British industry?
I have no sizzling letters to read, and no great problems that must be exposed. I want to bring to the attention of the House some of the important and real difficulties being experienced by some rural areas. We need a debate and a statement on rural affairs. In particular, we need a statement from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Since taking office, the Government have taken certain steps that have caused considerable hardship in the rural areas. I do not think that the House should lightly dismiss the problems of these areas. Our numbers may not be large, but collectively we play an important part in this country's affairs.
The imposition of VAT on petrol has created an additional burden in country areas, particularly for those who must go to the towns to work. I should like to quote not a sizzling letter but just an ordinary constituent putting the problem to me and, therefore, to the House:
It is not easy to find work in this part of the world and one cannot pick and choose as one can, for instance, in London and the other big cities. On top of this, and maybe because of this, one is forced to accept wages greatly inferior to those obtainable in the rest of the country.
She says that the imposition of VAT on petrol has caused someone like herself considerable hardship.
The second problem is the increase in rates. It would be completely dishonest to say that there would have been no increase under a Tory administration, but the unfairness of their application causes people in rural areas great annoyance. This same constituent says:
As far as the incredible increase in rates is concerned … it seems grossly unfair that people who enjoy none of the amenities of their more urban counterparts and who have to exist on very much smaller wages, should again be penalised.
Talking of the small village in which she lives, she says:
… there is no public transport, no shops, no street lighting, no pavements and only very badly kept roads—I also have no main drainage. It seems that we are being asked to subsidise these luxuries for our towrr-dwelling fellow-countrymen.
This should not be dismissed as a complaint from one odd person; it is a real problem in rural areas.
Strange though it may seem, the announcement of a 30 per cent. increase in the cost of electricity will have a far more unpleasant effect in rural areas. Many of our small towns and villages in the South-West have no gas at all. Gas is not to be increased in price. Because these people rely solely on electricity they will have to pay much more for their power.
All this adds up to an increase in the rural cost of living which although it may be small to some people, especially those who can demand corresponding wage increases, to others makes all the difference between managing and not managing.
A far more serious blow to the rural areas under the present Government is the persisting doubt over the Common Market agricultural policy. One can argue about the merits or demerits of a deficiency payments system or of an intervention arrangement, but the present Minister of Agriculture has caused agriculture a great deal of uncertainty about the future. In a Written Answer last Friday, I believe, the right hon. Gentleman said that he did not accept that we should bring back a deficiency payments scheme or that we should bring in an intervention system. So farmers are left with no underpinning. A clear statement before Easter is needed.
Beef is a long-term product. It takes two-and-a-half years to produce a bullock. One can build 10 miles of motorway in less time. Beef production needs confidence; the required quantities will not be produced unless this confidence is given back and farmers get a fair return. Hon. Members opposite may say "Beef is too dear", but the facts of life are that farmers get roughly £18·50 a hundredweight while the costs of production are at least £21. The extra £10 that the Minister has given on the calf subsidy is not the answer.
My hon. Friend is quite right—it is at the wrong end.
The Minister needs to think again and state clearly his agricultural policy. Are we going back to deficiency payments, or, as I would like, will he honour the agreement over agriculture that the previous Government made with the EEC? At the moment, the Government have broken the transitional period arrangements, and confidence in beef production has gone.
There is no halfway house. Must the farmers have a further transitional period while the present Government make up their minds whether to accept the Community policy on agriculture, as we on this side have accepted it, or to revert to deficiency payments?
I accept the sincerity of the hon. Member, but is it now Conservative policy completely to accept the common agricultural policy? If so, since utter acceptance implies the amassing of a beef mountain to go with the butter mountain, why did the Conservative manifesto at the last election make no mention of the Common Market, let alone the CAP?
With great respect, and without wishing to be too harsh to a new Member, the hon. Gentleman has clearly shown how little he knows about agricultural policy in the Community. I am saying that we accepted the transitional arrangements. Certainly there is a need for a change in Community policy, but what we oppose is this vacuum in which the present Government are doing nothing.
Agriculture at the moment faces Community costs, and it needs a fair return to cover them. Agriculture is prepared to keep its bargain. The Minister should make a statement so that the agricultural community know what he will do. If he leaves it in a vacuum, the farmers will certainly suffer, but the consumers—the Labour Party gives the impression that it is interested only in the consumers—will suffer far more. We are interested in both farmer and consumer. There must be a proper balance and a fair price must be paid. It is important to see that the consumer has the material and the production that is needed to feed the nation. There may be some shortterm benefits in what the Minister is doing, but in the long term it will be disastrous for the consumer.
Mr. Frank Hooky:
The House has covered a great many topics in the past hour or two. The topic to which I refer, and about which I suggest that the House should not adjourn before some assurances from the Government of action on it, concerns the life and death of 7 million human beings. I refer to the terrible drought which is still raging in the Sahel region of West Africa. I should like some assurances that everything possible is being done by the United Kingdom Government to expedite the dispatch of the food, medicine and transport which will be absolutely essential in the next few weeks if thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of these people are not to starve to death or to die of disease.
I expect that some hon. Members will have seen the very moving television documentary which dealt with the starvation and famine in Ethiopia; but the situation to which I am referring affects not only Ethiopia but six other countries in Africa—Gambia Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad. They have—or had—a total population of about 7 million.
The problem is one of grave urgency and has been highlighted once again by serious reports in responsible newspapers in this country from men who are in the towns and villages where women and children are dying for lack of food and dying of disease. It is a problem of money, of food and of medicine, but, above all, it is is a problem of transport.
Towards the end of last year the United Nations, through the Secretary-General and other senior officials, made special appeals to the countries of Western Europe to take urgent action, by the supply of money and food, to help to alleviate this disaster, which is now moving into its eighth year. There have been eight successive years of drought in the South Sahara region of Africa. It is one of the major natural catastrophes of this century and has been described in the grimmest terms by the Under-Secretary General of the United Nations.
Unfortunately, although contributions were made by West European countries, including, I am glad to say, the United Kingdom, the requests for money, food and particularly the transport and logistics support for getting food and medicine to those who need them were not fully met. The United Nations appeal was not met to the extent which the United Nations officials have regarded as reasonable and necessary.
It has been reported that officials of the Common Market and of the United States made proposals as long ago as August 1973 with a view to bringing effective action, or some action, to bear on this tragic situation, but that their proposals were not acted upon by the Council of Ministers of the Common Market until about 10 days ago. In addition, there appears to be some evidence that the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has made serious miscalculations about the amount of food required—no doubt in good faith, and possibly based on inadequate information from the countries which need this help. This compounds the difficulty of the present situation and underlines the urgency for the British Government, obviously in concert with other Governments, to do their utmost to supply food and to supply the transport which will be needed to get it to its destination.
One of the particular difficulties of this situation is that there is a period of a few weeks in which road transport which can convey this food will be able to get to the more inaccessible parts of the Sahara where the food is most needed, but that within a certain period there will be rain in various regions which will prevent access. It will prevent the trucks from getting there. We shall then have to rely on a much less effective and much more expensive air-lift. Even if the aircraft can be found or if they are provided by North America and Western Europe, an air-lift is neither as effective nor as efficient as road transport. It is of the greatest urgency that the countries of Western Europe should make every endeavour within the next few weeks to see that trucks and transport are made available to carry food to the 7 million people who face famine and starvation.
I make only one suggestion in this respect. I am quite sure that the countries which make up the NATO alliance have available within their armed forces thousands of vehicles from which surely a few hundred could be spared to be sent on a humanitarian mission of this kind. I cannot conceive that it would in any way impair the effectiveness of the Western alliance if for a short spell of a few weeks military transport, whether from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United States or Sweden, was diverted to the humanitarian job of carrying food and medicine to thousands of people who are starving or dying of disease.
I make only that one point. It may well be that our Ministers can consider other means of bringing effective aid to bear in this tragic situation. But I consider that the House should not adjourn until some statement has been made by the Government as to what steps will be taken by them, in concert with friends and allied countries in Western Europe and North America, to bring help to people who are quite literally facing death by starvation.
I shall not follow up the remarks of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), although the whole House will have listened to what he said with great sympathy and support.
I also oppose the motion that the House should adjourn for the Easter Recess, but not on the grounds which have been most commonly advanced from the Opposition—although, if a Member representing an urban constituency may be allowed to say so, the points that have been made about agricultural policy advance a very strong case indeed. It is a question of which all hon. Members, irrespective of party or of the kind of constituency that they represent, should take serious note.
The House should not adjourn for Easter until we have had a debate or at least a Government statement on the increasing threat of terrorism in this country. We saw at the weekend the latest example of this threat in the explosions which occurred in London, Birmingham, and Manchester. Those attacks, together with the attacks which have occurred over the last few months, should be debated in the House as a matter of urgency.
We have become accustomed to the activities of terrorists and urban guerrillas abroad. We have seen them operating in the Middle East and in Europe—the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany, for example—and we have seen their activities and the destruction they cause in the United Kingdom, notably in Northern Ireland. However, there has now been an extension of these tactics and this kind of threat in Britain. The explosions at the weekend were coordinated attacks in London, Birmingham and Manchester. In other words, the threat can now be fairly said to be nation-wide.
