Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 (Continuance) Order 1979

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:21 pm on 21st March 1979.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield 11:21 pm, 21st March 1979

I join my hon Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Hayhoe) and the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson) in thanking the Under-Secretary of State for his attendance at a time of tragic bereavement. The hon. Gentleman has shown great courage. All hon. Members appreciate his personal attendance.

I give a cautious welcome to the scheme and I feel that I shall give a cautious welcome to the Bill that will be presented to the House for a Second Reading in a relatively short time. I do so because I think that the temporary employment subsidy, which the scheme replaces and which the Bill will replace, was a far better way of giving assistance to industries that needed it. There is no doubt that the TES was more flexible and was of considerable benefit.

I, too, come from the North-West, and I know how helpful the TES was, for example, to the textile and paper and board industries. As the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) said, these industries have faced unfair competition from countries mainly outside the European Economic Community. I strongly believe that we need to maintain them. Various forms of Government assistance must be given to them until we can guarantee them fair competition.

It is a pity that the hon. Members for Rossendale (Mr. Noble) and for Keighley spoiled what could have been constructive contributions to the debate by making blatant partisan political comments. It seemed that there was some collusion between Labour Members below the Gangway and the Under-Secretary of State in issuing a pre-election manifesto. However, I congratulate them on that, and I welcome the purpose that lies behind the scheme.

It was surprising how easily the hon. Members for Rossendale and for Keighley overlooked the fact that under this Government unemployment has increased from slightly under 600,000 to over 1,400,000. That is a fact, and they do not deny it. That has been the result of a Labour Government, irrespective of outside factors such as the oil crisis and the world recession. In the past, despite slighting remarks made about policy promoted by Conservative Governments, Tory industrial and economic policy has worked. It will work again, to the benefit of all workers.

It is unfortunate that Britain has been forced to change its assistance to industry because of the demands of our partners in the EEC. In other places the Government have admitted that the change has been brought about because the Community could have taken us to the European Court. The Community felt that the assistance that we were giving to industry through the TES was unfair. The Government decided that they had a weak case. They considered, having signed the Treaty of Rome, that we were obliged to change our financial assistance to industry, and that has been done.

I ask the Minister one or two questions. I am concerned about what the Government are doing in other spheres. I hope that in seeking to preserve jobs they will seek to create new jobs. We are here not only to preserve jobs in the short term; we want to guarantee employment, especially for young people leaving schools and colleges and going into industry. We are concerned about long-term employment. I support the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth and the hon. Members for Aberdeenshire, East and for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon). Is it possible to extend the assistance that is described in the scheme to companies that employ fewer than 10 workers?

It is smaller businesses in the end which will grow and provide the jobs which are so desperately needed. The Minister gave statistics about the fantastic number of jobs which will be required between now and 1990. They will not all be provided by big industry and the companies to which the hon. Member for Keighley referred in such disparaging terms. They will be provided by the smaller companies in this country.

I therefore hope that the Government, if not in this order, will ensure, in the Bill that they introduce, that such assistance is available to the smaller companies. We know that it is oak trees that out of little acorns grow, and that in the long term it will be the smaller businesses in this country which will provide the employment to soak up the unacceptably high level of unemployment that we have at this time, and provide the extra jobs so desperately required.

The multi-fibre arrangement is of great benefit to the textile industry, which is particularly important, in turn, to the North-West region of the United Kingdom. If the Government allow the provisions to be so stretched and extended, by allowing higher and more quotas under the existing multi-fibre arrangement, I believe that the fair competition that the textile industry is seeking will not be possible, and more and more jobs will be lost in the textile industry. It is not only an industry which has rationalised, as some Labour Members have said; it is an efficient industry in which there is a first-class record of industrial relations. If we sell this strategic industry down the river, it will be a tragedy and the workers in it will not forgive any Government for so doing. I hope that the provisions of the new MFA will not be undermined by the action of the Government in granting extra quotas, as has been done in the case of the Mediterranean associates.

I have referred in the House on other occasions to the negotiations being undertaken at present with America on the general agreement on tariffs and trade Tokyo round. If the Government are so concerned about employment—this is what the order is about—why are they apparently going along with the additional concessions being granted to the United States by the European Economic Community, under the GATT Tokyo round, both in textiles and in the paper and board industry? I believe that it will undermine these industries and open them to unfair competition. The tariffs on our goods going into America are very much higher than the tariffs relating to American goods coming into the Community—