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Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East) : Having had a lifelong interest in rural science and rural studies, I welcome the commitment to introduce measures to improve our environment. I regret, however, the reference yet again in the Queen's Speech to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Surely both Governments should acknowledge the complete failure of that accord. It should be allowed to die a natural death. Apart from that, there are many features of the
Column 189Queen's Speech that I can endorse wholeheartedly. I regret only that there may not be time for me to deal with them all.
I fully support the Government's policy
"to attach the highest priority to national and Western security and to the preservation of peace, with freedom and justice", provided that it is clearly understood that future security policy in Northern Ireland honours the Government's pledge to maintain support for the enforcement of law and the defeat of terrorism. The insecurity and uncertainty caused by the error of judgment of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in his statement that the IRA could not be defeated will not be removed completely until there is evidence that the Government fully support the clearer statement of the Foreign Secretary that the IRA must be eradicated.
The considered and more recently reported statement of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the Government have not ruled out, and will not rule out, any security measures consistent with the rule of law that would bring nearer the end of violence, and that terrorists cannot win and will not be permitted to win, is welcome. Such a statement is reassuring. Any remaining doubt or apprehension about the content of any ill-judged future statement will be allayed when tougher measures are employed against all terrorists in Northern Ireland. There must be no more unguarded statements that give encouragement to the IRA.
The military defeat of terrorism and of the IRA's 20-year murder campaign will open up new opportunities for co-operation among law-abiding communities in Northern Ireland. Calls from any quarter for further tampering with the Ulster Defence Regiment must be robustly resisted. The business community and industrialists in Northern Ireland must have confidence to invest for the future. I believe that inward investment will increase if there is confidence that Northern Ireland will remain firmly within the United Kingdom and that terrorism will be eradicated.
I take the opportunity to pay tribute to the Government for the support that they have given in securing the continuance of major industries in Belfast. I regret that other regions in the United Kingdom have fared less well. Employment opportunities and continuing opportunities for training in Northern Ireland's aircraft and shipbuilding industries are part of the key to future prosperity and to securing a sound industrial base in Northern Ireland.
There is a real need, however, in areas of high unemployment for additional facilities to be provided for the training of the unemployed. We have had too many action for community schemes that have provided no real skill and learning opportunities. I am concerned especially that Rathcoole in my constituency, like many other areas of deprivation and high unemployment, does not have adequate provision for the training of the young and long- term unemployed.
The Industrial Development Board and the Local Enterprise Development Unit continue to enjoy success in job creation, but much more must be done if we are to reduce the misery and poverty of the unemployed. I urge caution on any proposals for the amalgamation of those two organisations, but sharing their existing expertise could be developed further.
However much assistance the Government may provide, I hope that the Secretary of State agrees that
Column 190self-help within the communities of Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom can assist significantly in reducing unemployment. I hope that he will encourage district councils in Northern Ireland, under the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972, to make more use of the existing powers. Under them a council may
"contribute towards the expenses of any voluntary body which carries on activities within the district of the council, being activities for the purpose of--(i) furthering the development of trade, industry or commerce in the district or (ii) encouraging the pursuit by persons residing in the district of interests of a cultural or artistic nature."
The council may also
"contribute towards the expenses of any association which carries on activities calculated to assist the development of tourist traffic in Northern Ireland."
Greater use by district councils of funds to support local enterprise development and training will open the doors to further assistance from Government agencies and EEC funding and will stimulate local confidence and job creation which will be positive, even though on a small scale.
We want improvements to the roads in the west of the Province. We want the completion of the Belfast cross harbour link and the dual carriageway from Corrs Corner to Larne, as that would assist the flow of goods and products to and from Northern Ireland. I hope that the Secretary of State will encourage the Secretary of State for Transport to hold discussions with the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Northern Ireland about future developments at Stranraer and Cairnryan in Scotland to match the excellent facilities at Larne harbour in my constituency. They should consult on the need for further upgrading of the A74 and A75 in Scotland and on the reinstatement of a direct rail link from Stranraer to Dumfries. Those improvements would contribute to improving industrial development and tourism in Northern Ireland, the west of Scotland and the north-west and north-east of England.