It follows that the Government must have, and must announce, a policy to tackle the threat. The evidence that the intensity and strength of these attacks are increasing makes it all the more urgent for the Government to make a statement. Take Birmingham as an example. Unfortunately, the weekend attacks were not the first in that city. There were incidents last August, but in many ways the latest were the worst that have been experienced. The bombs on this occasion were three times the size of those used before. They were placed at strategic points in the city centre and they were designed to do the maximum damage and to present the maximum danger to life. It is remarkable that there were no injuries, and the credit for that must go entirely to the police in Birmingham and to the bomb disposal unit.
A clear threat has developed which this House must take note of. In itself, the existence of this threat is reason enough for an urgent debate, but behind it is the question of the policy to tackle the situation, and that, too, justifies having a debate. It is a threat which must be countered. We are entitled to ask the Government for their policy in dealing with it. It will not disappear. The day of the terrorist, the day of the urban guerrilla, is with us, and the Government must have policies to tackle that threat.
A statement of Government policy must include three essentials. First, the Government must make it clear that they will not be moved, that they will not be persuaded to change their policy in any way by these tactics. It is fatal in attempting to counter terrorists and urban guerrillas to give way or to open up the prospect of a change of policy. I do not suggest for one moment that the Government intend to do so, but they must make that absolutely clear and beyond all doubt.
The Government must examine as a matter of urgency the police policies in this area. It has been demonstrated that we are dealing with a national problem. It affects the Midlands and the North in the same way as it affects London and the South. However, our police organisation is essentially a local organisation. It is based on the cities and perhaps on the regions. There already exists, however, the means for securing co-operation between the police forces. The regional crime squads were formed with the sole objective of tackling serious crime which requires long investigation and where intelligence and the gathering of it are all important. The terrorist crimes fall exactly within the scope of the regional squads, and the Government should extend the operation of the squads to include detectives with responsibility for the terrorist activity.
There is a vital need to inform the public. In Birmingham, I regret to say, there was an inclination among some of the public in the city centre not to take seriously enough the warnings given by the police, not to co-operate swiftly enough in clearing the streets. The police have an extremely difficult job. It is all very well asking them to give full information on why streets should be cleared, but in an emergency it is not always possible to give full information. Fortunately, there were no injuries in Birmingham, but I cannot imagine a more dangerous situation than when the public feel that they are facing just another bomb scare which need not be taken seriously. That is a recipe for disaster.
There is a responsibility on the Government to get over to the public the clear threat posed by terrorism and urban guerrillas. The public must take the matter seriously. Maybe the public can give the information which is so necessary for detection. The responsibility rests heavily and squarely on the Government. Because of the threat which is now posed by terrorism and because of the urgent need for a Government statement, I oppose the Adjournment of the House and I press upon the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House the need for making that statement at the earliest opportunity.
I have only two points on which I should like some assurance from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House before I shall feel disposed to agree to the motion. Even if the motion is carried I assume that the Services Committee can sit during the Easter Recess.
I say that because a serious situation has arisen in connection with the car park in New Palace Yard. At the beginning I was a lone voice in the wilderness opposed to this fantastic enterprise. Now it is too late to fill up the very large hole in New Palace Yard. When the original estimate for the car park was submitted in July 1971, in a report of the Services Committee it was said it would cost £1·3 million. Last year I was told that the figure would be in the region of £2·4 million. I have every reason to believe that it is now much higher. A serious situation has developed in that a large part of the work, to all intents and purposes, has now been completed, but in recent weeks a colossal number of defects have been discovered.
I urge my right hon. Friend and the Services Committee to examine very carefully the schedule which is already being prepared showing the extent to which repairs have had to be carried out to remedy defects which have appeared in the structure. We were told that the car park would be completed by Easter, but one has only to walk into New Palace Yard to see how much more work remains to be done. I doubt very much whether this wretched car park will be completed by the time we go on to the Summer Recess.
I do not know who the chairman of the Services Committee is, but the car park position is so serious that the Committee should have a meeting during the recess to have a report ready for the House when we resume. There has been some delay in constituting that Committee. All kinds of curious hon. Members now sit on it. [Interruption] I am not one of them.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to show a sense of urgency in this matter.
My next point involves a kind of battle between two Government Departments over 74 acres of land owned by the Lambeth Borough Council at Shirley Oaks in Croydon. Croydon is under Conservative control and Lambeth is under Labour control. We have owned the land for quite a number of years. It is desperately needed for rehousing about 1,500 people. At a late stage the Department of Health and Social Security has butted in. The effect of its intervention is to stop the land belonging to Lambeth from being used for housing. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have a word with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and see that the Department of the Environment wins the battle.
There was an inquiry in December 1972 into Lambeth's appeal against Croydon's refusal to sanction plans for a housing estate at Shirley Oaks. We also wanted to put up some new children's homes to replace older Lambeth homes already there. In the meantime Croydon had granted outline permission to the South-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board for a 1,200-bed district hospital. At the inquiry the board said that it was considering another site nearby. Then that site was abandoned. The proposition fell through and the board revived its interest in the first site, belonging to Lambeth. The Minister for Housing and Construction in the previous Government said that the board's revived interest represented new evidence relevant to the appeal. There is a possibility that the appeal will have to be reheard or reopened, despite the fact that the original inspector has already reported.
It would be disastrous if, after all these years, the land on which Lambeth, with its desperate housing needs, proposes to build should be diverted, after the appeal has been heard and the inspector has reported, to an entirely different purpose—a 1,200-bed hospital which is not likely to be erected for many years.
I ask my right hon. Friend to bear in mind, first, the need to get the Services Committee to have a serious look at the construction of the car park in New Palace Yard, and, secondly, to see that plans to meet the desperate housing needs of Lambeth's citizens are not thwarted by the last-minute intervention of the South-West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.
There is one matter which has not been raised by any hon. Member so far in the debate and which, I believe, is a reason why the House should not adjourn. It should not adjourn while certain problems worrying the Army in Northern Ireland remain unresolved. In particular, they are the problems of Service men's pay, and the liability of soldiers to trial by civil courts.
Anyone who has visited Northern Ireland knows that the morale of the men in the Army there is wonderfully good about military matters. That must mean that the soldiers realise that they are doing a valuable and worthwhile job, and that it is only the British Army that prevents civil war in the Province. It must also mean that they realise that their regiments are doing a job as difficult and unpleasant as any the Army has undertaken for centuries.
I do not subscribe to the idea of pulling out the Army before law and order are restored. Those who make that suggestion fail to appreciate the dedication of our soldiers. To bring home the Army would be to break faith with the 200 or more soldiers who have been killed in recent years. The Army, with its won- derful sense of regimental cohesiveness, would itself say that it owes it to those dead comrades to stay and see the job through. The Army only wishes a freer hand to get on and finish the job.
I come to the subject of Service men's pay; the facts about this are quite clear. The Armed Forces' pay is reviewed every two years. The review was due on 1st April. Service men have been quite clear all along that their new rates of pay would be paid retrospectively from 1st April, but the details of the new rates have not yet been published. However, the Minister of State, in reply to a Question only this afternoon, gave only a qualified promise about retrospective payment. The House should not go on holiday and enjoy itself in the spring sunshine until the question of pay for our soldiers has been settled.
It is difficult to make direct comparisons between Service pay and industrial pay, because they involve so many statistics which are unsuitable to a debate of this nature. However, in October 1973, the latest date for which figures are available, the average weekly hours worked by adult men in industry were 45·6, including overtime, and the average industrial weekly wage was £41·52.
Most soldiers in Northern Ireland on their four months' tour are doing up to 112 hours a week, or even more, on duty. A private first class on scale B, which is by no means the lowest rate of pay—that is, a private who is committed for six to nine years' service—receives only £28·70 a week.
If we compare the dangers, we see that during the period 1969 to March 1974 the regular Armed Forces in Northern Ireland, excluding the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, suffered 211 fatal casualties and more than 1,000 non-fatal casualties.
As for "unsocial hours", the House should ask itself whether it is unsocial to patrol the Bogside in the middle of the night and whether it is unsocial for our troops to be absent from home continuously for four months at a time, with only three days' leave during their period of service in Northern Ireland.
A Government who pay so much attention to social justice and special cases must take note that Service pay has fallen very much behind, and that it must in all fairness be brought up to date. It has been said that a young pit miner can earn three times as much as a private soldier on active service in Northern Ireland.
Another matter worrying the Army is that soldiers on duty whose actions, for various reasons, have to be investigated or tried to have to appear before civil courts and not military courts. I appreciate that it can be said that it is to the long-term benefit of the Army that it be subject to the same law as others. I am not arguing otherwise: nor would the Army itself ask for special rights. However, when trials have to be held, I say that they should be investigated by military courts.
First, although the Army is acting in support of the civil power and is operating in an integral part of the United Kingdom, the conditions in which it operates, as the casualty rate only too unfortunately demonstrates, amount to active service. Army personnel in Northern Ireland are given medals as for active service.
Northern Ireland is an area of active operation for the Army and it should be declared as such. If legislation is needed, the Government should go ahead with it. To neglect to do so would be unfair to the Army.
Secondly, decisions must be taken instantly by young and inexperienced NCOs when on patrol in conditions of great personal strain and danger. The yellow card with which they are issued is a complicated document. I have a copy here. The card requires an understanding of military operations if it is to be interpreted properly. If a soldier is accused of acting incorrectly and not in accordance with the card, he should at least be able to feel that his actions are being tried and judged by military people who know what it is to be fired at.
