Before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess there are two issues on which I hope to get a reply from the Leader of the House today. The first relates to the question of the Education Bill. We have had over 30 Sittings in Committee on the Education Bill. That was more Sittings than we had for the whole of the Education Act 1944, which was perhaps the most important Education Act we have ever had. We finished the Committee stage of the Bill almost two weeks ago. The general impression was that the Report stage would take place in the House before the Whitsun Recess. Those of us who served on the Committee relished the prospect of returning to the attack on what I can only regard as a squalid, nasty Bill. We are entitled to know when the Report stage will take place.
As the Leader of the House is aware, after the recent local government elections many local authorities changed political control. These new local education authorities should now know exactly what the position is so that they can plan education in their areas accordingly. If, as I hope, amendments are made on Report, it will at least give the local education authorities some idea of the situation. At present, they are completely in the dark. It is quite disgraceful that the Government have got their legislative programme into such a mess that the Education Bill has just been pushed to one side.
The second issue that I wish to raise is even more important. As the Leader of the House knows—I am sure that he has read today's newspapers and Hansard for yesterday—in the House yesterday we had a short debate on immigration. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House were anxious to speak in that debate but were not given the chance to speak. It was a very short debate. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) took exactly 41 minutes of the time in making his speech. When one considers that he is a member of a party that not so long ago took as its theme "fair shares for all", one can appreciate that he did not yesterday exactly practise what he preaches.
During the debate on immigration we had a very important contribution from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who disclosed a confidential report by a gentleman called Mr. Donald Hawley, who is a senior official at the Foreign Office. I have no doubt that the speech made by the right hon. Member for Down, South has seriously embarrased the Government, because one must ask what has happened to the much vaunted talk about open government that we have had on so many occasions in the past. It could be that open government disappeared when the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) ceased to be Prime Minister not that we saw much sign of open government while he was in office.
However, on 5th May the Daily Telegraph disclosed the existence of a secret Foreign Office memorandum urging strict observance of immigration rules. At that time the Foreign Office said that it was absolutely without foundation. We now know, however, that Mr. Hawley visited India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in December 1975, and so senior Ministers in the Government have had this document for some considerable time. Before the House adjourns for the Whitsun Recess, we are entitled to know why that document was kept confidential, because the British people and their Members of Parliament are entitled to know the facts. The abuses that are being practised and which were mentioned in the report by Mr. Hawley are scandalous, and according to Mr. Hawley, Britain has been duped and is still being duped.
The right hon. Member mentioned the growth of travel agencies on the subcontinent, and specifically mentioned that there were 200 travel agencies in Sylhet. The right hon. Member said he doubted whether any hon. Member in this House could point out on a map the exact location of Sylhet. But the point he made was that enormous help has been given by these travel agencies to immigrants to come here illegally.
I do not doubt that this is an emotive issue but it is the conspiracy of silence which seems to be inspired by the Government which has aroused the suspicions of millions of people in this country.
At the end of yesterday's debate we had a speech from the Home Secretary. I always thought that the Minister who replied to a debate was supposed to reply to the various points. The right hon. Member for Down, South had brought out an important issue, but the Home Secretary did not mention one word about the report. He totally ignored it, yet this was the most controversial issue raised in the whole debate. The silence of the Home Secretary yesterday was calculated only to create more cynicism among the British people. We have reached the stage now where no one believes any of the figures published by the Home Office on immigration.
We need a full debate on immigration preferably before the Whitsun Recess. If this is not possible I hope we will at least have a statement from the Government announcing their intentions on the Hawley Report. Also I hope that we shall have a clear definition of Government policy on immigration, and hopefully, the line which they will take will be that taken by the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) who said, "Enough is enough".
As a nation we are compassionate and tolerant, but that compassion and tolerance is being strained to the utmost. As a nation and a Parliament we should try to ensure that we stop sweeping these matters under the carpet and face the facts realistically.
I hope that the Lord President will give us an assurance that before the Whitsun Recess we shall have a clear statement on immigration and the Government's reaction to the Hawley Report.
While not following what the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) has said, I wish to put forward another reason why we should not adjourn until we have had the opportunity to debate an important and urgent subject. I mention it now, having failed after three efforts to find, through legitimate parliamentary channels, the means of raising it in some other way in the last two days. I refer to the crisis which is occurring in Nairobi, at the four-yearly conference of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which is going on until the end of this week.
The conference broke into negotiating committees two weeks ago and we received news over the weekend—which has got worse during the past 24 hours—that it is now in a state of disarray and deadlock. There is a danger that it may break down altogether.
This is a matter not only for the developing countries, for it is of immediate practical concern to everyone in this country. It concerns our own efforts to deal with inflation; it concerns co-operation or confrontation with two-thirds of the world; and it concerns whether there are likely to be problems for this country in ensuring price stability in commodities produced by the developing countries. If any hon. Gentlemen opposite does not perceive how vital this is to Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole then he had better learn more about what is going on in Nairobi.
The negotiating committees ceased meeting just before the weekend because they reached complete deadlock, and this included two of the most important negotiating committees—one concerning debt, and' the other concerning commodity arrangements and the need for a common fund to support 10 primary commodities.
I quote from this morning's Financial Times:
Many delegates tonight were seriously wondering whether enough time was left to salvage the conference from a failure which could lead to renewed confrontation between the world's rich and poor nations.
Despite the gravity of the situation, some hopes are still alive here tonight that the conference could be saved by a major political effort in the next few days.
What has happened now is that an emergency committee has been set up to report by midnight on Thursday. The British attitude and British policy towards this major issue of commodities in Nairobi is a vital element which will affect whether UNCTAD collapses totally, reaches an agreement to disagree and accepts that it has been a failure, or succeeds.
On the one hand there are countries which have been taking a very hard line on the question of a common fund, which is what the developing countries are seeking. These countries include West Germany, which traditionally over the past two years has taken a very hard line on developing countries; Japan, the United States and Britain. Other countries have been taking a much more cooperative approach and have given varying degrees of commitment to supporting the principle of a common fund. These countries include the Netherlands, Denmark, to a certain extent France—all the EEC countries—Norway and Sweden. I understand from reports that there also has been some support from the Commission of the EEC. The Commission has been doing its best to bring pressure on those EEC members, like ourselves, who are maintaining a hard line.
Within the next 36 hours we shall have to bear some responsibility either for ensuring that the result of UNCTAD is very considerable, if not complete failure, or for assisting to break the deadlock by understanding the attitudes of the developing countries and identifying with them, and with many of our colleagues among the industrialised countries.
There is an all-party motion signed by 100 hon. Members of this House which particularly asks for a positive approach towards the concept of a common fund and asks that Britain should follow the example of the Netherlands in this respect. It is signed by, among others, six ex-Ministers from both sides of the House who have been concerned with these and other related matters over the past few years. I understand that in reading out the names of those who have signed a motion, I must not mention constituencies. Among those who have signed are myself, my predecessor at the Ministry of Overseas Development, Mr. Richard Wood: another former Minister of Overseas Development, Mrs. Barbara Castle; Sir Bernard Braine, Miss Joan Lestor, Mr. John Davies, and Mr. Douglas Jay.
I think it is essential that this House should not lose, or should not fail to take, an opportunity of influencing the Government in what happens in the next 36 hours in Nairobi. I would hope for a change of policy by the British Government, and that the Secretary of State for Trade will return to Nairobi and tell the conference of that change. We have it in our hands to influence the outcome of the conference. If we fail to do so we shall be responsible for the consequences which may arise for all industrialised countries, including Britain. This decision involves the prospect of solving our economic and inflationary problems.
I wish to draw attention to the threat to the people of this country and their pets from an outbreak of rabies. This is in no way a party matter and I seek to make no party point. I congratulate the Government on having appeared in the last few days to become aware of the concern of many people, particularly of hon. Members who represent coastal constituencies.
There was recently in my constituency an outbreak of canine hepatitis which, while in no way directly comparable with rabies, brought home to people the situation which could arise if action had to be taken quickly to safeguard the health of our pets. Salutary lessons were learned. I have made strenuous efforts in the last two or three weeks in my constituency to discover just how well prepared the authorities there are to cope with an outbreak of rabies.
It would appear that the Ministry of Agriculture has distributed a lot of paper, but there is a lack of clarity and understanding among the authorities concerned about precisely what would have to be done, and done quickly, should an infected animal appear. I asked the harbour master in Lymington what powers he possessed if a dog suspected of being imported illegally were to appear in a boat on the river at Lymington. He said that he possessed no powers to stop or arrest such a vessel and he suggested that I should talk to the police.
I put the position to the local police but they left me with the impression that they would need assurances from the port health authority in Southampton, nearly 20 miles away, if they were to be justified in taking action. It was a weekend, and I tried unsuccessfully to contact the port health authority. I then telephoned the Customs man in Lymington and was greeted by a recorded message asking me to leave the name of my yacht and its whereabouts. All this illustrates that whilst the authorities are aware of the problem they seem not to have armed themselves with the weapons needed for specific and urgent action.
We should be concentrating upon preventing the disease reaching this country rather than upon the cure which might be put into operation once it got here. For this reason many hon. Members have been pressing for greater clarification of the powers of the police and for increased penalties for those who break the quarantine regulations. Many of us believe that mandatory prison sentences for the owners and the immediate destruction of the offending animal are necessary in such circumstances. We must deter people and frighten them in such a way that they will not be tempted to break the law.
Many well-meaning and useful ideas have been put forward. These include the partitioning of many of our marinas, smaller harbours and large ports so that quarantine moorings are available. These are useful ideas, but they would be taken up only by the law-abiding. I am concerned that we are not doing enough to deter those who are quite willing to break the law with total disregard for the implications of their actions for our citizens.
This question does not affect only foreigners. Plenty of British people are prepared to take their pets on their boats with them when they go to France for the weekend. When they come back they evade the regulations rather than he parted from their pets by kennelling them. The social consequences of an outbreak of rabies are almost too horrible to contemplate for a pet-loving nation such as this. Those consequences would involve the muzzling of dogs and prohibition upon letting cats out at night. The consequences which would follow for those who break the regulations would be as likely to lead to social unrest as any other circumstances which it is possible to envisage.
It is clear from correspondence I have received from many parts of the country that there is widespread support for strong and urgent action. I have here a letter from a partnership of veterinary surgeons in Edinburgh, Ross, Venn and Rimer, who have indicated their support for the anti-rabies campaign and
would welcome any measures that will decrease the chances of rabies reaching Britain ".
They have the right idea in concentrating on prevention rather than cure.
The Government have tended to concentrate their efforts on the major ports, but I believe that the most likely place for an outbreak to occur is one of the small harbours which proliferate along the south coast of England. At the instigation of the President of the National Yacht Harbours Association, Mr. Little, I tabled a Question about a possible meeting between the association and the Ministry of Agriculture. It was surprising to note that no such contact had been established, but it was gratifying to note that as soon as my Question went down a meeting was arranged.
A parliamentary Answer gave those places where the quarantine regulations were broken last year, and it is significant that our major ports were prominent among them. Those statistics however did not include two specific instances, which must be typical of hundreds, and which were known to the managing director of the Lymington Yacht Haven in my constituency who quoted the cases in a recent letter to the Southern Evening Echo. One of the incidents referred to a foreigner leading his dog up Gosport High Street, and the other involved a sailor from a French minesweeper who allowed his dog free access to the shore at Cowes. In spite of what the Government may say, there are probably hundreds of occasions each month when the quarantine regulations are abused.
Is the Leader of the House satisfied that our posts abroad are doing all they can to make known to visitors to this country the rules, regulations and requirements governing the importation of animals into Britain? I ask this, because I discovered from another Written Reply that there were 103 contraventions of quarantine regulations at Heathrow Airport alone last year. Yet there were only two convictions. The other 101contraventions were described as technical.
Is insufficient information being given to people who come to this country with their pets? I asked the Prime Minister about this last week and I ask the Lord President today whether he is satisfied on this point. The husband of one of the two people who received heavy fines at Heathrow last week came to see me and said that when he left Amman, despite contacting the airline office and the British Embassy in Amman, he was not given any information about the need for an import licence.
I also urge the Government to check loopholes in present regulations through Ireland and ask that urgent attention be given to the places where smuggling appears to be taking place almost openly. Dr. Cave writes to me from Canterbury:
I recently chanced to meet the General Manager of the Dover Harbour Board who had heard of my interest in the subject. I asked him, very much with my tongue in my cheek, what was the 'going rate' for smuggling pets into the U.K. and, without a moment's hesitation he told me £500.
This means that, so long as the offender is paid in advance, even the maximum court fine leaves him with a fat profit.
If that is true, it is a scandalous situation which must be looked into as a matter of urgency.
I have also received a letter from Mrs. Bullivant from Stowemarket who writes:
I came through Customs in Dover at approximately two o'clock in the morning. I followed a large American car through the `Nothing to Declare' exit before heading for London. At the motorway café I pulled in for a coffee. As I was leaving the café I noticed the American car parked close by. The driver and his wife were exercising a poodle dog. After the walk into the car park, they opened the boot of the car and lifted the dog into a basket. It was obvious that the dog had been brought into the country inside the boot of the car.
I am sorry if hon. Members find this subject boring or tedious, but it is a matter of real concern in my constituency. Vaccines are not readily available for people in this country who wish to take precautions. Mrs. O'Connell writes from Sutton Cold field:
I have three dogs and three cats, when I went to the vet, the other day and asked for injections for the animals mentioned he told me it is not possible to get an animal injected against rabies unless the animal concerned was being exported.
This is a wholly unsatisfactory situation and the Government must take urgent steps to make vaccines available to people in this country, particularly in the areas of greatest risk.
I also wish to draw attention to the lack of quarantine kennels. There are 50 in Great Britain, but only three to cover the counties of Hampshire, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall. Yet this length of coastline is surely one of the most vulnerable places in the British Isles.
Our nation faces what is, in effect, an invasion. It would be unrealistic to suggest that the Ministry of Defence should be involved. But the latest vaccines, even if available, do not guarantee one against surviving the bite of a rabid animal. Death from rabies is one of the worst deaths known to man.
I apologise if I have wearied the House, but I believe this to be a subject of great importance and I hope that one of my hon. Friends will have the opportunity of saying more about it later.