Northern Ireland thinks of Larne, Stranraer and Cairnryan--the shortest sea crossings--as the most logical link between the Province and the Euro-route to the Channel tunnel. Recognitition by the two sovereign Governments that the Anglo-Irish Agreement of November 1985 is incapable of achieving its objectives and that it will never be accepted by Unionists, together with the recognition of the legitimacy of Northern Ireland, would afford opportunity to the representatives of the majority, while taking account of the rights of and the responsibilities to the minority to endeavour to achieve meaningful relations within these islands, which would bring about beneficial changes for British and Irish citizens within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Contrary to the belief in certain quarters, it has always been the aim of my party--both when in power at Stormont and since 1972 as an Opposition party in this House--to develop and maintain a good neighbour relationship with the people of the Irish Republic. At a time in Europe when new relationships are developing between East and West and between the sovereign nations therein, we trust that the Government of the Irish Republic, as they assume the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, will give priority to matching our efforts to develop a lasting relationship between north and south based on mutual respect.
Column 191My plea to this House and to the Government of the Irish Republic is that the obstacles that prevent Unionists talking and making progress be removed.
Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield) : I welcome the Gracious Speech, which shows that the Government intend to continue with their policy of change for the benefit of this country. The legislation proposed for the next 12 months is certain to improve the history and development of our nation.
I was fortunate to be allowed to intervene in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, when I said that we had come a long way since 1979, especially in industrial relations. I said that the state of British industry had reached such a low level that it was possible to buy a complete car manufacturing company for just $1 or 66p. That was the result of no fewer than 800 stoppages in 1978. Chrysler sold its company, and from 1979 the new owners, Peugeot Talbot, benefited from a growing process of legislation to enhance and improve industrial relations.
The history of industrial improvements, especially the dramatic improvements in productivity, must be viewed in the context of where we began in 1979. Industry was at an incredibly low level with poor productivity, outdated factories, outdated working practices and poor quality products. Each and every one of those problems represented a great challenge to overcome, but with the backing of a Conservative Government British industry has overcome most of them. I was delighted to note in the Gracious Speech that the Government intend further to improve industrial relations, with particular attention being paid to the wildcat strike that still causes problems for industry. The strength of the working man's position on the shop floor has been improved by giving him the right to ballot before industrial action. No longer does he face the prospect of the car park, rabble-rousing events that were the hallmark of the 1970s--and, indeed, our industrial history since the second world war. The fact that manufacturing industry has got its act together to a far greater degree than many Opposition Members suggest is evident in the rising tide of quality products. I am proud to have in my constituency the Rover plant at Longbridge. The recent 200 series of cars has been designed and developed in concert with the Honda company of Japan. It has earned widespread acclaim throughout Europe, and especially in this country, as a very fine product. It is now the preferred choice of most motoring correspondents for its type--a medium-sized saloon car. It is a major step forward for the company, which previously had the hallmark of rather indifferent products. Not only has there been progress in the car division. The first new Land Rover for 40 years was revealed during the past week. Called Discovery, it has been well received as a quantum leap forward in four-wheel, all-terrain techno-logy--a vehicle that set a trend just after the second world war, but lost the initiative to the Japanese. People who have seen and driven that car recognise that it takes a further leap ahead of the German and Japanese competition. That has been achieved because all involved in our factories know that, to maintain jobs and to secure
Column 192prosperity, the product must be good. Our engineers and designers have achieved many dramatic improvements in the past few years. We look forward with hope and interest to a decision by General Motors that this country is their preferred choice of location for a new engine plant, which would enhance Vauxhall's performance in the European theatre as well as in this country. That too would be a major step forward for the British motor industry.
While it is true that Britain's balance of payments has deteriorated over the past few years, our exports have climbed. We are now exporting more per head of population than ever before. Paradoxically, our balance of payments gap will be closed in the 1990s partly because we have operated an open economy that has encouraged foreign manufacturers to market their products here. Our purchase of those products has created a balance of payments problem, and the car industry is a good example of that. However, the rising tide of car imports from Japan and elsewhere forced those countries to acknowledge the strength of the United Kingdom economy and market. Those manufacturers have transferred their service depots and some of their manufacturing plants to the United Kingdom. We are witnessing a major transference of manufacturing capacity from overseas, so that by the 1990s we shall return to our former position and will be exporting many more motor vehicles than we do at present. The prospects for the future have been enhanced by the proposed takeover by Ford of Jaguar. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) criticised that development, considering Ford to be a wolf and a low kind of creature. His hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), sitting next to him, looked particularly embarrassed at those remarks, because that major company in his constituency and its work force were being described as something worse than anything one might conceive. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East suggested that they were unmentionables and should have nothing to do with Jaguar. In truth, Jaguar can, in concert with a major multinational, greatly increase job and manufacturing opportunities in this country. We look forward to a dramatic increase in Jaguar's output in the early and late 1990s, together with a widening of its market base as it works together with one of the world's largest motor manufacturers.