If soldiers on duty under active service conditions were to be tried by courts-martial, their trials would be open to the public and the Press in the same way as a civil trial. The same witnesses, the same legal system and the same or similar rights of appeal would prevail. The use of civil courts seems anomalous when such courts try both soldiets who are defending law and order and terrorists who kill and maim voluntarily. Terrorists carry arms only for subversive reasons; soldiers are compelled to carry them in the line of duty. Whenever arms are carried, sooner or later people will be shot. In perspective, it is wonderful how so few soldiers are trigger-happy in the conditions in which they work.
I ask the Leader of the House to give an undertaking that the Government will take an urgent and a completely fresh look at the two aspects of the work of the Army in Northern Ireland to which I have referred, and will do so without waiting for Lord Gardiner's Committee. I do not believe that the House should adjourn for the recess wihout a clear assurance being given to the Army that these matters will be dealt with.
I desire to say a few words about a non-controversial subject on which I seek an assurance from my right hon. Friend before the recess. I refer to the implementation of Section 1 of the Chronically sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. The House will remember that the Act was brought into being as a result of a Private Member's Bill that was piloted through the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). I know that the House will be delighted that the Government, in one of their first steps, appointed my hon. Friend as the first Minister with responsibility for the disabled.
My hon. Friend's Act has been described as a charter for the disabled. Undoubtedly it would be so if implemented fully. Unfortunately, despite the many requests that were made, my criticism of the previous Government is that the implementation was far from pursued in any serious way. Section 1 puts upon local authorities the duty to establish a register of the disabled within their boundaries, thereby identifying who are the disabled. The importance of that section is that in Section 2 there is set out in detail many of the duties that must he performed by a local authority in assisting disabled persons.
The House will appreciate that to get a local authority to give the greatest possible service to the disabled within its area it is essential that Section 1 should be implemented as fully as possible. In other words, the register for the disabled should be as complete as possible. Disabled persons should be identified so that they can be informed of the services that are available to them. The previous Government took certain steps in that direction by asking local authorities by way of circulars or otherwise to perform that duty. Unfortunately, although some local authorities have done tremendously important and useful work, there are many local authorities that have largely failed to perform that duty. My plea is that my right hon. Friend ensures that steps are taken to see that local authorities carry out that duty.
How can that be done? It is a difficult task to identify the disabled. I appreciate that efforts have been made. I suggest that there are certain ways in which it can be done effectively. First, leaflets can be issued to every household in a local authority's area so that details are returned of who are the disabled. If it is suggested that that is too arduous a task, I am certain that many volunteers may be obtained from the various societies that assist the chronically sick and disabled so that the work may be carried out effectively. I understand that an effort has been made in that direction by some councils with satisfactory results.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning that. It is something that other local authorities should observe. Not only students; there are many praiseworthy societies that do immensely valuable work for the sick and disabled. I am sure that such societies could provide volunteers to carry out that task by way of issuing leaflets and by calling upon households so as to obtain details.
The fact is that far more can be done. I urged the responsible Minister in the previous Government to recognise that there was another way that would be most effective. That Minister went on television to speak generally about what had been done for pensioners over 80 years. What had been done for those people was desirable and praiseworthy, but it involved only a small number. I urged the Minister that it was essential that he should appear on television, talk on the radio and write in the newspapers so as to acquaint every disabled person with the necessity to register so that the information could be given and the necessary service provided.
I ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that steps are taken in that direction. We now have a Minister with responsibilities for the disabled. We of the Labour Government, like Opposition Members, have the utmost concern for the disabled. We are making a major effort to assist them in every way.
It is not just a question of assisting by giving cars. There are many other disabled who can be helped in many other ways—by outings, lectures, help in the home, telephones, and so on. But first we must identify them. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will see that someone such as, for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe, can go on television, or speak on radio and appeal to the people to see that the names appear on the register of the disabled so that we know who they are. I make this earnest plea, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will ensure that practical further steps are taken to assist the disabled in this way.
Of the many reasons why the House should not rise this week for the Easter Recess I pick out three. They are all very important. If I speak on them briefly it is only because I know a large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.
The first of the three reasons has already been mentioned by hon. Members, especially the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop). This is the situation affecting Concorde. I hope that the Leader of the House will understand the desire of the House to have more clarification of the position of the Concorde project before it accepts this motion.
In particular it would be very helpful if the right hon. Gentleman made it clear to the Secretary of State for Industry that we wish to have an early statement about the operational figures, and the discussions which have been going on between the Government and British Airways. Would he ask the Secretary of State to try to single out from British Airways' figures those which refer to the operational costs of Concorde itself? Would he make it clear to what extent British Airways' figures relate to the corporation's belief that the very success of Concorde might have an adverse effect on demand for its Jumbo fleet?
I re-emphasise the point, made by the hon. Member for Newark and others, that what we are concerned with here is not just a single aircraft project but the future of the British aircraft industry as a whole. Earlier today we had Questions about the multi-rôle combat aircraft and the need to get it as early as possible into service with the Royal Air Force. There would be little prospect for it and for its secure future in service if the position of the British aircraft industry were damaged by an interruption in the Concorde project, which opens out the new supersonic era.
The second reason is the rates, and the situation of people in the areas outside the major cities. The increases in rates which are affecting my constituents are very substantial. I know that this is not wholly attributable to the present Government and that many other factors are involved, but I ask the Leader of the House to realise that while we may be in recess our constituents will be getting rate demands which will cause them a great deal of anxiety and anger. Having seen the order of the increases I believe that those feelings are justified.
My last point is the order freezing rents. Could the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister for Housing and Construction understand what they are doing by the arbitrary application of the order in relation to small private landlords? It is sometimes assumed by the Labour Party that "landlord" is a definition to be applied as an opprobrious term to someone to whom otherwise it occasionally refers as a speculator. The right hon. Gentleman should know that throughout the country, and especially in a constituency like mine, many people of humble origin and limited means who own their own homes have subdivided them into flatlets and are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet.
Now the Government arbitrarily freeze their rents. This is hitting them especially hard at a time when, as every hon. Member knows, costs have been rising steeply—most especially, the costs of heating in the home. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give a sympathetic hearing to my plea on their behalf. No doubt we will have an opportunity to return to the matter before long, but it is only right that, before the House accepts the motion, we have a clear statement that the Secretary of State for the Environment will look with sympathy at the plight of these people, a plight which has been accentuated and exaggerated by the arbitrary decision of the Government.
On the question of the multi-rôle combat aircraft, raised by the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden), I ask the Government to apply to it all the scepticism at their command. At the recent Koenigswinter Conference in Edinburgh it emerged that the current price for the aircraft was 53·8 million DM per plane, which is about £9½ million. There was not a single informed German at that conference who thought that, within two or three years, we would get the MRCA for less than 75 million to 80 million DM per plane. The truth is that the figure which we were so often given for this carefully costed project— £2·2 million—has gone out of the window.
The costs of materials and of the guidance system continue to soar. There are many factors not within the state of the art, and it is becoming a very serious issue which all of us have to take into account. I draw the attention of the Government to the fact that its technology anyway may have been overtaken by the development of the SAM missiles. All I ask is that the utmost scepticism be applied to the MRCA project.
I want to raise a matter which is much less important. My only excuse is that, during the recess, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House can do something about it. I do not apologise for its triviality. It is the system of allocating tickets for visitors to this House. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House waste a great deal of time queuing and going round their hon. Friends trying to cadge tickets for the visitors we all have. If it were necessary, then of course we should do it, but the truth is that it is not necessary to have such a system.
I make no quarrel with the courtesy of the Serjeant at Arms or any of his staff. This is not an attack on the personal courtesy of the Serjeant at Arms. It is a request to my right hon. Friend and the Services Committee to look at the system by which tickets are allocated. At any time up to 3 o'clock one can, on looking up to the Strangers' Gallery, see rows of empty benches. This arises because there is a system of allocation of tickets and hon. Members, being human, tend to pocket the tickets and do not do anything with them if they do not need them. In a Parliament with fewer and fewer Divisions and in which, possibly for good reasons, many colleagues do not come as often as they did in previous Parliaments, many of the tickets may go unused.
I ask my right hon. Friend to look at a system whereby hon. Members would be allowed to apply on the days they have in mind for a number of tickets, up to three or four. If this system were adopted there would be a far more rational use of the tickets available. Such a scheme should be considered during the Easter Recess. With the interest which there is is in this Parliament we shall all be faced during the Whitsun and summer periods with requests from many constituents and visitors for tickets. It would be a great help if the system could be changed and rationalised so that maximum use is made of the seats available.
I also wish to raise with my right hon. Friend whether those seats which are almost perpetually empty, which are reserved for members of another place, should not after a certain period be given over to other visitors. It would be helpful for our working lives if this were done.
When, a good many months ago, plans for the Ipswich southern bypass were announced by the Department of the Environment they were greeted with the utmost relief throughout my constituency because of their enormous significance in relieving the grave effects of traffic congestion in the borough. This project is also vital for the country since it is one of our major trading arteries, but the plans affect almost every aspect of local life.
