Oral Answers to Questions — Brigg and Scunthorpe

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th February 1979.

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Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Brigg and Scunthorpe

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider that answer? If he came to Brigg and Scunthorpe he would be able to talk to ordinary people. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is aware that Humberside is one of the two areas with a new county council, the other being Avon. This has been resented by the people in the area. It was a disaster brought about by the former Conservative Administration. When my right hon. Friend is considering the Government's proposals for organic change, will he have a word with his colleagues to ensure that more power is brought back to the smaller local authorities, rather than leaving it with the big nine?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

From my visits around the country—and I shall be very happy to come to both Brigg and Scunthorpe in due course—I have found substantial dissatisfaction with the reorganisation of local government which took place as the result of legislation passed by the former Administration. I shall refer to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment what my hon. Friend has said about extending the powers further, but I think that we should start cautiously in this matter. What my hon. Friend has proposed has met with a great deal of consent.

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 20 February.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton).

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South

Will the Prime Minister find time to consider the fact that many countries are not accepting a reasonable number of refugees from Indo-China, with very serious consequences for the refugees and for Hong Kong? Will he now consider a new British initiative, through the United Nations and the Commonwealth, to try to persuade many other countries to accept a fair quota of refugees from Indo-China?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I am aware of my hon. Friend's great concern in this matter, particularly since his recent visit to Hong Kong. I realise the strain that has been placed on the colony. It would not be fair to say that this country has not given a lead, both financially and in its willingness to take refugees—what are called the boat people. We have also represented to the Vietnamese Government that it would be as well if they would desist from permitting their officials to accept money in order to get people out of the country in this way. It is resulting in a corrupt traffic which, I believe, would be condemned by everybody.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomery

May I revert to the reference by the Leader of the Opposition to the job-shedding suggestion made by a certain trade union leader? Will the Prime Minister consider during the day that in areas such as my own, thanks to the co-operation between such bodies as the Rural Development Board, representing public investment, and private industry concerned with private investment, new industries and new jobs have been set up? Is not this a necessary corollary before we can consider large-scale job shedding in established or petrified industries?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I agree entirely with the hon. and learned Member. What is clear is that if we are to have additional productivity, which we need in a great many areas of our public and private sectors, there must be, side by side with that, stimulation and help from Government funds and Government subsidies so that new businesses can be created, as we have seen very much to our advantage in South Wales and, I believe, in mid-Wales. In my own constituency I have seen what great value can be achieved by this. That is why I believe that the statement by the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) that all grants and subsidies do harm is hopelessly unrelated to reality.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Perhaps I may bring the Prime Minister back in his considerations today to the problem of broadcasting during the referendum campaign. Does not he agree that, in the very difficult circumstances that have now arisen, it would be far better to revert to the principle of two broadcasts for the "Yes" vote and two broadcasts for the "No" vote, a proposal which the Conservative Party has all along strongly supported?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I was not present at the discussions that took place on this matter. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was present. However, I must say that there is some dispute as to his version.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

There is a dispute as to the right hon. Gentleman's version of what took place at those meetings. The right hon. Gentleman the Opposition Chief Whip was also involved in them. As to whether the Conservative Party has taken that view, that is something on which I must reserve judgment. As to the future, I believe that the arrangements entered into by the parties at that time were correct, and I hope that they can be carried through.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I put it to the Prime Minister that, irrespective of what happened at any meetings, the issue now is that a new situation has arisen because of the injunction in the courts, which has invalidated the agreements made at that time. In that situation, would it not be fairer to revert to the principle of two broadcasts for the "Yes" campaign and two for the "No" campaign, which, after all, would seem to be abundantly fair and would be in line with what the broadcasting authorities could do and were prepared to do?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to have fresh discussions between the parties it is open to him to take that up, but this is not a matter of governmental responsibility. I thought at the time that the arrangements that the parties had made, which I believed met with acquiescence if not agreement, were probably right. However, I do not wish to see anyone denied access to this medium. The more people who hear the arguments, the more likely they are to vote "Yes" when the day comes.