I shall not follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley), but not because the subject is unimportant. He quoted a letter from someone who saw a dog being smuggled into this country in an American car. I hope that the writer immediately contacted the authorities with a view to prosecuting the smugglers and did not just write to the hon. Member. All hon. Members have received letters from people who have witnessed breaches of the law but have done nothing about it. They just expect us to tighten the regulations. I hope that the couple were taken to court as a result of being seen by the writer of that letter.
I wish to raise a matter of great importance to England, Scotland and Wales, but particularly to my own constituency—the inability of teachers leaving teacher-training colleges to find employment. This time last year, the Government and local authorities were having urgent consultations to see how teachers could be transferred or how newly-qualified teachers could be made available to the West of Scotland where there was a considerable shortage of teachers, with resulting part-time education.
Between 2,000 and 2,500 teachers leaving colleges will be unable to find work this year and demonstrations are taking place at all 10 colleges in Scotland against these difficulties. The situation has spread to England and, possibly, Wales where, in terms of numbers, it is even more serious.
The adoption by the Government of Red Book standards as an absolute maximum of the number of teachers which may be employed is difficult to understand. I come from a city with a long and successful record in education. Aberdeen has long been regarded throughout the United Kingdom as a pace-setter in educational standards and we have employed more teachers than the Red Book standard. We have argued the case with local ratepayers and said we were prepared to pay for it because we were providing a better education for working-class children and we needed an adequate number of dedicated staff.
The reorganisation of local government resulted in control of education being taken away from the City of Aberdeen, which had been Labour controlled virtually since the war, to a new regional authority which is Tory dominated. The new council fastened on the opportunity of public expenditure difficulties to cut back teacher supply. A total of 350 teachers will be "released"—to use the education authority's word—from the city's schools. They are not losing their jobs. They are being compulsorily transferred to surrounding areas. The arrangement is said to be voluntary, but in fact it is compulsory. It means that the pressure in the Aberdeen area to improve educational standards has received a great setback.
Had all the teachers coming out of training colleges been able to find jobs and had part-time education still existed in the West of Scotland, this situation could have been defended. I could have accepted that Aberdeen could not continue to be a pace-setter.
Socialism is a matter of priorities in different circumstances and where there is not much money around, I would be prepared to accept a standstill in order to allow less-privileged children in the West of Scotland to catch up. But that is not the position. There is an immense investment involved in the training of teachers and they are now coming out of colleges with little prospect of finding jobs. I am naturally concerned about newly-qualified teachers and young couples, but, although it is invidious to draw comparisons, I feel particularly sorry for mature students who were inveigled by a massive Government campaign into joining the special recruitment scheme. I shall mention three examples from the many I have had from in and around my constituency of teachers facing particular difficulties. I shall not quote them by name as it would be invidious to do so.
My first example is a single woman aged 51 who left school at 15 with no formal qualifications. The job which she held for 10 years is no longer available to her. She cannot get a teaching job. Both her parents are in their 70s and infirm. They rely heavily on this individual to look after them. She writes:
I assumed that entry into the special recruitment scheme was the guarantee of a job at the end of teacher-training, otherwise I would not have left my own job to do it. I simply feel betrayed.
My second example concerns a gentleman aged 46. Again, he left school at 15 with no formal qualifications. He spent 22 years in retail management. He has two sons aged 16 and 14, and a daughter aged eight. He cannot move from Aberdeen to find another job, even if one were available, because his two sons are involved in "highers" and O-levels. As a result of the financial hardship which he and his family have had to undergo, even with the special recruitment scheme, he had to cash insurance policies to survive. He has no prospects of a job. What is he going to do?
My third example concerns a gentleman aged 32 who, again, left school at 15. He was a school technician before he joined the scheme. Last August he was given permission by the administrators of the special recruitment scheme to extend his course by one year to take an honours degree in history. He assumed that having done an extra year there would be a job available. He is now told that there is no job for him because history is one of the topics that is especially over-full because of the number of teachers trained in history. His present job prospects are pretty poor. Naturally, he feels very upset, and I cannot say that I blame him.
It is necessary that the Government should do something—I appreciate that they may not be able to cover everyone—for mature students who are not mobile. I have listened to the Government Front Bench saying in one statement after another that it is imperative in our public expenditure priorities that we make money available for investment. We have made money available for investment in teacher-training, but the investment is going to waste. It must amount to millions of pounds throughout the country.
Surely education is an investment. If we are to provide people to undertake the new technologies, if we are to provide staff who are able to service industry and the social services, we need people with a good, sound basis of education. Therefore, education is an investment in itself. We may have difficulty in ensuring that public investment goes into the right quarters in private industry so as to get the best results, but education is an area in which we can use money for investment in the real sense.
I know that my right hon. Friend will say in reply that it so happens that the Red Book standards and Circular 819 fit with the amount of money available, and that the additional employment of teachers cannot be carried out unless more money is made available for education budgets in Scotland, England and Wales. But in my view the Government should make the money available at all times.
Heaven knows, I am the last person to defend the teaching profession. I spent a difficult period with it when I was a Minister. I blame it for the way in which it put working-class children at the head of the queue for part-time education when it was in dispute with the Government. However, each and every one of us knows that when public expenditure cuts begin to bite and there is a shortage of teachers and equipment, it is working-class areas and working-class children who have to carry the brunt of the burden.
We should be taking the opportunity that the present situation offers. We have the teachers. All right, the numbers are above the standards which we think reasonable and adequate—I accept that they are fairly reasonable and adequate—but we are losing a great opportunity for positive discrimination. We could be putting them into areas where help is needed—for example, the remedial sector and in-service training. We could be putting them into the areas where they could help to improve the quality of education.
We are losing on this investment in terms of manpower and the future of our children. I am sure that the Government made very great heartburnings. It was something that I was unable to bear myself because I believed it quite wrong to take that course. I hope that the Government will take seriously to heart the damage that they are doing to children, education and this Government of ours.
Mr. Hector Munro:
I naturally support my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) in his important appeal to the Lord President to make a further statement on rabies before the Whitsun Adjournment. There are a thousand and one reasons for our not adjourning, ranging from the economic situation to fishing problems and child benefits, but I take up the matters that have been raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) regarding the serious problem facing newly qualified teachers in Scotland.
For years we have been conditioned to a shortage of teachers, but there has now been a reverse. The problem facing teachers leaving colleges of education this summer is appalling to say the least. We knew that by the mid-1970s the supply of teachers towards the Red Book standards would be much improved. That was brought out in the 1972 White Paper and the SED Report 1974, but, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North indicated, that was not always accepted by the teachers' associations or the local authorities. Although the numbers entering the colleges were cut back in 1973 and 1974 there was not a sufficient reduction. The cut-back in 1974 was only 250 primary entrants and 200 secondary entrants. If we allow for the three years for primary qualification and the additional one year for secondary qualification, the teachers who then entered the colleges are now looking for jobs.
It is intolerable—this is why the Government must consider the matter again most urgently—that the present situation has coincided with the Government's economic policy and severe restraints on local authorities. Before the House adjourns I should like to know the number of teaching posts that are being held back by local authorities because of financial restraint. We cannot expect local authorities to over-recruit. That would be nonsensical. However, if they are keeping posts open because they have insufficient financial resources even to fill the schools to the Red Book standard, the Government have something to answer.
That also applies to the Government asking education authorities to be careful about expenditure. The Government are saying to authorities in Scotland "We shall give local authorities £1 million for school milk and £5 million for school meals". If that money had been channelled into the education authorities to pay teachers' salaries it would be a different kettle of fish. The Lord President must find a very good answer for the Government finding it more important to dish out £1 million on school milk and £5 million on school meals than to pay to employ teachers to look after our children in the schools.
Physical education teachers have suffered a severe penalty. Local authorities have decided to cut back on them more than on others. The Lord President, with advice from the Scottish Office, should let us know whether there has been a disproportionate reduction in posts available to PE teachers in Scotland.
As the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North indicated, all Scottish Members have had heartrending letters from students at colleges of education about the crisis affecting their careers. It is up to the Government, before we adjourn for Whitsun, to give some indication of what they propose to do. I know that the Under-Secretary of State met certain representatives of students last Friday. The House is entitled to know whether the Government have reached any decision on what they propose to do within the next few weeks. This is a matter of the greatest urgency. I look forward to hearing the Lord President's reply.
I do not think that the House should adjourn for the Whitsun Recess till we have heard something more about the Government's approach to the UNCTAD conference in Nairobi towards the end of this week. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) outlined the importance of this conference, not only to this country but to the world. We have been told how much we depend on world trade. We all know the extent to which this country, unlike many others, is dependent on world trade. Therefore, world commodity prices and the way in which the world community is working towards some overall arrangement is of vital interest to everybody in the United Kingdom.
That matter has been recognised by the Government. That is why their present attitude is worrying and why they owe the House some explanation of their approach before the Recess.
The former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), in his speech at the Heads of Government Meeting in Jamaica on 1st May last year—Command 6061—said:
All of us here have long recognised the need for economic interdependence in our trade and dealings with one another, and in the wider world. Over generations, failure to make this interdependence a reality has been the cause of great suffering, suffering above all for developing countries producing the food and raw materials the world needs, without a fair and assured return.
Indeed, there may be suffering not only for those countries, but for those which require the raw materials. So it was that, as appears on page 5, my right hon. Friend said:
What the British Government have in mind is that we set as our objective a general agreement on commodities, not only for ourselves but for the whole world.
Of course, it was not only the former Prime Minister who was associated with that statement, but the then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the present Prime Minister.
On those brave and forward-looking words the Commonwealth Prime Ministers set up an expert committee named after Mr. McIntyre, the chairman of that group. That committee produced a pamphlet, "Towards a New International Economic Order", which was published in August last year. That expert group from the Commonwealth countries, in paragraph 41, said:
We regard the proposed common fund as the most important element in the programme, and its establishment as essential if an integrated plan for commodities is to make a major impact.
The group met again in this country early this year. We had high hopes that the Commonwealth, with its unique
combination of developed and underdeveloped countries in the Third World, would have a major contribution to make to the UNCTAD conference. But, alas, nothing seems to have happened.
On 3rd May I asked the Minister for Overseas Development whether the Commonwealth Ministers going to UNCTAD would meet before the conference in Nairobi. The reply was:
There will not be any formal Commonwealth meeting to determine a joint Commonwealth approach prior to UNCTAD IV."—[Official Report, 3rd May 1976; Vol. 910, c. 831.]
I am afraid that little has come from the expert group which the former Prime Minister and the then Foreign Secretary so clearly launched. Very little was known about what the Government proposed to do. The Minister for Overseas Development was asked what the Government's approach to the UNCTAD conference would be, and he retreated to the extent of saying that the Secretary of State for Trade was in Brussels discussing the EEC proposals for UNCTAD IV. As my right hon. Friend has already said, the EEC proposals for UNCTAD IV, in so far as the Commission has a view, is regrettably, from my point of view at least, more radical than that of the Government. Indeed, the French, the Norwegians and the Netherlands have looked forward and given some kind of assent to a forward movement on the matter. That does not seem to be the Government's view.
The Secretary of State for Trade made a disappointing address in Nairobi a couple of weeks ago and then disappeared. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Development flew there yesterday or the day before. I do not think that this has been reported in the Press, but he is reported to us as having said that Britain had no theological objection to the common fund. My hon. Friend said that Britain wanted a programme for a commodity agreement and suggested a list of products commodity by commodity. I emphasise that the Government's representative said that Britain had no theological objection to the common fund.
I think that hon. Members will concede at once that the suggested form of the common fund may not meet the objectives of the Government or of the Commonwealth expert group in every respect, but EEC and other countries have said that there must be a move in that direction. Subject to confirmation, I understand that Mexico, Pakistan, Kuwait, Indonesia, Iran and Zambia have said that there should be a move in that direction.
I am not asking the Government to say "Yes, we will go along with the blueprint presented by the UNCTAD secretariat in every detail." That would be asking too much. I am not asking them to say that the blueprint is right, even in principle, but let them say that movement in that direction is what is wanted, and let them, at the end of the conference, be seen to be among, not those countries which are holding back, but those which are looking forward. If we are to be proper members of the world community—we are one of the biggest trading nations in the world—we must be in the van of proper world community progress. It is on commodities that progress must be made.
Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will tell us something more encouraging before we adjourn for the Whitsun Recess. I hope that he will tell us that the words spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Judd) will not be the Government's last words in Nairobi and that, when the groups come together at the end of the week, the United Kingdom will be seen to be moving in the same direction as the rest of the Commonwealth.
There was a joke going the rounds, when the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was Prime Minister and had that disastrous episode in Singapore, that the Commonwealth might expel the United Kingdom. It certainly looks as though the Commonwealth has gone a great deal further than the United Kingdom regarding the common fund. I hope that at the end of the week the Government will be seen not to be behind the rest of the Commonwealth on this issue. We certainly appear to be behind many EEC countries. Let us not be behind both the EEC and the Commonwealth. If the Government go on as they are, they will be seen in that way by world opinion. It will be very bad for us if world opinion sees the United Kingdom to be behind on these very important issues.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Development said that Britain had no theological objection to the common fund. Therefore, in a theological sense it was implied that we could look forward to
the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Obviously, the Prime Minister may have taken a different view at Kingston last year. It is not a question of things not seen, because on the subject of the common fund the Government should not merely give the impression that we have no theological objection, but should say that they are actively moving towards such a concept. If that happens, we can seek to work out the right scheme.
I shall not seek to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), tempted though I am to do so, because I appreciate that many hon. Members wish to take part in this short debate.
I wish to deal with one or two of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley). In reverting to the problem of rabies, I know that it will not be in order for me to raise many of the wider considerations. However, there are a few narrow considerations that require a reply before the House adjourns for Whitsun.
I wish first to deal with a procedural matter. For sometime I have pressed the Leader of the House to establish a Select Committee to examine this subject. Indeed, I tabled Early-Day Motion No. 382 on the subject, and at business questions last Thursday the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House told me that the Government were eager to do everything possible about the matter but added:
Whether a Select Committee is the best way of dealing with the subject is another question, on which I have nothing to say now. I shall discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend."—[Official Report, 20th May 1976; Vol. 911, c. 1725.]