It was right that, with a matter of such importance, full use should be made of the Department of the Environment's new consultation policies which were announced under the previous Government, but it was unfortunate—indeed, the date was unfortunate in many respects—that an exhibition of the alternative sets of plans was arranged for 28th February. In the circumstances only a small part of the people of the neighbourhood managed to see the plans. Those were, as I gather, the people living in Nacton, which is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Stainton). Although 28th February may have had a happy ending for the people of Ipswich, in the shape of my return to Parliament, it meant a longer period of delay over the road project.
One of my earliest duties on returning to the House was to ask the new Secretary of State for the Environment what his intentions were regarding public exhibition of the plans. He replied that he would arrange an exhibition for the late spring, as soon as public exhibition facilities were available. I could have told him at that time where public exhibition facilities could have been available the next day.
I asked the Secretary of State whether, in view of the fact that the public exhibition of alternative routes for the bypass would not take place till late spring, he would give information about the three different sections of the road and whether he would give publication of the alternative routes, prior to the holding of the exhibition. This request was refused and I was told that the exhibition formed an integral part of the public consultation procedure.
I should like to know just what that means, because the exhibition date, which had been announced as being in late spring, has now been announced for June, which, even in the circumstances of the decisions, so far, of the present administration, seems a strange change of date.
The story does not end there. Bearing in mind that any delay would be a vitally important matter for my constituents. I put down a further Question to the Secretary of State for the Environment which was answered by the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment. I asked whether grants could be introduced for the provision of double glazing for residents in many roads which were hardest hit by the existing stream of juggernaut and other traffic from foreign parts, from Felixstowe and elsewhere, pending the construction of the bypass. I named a number of roads in Ipswich.
To my total amazement, and that of my constituents, I was told that the scheme was still at an early stage but that when the line of the route had been determined the aim would be to provide, before construction started, noise insulation where that was considered to be justified, and in line with the regulations made under the Land Compensation Act 1973.
This was not the relief for which we were asking. We were asking for relief for hard-pressed people in areas of Ipswich through which traffic at present passes because the Government cannot make up their mind. My constituents are particularly distressed because all kinds of other local schemes are suffering seriously due to the delay. All sorts of things are affected, including a transportation study and plans for zebra crossings.
Particularly tragic is the fact that two fatalities have occurred in Henley Road, in an area just off the bypass. Following these fatalities, involving young children, I asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he would review the applicability of his Department's criteria regarding the establishment of a crossing to be used by schoolchildren on Henley Road. The answer to this was "No". I was told in the reply that my concern about the matter was shared by the Minister of Transport but that a recent survey showed that a crossing could not be justified—even following the deaths of two children—on the basis of new criteria which would shortly be issued by the Department. All of this has caused a great feeling of frustration among people in Ipswich.
Over the period of six years when a Labour Government were previously in office nothing was done about the future of what was then the county borough. Almost every service we have and almost every aspect of the town's life suffered because some Socialist Minister kept plans for the future of the borough in his "in" tray in Whitehall and refused to make up his mind on the Vincent and Shanckland Cox Reports. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman interrupts from a sedentary position. I should point out that none of the delay affecting the County Borough of Ipswich occurred under a Conservative Government. [Interruption.] We seem to be getting further time-wasting interjections from the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis). It should be made clear to him that the delays on the Vincent and Shanckland Cox Reports arose during the period of the Labour administration.
I now return to the question which I was about to put to the right hon. Gentleman, who should have known better than to make such an interjection from a sedentary position. I hope he will take to the Secretary of State for the Environment the message that it is intolerable in these circumstances that people in Ipswich, the roads of which carry a vast amount of the traffic for the Haven ports, should now feel that the same sort of misery will occur for them again because we have a Labour Government or that the matter is merely going to be put off because that Government are not prepared to proceed as quickly as they can with implementing this vitally important scheme.
I am concerned that the House should not adjourn till an extremely serious matter has been dealt with so that it does not become even more serious while we are in recess. I refer to the announcement this morning that the National Industrial Relations Court has ordered the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers to pay a £47,000 fine and has said that if that fine is not paid by 29th April steps will be taken to take into custody the assets and property of the union to meet that sum of money.
We all recognise that the Government have made it quite clear that they intend to repeal the Industrial Relations Act. There are some of us who feel that speedier action should have been taken to ensure that the circumstances we now face could not have arisen. It seems absolutely vital that before the House goes into recess the Secretary of State for Employment should inform the House what exceptional steps he intends to take to avoid the serious situation which could arise following this decision of the court.
We have a number of industrial relations problems. Many of us with industrial relations experience acknowledge that quite often disputes give rise to strike action yet the subject of the strike is not the real basis of the discontent within the industry. A wage claim has been submitted by the AUEW. There are many workers, some within my constituency, who may feel prompted to take industrial action because they are discontented as a result of the response of the engineering employers to their claim. The circumstances are exacerbated by the decision of the Industrial Relations Court.
We could have industrial action in various parts of the country during the Easter Recess. I am sure that the Government would want to avoid such action. The only way it can be avoided is by the Secretary of State for Employment taking some urgent steps. I will not go into this at any greater length because of the number of hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. I urge upon the Leader of the House the making of some statement that will create a happier situation.
I oppose this motion, following a close perusal of the Prime Minister's statement to the House yesterday on the subject of land transactions. Any study of that statement and of the reaction to it in a number of journals this morning, not solely those which have been concerned in the writs and matters which have caused the House and the Prime Minister some concern, shows that there are many unanswered questions arising from it. In some ways I believe that the statement deepened the mystery. It would be im- proper if the House were to adjourn without having heard a fuller explanation from the Prime Minister of some of the substantial public issues involved here. If the right hon. Gentleman is unable to make that statement before the House adjourns, I should be happy to return before 29th April to hear his further explanation.
I make it clear that I am not interested at present in a statement concerning the allegations of forged signatures, because that is under investigation by Scotland Yard and it would be improper to demand a statement from the Prime Minister on that subject till the police have reported. Equally, I make it clear, in view of some of the remarks that the Leader of the House made last Thursday, that I am not concerned with the personal position of Mrs. Marcia Williams. For me, the major public issue raised by last week's disclosures and the one on which the Prime Minister has yet to give an answer is the use to which he allowed his private office to be put while he was Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition.
What emerges clearly from all the evidence adduced so far is that a substantial property development business was being run from his private office and benefiting from all the prestige which that private office confers. Let there be no doubt that it is property development and not just reclamation that we are talking about. If the Prime Minister sticks to the fine distinction which he sought to draw in the House last Thursday, he must be consistent and apply that distinction to to Mr. Field's own activities.
In this question there are really two Mr. Fields with whom we are concerned. The first Mr. Field is the gentleman who acquired a slag heap and sold slag for the building of roads and who, to judge from his own accounts, operated that business at a trading loss. There is the second Mr. Field who sought to dispose of the property at a fat profit, arising from the granting of planning permission and the provision of an access road by the local authority.
It is the conduct of this property development business from the Prime Minister's former private office in the Commons that raises several important issues of public concern. I believe that there is no property developer in London who could have wished to operate from a more prestigious address. All the evidence at present available points clearly to a misuse of parliamentary facilities here.
In his statement the Prime Minister said that he had known for some years of Mr. Field's business activities, which were perfectly legal and above board. But he has not answered the important questions, in my submission. Did he know that this business was being conducted from his private office? It would seem that he did, but we are not sure. Did he know that the gentleman whom he met and with whom he had a casual conversation about a golf club tie had come to his office to discuss possible land deals? If he did know, did he take or had he taken any steps to stop it? I am prepared to accept the Prime Minister's assurance that he had no connection with this property business.
Has it occurred to my hon. Friend that the issue of instant writs may very well have given certain people an opportunity to get hold of and destroy evidence which would be vital to the police in a criminal action and to those defending a libel action?
That is an interesting question, to which an answer will be given in due course.
Although I am perfectly prepared to accept the Prime Minister's assurance that he was not engaged in this property development business, the fact remains that it was operating from his private office under his patronage.
The mystery is deepened slightly by the Prime Minister's statement to the House yesterday in which he said that Mr. Field worked for two years as his office manager without salary. In the light of subsequent knowledge, that is not surprising. Indeed, it is arguable that Mr. Field should have been paying him rent. But Mr. Field, we are told, had little record of previous activity for the Labour Party. How did it come about that he undertook this rather demanding work quite free of charge? The Prime Minister said that he had long known of Mr. Field's business interests. Was it part of the arrangement leading to his appointment that he would be able to use the facilities of the private office to provide himself with an income? The House and the country have a right to know the answer to that question.
There are further questions that should be answered in connection with this affair. In the House, Members of Parliament and their staff have available free postal facilities provided at public expense for them to use in pursuit of their parliamentary business. Can the Prime Minister give a categoric assurance that those facilities were never used by those who worked in his private office in pursuit of their own business interests?
Furthermore, Members and their staff working here have the use of free telephone facilities, again at public expense, and again provided for use in furtherance of their parliamentary and constituency activities. Is it possible to have a categoric assurance that these free telephone facilities were not used by those working in the Prime Minister's private office in furtherance of their business interests and to make appointments here in that connection?
We have ample evidence of the dangers arising from this kind of arrangement, [Interruption.] If any hon. Member wishes to intervene, I will give way.
Order. I called the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) on the understanding that speeches would be short. There are still several hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate.
I shall be brief, Mr. Speaker, and I shall delete a substantial part of what I intended to say.
We have already had evidence of the dangers that can arise from this arrangement. I cite just one of the cases. The Prime Minister complained yesterday of a newspaper headline—"Wilson met land dealers". He fails to appreciate its significance in relation to the subheading that appeared under it—
Commons office used for talks.
Does not the Prime Minister understand that so long as his office was being used for these business purposes, he was bound to meet land dealers and clients engaged in it, and so add his prestige as Leader of the Opposition to Mr. Field's attempted transactions?
There have also been accusations of name dropping, but there was no need for Mr. Field to drop the Prime Minister's name to Mr. Philip Moore Clague, a property developer from the Isle of Man, when he came to the private office to do business, for Mr. Field could point to the Prime Minister working at the other end of the same room.
Surely, the lesson we draw from this saga revealed through the Press and by the Prime Minister yesterday is that the standards which are imposed upon civil servants when working for a Prime Minister, or the standards imposed on the Prime Minister's private staff in Downing Street, should also be accepted by those who work in the office of the Leader of the Opposition.
Some hon. Gentlemen on the Labour benches in their seated interjections have referred to my previous Press rôle. As the Press was attacked yesterday, I should like to make just one comment which must be made. Unless the free Press had inquired diligently into these matters and published all the evidence, as it was its duty to do, we should still be in total ignorance of the property development business which was being conducted from the Prime Minister's private office.
Does it not seem unfair to my hon. Friend that one of the papers to be attacked yesterday by the Prime Minister was the Daily Mail, yet the Daily Mail, apparently, had information about all the matters before polling day? Does it not, therefore, ill become the Prime Minister to attack the Daily Mail when, if those matters had been made public before polling day, it is highly unlikely that he would be Prime Minister today?
I wholly agree with my hon. and learned Friend. All the evidence points to the Press showing considerable responsibility in checking every aspect in which it was interested instead of rushing out the evidence during the General Election, which might well have had the effect referred to by my hon. and learned Friend.
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that there are many hon. and right hon. Members whose past connections, if sub- jected to the process of innuendo as has happened here, would cause them embarrassment, as happened to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) 12 years ago in the Vassal affair? Hon. and right hon. Members might have their careers blackened almost beyond repair by the processes that the hon. Gentleman is defending.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that yesterday, but surely my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was suffering not from Press pillorying, but from a bankruptcy hearing. That was a legally protected action and the Press naturally reported it, as is its right and duty. I agree that it had unfortunate effects on my right hon. Friend and his reputation, because he was unable to give an answer to the charges which were made.
I agree with my hon. Friend. The Prime Minister has sought to present Mrs. Marcia Williams as a persecuted maiden in this situation, although she is herself no stranger to the business of disclosures. There are two versions of the events which the Prime Minister detailed in his statement yesterday. If he has a legitimate complaint—and the Press is never perfect—by all means let a complaint be made to the Press Council, which can properly investigate it.
In conclusion, I say to those in power that a free Press can frequently be inconvenient, irritating or downright infuriating, but the Prime Minister must accept that in a democracy its inquiries are an essential part of that open society in which we all believe.
I have no intention of following the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner). Those who swim in the muddy waters in which he seems to find himself at home do little credit to their party or to the House of Commons. I recognise that my hon. Friend is a new Member of the House, but he is in danger of becoming a Conservative Member for Bolsover, or something on those lines.
I turn with relief to my real reason for wishing to oppose the Adjournment of the House on Thursday. It relates to the strange attitude taken by the Government towards the European Economic Community. The new Labour Government have sought in part to disentangle the United Kingdom from the EEC, and yet in some respects they wish to continue along the road of unison in Europe that was followed by the Conservative Government. Some hon. Members may say that this is no reason for opposing the Adjournment of the House for a much-needed Easter break. My point is that in some respects when the Foreign Secretary went to Brussels the other day he made it clear that this country will seek a major renegotiation of terms, and in other respects the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture has said that there are parts of the common agricultural policy which virtually will not be operated at all in the United Kingdom.
I am concerned that the House should go into its Easter Recess leaving British producers in a state of indecision which has not been equalled since the war. I refer particularly to British beef producers. Something must be done about this situation or we may be left entirely dependent on imports. We have already heard several speeches which have drawn attention to this problem from the point of view of the producers in the South of England, but I am sure that the rest of the country recognises that the best beef in the country comes from the Midlands, and in particular from Leicestershire. I wish to take this opportunity, on behalf of my constituents, to speak about the problems of beef production.
The production of beef is a long-term project. It takes something like two or three years from the birth of the animal to the time it goes on the market, and yet, for the first time since the war, the beef producers of this countries have had virtually no long-term encouragement at all. Until a couple of years ago we had the benefit of the Agriculture Acts of 1947 and 1957, which gave a form of fall-back guarantee. This meant that, however hesitant and uncertain the market, the producers had some long-term pledge to which they could work. The Conservative Government changed the situation, and our accession to the EEC has meant that support for beef producers has receded. Many hon. Members are concerned about the Labour Government's attitude to winding up the operations of the intervention board. This has left beef producers in Britain in a state of complete disgust over the situation. They cannot plan for long-term projects in the future. However low prices fall, the Minister has indicated that he will not reintroduce the guarantee or any subsidy. However low prices may fall, the Minister has said that he will not introduce intervention buying. Therefore, I should like the House to have an early debate on this important topic.
Action was taken by the Conservative Government within recent months in respect of other agricultural commodities, but neither that administration nor the present Labour Government should operate a stop-go policy on agriculture. I believe that a long-term solution could be reached in which produce found to be in excess within the Community could be bought up by the intervention board and redistributed, perhaps on subsidised terms, to pensioners in Community countries and to those on supplementary benefits. I feel that a long-term system was needed to cope with the butter situation which faced the Community some time ago, and this is a situation which may face the Community within the space of a few weeks on the question of beef production. Furthermore, it is a situation which may be faced over the commodity of sugar in the near future. I oppose the Adjournment motion because I believe that the House should take a couple of days in which to shake out this whole subject.
I support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) about the situation in the beef industry. It is a convention in this debate for hon. Members to give reasons why the House should not adjourn. On this occasion this feeling runs very strongly on the Conservative benches when we are dealing with the important subject of agriculture.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House will not reply to this debate in the customary way by saying that he will draw his right hon. Friend's attention to this matter. There is an urgent need for a statement on beef production before the House rises. I cannot remember a debate on the Adjournment motion in which so many hon. Members have spoken on the same topic. This has happened because we are all acutely aware from our constituencies and from the general situation of the serious problem that we face. It is our duty to give a clear warning of the situation since certain Labour Members appear to take a slightly lighthearted view on this topic. However, I believe that the penny is beginning to drop that the problem now facing our constituent farmers could soon be a problem that in nine months' or a year's time will face their constituent consumers.
Farmers are already anticipating the prospect of rationing. They expect rationing of cheese and of milk—and the situation will be worsened by the subsidy on milk which will further encourage demand when milk is likely to be short. There is also a real prospect of the rationing of beef. One has only to look at the figures of calf slaughterings to realise the effect that they will have on subsequent beef production. The figures point to an extremely serious situation. This problem must be taken seriously and action must be taken immediately.
A further acute problem that must be faced is that there is a drastic lack of confidence among farmers, who feel that they have been double-crossed by successive Governments. This is a joint responsibility of both Conservative and the Labour Governments. On our accession to the Community, British farmers were persuaded to abandon the old support system in favour of the new European system. They accepted the loss of the previous system because a new system was to replace it. However, what they now find as a result of the visit by the Minister of Agriculture to Brussels is that the new system has been abandoned and that there is no support system whatever for beef. I am not referring to any great pressure group, but to genuine concern among sensible level-headed people who are not given to emotive or excitable reactions to events.
I have never seen farmers so worried, and I am in no doubt that their concern about beef production in this country is genuine. Unless the situation is urgently tackled, it will raise enormous problems of supply. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) makes comments from a seated position, but he should recognise that this is a serious situation.
In rising now, I have no wish to stop others of my hon. Friends from participating in the debate. My remarks will be extremely brief, since I wish to make only one point.
A large number of my hon. Friends have asked that the Minister of Agriculture should come to the House before the recess to make a statement about certain sections of agriculture. This is very important, and I fully support the pleas of my hon. Friends.
The Minister of Agriculture has always had a good reputation with the farming industry and with the House. He is a man whom we all like and respect. I hope that he will take very seriously what has been said today and will not allow his Cabinet colleagues to over-rule him because their short-term political and electoral interests run contrary to the long-term interests of the country.
We are talking about the whole nation. We are talking about consumers and farmers alike. What happens in the next few months to British agriculture may affect what we have in the way of food for years to come. It would be a tragedy and a disgrace if, because of the need to keep down prices—which we can all understand and appreciate—nothing was done to help agriculture. We shall rue the day if we allow that industry to decline, as it has shown every sign of declining in past months.
That is why my hon. Friends have said that it is necessary for a statement to be made, especially about a guaranteed price or an intervention price for beef. I do not think that we shall be at all happy to go away for the Easter Recess until that has happened.