I hope that when the Leader of the House replies this evening he will be able to give me some more information. It
is true that the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee is considering taking up the topic as its next subject of inquiry, but it has not said definitely that it will do so.
Because of the widespread interest in this matter in all quarters of the House, I consider that the establishment of a Select Committee is the appropriate procedural way of advancing the matter rather than that we should rely on ministerial statements and exchanges at Question Time. A Select Committee can expose expert witnesses to searching examination in public. It is becoming more and more clear to those of us who have examined the subject that there are problems that need exposure. In general debate, however, the views of experts are filtered through departmental briefs and often we are not able to obtain proper answers. This is becoming a habit, and, indeed, many so-called ministerial replies to debates are not replies at all. I ask the Leader of the House to give me a reply on this matter today.
Secondly, I wish to refer to the question of the co-ordination of our defences against rabies—now not in the future. I do not wish to refer to any possible change in legislation. I wish, instead, to deal with what can be done now, this coming weekend, about the situation.
I wish to draw attention to an excellent memorandum circulated to hon. Members by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the subject of rabies. I commend the Ministry on that document. It throws up a number of weaknesses in the present situation. In paragraph 18 of the memorandum, the Ministry says:
Local authorities are the enforcement authorities, through their diseases of animals inspectors. They are fully aware of their responsibilities.
I am sure that they are aware of their responsibilities, but clearly they have neither the resources nor the legislative powers to fulfil those responsibilities. The Hampshire County Council takes the problem very seriously, and has put forward a number of proposals to the Government both directly and also through the Association of County Councils. However, the county council has received no more than a sympathetic reply, with no indication of any Government action. Therefore, as we go off this weekend, we
must realise that although local authorities are the enforcement agencies, they take the view that their enforcement powers are inadequate.
I also wish to refer to the risk from small boats, which again is dealt with in the memorandum to which I have referred. Paragraph 10 of the memorandum says:
The threat, therefore, as it always has been, is through the illegally-landed animal which is most likely to arrive by commercial transport or private vessel. The greatest risk is with small boats and yachts: and the risk increases during the summer holiday season.
That is why I seek to raise this matter now.
In paragraph 31 the memorandum makes the following point:
Although recognised ports and harbours are covered, Her Majesty's Customs can never hope to have sufficient stock available to keep constant watch over every point on the coast where yachts can berth. It would clearly be unrealistic to attempt such comprehensive surveillance.
The Leader of the House knows that many Opposition Members represent South Coast constituencies and we know that these practices occur. Many of us have evidence from our constituents—circumstantial evidence—that these things are happening. I wish to put that point strongly to the Leader of the House.
Furthermore, responsibility is now increasingly being placed on local authorities and on voluntary organisations. This points to the importance of the six-point scheme put forward by the National Yacht Harbour Association, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington referred. I tabled a Question on this subject yesterday. I shall not read out the whole reply, but the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that he could not meet at present any of the points put to him by the National Yacht Harbour Association. He added:
…but in the meantime we are encouraging the association and other appropriate organisations and authorities to take what steps they can locally to prevent the illegal landing of animals.—[Official Report, 24th May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 55].
The House will have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington recount his experience of having made inquiries about these matters in his area. I have a harbour in my constituency, Hamble, where there could
be a similar problem. This is the reason why I raise this important point, before we go off for the Whitsun Recess. This is a time of the year when a large number of boats come into our ports from the Continent.
There is also a popular view that the main risk of rabies comes from dogs. We know from veterinary authorities that this is not true. I wish to quote from an excellent little pamphlet produced by the Office of Health Economics on the subject of rabies. I commend the booklet to the Leader of the House to read over Whitsun. It is short and he will find that it contains valuable information.
The pamphlet contains a table dealing with animal susceptibility to rabies, and hence the ability to be a successful vector. It is extremely high in foxes, coyotes, jackals and wolves, kangaroo rats, cotton rats and common field voles. The list of animals with a high susceptibility to rabies is headed by hamsters and includes skunks, racoons, domestic cats, bats, bobcats, mongooses and guinea-pigs.
I wish to draw attention to the appearance of hamsters in that list because we all know that many children keep them as pets. I suspect that many hamsters go on board boats with children on family outings. It appears from the list that cats have a higher susceptibility to rabies than do dogs. I do not wish to get involved in any controversy between dogs and cats, but I quote this example to counter the general feeling that dogs are the principal vectors.
In the third category of susceptibility only are dogs, together with sheep, goats, horses and non-human primates. So again it is not just dogs about which we should be concerned. It is important for this to be realised.
That brings me, again in terms of urgency, to ask what surveys have been made by the Ministry of our wildlife population and what measures it has in preparation for fulfilling its current policy, which is a slaughter policy. This is the policy recommended by the World Health Organisation for countries which are rabies-free. It is not necessarily the right policy for countries in which rabies is endemic.
I ask the House to consider this. As I understand it, it is the Government's policy that, if there is an outbreak of rabies discovered anywhere in our wildlife population, a zone of five miles will be declared a rabies area and the wildlife in that area will be slaughtered. Five miles does not sound very much. However, it involves clearing more than 50,000 acres.
Therefore, I ask two questions. What surveys have the Government made of the wildlife population, especially in the South of England where prima facie there is a much more likely chance of rabies being introduced because of its proximity to the Continent of Europe? Secondly, have the Government made any calculation of how many people and what equipment would be required to clear such an area, and from where are these people to come? Clearly, they can only come from volunteers.
In this respect, I want to read to the House a short extract from a letter from a distinguished constituent of mine who has great experience of rabies in Asia and who writes:
My concern is for more information on what is being done to contain and eradicate the disease, in the unfortunate circumstances of an eruption, in this country. I have been very worried at the apparent lack of honest endeavour in this field. For the past eighteen months to two years, my experience has been that when I ask a question on this aspect my informant has dried up, or has used such vague phrases as. 'I'm afraid that the consequences to wildlife will be tragic.' My own opinion is that, if they do not start making suitable preparations forthwith, the consequences to human beings will be no less tragic. We have, mercifully, been free from an infection to date, but we must not push our luck too far.
That seems to sum up neatly that what is worrying a great many people is that we may be in danger of pushing our luck too far.
Those are some of the immediate issues in the continuing, growing problem of how to deal with the threat of rabies to this country. There are many more wider ones which it would not be appropriate to go into today. But I put these matters to the Leader of the House. I believe that we must redouble our efforts within the current policy to maintain our 70-yearold record of being rabies-free.
To those of us who represent constituents on the South Coast, with small boats going to and from the Continent in the summer months, these are immediate matters concerning our defences. I hope that I have given the House some reasons why we must have a reply from the Leader of the House before we pass this motion.
I wish to return to the matter already raised by two hon. Members, namely, the crisis situation faced at the moment in teacher recruitment and supply.
It is a convention in this debate that hon. Members seek to show why it would be quite impossible for the House to rise for the recess until the issues with which they are dealing are resolved. For the most part it is a convention. It is a convention of which I have taken advantage in the past.
But I can say with genuine feeling that the several thousand students currently in occupation of colleges of education, especially the several hundred squatting in those colleges of education and sleeping overnight on the floors of those colleges, would find it hard to understand if we rose for a week's recess without first attempting to find a solution to the problems which have caused that occupation. I speak about these matters with particular concern since my constituency includes Moray House College, which is one of the two largest colleges of education in Scotland and which was the first college to be occupied and from which the present wave of occupations spread.
I shall confine my remarks purely to the Scottish situation but, before doing so, I recognise that there is a parallel problem in England. Indeed, in many respects the problem in England is more severe. I am aware from a parliamentary answer given earlier this month that 25 per cent. of those who qualified as teachers last year are still looking for posts and that only 10 per cent. of those who qualified this year have already succeeded in obtaining posts. If anything, the situation in England is more severe than the problem we face in Scotland. Nevertheless, I confine myself to Scotland because it is the area which I know best.
In Scotland, 5,500 students will qualify this year. Of those, between 2,000 and 2,500 are unlikely to find posts in any education authority in Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) indicated the bitterness felt by many of those who find themselves in this position. It is a bitterness which I have sensed and experienced in meeting some of the students affected. The House has to recognise that most of those who are qualifying this year were led to believe that, if they entered teacher-training, there would be posts for them at the end of the qualifying period. At no stage in the prolonged and intensive training that they have had in the past three years was any warning given to them that they would meet this situation when they qualified. To many of them it appears a grossly unjust situation in which the Government have betrayed the trust which they placed in the system when they first enrolled as student teachers.
But not all the letters that I have received in the past two or three weeks have come from those who are themselves students. I have received letters from constituents who are in no way connected with the college of education and who write to me to convey not bitterness but sheer incomprehension at the waste of investment that the situation represents.
It costs an average of £7,000 to put a student through a teacher-training college. If we are left at the end of the day with a situation in which there are 2,000 graduates unemployed, which is the inside estimate, that represents a lost investment of no less than £14 million. I cannot think of any other issue in which, if the Government were found to have invested £14 million over a period as recent as the past two or three years and then proposed to make no use of the results of that investment, there would not have been complete uproar in this Chamber and serious criticism of a Government who had created this situation.
We have been informed that the reason for the situation is the decline in the birth rate in Scotland over the past decade. If that was the sole reason for the reduction in teacher recruitment this year, one could only say that those responsible for preparing the level of intake two and three years ago—and I make no party political point, because I include all those in the Scottish Education Department at the time—must be guilty of the most gross incompetence for failing to match the intake to the required output by something like a 50 per cent. margin.
But, of course, that is not the sole reason why we are in this position today. If it were not for the restraints on public expenditure and the policy of cutting back on public expenditure, we should not now face the crisis that we face of unemployed qualified student-teachers.
There are a number of ways in which we could profitably absorb the surplus that we face. I wish to propose four ways in which the surplus could be absorbed.
First, we could improve the staffing ratios beyond the Red Book standard. It is important to remember that the Red Book was conceived as a device to shift teachers from areas of the country which were in surplus to areas of the country which were in deficit. It was conceived, in other words, as a way of rationing teacher supply at a time of shortage. Its retention now means that we are using that same device to keep down public expenditure in a time of surplus, and this is quite unacceptable.
About a fortnight ago, a committee of the Head Teachers Association went on record as saying that unless the Red Book standards were exceeded by 6 per cent., the quality of education would be reduced seriously and that those who would suffer most were the less academic pupils. The figure of 6 per cent. is a particularly convenient one because 6 per cent. above Red Book standards would find posts for all the 2,000 students coming out of colleges who are unlikely to find posts.
We could also usefully expand the remedial staff in our schools in Scotland. Anyone with even a nodding acquaintance of Scottish education is aware of the grave shortage of remedial teachers. It is a curious fact that Glasgow, which is the most deprived area in Scotland, has the fewest remedial teachers per head of any area in Scotland. This is a situation which points to a fundamental and acute shortage of teachers for these posts.
Thirdly, I think we can look to other areas of education where we have hitherto been unable to make the provision which one might have wished but where the surplus of graduates now gives us an opportunity to expand. I refer to only one, the area of adult education. It is now well over a year since the Alexander Report was published, and in that year it appears to have done nothing but lie on the shelf and gather dust and mould.
The Alexander Report is particularly relevant to this debate because it proposed an expansion of 200 in adult education staff. I am very much in touch with my former colleagues in adult education, and my subjective experience is that in the 18 months since this report was published there has not been one additional post created in adult education in Scotland. Of course, 200 more posts would not solve the problem, but they would at least show the students that we are using the surplus to expand in the areas where there is a need rather than simply looking upon it as an opportunity to cut back on public expenditure.
However, all those methods of absorbing the surplus are lost to us so long as we maintain the policy of cutting back on public expenditure. They are lost to us unless we are prepared to go back over the rate support grant Order of last year, which was particularly responsible for the crisis which we now face. It has been a remarkable feature of the past fortnight that many of those who were foremost in demanding cuts in public expenditure in December have been the very first to run away when faced with the consequences of those cuts.
I refer to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) who has already addressed the House on this matter. I am sorry he is not present to hear what I shall say, but, unfortunately he left the Chamber almost the instant he ceased speaking. He spoke in the debate on the rate support grant Order last December and said:
I am the first to agree with the right hon. Gentleman's strictures on the importance of controlling local authority expenditure. Such expenditure must be kept to a minimum in the coming year.
Later he said:
…it is right that restraint should be the order of the day."—[Official Report, 15th December, 1975; Vol. 902, c. 1120–1].
It is not open to those who have demanded cuts in public expenditure and who were prepared to support the low level of the rate support grant Order now
to turn round and criticise the Government for the consequences of those cuts.
The hon. Gentleman is being extremely unfair, I am sure unintentionally, to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) because he particularly made the point in his speech a few moments ago that he was not suggesting any increase. He suggested some ways in which this money could be found to get the teachers jobs.
I am very sensitive to that, Mr. Speaker, and I shall be concluding my remarks in a moment. If I may stretch your indulgence and reply to the hon. Gentleman's intervention, I would say that if the Member for Dumfries were to visit Moray House College and explain to the students that his way of finding money to employ them is by cutting school milk and raising school meals charges, he would receive a very hot reception. The only thing I did which the hon. Gentleman thinks is unfair was to quote from the speech of the hon. Member for Dumfries in support of the rate support grant Order which has created the very situation which we now face.
I would emphasise the urgency of the situation we face partly because of the occupation of the colleges themselves. I understand that if the occupations continue much longer, there will be serious disruption to the intake for next autumn. It is urgent that we find a solution. It is even more urgent because of the distress caused to those who may find that there are no posts for them. This distress is increased because of the injustice of the feeling that it is their year and their year only which has to bear the brunt of the falling birth rate over 10 years, and two years of cuts in public expenditure. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will bring all the pressure he can to bear on his colleagues in the Government to find a solution to this problem before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess.
In following the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) I would echo his view made that the House ought to debate the position in education colleges in Scotland before we rise for the recess. At the very least, we ought to have an authoritative statement from the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President before this debate is concluded.