It is customary on these occasions for me to wish the Government—I used to wish the Opposition—a happy Easter Recess. The Government have been in office for the space of only five weeks, and they must be longing for the Easter Recess more than any other Government I have known. I hope that they will use the fortnight's recess to sort out the differences in the Cabinet over the Common Market, Concorde, and whether speculation is speculation or reclamation. I wish them a happy Easter. I can only hope that they will enjoy it in their country homes.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance. Does your calling the Leader of the House give any indication of your preparedness to accept a closure motion after the right hon. Gentleman has spoken? A number of my hon. Friends and I have been sitting here since 3.30, knowing that the Ten o'clock rule has been suspended, anxious to take a constructive part in this debate and not to engage in innuendo or smear tactics. In the light of that, I request respectfully that we hear some indication from you that you will not be disposed to accept a closure motion and thereby preclude the interventions of a number of hon. Members who, in my view, have earned some ticket to the debate.
I reciprocate the good wishes for Easter of the right hon Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), even though they were rather qualified.
There have been a great many speeches about agriculture, and I intend to devote the first part of my reply to them.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture gave a full description in his statement to the House on 25th March of the agreement reached in Brussels on the 1974–75 EEC prices. He emphasised that the special measures agreed for the United Kingdom fulfilled the Government's aim of ensuring that the price increases decided by the Council would not result in an increase in the prices of basic foodstuffs to the British housewife.
At the same time the difficulties of livestock producers have been dealt with by an increase of £10 per calf—that is, an increase of more than 100 per cent. —in the calf subsidy, and by the payment of a special subsidy for pigs in the next four months starting at 50p a score in the first month and dropping to 15p a score in the fourth month.
The United Kingdom beef market remains linked to beef markets in other member countries. That puts a floor on our market. With an additional £38 million in aid, beef producers will be receiving £100 million a year in direct support: calf, beef cow, hill cow and winter keep subsidies.
Beef production and the beef market are more robust than some commentators allow. The whole industry will not collapse because the Government have taken the option not to operate permanent intervention. It is economic nonsense and social injustice to take large quantities of beef off the market in order to keep the price above the level that the housewife can afford. The task of the Government is to hold a fair balance between the food producers and the housewives.
We shall watch the beef market carefully during the next six months. We are not prepared to forecast actual market prices in six months' time, but the Government have demonstrated their ability to take pragmatic action when necessary. There is a problem. It is a problem which we inherited. But, like all the other problems that we inherited, we shall do our best to meet it.
On pigs, the Government took action within two to three weeks of coming into office. We could not have moved more quickly, and I cannot answer for the tardiness of the previous administration. We think that 50p per score or £3·50 for the average pig is a valuable additional cash injection. There are those who say that it will not cover production costs, but these vary from farm to farm. With firmer prices in prospect, the decline in the breeding herd should end.
Market prices should strengthen, for a variety of reasons. First, prices usually increase during spring and early summer. Secondly, monetary compensatory amounts, or subsidy, paid on imports will be cut by a half at the beginning of May. The import subsidy on Danish bacon will be cut from £71 per ton to £33 per ton. Third, the recent reduction in the breeding herd will reduce supplies and strengthen prices later this year.
I appreciate that the cost of beef can be reflected in the shops and, therefore, that it is undesirable to increase the price of beef. But is my right hon. Friend aware that the big problem is the ever-escalating increase in the cost of feed? Is it not possible for the Minister of Agriculture to consider subsidising the cost of feedstuffs to our farmers?
My right hon. Friend has spoken already on this subject.
I turn now to the common agricultural policy and food prices. The recent decisions on CAP prices will have little effect on United Kingdom milk producers. The increase in the target price for milk will be reflected in a higher intervention price for skimmed milk powder. The Community intervention price for butter is unchanged.
The general butter subsidy has been increased in the United Kingdom to a new rate of £126·75 per ton, or over 5·5p per lb. This has operated from 1st April and nullifies the effect of the transitional increase in the intervention price for butter in the United Kingdom.
The question of introducing subsidies on cheese and possibly on other dairy products is still under consideration, and no announcement can yet be made. The increase in the price of milk for manufacture resulting from the CAP price decisions may lead to higher prices for milk products in general, but the Government have said that the prices of basic foodstuffs will not increase as a result of these decisions.
The returns of United Kingdom milk producers will be unaffected by the action taken to reduce the price of milk and to hold the price of butter and possibly that of cheese. The most recent decisions on CAP prices will also have little effect upon their returns, as these depend primarily upon the guaranteed price determined for 1974–75 by the previous administration.
I want now to say a little about milk supplies. Since last September the level of United Kingdom milk production has been running below that of the previous year. Concern has been expressed today about that matter. It has been suggested that profits are too low. However, there are many uncertainties about the situation. A better assessment will be possible perhaps after the spring flush and when the prospects for cereal prices after the 1974 harvest are clearer. I take seriously all the speeches that have been made on that matter and will refer them to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.
I turn now to the speeches made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) and the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden), who spoke about Concorde.
On taking office the Government found a situation on Concorde very different from that when we last had responsibility for the project and also different from that which had been disclosed publicly since. In view of the wide interest in the project, the many people concerned with its manufacture and the large sums of public money involved, my right hon. Friend placed the main facts before the the House on 18th March. This has enabled all who are interested to express their views before a decision is taken.
My right hon. Friend is currently engaged in discussions with the French Government on the practical choices open to the Governments, and these will be taken fully into account in arriving at a decision. I cannot say when the process of consultation with the French and other interested parties will reach a point when the Government feel able to make a decision. We fully recognise the need to avoid prolonging the period of uncertainty more than is absolutely necessary.
My right hon. Friend informed the House on 1st April that his discussions have been frank and cordial. He and his French colleague will be continuing consultations, but the House must realise that the presidential election in France may delay this process.
My right hon. Friend has also discussed the future of the project at first hand with many of those engaged in it, and a delegation, led by the Lord Mayor of Bristol, called on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 1st April. All the views expressed, as well as the views expressed by hon. Members today, will be fully taken into account by the Government in reaching their decision. I am not attracted to the proposal of setting up a Select Committee, but I shall certainly consider it.
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that if the Government are in a position shortly to make any further statement, particularly about the discussions that they have been having with British Airways on the operational figures, that statement will be made in this House?
Any statement will certainly be made in the House.
I turn now to what has been said on roads and a great variety of other matters.
The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) spoke about the approaches to Heathrow Airport. As I pass along that road at least twice a week I know the problem there. There is a powerful feeling about it in the West London area, and we recognise it.
The hon. Gentleman also spoke about hostility by the Government towards Maplin. There is no hostility towards Maplin. We simply want to be objective about it. However, if a decision were taken not to proceed with Maplin, this would have consequences for communications in the vicinity of Heathrow Airport. I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman's comments to my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Money) referred to a problem in his area. I realise the importance of the matter to the hon. Gentleman and his constituents. I appreciate the fact that this matter is holding back other projects, such as pedestrian crossings. It is a great pity that the hon. Gentleman tried to make party political points out of this human problem. He was not serving the interests of the people of Ipswich by treating the matter in the way that he did.
My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Tuck) referred to the Sharp Report. On 25th March my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services announced that the Report on Mobility of Physically Disabled People had been published. She announced that she would be considering all aspects of that report and would make a statement in due course. My hon. Friend the Member for Watford spoke also about nurses' pay. I appreciate his concern, and I will pass on his comments to my right hon. Friend. We accept that the increased charges to nurses are causing great concern. They came into operation on 1st April, having been negotiated through the Whitley Council in the normal way. The nurses received a pay increase within the limits of stage 3 from 1st April. My right hon. Friend is shortly to see representatives of the nurses' and midwives' Whitley Council staff side to discuss a number of problems connected with nurses' pay.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown) referred to the closure of the Beaverbrook Press in Scotland. I think that I can help him. He talked about the desire of the action group—a co-operative group of workers who are trying to set up a new newspaper—for Government assistance in a feasibility study. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Industry went to talk to that group this week, and he has reported to the Government. As a result, I am pleased to tell the House that we shall be able to help in this feasibility study. We will help in a small way provided that the body which conducts the feasibility study is acceptable to the Government and provided that we approve the scope of the study. Help with the feasibility study does not commit us in any way to any further help in the event of a newspaper being started.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) read some correspondence concerning Eastbourne. I am sure that he does not expect me to comment on it tonight. However, if he feels that he has some evidence, perhaps he will pass these letters to the Secretary of State for the Environment, who will certainly examine them.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, may I, as a new Member, ask for his guidance, in his capacity as Leader of the House, on the matter raised by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)? Is it not the custom of the House, and is it not for the Leader of the House to give guidance, that when an hon. Member seeks to raise serious allegations about another hon. Member's constituency he should give notice to the hon. Member concerned? Secondly, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the habit of making allegations in this House, with the privilege afforded by the House. when such allegations would not be repeated outside is to be deprecated?
On the second point, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman heard the speech made by his hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) rather later in the debate.
The hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) referred to scientists' pay. The Pay Board's report on Government scientists' pay is published today. It makes recommendations on the method by which the pay of Civil Service scientists should be determined In the terms of an exchange of correspondence at the time that the reference was made both sides agreed to accept the board's recommendations. We are now giving urgent consideration, with the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, to the action that should be taken.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) referred to the important matter of mortgages. Both he and the House will be aware that there has been a great deal of activity this week. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will be making a statement on this matter after Question Time tomorrow.
My hon. Friend also referred to London weighting. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment in his speech on the Health and Safety at Work etc. Bill explained that the law regarding pay is still part of the law of the land. Until this law is changed we are bound by it. Later today, if we get to it, we shall be discussing a Bill which, among other things, would give the Government power to abolish the Pay Board by affirmative resolution of the House.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment referred to London weighting in his speech in the House on 18th March. He said that the Government had urged the Pay Board to speed up its report on London weighting. He stressed that the problem was one which manifestly required independent examination, and he urged everyone concerned to await the board's report. My right hon. Friend subsequently saw a delegation of local authority employers and unions and explained why an interim increase would not be appropriate and the need to await the board's report. However, he did undertake to give careful consideration to their representations.
There has been some publicity and some statements today about the London boroughs' commitment to increase the allowance retrospectively. I am pleased to note that the GLC is opposed to any long-term commitment ahead of the Pay Board's report. We believe that it would be inappropriate to pre-empt the report. Such action could only make a longterm solution much more difficult.
My right hon. Friend's argument against an interim increase in no way means that he does not accept the real sense of frustration felt by local authority staff, or that he does not fully understand the problems that London employers are facing. It is not just a question of extra pay, although that is a factor. There are many other factors that affect a person's decision whether or not to work in London. On pay, the Government are committed to getting rid of the statutory controls that produced the existing state of inflexibility in negotiations, but it has never been argued that that can be done "at a stroke".
As the House will know, the Prime Minister met Sir Reginald Goodwin and some of his colleagues last Friday to discuss the problems facing the GLC and the London boroughs. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment met both sides of the teachers' Burnham Committee on 8th April. Both the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend undertook to consider the views expressed to them before reaching a final decision on this question and on the question of an interim award.
I appreciate what my right hon. Friend has said, but can he tell me something definite to help the 900 children who, every day, are not receiving any education? We are 63 teachers short, and I want to know what is to happen between now and June. I want these children in my constituency to receive education.
On the question of pay, I have already said that the Secretary of State has met the two sides of the Burnham Committee and leaders of the GLC, and he has promised to consider what has been said about the longer-term position and also about an interim settlement.
Both the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, West and the hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) raised the question of rates, and indeed there will be savage rate increases for many people this year. I believe that there are considerable problems in rural areas, and I do not think that any Government, least of all the previous Conservative Government, have adequately turned their attention to rural problems—housing, transport, sanitation, lighting, amenities and education.
There are these problems in rural areas, but they are not in the same category as those in the older inner cities where there are interlocking social and physical problems of immense proportion. It was for that reason that we decided to alter the distribution of this year's rate support grant, and I believe that that is widely understood throughout the country.
The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) raised the question of terrorism. This, unfortunately, has been developing over the last few years. It is not something that has started to develop during the last four weeks. The Government take an extremely serious view of the situation. We are paying a great deal of attention to measures needed to combat it, and we shall employ whatever policies and tactics are necessary for that purpose. I trust that we shall have the support of the Conservative Party in dealing with this problem, just as hon. Gentlemen opposite had our support during the last three years in trying to deal with it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Watkins) raised the question of the Japanese ball bearing firm. We were looking forward to getting this firm in Britain. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Industry, after meeting the trade unions, authorised a letter from the Department to the firm saying that the Government would welcome its establishment in Britain provided that certain assurances were given, but the firm—NSK—has not yet replied to that letter. I am not in a position to give details of the assurances because these are confidential. However, I can tell the House that one assurance was that the firm would set up its enterprise in one of the assisted areas. I think it is fairly well known that if it does so the firm will be established in Peterlee in Durham.
The trade unions concerned have expressed their agreement with this project, as did the TUC. The sole British owned manufacturer in the United Kingdom—Ransome Hoffman Pollard—is concerned that this development could lead to some difficulties for it. I am told that the Department of Industry is in close touch with RHP and is ready to discuss any problems that the firm foresees for the future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Lipton) raised the question of a piece of land, and I shall immediately draw this matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.
My hon. Friend also raised the question of the Palace Yard car park. I understand that the Services Committee is meeting for the first time tonight, and I shall draw its attention to my hon. Friend's remarks.
My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) called the attention of the House to the AUEW dispute with the NIRC. I recognise the great anxiety of all my hon. Friends about these developments. I shall pass on my hon. Friend's remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, but I assure my hon. Friend that the Secretary of State is already fully seized of this great problem.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley, (Mr. Hooley) raised the question of the drought and famine in Africa. In Sahel—that is the name given to the six countries in Africa—there is a total population of 25 million, and it is estimated that of that figure 4 million to 5 million are at risk as a result of the drought. It has already been announced in the House that we are providing aid in excess of £3·5 million and that, subject to parliamentary approval, a further contribution of £500,000 will be made to the United Nations Sahel disaster fund. The Minister of Overseas Development will be answering Questions on this in the House tomorrow.
The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) spoke about the Army, and raised first the question of Army pay. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will know that the Armed Forces Review Body is conducting a review of Service pay, and its report should be ready within the next few weeks. This is an independent body, and it is not, therefore, appropriate for me to suggest what considerations it should take into account, but I have no doubt that it will take full account of the important points made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I add my tribute to that paid by the hon. and gallant Gentleman to the Army for the magnificent job that it is doing in Northern Ireland.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) spoke about the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. The implementation of this Act throughout the country is patchy. My hon. and learned Friend made useful suggestions for making its powers better known and for encouraging disabled people to register. I shall see and discuss with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Disabled) what can be done, and I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for raising the matter.
I refer for the third time to the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, West, who spoke about the rent freeze. We realise that this hits the small landlord rather hard, but here again, as with beef, the Government have to maintain a balance between the supplier on the one hand and the consumer on the other—in this case the landlord and the tenant —in the fight against inflation. The Government intend to fight inflation at every point where it is possible to attack it with every weapon that we have available, and the control of rents is one. Legislation will be introduced in the autumn of this year to replace the freeze.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) mentioned the multi-rôle combat aircraft, but he will not expect me to reply to his detailed technical point. I will certainly pass on what he said. I am sure that the newly-elected Chairman of the Services Committee will take note of what he said about tickets for the Gallery. There is a real problem and I have a good deal of sympathy with what he said.
I felt that the speech of the hon. Member for Reigate was beneath contempt. The best comment on it was made by his hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). The hon. Member asked for an investigation into the misuse of parliamentary facilities. I am agreeable to something of that sort, provided that it includes the Press Gallery, where there may be evidence of misuse by journalists of facilities there for party political purposes. I hope that any inquiry there will be retrospective.
I hope that I have dealt as fully as possible with the points raised and that the House will feel able to agree to the motion.
|Division No. 8.||AYES||[7.51 p.m|
|Abse, Leo||Garrett, John (Norwich, S.)||Millan, Bruce|
|Allaun, Frank||George, Bruce||Miller, Dr. M. S. (E. Kilbride)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Gilbert, Dr. John||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Ashiey, Jack||Golding, John||Molloy, William|
|Ashton, Joe||Gourley, Harry||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Graham, Ted||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Moyle, Roland|
|Bagier, Gordon, A. T.||Grant, John (Islington, C.)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Griffiths, Eddie (Sheffield, Brightside)||Murray, Ronald King|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood & Royton)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Newens, Stanley (Harlow)|
|Bates, Alf||Hamilton, William (Fife, C.)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Hamling, William||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Bennett, Andrew F. (Stockport, N.)||Hardy, Peter||o'Malley, Brian|
|Bishop, E. S.||Harper, Joseph||Orbach, Maurice|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Ovenden, John|
|Booth, Albert||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Owen, Dr. David|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Hattersley, Roy||Palmer, Arthur|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Hatton, Frank||Park, George (Coventry, N.E.)|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Heffer, Eric S.||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Bradley, Tom||Henderson,Douglas (Ab'rd'nsh're,E)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Hooley, Frank||Pendry, Tom|
|Brown,Bob(NewcastleuponTyne,W.)||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Small Heath)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Brown, Hugh C. (Glasgow, Proven)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Phipps, Dr. Colin|
|Brown, Ronald [...]ney, S. & S[...]ditch)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, North)||Prescott, John|
|Buchanan, Richard(G'gow,Springbrn)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Price, Christopher (Lewisham, W.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce([...]WoodGreen)||Hunter, Adam||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Callaghan, Jim (M'dd'ton & Pr'wich)||Jackson, Colin||Radice, Giles|
|Campbell, Ian||Janner, Greville||Rees, Rt. Hn. Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Cant, R. B.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Reid, George|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jenkins, Hugh (W'worth, Putney)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Carter, Ray||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (B'ham, St'fd)||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||John, Brynmor||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Cocks, Michael||Johnson, James(K'ston upon Hull, W)||Roderick, Caerwyn E.|