I will not involve myself in the dispute between the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central, but it should be remembered that it is the latter's own Government who are responsible for this situation. We want to know what the Government intend to do. It makes no sense to anyone in Scotland, or anyone in the civilised world, to see overcrowded classes without a teacher in the classroom and, at the same time, people qualifying this year from the training colleges and signing on at the labour exchanges.
Whatever the reason, a solution must be found. It does not make sense in anyone's language and I think we are entitled to hear from the right hon. Gentleman. It is particularly appropriate, since he was a former Secretary of State for Employment, that he should speak on this matter today and give not only the student-teachers who are taking their exams next week but the parents of children in schools in Scotland a clear indication of what the Government intend to do about this extraordinary and bizarre situation before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess. That is the first subject which I believe the House should consider before we rise for the recess.
The second, on which I want to speak, concerns the fishing industry. It is amazing that the most important international conference which has ever taken place on the fishing industry—the Law of the Sea Conference—which wound up its session on Friday 13th April, should have done so without a statement from any Minister to this House. There has been no statement whatever about what conclusions the Government have formed as a result of that conference, or what proposals they intend to put forward when the conference reconvenes in New York on 2nd August for what is optimistically felt to be the final session.
The United Nations Press notice announcing the end of the conference said:
Its major result was a revised four-part text intended to be used as the basis for further negotiations for the projected sea law convention.
This was the same Press notice issued after the first session two years ago in Caracas and the second session which took place last year in Vienna.
It is not good enough for the Government to treat the House in this way, sending its Ministers to this conference and giving us no information and no statement on their assessment of what has been achieved, or what has not been achieved, or what they intend to do next. It is important in this fast-moving situation for the Government to be giving some guidance to the House about what is happening at this conference. They ought to be giving a clear statement to the industry throughout the country. Events make it impossible for the Government to sit back in a policy of masterly inactivity, which seems to have been their posture over the fishing industry for the past two years.
President Ford has signed a Bill, which has passed through the United States Congress, unilaterally extending the fishing limits of the United States to 200 miles from 1st March next year. We have always been told that we are not in favour of unilateral action and that we do not believe that Iceland has a right to protect her interests. We think that everything should be done on the basis of international law.
I have not heard one word of condemnation from either the Government or the Conservative Opposition about America's position. No one in this House is rising to denounce the United States although we have denounced Iceland. Is it perhaps because America is a large country and Iceland is small? This little bunch of frigates which are sent to terrorise the Icelandic fleet would look puny and ridiculous if put up against the United States fleet.
The situation has changed and is changing and we need an up-to-date statement of Government policy. The Government so far have resisted all demands for a White Paper on the future of the fishing industry, on the ground that there is no international certainty. Surely the Government could help by putting forward a reasonable case setting out the interests of our industry as a basis for negotiations with other countries.
In that context, we have had no statement other than the flimsiest and most irresponsible comments from people like the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who seems virtually to have surrendered our negotiating position in the Common Market before we even start. I suspect that the Lord President's views on the Common Market are somewhat similar to mine and that he may have some sympathy with the view that it is high time we took a far more aggressive attitude in pursuit of our interests and rights than the Minister of State has taken.
Fishing is not a party matter. I therefore have a suggestion which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider sympathetically. I and my hon. Friends—this might be true of other parties as well—would be willing to join the Government in an all-party delegation to Brussels to impress upon the EEC countries the strength of feeling in this House and in the country about a fair deal for our fishermen. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider that.
It is clear to the fishing industry that the Government's approach to date in the EEC and the Law of the Sea Conference has been weak and without clear objective or political will. We make this offer to see whether on that united basis we could achieve the deal for our fishermen which they deserve but which under the present negotiating conditions they seem unlikely to achieve.
It will be within your recollection, Mr. Speaker, that on 13th April I spoke in the debate on the Easter Adjournment about a number of subjects. It will be a relief to you and no doubt to the House that I do not intend to refer to any of them again. I simply hope that the House will take them as read. They are still subjects about which I feel deeply concerned and about which I think the House should concern itself rather than adjourning for Whitsun. It is important that at some stage the House turns its attention to those subjects.
The subject to which I want to refer in this debate is pyramid selling, which has been a matter of great concern to thousands of ordinary people who have been drawn into a serious confidence trick, brought about by agents of secondary banks which have persuaded people to part with their lifelong savings in the interests of a spurious scheme. I should like to refer to the example of one of my constituents, a Mr. Gyasi-Kour, of Thorpe Road, Walsall, who was persuaded to invest—2,500 as a contribution to participating in a pyramid selling scheme launched by an organisation called Holiday Magic of Great Britain.
As a result of the complete failure of the scheme, as put forward to my constituent, he was unable to meet the repayments on those loans. The loan had been obtained to finance the investment from the Hodge Group of Cardiff, which had advanced money against the security of my constituent's house. When he was unable to repay the loan, pressure was put on him and arrangements were made by an agent for it to be re-financed by a secondary bank called Cedar Holdings. With the rolled-up interest involved in the loan, my constituent became liable to repay£3,500. Over the course of time—only about three years were involved—as a result of totting up and other agents becoming involved, my constituent's liability has grown to over £13,000.
My constituent is an immigrant who was led into an investment because he had been told that it was a worthwhile scheme. His example can be multiplied many thousands of times. Indeed, an organisation has been set up by the people affected by this confidence trick which has been able to present a great deal of sworn testimony about the effect that this pyramid selling organisation has had on the lives of ordinary people who have been persuaded to enter into commitments beyond their resources. As a result of the rolled-up interest and other charges which have been brought into a deal to which they have signed away their lives, they have incurred enormous burdens and great anguish.
I have a list of people—
I hope that we shall have a statement about the matter from responsible Ministers before we rise for the recess, because the practice is causing much anguish. The delay, if we have to wait until we return, will cause even more anguish to my constituent and all the others affected. There has been a suggestion, which Ministers should take seriously, that a fund should be established, perhaps under the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, to meet the liabilities with which my constituent and others have been persuaded to burden themselves.
The Government must accept some responsibility. They have, after all, accepted responsibility for the secondary banks themselves. The bank involved in this exercise, Cedar Holdings, has itself been assisted by the Bank of England Lifeboat Committee which was provided with about £1,200 million from the Bank of England and the joint stock banks. That is the sort of sum which can be made available to save secondary banks which have run into difficulties through over-extending themselves by lending money for property development and similar schemes.
But in this case, thousands of ordinary citizens have been persuaded to part with their lifelong savings or to mortgage their houses to obtain cash to put into a spurious pyramid selling scheme. They now find that there is no Government agency available to assist them. If it is worth while for the Government, the Bank of England and the joint stock banks to set up the Lifeboat Committee to assist secondary banks on the point of collapse, it is very important that something be done to assist those ordinary people who have been affected by the pyramid selling scandal.
I hope that the Government will not allow the House to go for the Whitsun Recess until they have made a clear announcement that they intend to set up a full inquiry into the whole operation of these pyramid selling organisations and to set up a fund to assist ordinary people who have been affected by them.
I had not intended to follow the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse), with his expertise on the subject of spurious schemes, but I must say I have received in recent days a list of those bodies due to the fact that I was one of the 200 hon. Members who signed the motion in relation to Bangladesh concerning people who are now finding themselves in extreme difficulty; so I am glad that we have an authority helping us here in the House today.
I am concerned that we should have, before the House adjourns, a statement on the position of Scottish education. I am not alone in that for other hon. Members who have already spoken have stressed the importance of this subject. I want first to stress that I completely accept that the present crisis is not purely Scottish, and I shall deal with some of the diversionary attempts to suggest that it is at present only a Scottish crisis.
I stress that I do not believe that it is a crisis totally of the Government's making. The demographic change, with a rapid decline in the child population, which is a factor in the situation, was known between 1962 and 1972. There was a decline in the birth rate of the order of 25 per cent., twice as great as the fall in the birth rate in England and Wales. Secondly, those children at present entering school were already born at the time decisions were being made on teacher recruitment. Therefore, to that extent some responsibility at least must be borne by the preceding Tory Government.
I also accept, however, that many of us said that we were not necessarily prepared to accept some of the teacher ratios worked out. We believe in education and consider that it is a good thing and I accept that if any attempt had been made at that time to cut back teacher recruitment, it might well have been resisted; so I accept that there was an element, not necessarily of cowardice, but of political consideration.
Probably the only opportunity when the Government could have dealt with this matter was in 1975. They could not have done so early in 1974 because they were not then in power, but later in 1974 they inherited the programme. The Government could have acted in 1975 in view of the demographic change but at that time teacher-pupil ratios were being negotiated and it would have been impossible then to effect a reduction in the teacher intake. That would not have dealt with the immediate crisis of an output of something like 5,500 students with the possibility of 2,000 of them not being employed.
While accepting, therefore, that it is not entirely the Government who are responsible for the situation we face, I must say that nevertheless it is the Government's responsibility to deal with that situation. If one accepts the Government's economic strategy and cuts in public expenditure, one is immediately in difficulty. If one does not accept the Government's strategy but wants even further cuts in public expenditure, one is in even greater difficulty, because the Tories, as always, continue their self-appointed task of attacking public expenditure cuts in general while protesting against every single cut in particular.
This particular form of hypocrisy we have seen brought to a fine art by the Tory Party in recent months. This is something on which I want the Government to make a statement this week. I want it made clear, in a way which will expose this hypocrisy, that they will not effect economies through cuts in school milk and school dinners, which will mean depriving the poorest section of the community—because by definition it is the poorest section of the community who are affected. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are serving the class struggle in their own way while apparently advocating an improvement in educational conditions.
The hon. Gentleman should know the rules regarding school milk and school meals better than that. The poor do not pay one penny for them: they are given free. Those who pay are by definition those on average earnings of around £60 per week, so will the hon. Gentleman please not talk nonsense?
The hon. Gentleman should know his constituents and other people better. He should know that many people who should be getting free school dinners do not apply for them because of the sense of shame they have in applying for benefits which are due to them, a sense which is deliberately inculcated by the Tory Party.
I missed your last two words, Mr. Speaker, but we are probably in agreement. I was about to suggest that that was the kind of statement we should expect from the Minister before adjourning, and I was suggesting words that he might want to use.
Secondly, we have to consider the suggestion that in some ways the Scottish situation is worse than the English situation and I hope that when the Minister makes a statement, as I trust he will before the recess, he will deal with that. Figures were published at the beginning of last week suggesting that Scotland was bearing 39 per cent. of the educational cuts. I can think of no stronger argument for the Minister and saying "We are going to recruit all these teachers awaiting jobs" than the arithmetical illiteracy shown by those figures. They were wrong in method and in arithmetic. The figure of 39 per cent. should be only 33 per cent.
I hate to mention this, but in actual terms Scotland is doing rather better in relation to cuts than is England. Over the next three years, on this programme which is the only method we can use, the proportionate cuts in Scotland are to be 6·2 per cent. in 1976–77, 10·3 per cent. in 1977–78, and 7·2 per cent. in 1978–79, an average of 7·9 per cent. of the United Kingdom total. I accept that Scotland is starting from a higher base. The problem in trying to make a comparison with Scottish education is that, in truth, we have been doing better, and we are continuing to do better proportionately under the current programme. On the base line we in Scotland are to receive about 12·6 per cent. of the education expenditure, as opposed to a proportionate expenditure of 10·1 per cent. There again, the figures and the methods are totally wrong.
This illustrates the need for the Minister to make a statement on the improvement in Scottish education, because in its figures the Scottish National Party forgot that the entire expenditure on Scottish universities came out of the English and Welsh total, since this is paid by the Department of Education and Science in England and Wales. So the illiteracy of the SNP is reinforced by its ignorance of the fact that the universities were paid for out of the English and Welsh provision. This would have meant immediately another £55 million of expenditure in Scotland, which wipes out the gap. There can be no withdrawal from that position. The figures have been exposed and a party which operates on distortion and lies must at some point come face to face with reality. That dispenses with the Tory argument. The false diversion of the SNP has been dealt with by the students who, as the Chrysler workers did, are creating a unity between the students of Scotland and England, recognising that this is a common fight. They will not be diverted by false, lying figures.
The Minister must deal with these problems. It is not enough to say that the Tories are wrong in their analysis and that the SNP is wrong in its figures and methods. Although the Government are not responsible for this situation, it is their responsibility to solve it.
Two possibilities are open. The Tories and the SNP must accept the Socialist economic strategy, which rejects the present statutory basis of public expenditure cuts, which imposes exchange controls and import controls to deal with the balance of payments, which deals with the imbalance of wealth by bringing in a wealth tax in the interests of the poorer people, which deals with the immediate problem of inflation by making sharper price restrictions, which deals with the existing financial and economic problems by a heavier rate of taxation on incomes of £10,000 and over, with a freeze on increases and deals with attempts to shift capital from the public expenditure sector to the private manufacturing sector by taking control of the shift of capital. That is what is lacking in the Government's economic approach.
The Opposition must either accept that strategy or take another approach. They cannot at the same time reject that strategy and demand the restoration of public expenditure cuts, the recruitment of more teachers and everything else, unless they are prepared to campaign for increased rates and taxes. If the SNP and the Tories reject the Socialist strategy, the corollary is that they must have the political courage to campaign for increased rates and taxes to show their bona fides in arguing for the recruitment of extra teachers. There is no other way.
That is the kind of statement we want the Minister to make tomorrow or on Thursday. We want him to say that the Government will ignore the blandishments of one side and the hypocrisy, distortions and lies of the other. We want the Minister to say that the Government will provide money to enable teachers to be recruited as a major investment to reequip the Scottish economy and the people of Scotland for the tasks that lie ahead.
I am sure that the House, aware as it is of the murderous campaign being conducted in Northern Ireland, will understand my reasons for suggesting that the House should not adjourn without considering what is being done and remains to be done before it re-assembles on 7th June. Nothing would be worse than to give the impression that the Government were marking time, that they had arrived at the point which was described by a Minister in a former administration as reaching an acceptable level of violence.
For people in many areas there is a desperate, even a deadly, urgency to beat down the terrorists, using every weapon and instrument which the State can provide and implement. As an ex-Service man, I have always expressed admiration for the Army in all that it has done in support of the civil power. It is no reversal of that position to say that I agree with the strategy of the Secretary of State and the Government in seeking to concentrate the Army in those areas and one those tasks for which it is equipped and with which it is trained to cope.
In areas—and there are many—where the civil power is in a position to stand on its own feet, there is no valid reason for the retention of the Army simply for the sake of appearances. I strongly support suggestions that the Ulster Defence Regiment should be expanded with all possible speed. The Ulster Defence Regiment is destined to play a very important rôle—perhaps the key rôle—in the coming months and years. For far too long its recruitment and even its deployment have been influenced by reason of its composition. While we all regret that Catholics have not found it possible to join—and in many cases have not found it possible to remain members of—the force, it would be foolish to waste an effective force in the vain hope that if we take a little time the conditions affecting recruitment will be transformed overnight, because they will not.
The Ulster Defence Regiment must be unfettered and allowed to play its full part, a part for which it is ideally suited, in bringing about a return to normality. I trust that we are now overcoming the reluctance to establish full-time formations of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Before we return from the recess, I hope that some progress will be made in this direction.
I acknowledge that in time past part-time members of the force have done an excellent job. But they all have another job, that of earning their daily bread. On the other hand, the gunmen are under no such constraints. The majority are doing very nicely on State benefits, the proceeds of bank raids and a wide assortment of rackets. They are not tied to hours of work and are free to operate and strike at times of their own choosing.
If the UDR is to complement the work of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, it must have considerable full-time strength. Meaningful co-operation between the two forces can come about only if each force can count on the round-the-clock readiness and availability of the other.
We have all been horrified by the murder of members of the RUC and the RUC Reserve in recent days. Their assassins have given a fair taste of what would be in store if the Provisional IRA were to achieve its aim of a united Irish Republic in which it would inevitably become the dominant force.
It is a great mistake to imagine that these attacks on the RUC result from proposals to establish what has been referred to as the primacy of the police. I do not subscribe to that view. The real reason is that the police represent authority. They are, therefore, unacceptable in certain Republican areas in Northern Ireland. They always will be. So would any force which represents authority and, by implication, challenges the domination by whatever branch of the IRA happens to be in possession of those areas. Those of us who have seen these forces at work within the various branches of the terrorist organisations know only too well just how uncomfortable this state of affairs can be for the unfortunate people who have to reside in those areas.
In the days before we meet again trust that the Government will not be deterred from pushing ahead with their plans for strengthening the RUC by every possible means. It is important for Parliament and every person in Northern Ireland to convince the RUC that it will have the backing which, unfortunately, was withheld from it in earlier times. In that, we have been greatly encouraged by the reply of the Secretary of State for Defence to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). He said:
I read with great interest the report of his speech in the Army debate. We are not at variance on the points he made. It is absolutely essential that we should step up the role of the RUC and also try to recruit more to the UDR. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is giving consideration to the point that the right hon. Gentleman made about more Regulars in the UDR."—[Official Report, 11th May 1976; Vol. 911, c. 204.]
That statement is probably one of the most encouraging which we have yet heard in the House.
I often wonder what is passing through the minds of the so-called leaders of the Provisional IRA at this time. I have never subscribed to the belief that their campaign is one of mindless murder. In my maiden speech in the House I said that the directing brains behind the unrest were far from aimless. They and those para-political groups which supported them then, and have at intervals supported them since, have achieved the exact opposite of what they intended. There is no doubt that Northern Ireland is now more securely part of the United Kingdom than it ever was. One must then ask the leaders of the IRA—"Was it necessary to kill and injure thousands of innocent people? "One can understand the cause of the tensions and strains in the ranks of those who direct the dastardly deeds of the IRA terrorists, for even political gangsters must have some end in view. Even they must have moments of doubt as they contemplate, not only their lack of progress, but a movement in the opposite direction.
While we cannot be expected to fathom the workings of their distorted minds, we can do something to influence them. For example, we can stop talking to them and their allies and we can increase the deterrents and show more sympathy for the young soldier who gets caught up in an incident and is then treated as a criminal of sorts. Before the recess the House has a duty to make it clear that under no circumstances will the terrorists be permitted to win.
Following the words of the Home Secretary in the debate on immigration last night there is a danger that a considerable wrong will be inflicted on the local authorities in the large reception areas which accommodate the majority of immigrants. Although the Home Secretary gave no clear definition of Government policy on immigration, he did not accept any of the suggestions about how to reduce the number of arrivals. Before the House adjourns it is necessary for the Leader of the House to make the Government's position clear.
A clear consequence flows from the Minister's speech, which showed that no fewer than 60,000 coloured immigrants will come into the country in the next 12 months—and it could be a much larger number. We must take account of the limited number of reception areas in England. There are perhaps no more than 12 major centres that receive immigrants. The reception areas are mainly in the inner areas of large towns and cities in the West Midlands, Lancashire, Yorkshire, the East Midlands and London.
Anyone who knows anything about the inner areas of such towns will know that they have a concentration of problems. They are rundown areas with old schools and an accumulation of social problems. In addition, they are expected to take on the extra responsibility of immigrants. Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford and Leicester are among those centres facing severe problems.
Inevitably, more than 95 per cent. of the new arrivals coming here within the next 12 months will go to established reception areas, because dependants will join their families and new family groups, from East Africa for instance, will go to friends who live in parts of the country where similar people reside. The majority of immigrants will settle in the already densely populated and established immigrant areas.
During the last 18 months, in accordance with Government policy as described by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), there have been substantial increases in the number of immigrants coming into the country. The consequence is that the reception areas are already badly overcrowded and many of the services provided are near breaking point. Few realise the nature of the demographic change which has taken place in densely populated areas such as Sparkbrook and Handsworth in Birmingham over the last 25 years. A tremendous deterioration has taken place in the quality of services available to people in those areas.
We know that the Government are going on with their policy of receiving large numbers of extra immigrants. People already living in the areas such as Spark-brook and Handsworth know that they must make a success of the present situation. But the problems I am talking about will make it more difficult to work towards establishing good race relations in those areas. People in the difficult areas of Birmingham are understandably saying—as the former Government Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said yesterday—that enough is enough.
In answer to a Question last week the Minister talked of Government policy on receiving immigrants into this country. He said that, given sensible planning, the problems could be coped with. There is no trace of sensible planning in the way in which the Government are developing their policy. They have a completely haphazard attitude to the arrival of enormous numbers of extra people. Worst of all, interpreting the Home Secretary's words, it appears that there will be no increase in resources available to local authorities that will have to undertake Ibis extra responsibility.
Before the House rises the right hon. Gentleman should spell out exactly what the Government position is in relation to the local authorities with these enormous responsibilities. The Home Secretary said yesterday:
there is no prospect, with present pressures on public expenditure, of allocating more resources to it."—[Official Report, 24th May 1976; Vol. 912, c. 103.]
He was talking about the problems of receiving all these extra populations in the reception areas. If the local authorities concerned are to have no extra resources to meet the costs of the increased demand upon services, particularly education, housing and social services, it will be dreadfully irresponsible of the Government to saddle so many industrial towns and cities with these burdens. Therefore, I hope that the Leader of the House will be able to say exactly what the Government's position is.
I do not believe that the policy spelt out by the Home Secretary can be sustained. It is essential that, as hon. Members on this side of the House have asked, the Government spell out in much clearer detail before the House rises their policy on immigration. It is particularly important that they should make clear also exactly where they stand on the allocation of resources to those large areas which have to struggle with such enormous problems because they are the reception areas for immigrants.
I shall be brief, because a number of my hon. Friends have been waiting a long time to take part in the debate.
I wish to take up the theme of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre). After yesterday's debate, initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken), in a most impressive speech, there is now an overwhelming need for a full-scale debate in Government time on the subject of immigration, even if it cannot take place before we adjourn for the Whitsun Recess. We heard some very important facts and figures from my hon. Friend yesterday, and we were also given some remarkable information by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), which changes the whole scene.
In contrast to the speeches of my hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman was the speech of the former Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon). That speech, if ever I heard one, showed just how out of touch the Home Office is with this subject. Although personally he is a pleasant person, the hon. Gentleman was extremely longwinded, very complacent and inaccurate. After what I heard from him, I am not surprised that we are in our present state as regards immigration.
My concern—I have worked at it for the past two years in the House—is the improvement of race relations. I represent a consituency with 5,000 or 6,000 immigrants, and I know the problems. Much more must be done by Parliament and the people of this country to improve race relations, but I believe also that we have had too much immigration and that something must be done to curb it even further.
I urge upon the Leader of the House that we need a debate on the subject. In the past few days, particularly yesterday, untold damage has been done to race relations, not through my hon. Friend's raising the subject in a debate which was necessary and overdue, but through the revelations of the inexpertness of the Home Office in dealing with the subject and producing the kind of statistics that it does produce. Add to that the recent disadvantageous publicity about the family housed in a four-star hotel in Sussex, and the publicity not long ago about an immigrant constituent of mine receiving £102 a week tax-free because he has 12 children, and one realises all too well that the ball is moving in the wrong direction. Many of us, including our Select Committee, are trying to improve race relations, but, far from improving, they are worsening. Until we have from the Government better parameters, a better definition of what they propose to do, and figures that bear some relation to reality, the situation will go on deteriorating.
I agree with what has already been said about a growing conspiracy of silence over recent years on the subject. The minute one talks about it, one can be accused of being racist. My hon. Friend in his speech yesterday kindly quoted a point I had made about illegitimate children in the West Indies, an important and valid point. When it was reported in my local Press I was attacked by certain individuals for being racist. They said how wrong it was to suggest that immigrants might be illegitimate. The moment anyone brings the subject up outside the House he is accused of being biased. We need more and more men and women of good will, more and more people who are basically tolerant but are extremely worried about the situation, to speak up clearly.
I hope that the Leader of the House, who is renowned for his belief in freedom, will urge upon the Government that they should make the matter clear and that we need the debate of which I have been talking. We also very much need some credibility and decisiveness in Home Office actions to stop illegal entry. The various facts and figures bandied about yesterday showed that far too many people are getting into this country against the rules, either by subterfuge—by coming through the back door—or by bribery. On the morning of the debate I received a letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about a case I had taken up, that of an Indian who had asked for his wife and six children to come to this country. The Under-Secretary of State wrote telling me that there was a hold-up because it had been discovered that four of the birth certificates were forgeries. That kind of thing is being repeated again and again. Until we tighten up on illegal entry, there will not be the credibility that people want from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.
The subject is one of the most important of the day. At the earliest possible opportunity we should have a full debate on immigration and a full statement from the Home Secretary on what he is doing to present credible and understandable figures on illegal entry and of net entry and on what action the Government intend to take this year to make sure that we at last tackle the problem of immigration sensibly and rationally, something that we have put off doing for far too long.
There is one subject above all others on which the House and the country expect a statement before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess—is there or is there not a South African connection? Is there or is there not a smear campaign going on? If so, when shall we be told the facts of it? The whole country is becoming completely bemused by the sort of allegations which are now being heard and which have been hinted at by the Prime Minister and others in the highest possible places of State. Before the Whitsun Recess, we expect a full statement from the Government on what is happening in this matter. We are sick and tired of rumours from madmen and goons without having proper statements from the Government. That is the first matter which should be cleared up.
The second matter—less sensational but very important—is what the Government will do with 213,000 people who are currently unemployed in the building industry. The latest survey by the National Federation of Building Trades Employers shows that the position is getting worse. It has worsened especially since January, for in a recent survey 47 per cent. of the respondents told the federation that they had fewer inquiries for new work than in January. What do the Government propose to do about that?
I do not think that the Government should be expanding public works. They should be giving private enterprise the incentive to develop its own new buildings and factories in order to give work for the construction industry. This would involve no new public sector expenditure at all.
Thirdly, the House ought not to adjourn until the Government have explained what procedures they intend to adopt in order to secure proper hearings for contractors alleged to have breached the so-called voluntary £6-a-week pay limit. I declare an interest, as I am myself a builder. There is a disgraceful and dubious procedure under the Department of the Environment Circular 123/75, published last December, by which any building contractor considered by the Department of Employment to have breached the pay limits is then reported to the Treasury, which then, in the words of the circular,
will consider, in consultation with the Departments concerned, whether they should therefore be barred from future Government contracts.
If they so decide, the Department of the Environment has to draw up a black list of contractors and to send it to local authorities. In the words of the circular,
In general no new tenders should be invited from them, nor should any new contract or significant extension to existing contracts he awarded to them.
As it happens, this procedure has not yet been used, to the best of my knowledge, but! what will happen in the new stage 2? We expect a statement from the Government before the House rises. I am particularly concerned that the Treasury can take away a builder's livelihood for breaching a voluntary policy without any right of public inquiry or other hearing at all.
On 26th January I asked for an assurance that firms would be permitted to be heard in their own defence under some proper appeal procedure in accordance with natural justice. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury replied that firms would be heard in the circumstances described. I was so dissatisfied that on 10th March I asked that the Chief Secretary should submit his proposals for the conduct of such hearings to the Council on Tribunals, and publish them. He replied that the way in which firms would be heard would be effective but informal. That simply is not enough. How can the House tolerate an official black list of business men, who have done nothing illegal, without any assurance of a fair hearing?
I wrote to the Chairman of the Council on Tribunals and asked him to look
into it, but he replied to me that he was unable to intervene in the case, because the procedure set out in the circular
would appear to have no statutory basis, and so falls outside the council's jurisdiction. As regards the decision of the Secretary of State for Employment as to whether the pay limits have been breached, again no statutory procedure appears to have been provided, and I cannot see any grounds on which the council could now intervene.
To add insult to injury, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment told me, in two Written Answers on 26th January 1976, that civil servants who sent out a circular which blacklisted construction firms, who subsequently, it appeared, had not breached the limits at all, would be indemnified against libel actions. He even shuffled off the Minister's personal responsibility in such a case by saying:
I am advised that my right hon. Friend's personal responsibility raises legal questions and would depend on the circumstances of the case."—[Official Report, 26th January 1976; Vol. 903, c. 19.]
What it comes to in 1976, therefore, is that the Government produce a voluntary pay policy—the right hon. Gentleman himself advocated it in the House as a voluntary pay policy—which black-lists those who breach it, without any guarantee of a fair hearing, and then use taxpayers' money to evade their responsibilities in law by indemnifying people who made a mistake. Is that justice? Will that happen in stage 2?