|Colguhoun, Mrs. M. N.||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Rodgers, William (Teesside, St'ckton)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Cook, Robert F. (Edinburgh, C.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Cox, Thomas||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Creigen, J. M. (G'gow, Maryhill)||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Cunningham, G.(Isl'ngt'n, S&F'sb'ry)||Judd, Frank||Sedgemore, Bryan|
|Cunningham, Dr.JohnA. (Whiteh'v'n)||Kaufman, Gerald||Selby, Harry|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kelley, Richard||Shaw, Arnold (Redbridge, Ilford, S.)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield, N.)||Kinnock, Neil||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (S'pney&P'plar)|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Lambie, David||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'ctle-u-Tyne)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lamborn, Harry||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hamp'n, N.E.)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Lamond, James||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (L'sham, D'ford)|
|Deakins, Eric||Latham, Arthur (CltyofW' minsterP'ton)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (S'hwark, Dulwich)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Lawson, George (Motherwell &Wishaw)||Silverman, Julius|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Leadbitter, Ted||Skinner Dennis|
|Doig, Peter||Lee, John||Smail, William|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Snape, Peter|
|Dunn, James A.||Lewis, Arthur (Newham, N.)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth||Lipton, Marcus||Stewart, Rt. Hn. M. (H'sth, Fulh'm)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lomas, Kenneth||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Loughlin, Charles||Stott, Roger|
|Edge, Geoff||Loyden, Eddie||Strang, Gavin|
|Edwards, Robert (W'hampton, S.E.)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scunthorpe)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, W.)||Swain, Thomas|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Thomas, D. E. (Merioneth)|
|English, Michael||McCartney, Hugh||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||MacCormack, Iain||Thorn, Stan (Preston, S.)|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||McElhone, Frank||Tierney, S.|
|Evans, John (Newton)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Tinn, James|
|Ewing, Harry (St'llng, F'kirk & G'm'th)||McGuire, Michael||Tomlinson, John|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred (Moray & Nairn)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Tomney, Frank|
|Faulds, Andrew||Maclennan, Robert||Tuck, Raphael|
|Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Varley, Rt. Hn. Eric G.|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Magee, Bryan||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Flannery, Martin||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Foot, Michael, Rt. Hn.||Marks, Kenneth||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Ford, Ben||Marguand, David||Watkins, David|
|Forrester, John||Mayhew, Christopher (G'wh, W'wch, E)||Watt, Hamish|
|Fowler, Gerry (The Wrekin)||Meacher, Michael||Weitzman, David|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Wellbeloved, James|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mendelson, John||White, James|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mikardo, Ian|
|Whitehead, Phillip||Willlams, Rt. Hn. Shirley(H'f'd & St'ge)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Whitlock, William||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee, E.)||Young, David (Bolton, E.)|
|Wigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.E.)|
|Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Wise, Mrs. Audrey||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||Woodall, Alec||Mr. J. D. Dormand and|
|Williams, Alan Lee (Hvrng, Hchurch)||Woof, Robert||Mr. Donald Coleman.|
|Ancram, M.||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Baker, Kenneth||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Beith, Alan||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Berry, Hon. Anthony||Kilfedder, James A.||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Boscawen, Hon. Robert||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Shersby, Michael|
|Britten, Leon||Lawrence, Ivan||Silvester, Fred|
|Channon, Paul||Lewis, Kenneth (Rtland & Strnford)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol, W.)||MacGregor, John||Stanley, John|
|Crouch, David||Miller, Hal (B'grove & R'ditch)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Durant, Tony||Moate, Roger||Tebbit, Norman|
|Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Money, Ernie||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Emery, Peter||Moore, J. E. M. (Croydon, C.)||Viggers, Peter|
|Farr, John||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Waddington, David|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Fowler, Norman (Sutton Coldfield)||Morrison, Peter (City of Chester)||Winstanley, Dr. Michael|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate & Banstead)||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Goodhart, Philip||Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)|
|Gorst, John||Pattie, Geoffrey||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Redmond, Robert||Mr. John Biffen and|
|Hampson, Dr. Keith||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Mr. Patrick Cormack.|
|Division No. 9.]||AYES||[8.3 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Davis, Clinton, (Hackney, C.)||Hatton, Frank|
|Allaun, Frank||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Henderson, Douglas (Ab'rd'nsh're,E)|
|Ashley, Jack||Doig, Peter||Hooley, Frank|
|Ashton, Joe||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Horam, John|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Duffy, A. E. P.||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Small Heath)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Dunn, James A.||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Bagler, Gordon A. T.||Dunnett, Jack||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, North)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood & Royton)||Eadie, Alex||Hunter, Adam|
|Bates, Alf||Edge, Geoff||Jackson, Colin|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Edwards, Robert (W'hampton, S.E.)||Janner, Greville|
|Bennett, Andrew F. (Stockport, N.)||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena|
|Bidwell, Sydney||English, Michael||Jenkins, Hugh (W'worth, Putney)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (B'ham, St'fd)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Evans, loan (Aberdare)||John, Brynmor|
|Booth, Albert||Evans, J. (Newton)||Johnson, James (K'ston uponMull, W.)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Ewing, Harry (St'ling, F'kirk & G'm'th)||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Ewing, Mrs. Winifred(Moray &Nairn)||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Bradley, Tom||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Flannery, Martin||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Brown,Bob(Newcastle upon Tyne, W.)||Foot, Michael, Rt. Hn.||Judd, Frank|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Proven)||Ford, Ben||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Brown, Ronald (H'kney, S. & Sh'ditch)||Forrester, John||Kllroy-Silk, Robert|
|Buchanan, Richard(G'gow, Springbrn)||Fowler, Gerry (The Wrekin)||Kinnock, Neil|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (H'gey, WoodGreen)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)||Lambie, David|
|Callaghan, Jim (M'dd'ton & Pr'wlch)||Freeson, Reginald||Lamborn, Harry|
|Campbell, Ian||Galpern, Sir Myer||Lamond, James|
|Cant, R. B.||Garrett, John (Norwich, S.)||Latham, Arthur(CityofW'minsterP'ton)|
|Carmichael, Neil||George, Bruce||Lawson, George(Motherwell & Wishaw)|
|Carter, Ray||Gllbert, Dr. John||Lee, John|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Golding, John||Leslor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Cocks, Michael||Gourley, Harry||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold|
|Colquhoun, Mrs. M. N.||Graham, Ted||Lewis, Arthur (Newham, N.)|
|Cook, Robert F. (Edinburgh, C)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Cox, Thomas||Grant, John (Islington, C.)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, Maryhill)||Griffiths, Eddie (Sheffield, Brightside)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Cunningham, G.(Islington,S & F'sb'ry)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Cunningham, Dr. John A. (Whiteh'v'n)||Hamilton, William (Fife, C.)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hamling, William||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Hardy, Peter||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, W.)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield, N.)||Harper, Joseph||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Davies, Danzil (Llanelli)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||McElhone, Frank|
|MacFarquhar, Roderick||Prescott, John||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|McGuire, Michael||Price, Christopher (Lewisham, W.)||Swain, Thomas|
|Mackenzie, Gregor||Price, William (Rugby)||Thomas, D. E. (Merloneth)|
|MacLennan, Robert||Radice, Giles||Thorn, Stan (Preston, S.)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rees, Rt. Hn. Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Tierney, Sydney|
|Magee, Bryan||Reid, George||Tinn, James|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Richardson, Miss Jo||Tomlinson, John|
|Marks, Kenneth||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Tomney, Frank|
|Marquand, David||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Mayhew,Christopher(G'wh,W'wch,E)||Roderick, Caerwyn E.||Varley, Rt. Hn. Eric G.|
|Meacher, Michael||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Wainwright, R. (Colne Valley)|
|Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Rodgers,William (Teesside,St'ckton)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mendelson, John||Rooker, J. W.||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Milian, Bruce||Rose, Paul B.||Watkins, David|
|Miller, Dr. M. S. (E. Kilbride)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Watt, Hamish|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, lichen)||Sandelson, Neville||Weitzman, David|
|Molloy, William||Sedgemore, Bryan||Wellbeloved, James|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Selby, Harry||White, James|
|Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Shaw, Arnold (Redbridge, Ilford, S.)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Moyle, Roland||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyno)||Whitlock, William|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter(S'pney&P'plar)||Wigley, Dafydd (Caernarvon)|
|Murray, Ronald King||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'ctle-u-Tyne)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Newens, Stanley (Harlow)||Short, Mrs. Renee (W'hamp'n,N.E.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Oakes, Gordon||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (L'sham,D'ford)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hvrng, Hchurch)|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Silkin, Rt. Hn. S. C.(S'hwark,Dulwich)||Williams,Rt.Hn. Shirley(HTd&Sege)|
|O'Malley, Brian||Silverman, Julius||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Orbach, Maurice||Skinner, Dennis||Wise, Mrs. Audrey|
|Ovenden, John||Small, William||Woodall, Alec|
|Owen, Dr. David||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)||Woof, Robert|
|Palmer, Arthur||Snape, Peter||Wriggiesworth, Ian|
|Park, George (Coventry, N.E.)||Spriggs, Leslie||Young, David (Bolton, E.)|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Stewart, Rt. Hn. M. (H'sth,Fulh'm)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pendry, Tom||Stoddart, David (Swindon)||Mr. J. D. Demand and|
|Perry, Ernest G.||Stott, Roger||Mr. Donald Coleman.|
|Phipps Dr. Colin||Strang, Gavin|
|Berry, Hon. Anthony||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Lawrence, Ivan||Stanley, John|
|Emery, Peter||Miller, Hal (B'grove & R'ditch)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Farr, John||Moore, J. E. M. (Croydon, C.)||Wainwright, Richard (CoMe Valley)|
|Gorst, John||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Winstanley, Dr. Michael|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Pattie, Geoffrey||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Hampson, Dr. Keith||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Hawkins, Paul||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Ritkind, Malcolm||Mr. John BiRen and|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Mr. Patrick Cormack.|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Silvesler, Fred|