Surely the right thing now is either to abandon this deplorable procedure altogether or for the Government to lay down clear rules by which the independent Council on Tribunals can investigate any ministerial procedures. Natural justice demands a statement from the Government before the Whitsun Recess.
We should not adjourn until the Government have made a clear statement of intent on the growing problems relating to rural transport, and the obstacles facing every voluntary organisation in this country wishing to provide transport of one kind or another for the people it is trying to serve. I submit that last Friday, when the Government objected to my Transport (Amendment) Bill, they were dashing the hopes of very many people living in villages all over the country who wish to have transport, who do not have a car, and who are badly in need of transport help.
I remind the House briefly that the simple objective of my Bill was to relax the licensing laws with regard to public service vehicles in order to enable minibuses, in areas where there were no clear National Bus Company routes, to operate and to provide a service for those people who do not have cars. What is more important—judging by my post-bag—is that the purpose of the Bill was to enable voluntary organisations to run mini-buses without all the terrible obstructions and obstacles which they now have to face in the licensing laws, and without having to apply to the county council for a grant, or to raise funds to enable them to charge a reasonably cheap fare to cover essential costs.
In that Bill there were quite adequate safeguards to ensure that the jobs of those working in the National Bus Company would not be immediately jeopardised and that the county councils would have responsibility for ensuring an orderly and rational system of bus representation. The need for an improvement in rural transport is self-evident, and has been growingly so over the last few years.
It is now becoming acute. We all know of the vicious spiral of increasing fares and diminishing passengers, the gradual withdrawal of bus services, and the growing number of routes which are making a loss and which the taxpayers are having increasingly to subsidise. Indeed, the Government's consultative document on transport actually accepts that there is a great social problem in the villages. It accepts that there is a grave problem and acknowledges that 30 per cent. of all households in the villages have no cars.
The analysis is extremely good, but the prescription is pathetic. All that is proposed in order to deal with this problem is a series of experiments in four areas under the existing licensing laws to see whether the situation can be improved. The Government then say that they might consider introducing a Bill to allow another few experiments in certain areas under relaxed licensing laws. By then another two or three years will have passed and the situation will be getting graver and graver.
The response to my Bill has been overwhelming. A large number of organisations, national and local, have given their support to the Bill, support running right across party lines. They include the National Consumer Council, the National Association of Women's Institutes, the National Association of Youth Clubs, Age Concern, the National Council for Social Service, the National Association of Local Councils, the Rural Community Council, a great mass of schools in Scotland, England and Wales, and a great mass of local voluntary bodies looking after the interests of those in need.
These and many other organisations have written to me to demonstrate their support and their urgent desire to see the Bill passed into law. It is a Bill designed to help the old, the disabled and those who are infirm in some way. It is designed to help the youth clubs and the schoolchildren of Britain by facilitating the use of mini-buses for their extra-curricula activities. There is overwhelming desire for action now.
It was three years ago that my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) introduced a Bill on behalf of the then Government, the Road Traffic Bill, which was designed for the very purpose of relaxing the licensing laws to cater for a situation which was then very bad but which today is far worse. A growing number of people are facing serious difficulties and problems of social isolation today.
There is great disappointment across the country that to all intents and par-poses the Government have destroyed my Bill by objecting to it and thus ensuring that no time will be provided for adequate discussion and debate. At a time when action is required, the Government have responded in a pathetic fashion to the nature of the problem that they face.
By sabotaging my Bill, which should command the support of all quarters of the House, they have sabotaged the hopes of the old, the infirm, the disabled and young people and many schoolchildren in villages today. This issue should be debated.
The Government should make a statement before the House adjourns, for the recess. Until they do so, their expressions of concern for those in need can beregarded only as sheer and utter hypocrisy.
We are proposing to rise for the recess at a peculiarly unfortunate moment. There appears to be an awful lot of unfinished business that the Government really ought to complete before coming to the recess.
I reinforce what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) by reminding the Lord President not only that the situation as described by my hon. Friend applies all over the country but that in Scotland there have been strong rumours over the last few days that there are to be such savage cuts in rural bus services in the near future that those employed in the bus services in Scotland are contemplating some form of industrial action in protest. This makes all the more incomprehensible the lack of Government policy concerning rural transport. I hope that the Lord President will consider that matter as being of immense importance before we rise for the recess.
The Lord President has been pressed to do many things today. I hope that he will take seriously the concern expressed about the UNCTAD conference in Kenya and the lack of a declaration on the part of the Government about their stance at that conference, in any acceptable way—although I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not succumb to the blandishments of his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) by jumping into commodity agreements, because there is by no means a clear case that commodity agreements would necessarily be of advantage to Britain, at any rate if they were entered into with any haste.
I also agree with what has been said today about the Law of the Sea Conference. It is quite extraordinary that after the session that ended in April the Government have not given us a report on their views on the results, if any, of that conference, and their views about the next session. I hope that we shall have an answer on that matter before the House rises.
There is, however, an issue of great urgency which we cannot happily leave until be re-assemble after the recess. That is the problem of young, newly-qualified teachers throughout the country who are facing the end of their training period without any prospects of getting jobs. The Government have much more of a responsibility than they have so far admitted.
It is not good enough for the Prime Minister to say, as he said at Question Time today, that the rate of unemployment of young teachers is not as high as the rate among other groups. That may be true, but the Government cannot shrug off their responsibility to people whom they have encouraged to go into training, whom they have supported financially to do their training, a training covering many years, and whom they have allowed to complete that training, and then coolly go through their economic policies and not provide the means for those people to be employed.
I am not saying that the Government have taken on a complete obligation to employ every teacher in all circumstances and at all times. However, when the Government have had to change course in their economic policies in the middle of these young people's training, they have an obligation to do something about it and to make some means available to give them jobs.
This situation is affecting people very seriously indeed. In my constituency we have the Craigie College of Education. It is a relatively new college but it has a high reputation and a very good record in every kind of study, in behaviour, and everything else. I have had representations from many of my constituents who are students there. I have received a letter from the president of the students' union there asking me to raise this point. He points out that as at 14th May—a week or two ago, but fairly recently—the position in that one college, which is only one of many in Scotland, let alone the rest of Britain, was that out of the total number of students expected to qualify within the next few weeks, 174, only 52 had by 14th May any prospect of jobs, leaving 122 of them without a chance of employment. In one college that is surely a very serious matter.
This afternoon quite a number of hon. Members have raised this matter. One was my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro). However, the important thing is that we should emphasise to the Government that we, on the Opposition side of the House at any rate, are not suggesting that they can afford to increase public expenditure to real with this problem. We are not suggesting that and we have not suggested that. It is pointless for the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) to pretend that we have been suggesting increasing public expenditure and to condemn us for that. What we have said all along is that the Government must re-order their priorities in education spending in order to put these unfortunate young teachers higher up the scale of priorities.
We have been making specific suggestions as to how this money could be raised. There may be many other suggestions. I have made only two suggestions to the Government. However, what Labour Members must face up to is the fact that they cannot ride two horses at one time. They are rightly showing sympathy with constituents and others in this unfortunate position, but they are not prepared to accept that the only way in which the Government can solve this problem is to alter the priorities for spending within the sums of money they have allocated.
It is no use the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central saying that the Government ought to ignore the need to constrain public expenditure. It might be attractive to the hon. Gentleman in one sense if they did that, but the rest of us would be ruined for years to come if the Government allowed public expenditure to rise. Hon. Members must face that fact.
I am suggesting that the Government must say to these young teachers that they accept that one of the most important priorities in education is to give jobs to young, newly-qualified teachers. If the Government accept that that is their duty—I hope that the Lord President will accept that it is—let the Government get down to the question of deciding which priorities must come down in importance in order to give jobs to those who have just qualified as teachers.
May I put again to the hon. Gentleman the point that I put to him when he intervened during my speech? This time I put it in the form of a question. Has he discussed with the president and officials of Craigie College in his constituency his suggestion that the money for their employment should be found by increasing the price of school lunches and by taking away school milk?
I have not discussed that with them. I should be glad to do so. At least I can claim to have been constructive and to have produced a concrete suggestion about a way to raise enough money to give jobs to almost all, if not all, these teachers who are unemployed.
It is tragic that the Government's own economic policy has lead them to the position where they have to cut expenditure. It is their incompetence that has lead to this position, and now it is up to all of us to help bail them out of the mess they have made. They cannot afford the money to give these young people jobs.
It hurts these young teachers a great deal. Most of them have spent at least three years studying. It is not only the teachers qualifying this summer who are affected. I have a constituent who is not due to qualify this summer but who is on a domestic science course which would normally finish with a fourth year of study at Jordanhill College. That constituent has completed three years in a domestic science college and now she has been told that she cannot get a place at Jordanhill College because the Government are cutting back on entry. She has gone three-quarters of the way through her course and is now denied for all time the professional qualification for which she has studied for three years.
The Government have to accept that they have been forced to change their economic policy and make cuts in public expenditure. They cannot make these young teachers bear the brunt of that burden. They have to accept that as changes have to be made, they must have a change in their priorities in education expenditure in order to give these people employment.
In view of the hon. Member's deep concern about this matter, would he suggest that we tax the breweries more heavily or take them into public ownership to help pay for the provision of jobs for these young teachers?
I am not sure what calculations the hon. Gentleman has made—I have not made any—on how many extra teachers could be given jobs by taking industries into public ownership. I am sure that it will be a great relief to young teachers to know that this is his solution.
I have tried to be constructive and to make a suggestion. There is £1 million laid aside by the Government for extending free school milk to older primary school children. This will not affect children whose parents are on a low income or on social security, because they get free school milk anyway. It will affect only those whose parents are on average earnings or on good wages. That £1 million would be better spent on giving jobs to 250 young teachers. That is my proposition—one can either agree with it or disagree, but it is still a fair proposition.
There is also the Government's proposal to cancel the extra charge for school meals. This will cost the Exchequer £53 million, of which about £5 million will apply to Scotland. There is another £5 million which could be made available to give jobs to hundreds of young teachers who are out of work.
Would the Lord President tell us whether it is more important to extend free school milk and cancel the extra charges for school meals than it is to find jobs for young teachers? If he thinks it is more important, he should say so and take the consequences.
We have had a good debate on this subject and I hope that the House will now allow me to reply to it. I know that the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) is engaged in discussions elsewhere, but I have no doubt he will return to the House as soon as he is able to do so. I hope to refer to many of the questions raised but it should be understood that I am not called upon to discuss the merits of all the issues raised. I am here to discuss the relevance of the issues raised to the question whether we should rise for the Whitsun Recess. That is a much narrower point than, for example, the question which the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) put forward on the priorities of public expenditure.
The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery) asked what had happened to the Education Bill. No doubt he wanted to see its speedy progress through the House. I hope that we shall make progress on it soon after we return from the recess. Therefore the question whether we should rise for the recess does not arise on the issue. The hon. Member also raised the subject of the Government's immigration policy, as did the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) and the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith). They all seemed to be continuing the immigration debate which we had yesterday, and that does not seem to be a matter which should be raised in connection with the Whitsun Recess.
On the question of immigration policy generally, I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend said yesterday, which I thought admirably discharged the call in the resolution for
a clear and accurate statement
of Government policy. I can confirm that a formal inquiry has been instituted into the disclosure of the report of Mr. Hawley's visit to the Indian sub-continent. The matter is under consideration and I have nothing further to add to that. There will be occasions in the future when the general immigration debate can be continued but there is no special reason why the debate should be continued before the Whitsun Recess.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), the hon. Member for Ayr and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) all mentioned the UNCTAD conference in Nairobi. Certainly nobody knows more about these matters than does my right hon. Friend and she was able to cite the names of others who had signed the motion and who have most detailed knowledge of the subject. I certainly agree about the importance which they attach to this subject, and the importance of trying to ensure that we get as much success as possible from the discussions which are to take place.
I see that the right hon. Member for Yeovil has returned. I am sorry that I started before he returned, but we wanted to make some progress in this debate.
As far as the UNCTAD conference is concerned, the United Kingdom commodity initiative made in Kingston a year ago has had a substantial impact on thinking in the developing countries and we are determined to build on that success and the progress achieved subsequently, including the report of the Comonwealth experts on the basis for future international work. Such consensus is vital in the interests of the world as a whole. Now that the conference is moving into its final stage, we are working actively with the developed nations and the Commonwealth for a compromise solution, including the common fund which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South. We all hope that this compromise will emerge from the conference.
Certainly the Government approach the matter with flexibility and good will, and we believe that a satisfactory outcome is still possible. When the conference is over there will be a proper report to the House on the matter. I am most grateful to my right hon. and hon. Friends for having raised the matter in this debate. It was an absolutely proper use of this type of debate because it involved a matter on which urgent representations could be made which could affect an immediate situation.
Two or three hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley), raised the question of rabies and asked what the Government were doing about these difficulties. I can assure the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Price) that the Government do not underrate the significance and importance of this matter. We are certainly prepared to do everything possible to combat the rabies threat. That does not mean that we necessarily think that a Select Committee is the best way to proceed. The Minister of Agriculture has made available to the House a great deal of information about this subject. He has given informative parliamentary replies in recent weeks and he has prepared an explanatory memorandum which should be of interest to all hon. Members.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is considering making a statement this week on the medical knowledge available for treating rabies in humans. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is arranging a meeting, probably on Thursday, with a group of hon. Members to consider powers of arrest and penalties for rabies offences. It was also suggested that the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee should consider investigating the Government's anti-rabies measures. In the circumstances it would be wise to take account of all these developments.
It would be most misleading for anyone to suggest—I am not saying that hon. Members have done that—that we have acted other than to keep this dreadful disease out of the country. A whole series of measures have been taken and are being taken, and that is the right way to proceed. I therefore have nothing further to say to the hon. Member for Eastleigh about the Select Committee, but because we do not wish to proceed in that direction for the moment that does not mean that we have not taken every measure we can to avoid the serious situation which hon. Members fear.
My hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) and Renfrew-shire, West (Mr. Buchan), and one or two Conservative Members conducted a general educational debate which ranged over not whether we should adjourn for the Whitsun Recess but what has happened during recent years. It would be intrusive of me to enter into that debate, but that does not mean that I do not accept what my hon. Friends have said. They have a right to speak in this matter, but the Conservatives, who have been so eager to slash public expenditure, do not speak with such a strong voice.
My hon. Friends expressed a feeling and anxiety which is widespread in all parts of the country and which needs urgent consideration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education is greatly concerned about it, and although I cannot promise a statement before the recess, I am sure that he will be considering how best he can inform the House of his view. It may be that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will make a statement before the recess, but I cannot give a guarantee or undertaking about that.
I can go no further than I have already gone, and I can give no guarantee that Ministers will make statements before the recess, although that is a possibility. This is not the occasion to debate the general merits of an argument. We should use this debate to consider whether there is a case for early statements, which could influence policy, to be made before Parliament rises for the recess. All the arguments have to be related to that. Most of the Opposition arguments were related to much wider questions of policy. If I were to reply on that basis the arguments would never end.
In the days when I used to engage in this kind of debate from the Back Benches, at least we had to show sufficient ingenuity to keep in order. It is necessary that our comments in these debates should be related to the recess. Whenever I engaged in such enterprises in the past I always sought to relate what I said to the motion.
I was laughing because I remember that in 1964 the right hon. Gentleman was the protagonist among Labour Members who were dragging the debate out as far as possible. Just because the Chair is now extremely kind to hon. Members, it does not lie in the right hon. Gentleman's hands to query what the Chair is doing.
I am not attempting to usurp the functions of the Chair. I have sufficient difficulty in doing my own job without trying to do Mr. Speaker's job as well. I am simply trying to make a few sententious asides on the question, and it is appropriate that these should be made occasionally, particularly when that helps to ensure that I do not have to enter into the full merits of the argument.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) asked the Government for a statement on their general fishing policy. There is a need for a general statement on this subject, but there is no possibility of its being made before the recess and I do not think the hon. Member was pressing for that. We understand the necessity for such a statement partly because of the cod war and partly because of developments in the EEC and associated events. There will be a statement but I cannot give a time for it—except to say that it will not be before we depart for the recess, unless I have been ill-informed by the Minister of Agriculture. That is always a possibility, but I do not think it has occurred on this occasion.
While the right hon. Gentleman is fishing in rather deep waters, could he comment on a subject which may save him at least one speech hereafter? Are we likely to get a debate on Cyprus? While fishing was being discussed by the NATO Ministers, so, too, one hopes, was Cyprus. This is a matter of great urgency. There are at least two motions on the Order Paper relating to Cyprus. They have been signed by hon. Members from both sides of the House who want a debate on the issue.
That will be a perfectly legitimate matter to put when we have a statement, before we rise on Friday, about future business. The intervention of the hon. and learned Member illustrates what I have been saying. There is no possibility of a debate before the recess. If the hon. and learned Gentleman puts the question to me again later this week, I shall give him a reply which will deal with the subject. I am not guaranteeing a debate. I shall wait to see what question is put and how widespread is the desire for a debate, though this is obviously, subject to some qualification, a matter to be considered for debate.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) asked some serious and important questions concerning the wellbeing, livelihood, and, often, the lives of people in Northern Ireland. I shall draw his remarks to the attention of the Secretaries of State for Defence and Northern Ireland, though the hon. Mem ber was good enough to acknowledge that the statement by the Secretary of State for Defence was a good approach to the matter. To some extent, the hon. Member answered his own plea. That is always satisfactory because it means that I do not have to intervene on that aspect of the debate either.
The hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) raised the South African connection. I have nothing to say on that subject. I understand that it is a security matter, and that is a good reason for not saying anything about it—quite apart from any other reasons.
The hon. Member also raised the question how the £6 policy had worked and what he considered to be an improper application of the policy. This is a perfect illustration of a matter which it is not proper to raise on this debate. The hon. Member made points which he could have made as the legislation was going through the House. It was also open to him or anyone else to question how the policy had operated by putting down Questions to the Department of Employment. It was insisted upon that the Department, which was responsible for that aspect of the policy, should be answerable to the House for anything it might do. There is no need to raise this matter in the debate on the recess. The hon. Member has had ample opportunity to put down Questions since the measure was put on the statute book.
Perhaps I might also deal, by anticipation, with the other part of the hon. Member's question, which was how stage 2 would be dealt with under the forthcoming policy. Again, this is not a question which should properly be raised in this debate. The House will obviously have to discuss how the policy is to be applied under stage 2. That will be the exactly proper moment for the hon. Member to put his question. The continuance of the policy for another 12 months can be carried through only with the consent of the House. Hon. Members will have the opportunity to discuss and vote upon proposals put by the Government. All that was made clear when we discussed the original £6 limit.
The hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) spoke about rural transport and complained that his Bill had not been accepted by the Government. Again, he answered his own point by saying that the Government had made an admirable statement on the situation in the consultative document on transport. We shall obviously have to debate that document, and that is another reason for my insistence—which is perhaps rather tiresome—that where it is obvious that there will be debates in the House or where there are matters which cannot become law without a proper debate in the House and there is no special urgency, these are subjects the merits of which should not be discussed in detail in Adjournment debates.
I stressed that this is a growing social problem in many villages in this country, and although the consultative document was brilliant in its analysis of the problem, its prescription was rotten.
Mr. Foot: I understand that there are considerable problems with transport in rural areas all over the country, but it is not the sort of matter which the House should debate on this motion. We ought to be discussing questions where attitudes and actions of the Government can be influenced. Where the Government have set out a brilliant document on rural transport and it is evident that they will be bringing forward proposals, this is obviously not the sort of subject for this debate.
I shall shortly draw my remarks to a close.
Because we must proceed with our business. There is important legislation which the House is eager to see on the statute book. Hon. Members may laugh, but the evidence is on the record. We have had a Second Reading and the Committee stage proceeded smoothly, though not hastily, and the House is eager to conclude the matter.
I have tried to deal with questions involving special matters of urgency or matters which could be brought to the attention of Ministers. The hon. Member for Antrim, South gave a perfect example of how to use this debate to deal with matters of special urgency. Some of the other questions, such as those raised by the hon. Member for Melton, were irrelevant to this debate.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us who have attended these debates before have the feeling that his predecessor gave much fuller answers to the subjects which were raised and did not seek to decide what was proper and what was not? I presume that "proper" is a moral judgment that cannot refer to the Chair, otherwise it would have been called out of order.
Of course the Chair decides all these matters. I am merely giving my view about the way in which these debates should be handled. If I have not replied as fully, extensively and comprehensively as my predecessor, I am afraid that that is a sad decline which the House will have to endure for as long as I am in my present position. It is still my view that if we turn the Adjournment debate into an elaborate discussion of the merits of all the matters that arise, all the highly satisfactory legislation which the House is so eager to see on the statute book would hardly ever get there. I am sure that nobody would be more disappointed than the right hon. Member for Yeovil, even if he managed to conceal his displeasure.
I am not always successful in my attempts to conceal my displeasure, but if the legislation to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has referred, did not get through the House, I am bound to say that my disappointment would be so negligible that I should have no trouble in hiding it.
First, I say how much I appreciated the right hon. Gentleman's courtesy in understanding why I could not be in the Chamber at the beginning of his speech. We all very much enjoyed the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but it was surely not the speech of a man in a hurry. It was a leisured performance. Incidentally, we have all noticed how greatly attached the right hon. Gentleman has become to the Dispatch Box and how happy he is in that position. It is very nice to see him there, even if he strays to some of his Bank Bench habits from time to time. However, it was strange to find him sitting in judgment for some of the time on what was and was not relevant.
We have little to be thankful for in the House, but one of the things that I still feel remotely touched by is that while the right hon. Gentleman remains in office as Leader of the House he is not occupying the Chair. I hope that his modesty will assert itself in due course so that he confines himself to one rôle at a time. After all, who is the right hon. Gentleman to judge my patient hon. Friends, who have been so brief? Who is he to take them to task when he is positively boasting of what he calls his sententious asides?
For those of my hon. Friends who have not yet spoken, my presence at the Dispatch Box is not to be taken as any indication that the debate is at an end from the point of view of the Opposition. I merely thought that it would be courteous to follow the right hon. Gentleman when he finished his speech.
My hon. Friends the Members for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Montgomery), Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith) and Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre), all applied themselves to immigration. Last weekend I was in Lancashire, and I was left in no doubt as to the depth of feeling in that area. The Government would be very wrong merely to think that a debate for a few hours on a Private Member's motion is enough to put the problem on one side. My right hon. and hon. Friends will recall the days when issues which troubled the then Labour Opposition were brought constantly before the House. Indeed, if my hon. Friends have any fault as an Opposition it is that they have not yet understood the value and importance of repetition, especially when a Government show themselves incapable to receiving messages very easily.
The Government's silence on immigration concerned my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale. I think that he was quite right to voice his concern. The astonishing development of a secret Foreign Office report is not one which can be waved aside. I expected the Government, in all the circumstances, to take the matter away, to think about it, and to undertake to make a statement before the House rose for the recess.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend has noticed that the Leader of the House has disappeared. I am sure that he has also noticed that an extraordinary confabulation seems to be taking place on the Government Front Bench. I wonder why the right hon. Gentleman has disappeared. Surely these are most important matters for him to consider. I am sure that he has an important engagement of some sort, but the fact is he is not here.
I remember that when the right hon. Gentleman was on the Back Benches he was the person who kept the House waiting every time on precisely these subjects. I should like to know the whereabouts of the right hon. Gentleman. After all, it is for him to answer these matters. Why did he disappear the moment my right hon. Friend got up?
Surely the one allegation that cannot be made against my right hon. Friend is a lack of attention to debates. If I may say so, he has been here today a damned sight longer than the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell). My right hon. Friend will be back within two or three minutes. Everyone has good cause to leave the Chamber from time to time.
First, who am I to answer for the rather delicate matters which have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell)? The reasons for the presence or absence of the Leader of the House are entirely for him. As the right hon. Gentleman treated me with some courtesy, I shall not press him too hard.
However, if I could have the attention of his junior colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office, who, I thought, spoke rather rashly, the hon. Gentleman said—I do not know whether you heard him, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that he did not give a damn, or something like that. In any event, he used some words which are not ordinarily parliamentary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I hope that hon. Members will check the record. The hon. Gentleman used the word "damn" very clearly.
If junior Ministers had so conducted themselves when the Conservative Party was in Government, we should have had a row that would have continued for half an hour. The hon. Gentleman chances his luck a bit too often. There are some junior Ministers who think that they can get away with everything too easily and for too long merely because my right hon. Friends are a sight too patient and tolerant.
I return to the more gentle tenor of my remarks, when I was so interestingly interrupted by my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth. My hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green brought to his speech the knowledge and experience of one who has been very close to the problems of immigration, and especially the problems which occur in the established centres of reception.
I hope that the Leader of the House will read that speech, will not say "We had a debate on that matter on Monday", but will take seriously the experience of an hon. Member such as my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green and will act upon it. I hope that he will also take note of the request that I now make—namely, that the Government do not go off for the recess without making some further statement to the House about the report that emerged from the Foreign Office.
My hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) and Eastleigh (Mr. Price) very properly raised the subject of rabies. I thought that on the whole the Leader of the House made at least some noises that encouraged one to believe that the Government were at last coming round to taking the matter seriously.
I recall not long ago that we received little lectures from the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), who, I am delighted, is no longer Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman when Prime Minister used to inform us in a trite manner from time to time that this was no laughing matter. Rabies was one of those subjects which, we were tartly informed, was no laughing matter. At any rate, I am glad that the Government have now got it down on the list of subjects for action. I hope that my hon. Friends who raised this serious matter will pursue it in future with the vigilance that we have come to expect of them.
My hon. Friends the Members for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) and Ayr (Mr. Younger) referred to the despair and frustration of newly qualified teachers for whom there were no jobs. I am sure that they did justice to a very serious problem. I hope that when we get back after the recess we shall hear some sensible ideas from the Secretary of State for Scotland, not to mention the Secretary of State for Education and Science in England.
The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) expressed disappointment with the response of the right hon. Member for Huyton and of the Prime Minister to the UNCTAD conference and then went on to express his dissatisfaction with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. In those three remarks he carried the Opposition with him, quite unusually, because we have no grounds to be satisfied with any of those Ministers.
The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) is in a very happy position whenever he speaks in this House, because he is able to lash about him at everybody and all concerned. But his great enthusiasm for the fishing industry expired rather soon, because he was not present to hear the answer from the Leader of the House.
The hon. Gentleman could not possibly have anticipated that the reply by the Leader of the House would be as useless as it was. But I think that there may be an element of realism in such an expectation, because the hon. Gentleman has not been here long enough for his optimism to be destroyed.
The right hon. Member for Walsall. North (Mr. Stonehouse) must forgive me if I do not follow him at length on the subject of pyramid selling. The mention of pyramid selling reminded me of the right hon. Gentleman's erstwhile colleagues who conduct themselves in selling trashy goods in a fraudulent manner to an unsuspecting subject.
It will doubtless have struck my right hon. Friend that an undertaking was given to the House that the Leader of the House would be back in two or three minutes. I think that five, six, seven or eight minutes must now have elapsed. In the circumstances, would it be appropriate for a posse to go and see whether the Leader of the House is all right?
I admire the generous and warm-hearted concern of my hon. Friend for the Leader of the House and I share his hope that the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly comfortable. I must say that, in a rather contrary way, I share just a little the wish that my hon. Friend expressed for the early return of the Leader of the House, even if it interrupts the earnest consultations which often precede the barbarous motion, 'That the Question be now put.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am extremely worried because the House is now in a situation in which the Government have promised that a very senior Minister—namely, the Leader of the House—will be back in two or three minutes to hear the important speech being made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). Some seven or eight minutes have now passed since we were given that promise by the Government. May we now have some idea of the Government's intentions?
My hon. Friend, obviously in his kindness and optimism, stirs up hopes that the return of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House will import something constructive into the debate. I do not think that the presence of the right hon. Gentleman is likely to be particularly helpful, but I agree that his presence would be polite. I do not wish to detain the House for long and I shall not match minute for minute, the effort of the Leader of the House, who gave the impression of being a man who was not in a hurry.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) spoke for all of us when he said that the terrorist must not win. We all regret that at present the lessons that are being learned in our country are to the effect that the men of muscle and violence normally win, and indeed receive over-abundant encouragement. The hon. Gentleman's remarks were well-made.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Luce) mentioned the topic of rural transport. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House produced an extraordinary answer when he said that because the problem of rural transport had existed for some time, it was improper that the matter should be raised on this Adjournment motion. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government had produced a document. When I was in that dreadful organisation, the Department of the Environment, I was constantly tempted to produce some document on transport. I resiled from doing so because I had a clear appreciation of the fact that the product was likely to be idiotic. The Government have now produced a paper of first quality.
The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) is the sole of courtesy, etiquette and protocol, but if the Chair wishes to correct me, I am sure that it will do so without any prompting by the hon. Gentleman. Certainly in the matter of courtesy and politness, I must concede that the hon. Gentleman's output of remarks from a seated position exceeds that of any other hon. Member in the House.
I have already given way twice to my hon. Friend, and I know that he has already raised a point of order. However, in his interventions he tends to stir up troubled waters, and I must tell him that I am a man of peace. I do not want to give way to my hon. Friend merely to find that he embarks on a long speech that stirs up all those nasty, unpleasant hornets on the Labour Benches.
My right hon. Friend is always the soul of courtesy. He accused my hon. Friends of being full of the milk of human kindness, and so on, and then he said the same thing of the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr). That is worrying enough in itself. But what worries me even more is that my right hon. Friend is not bothering to get the Leader of the House back into this place before he finishes his speech. I expect my right hon. Friend to be tough with the Government about this.
I must apologise to my hon. Friend, but I am afraid I have a thoroughly schizophrenic approach to the matter. That is why I am so undecided. Although I should like to see the Leader of the House back here attempting to do his duty and to show a measure of courtesy to the House, nevertheless I am not sure that I want to see him. My enthusiasm for his beauty is tempered by my reluctance to trouble him.
I should like to touch upon many other matters, but time does not permit. However, before I leave the question of transport I want to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham that he was right to raise the matter. He was the more right to do so because of the ridiculous document produced by the Government, which makes no sense to anyone. I can quite understand the shyness of the Treasury Bench in not wishing to have that document discussed by the House before we rise for the recess or, for that matter, at any other time. If it ever comes up for discussion, I am afraid that Government supporters will have some very nasty differences of opinion to settle, and I doubt whether the Government's proposals will enjoy any fair weather.
It would please me very much if before the recess we could have cleared up some of the South African mysteries. One of the most popular gambits of the right hon. Member for Huyton when he was Prime Minister was to produce these very sinister allegations about powerful financial forces with tremendous backing undertaking awful activities, usually doing tremendous damage to the Liberal Party. I am bound to say that why anyone should be so consumed with passion towards the Liberal Party has never become clear to me. Perhaps the Liberal Party was an alternative target to someone else. I do not know. But just when we thought that all this vapour would be dissipated by the disappearance of the right hon. Member for Huyton from the Dispatch Box, the new Prime Minister, instead of seizing the chance to start with a clean sheet, goes in for the same thing and says that there is something in it.
If we do not get a statement on all these South African mysteries before the recess, I hope that when we come back after the recess the Government will satisfy our curiosity and make available to us the information on which Ministers have, presumably, based their remarks.
Sadly, in the absence of the Leader of the House, I raise this question of the Committees. Liberal Members have a motion on the Order Paper to which I have added my own name. What I do not understand is how the Government, having reached eventually and very reluctantly the right conclusion about Standing Committees, have totally avoided any consistent action about Select Committees.
I compliment Liberal Members on their tolerance and restraint in this matter. If I may encourage them, I hope that they will stir themselves so that they may eventually extract from the Government some admission that, having ceased to enjoy a majority in the House, they are no longer entitled to enjoy as of right a majority on Select Committees. They have conceded the point on Standing Committees. Why do not they do the same on Select Committees? I do not see that the Government have any answer to give to the House. I hope that after the recess—I suppose that it is too much to hope that they would do it before—we shall at long last have some sensible comments from the Government about the situation.
The Leader of the House told me the other day that he would also arrange for us to come back to the question of skimmed milk. What are we going to do when a law has been passed by the Community and we have denounced the conclusions? We have already had an inconclusive debate with the Government really just "taking note" of the situation and not in any way stirring themselves to action.
I wonder how long it is necessary for me to go on? I have been on my feet not nearly as long as the Leader of the House but I was desperately hoping to protect his reputation.
I presume my intervention is welcome in the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
Can he perhaps tell us whether he is contemplating joining his colleagues the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) and the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), if not before the Adjournment, then soon after, to produce the collective works of Conservative disagreement on uneconomic policy? Before he leaves us today, can he perhaps expand on remarks made over the weekend about the mediocrities with whom he shares the Front Bench? This would be more interesting to the country than some of the remarks he has so far made.
I would congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the last part of his remarks which were, at least, notably offensive as far as I am concerned. This is his only achievement. I would only warn him that it would, in my view, be awfully nice if he would just be a little more careful about what he read, and made sure that he understood it properly and did not jump to any conclusions on the basis of false information.
I conclude my remarks sadly disappointed that the Leader of the House should have absented himself for so long from this debate when I was answering what he had said. I also end my remarks on a note of hope. In view of the promising remark that you yourself made just now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that a number of my hon. Friends still wish to speak, I look forward to their doing so.
I am sorry that the Lord President felt it necessary to say that some of my hon. Friends have made irrelevant speeches when they suggested that a proper reason that the House should not adjourn was to afford the Government time to make a statement following yesterday evening's revelations about what is obviously a serious dispute between the Home Office and the Foreign Office on immigration figures. The debate initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken) raised more questions than it answered. Anyone who read today's Press must share the anxiety of most of the constituents to whom I have since been able to speak.
The origin of yesterday's debate was the growing public anxiety following the recent case of the Malawian Asians at Gatwick. The dispute between the Foreign Office and the Home Office which has come to light in the aftermath of those events should be resolved. Very few people can now have much faith in the Government's immigration figures, a fact which is bound to affect community relations here and the conduct of British foreign policy, particularly in the sub-continent. In both cases, the Government's word and the word of many civil servants, particularly in our High Commissions, are at stake.
Like many other hon. Members, I have received a large number of letters since public concern was first expressed about the Malawian Asians, and I have sought to give them such assurances as I can that figures produced by successive Governments have been more or less accurate. After yesterday's debate, I can no longer do so. The situation revealed is patently inadequate and has left far too many unanswered questions.
We need a further debate on the issues raised yesterday. If that is not possible, there should be a statement as soon as possible—certainly on Mr. Donald Hawley's report. How did this report come to be leaked? There have been too many illustrations recently of what can only be characterised as Government by leak. Only this afternoon, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) asked how members of the Scotish National Party obtained a copy of the Lord President's statement about devolution when other hon. Members could not obtain it.
Public concern about immigration is a serious matter and it is growing. A statement is necessary to alleviate a proper anxiety which has certainly been added to by yesterday's debate. I hope that the Government will take the view that this subject is not irrelevant to deciding whether the House should adjourn. On the contrary, a statement is required to resolve what many people now regard as a wholly unsatisfactory situation.
Mr. Ian Cow:
Yesterday, there was a meeting between the TUC and the Labour Party Liaison Committee, after which a statement was issued. Before the House rises for the recess, the Government should make a statement repudiating those parts of that statement which refer to the attitude of the Government to various aspects of economic policy during the coming three years. The document is entitled "The Next Three Years and the Problem of Priorities". If the Government are serious in their protestations of concern for the falling value of the pound, they should repudiate five passages in that joint statement. The first is:
The past month has again demonstrated the tremendous value to the nation as a whole of the close working understanding and mutual commitment between the Labour Government and the wider Labour Movement.
It is precisely this commitment of the Government to the trade unions, this widespread belief at home and abroad that the Government are in the pockets of the trade unions, which has such a very damaging effect on the pound.
It will be within the memory of the House that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House sat down at 26 minutes past eight o'clock. He has been out of the House for precisely 10 times the length of time that he promised. It was said that he would be away for two or three minutes. He has been away for more than 30 minutes. I should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman, who is always so courteous to the House, is doing to be absent from the House at such a time as this for such a period.
If it is a fact that everybody except the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) knows where my right hon. Friend is, I will tell him. The Opposition rightly raised earlier a point of order. Discussions have been going on. The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) knew of the position end had absented himself from the Chamber for exactly similar consultations. Those have taken longer than was expected, and I apologise for that. But this is a matter which the Opposition raised on a point of order and which is of crucial importance to them, otherwise they would not have raised it, and the Leader of the House is doing no more than the Shadow Leader of the House did earlier, which is why the right hon. Member for Yeovil did not pursue the matter.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it not be for the convenience of the Government, who do not seem to know exactly where they are, to adjourn for half an hour or so until they know exactly where they stand? That might be for the convenience of hon. Members opposite who find it rather boring to sit here instead of being elsewhere.
The second aspect of the joint statement issued yesterday which I
invite the Treasury Bench to repudiate is:
When fully operational the National Enterprise Board should have at its disposal funds of at least £1,000 million a year so that it can play a major role in creating jobs and investment".
Just imagine the effect which that commitment of £1,000 million a year of Government money for selective investment in British industry will have on public confidence and overseas confidence in sterling. Before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess it is imperative that the Government Front Bench should repudiate that commitment.
The third part of the joint statement which should be repudiated by the Government is this:
The Liaison Committee re-asserts its belief in the value of subsidies in helping to keep down the price of essential goods. Special help should be given without means test to assist in the payment of sharply increased fuel bills. The continuation of food subsidies is the major priority in the coming three years.
That statement is hostile to the true interests of Britain and to the strength of sterling and is in direct opposition to the declared policy of the Government, for in the Government's White Paper on Public Expenditure—not, it is true, greeted with universal acclaim below the Gangway—the Government said that they were proposing to reduce food subsidies over the coming three years. Yet in the statement issued yesterday by the TUC and the Labour Party Liaison Committee precisely the opposite commitment is entered into. It is the Government's declared policy to phase out subsidies to the gas and electricity industries. Yet in the statement issued yesterday there is a commitment between the Labour Party and the TUC to repudiate the policies being followed by the Government. That, again, will lead to a further crisis of confidence in sterling.
The fourth commitment in the statement which should be repudiated by the Government is this:
The Liaison Committee do not accept the argument that price controls inhibit investment.
I wonder whom the TUC and the Liaison Committee consulted before reaching that dramatic conclusion, for no person engaged in business or industry would accept the proposition that price control
does not inhibit investment. It has done so in the most dramatic way, and price control is one reason why British industry is so seriously short of capital.
The fifth and last part of the statement to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is this:
We believe that there should be a clear commitment to early legislation to introduce a wealth tax during the 1976–1977 Session.
That, again, is in direct opposition to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's policy. What effect will that commitment have on foreign holders of sterling and people who might be inclined to lend money to Government?
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) has not heard the speech I shall make later, and he should not say that it will be the same. It will be a different speech and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be here to listen to it and judge for himself.
It is high time that the Minister who is to reply to the debate repudiated the statement issued jointly by the Government and their paymasters in the TUC. Statements of that kind do great damage to foreign confidence in sterling and to public confidence in the Government's ability to overcome the serious economic dangers which face our country. I hope that the Minister will repudiate each of the five quotations which I read to the House.
The hon. Member for Eastbourne was supporting strengthening the National Enterprise Board and demanding all kinds of measures and policies to regenerate British industry. I want to add to his words in terms of the increasing and serious penetration of imports of finished and semi-finished manufactured goods into Britain. The House should not adjourn until it has had an opportunity to examine that situation.
We should not adjourn until we have had time to look also at the outflow of capital and the problems caused by our balance of payments. We should not adjourn until we have had time to examine in detail the activities of those who have been responsible recently for selling Britain short and speculating against our currency.
I shall first take the subject of the penetration of finished and semi-finished manufactured goods. Last year our import bill was about £26,000 million. Almost half of that was accounted for by finished and semi-finished manufactured goods. If we take from that sum the cost of our fuel imports, which clearly distorts the figures, and compare today's import penetration of 50 per cent. with the situation 10 years ago, we find that in 1966 the percentage of imports of finished and semi-finished manufactured goods in our total import bill was only about 30 per cent. The penetration therefore has almost doubled in a decade. [Interruption.]
Faced with this serious import penetration across the whole of the British manufacturing industry, there are those who insist that some kind of managed devaluation or inflation can deal with it. But there are many hon. Members on this side who reject either of those remedies or a combination of them. We ask the Government seriously to consider bringing in defined policies for planning trade and the balance of payments. We urge them to stop the export of capital from Britain and to marshal our overseas assets to protect sterling.
Perhaps the House will permit me to intervene again briefly so that we may make some progress with the arrangements.
Representations were made to Mr. Speaker earlier in our proceedings about the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, and Mr. Speaker gave an undertaking that he would listen to those representations and make a statement later.
I have had some consultations with Mr. Speaker on the matter. What t e wishes to do—and we concur—is to make a statement about it when we meet at the beginning of business tomorrow. In the light of that, the Government say that it would clearly be wrong for us to try to proceed with the Bill tonight. Therefore, we suggest that the House should meet tomorrow and hear what conclusions Mr. Speaker has reached and what advice he gives to the House on the matter.
In the meantime, I suggest that the best service the House can do to all concerned is to conclude this debate, which has clearly gone on for as long as everybody in the House wishes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I understand that some hon. Members still wish to speak, but whether others wish to listen is another matter. I have certainly listened to enough of it. I have listened to more than pretty well any other dozen Members put together.
I think that what I suggest is the best way in which to proceed. Therefore, I hope that the House will soon vote on the motion before it, on which we have already had an extensive discussion.
With the leave of the House, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), who has a Ten-Minute Bill.
Secondly, may I say without irony that I congratulate the Government on having reached a very sensible conclusion, which we wholly accept?
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman wholly accepts it. I hope that his hon. Friends accept it also.
It would be a bit churlish of the Government not to allow the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) to make his Ten-Minute Bill proposition, even though we may vote against it. Anyway, we shall see what the hon. Gentleman has to say. But I suggest that we bring this part of our discussion to an end.