I was interested to hear the Opposition's views on the ways in which our industrial performance could be improved and how they want us to emulate Germany in almost every respect except the number of hours worked by car factory workers. Workers in the German industry work a 39-hour week, yet in Britain trade unions are actively attempting to establish a 35-hour working week. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East could say only that such changes should be negotiated. He did not say whether he supports the current industrial action, which is hitting British factories, in an attempt to force a 35-hour week on manufacturing companies--which would put them at a great disadvantage by comparison with their international competitors. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East would not or could not comment on that matter, yet he has the audacity to lecture the House on how the Labour party will introduce improved efficiency and determination in British industry. He did not answer the fundamental question of how many hours per week he expects British workers to work. We know why.
Column 193The problems facing British industry are, as always, very challenging--particularly for small businesses. High interest rates cannot be sustained indefinitely, and I look forward to seeing their reduction over the next 12 months. More than that, I look forward to a Budget for the business man. Without successful businesses, there can be little future for our country. Although a tremendous amount has been done to help the business man, more still must be achieved. I look forward to a Budget that concentrates on prospects for improving British companies, to help create the wealth that we certainly need. As 1992 rapidly approaches, we need a strong, sound manufacturing base of the kind that we have helped to create over the past 10 years to be developed further to serve as a springboard for our entry into the single European market in greater style in 1992. Changes are occurring throughout Europe. The prospect of eastern Europe, including Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany, developing their own sophisticated manufacturing industries with the help of western Europe is something to which we must pay more than lip service. We acknowledge the political changes that are occurring but industrial changes will surely follow--and will probably be fully implemented first. Our manufacturing industry must be right on the ball in terms of its productivity and efficiency--because we shall have to fight off competition not only from the far east and from our competitors in the rest of western Europe but from a growing tide of manufacturing expertise in eastern Europe.
We have set the seeds for the development of British industry and have seen it grow, and the action on which the Government will embark over the next 12 months will enhance Britain's prospects even further.
Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill) : The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) seems to believe that British car workers are a mindless rabble who have no real grievances and can be spurred into action by a few fiery speeches. Given that a fair number of those workers must have voted Conservative in recent elections, presumably not a few of their number will change their minds when they read the hon. Gentleman's speech.
During the time that I spent in the Chamber yesterday and today, I have heard not one constructive word about Scotland's future from the Government Benches. It was only from right hon. and hon. Members representing various Opposition parties that I heard anything worthwhile on the subject of Scotland's needs. The Queen's Speech states :
"For Scotland, legislation will be introduced to establish Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise".
We shall see whether Scottish Enterprise is enterprising enough to kick out those organisations that have taken public money to spend on worthless training schemes and instead to kick-start the provision of training schemes that will do a worthwhile job.
Scottish Enterprise will need to be extremely vigorous to overcome the problems that confront it. In the past year, £100 million of taxpayers' money was spent on employment training in Scotland, but no one knows how many trainees succeeded in securing full-time employment. No one knows either how many went back on the dole. We can be sure that, if the figures were good, we would have been given them and that the Scottish Office would be
Column 194broadcasting them with no expense spared-- although perhaps it would not spend quite as much as the £700,000 that the Tories are spending on trying to win the hearts and minds of the Scottish people. Will Scottish Enterprise at least make sure that training instructors are appropriately qualified? Although it may be hard to believe, there is no such requirement at present. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the worthlessness of a training scheme than that the instructors in charge are without the necessary skills and do not have a clue about safety precautions.
A young lady named Ann-Marie Campbell of Clydebank went on an employment training course to learn typing. Given that women have little access to training opportunities, one would think it all the more important to ensure a sound training in the limited number of skills for which courses are available to them. From April to August 1989, of those who entered employment training in Scotland, 73 per cent. were men and only 27 per cent. were women.
I could not argue that Ann-Marie's training lacked variety. She was taught to solve a murder mystery, with as many clues as would keep a week of television detective stories in action. She had been taught how to survive on the moon. Perhaps her instructors thought that she would be more likely to find work on the moon than in Glasgow. However, she did no typing for 11 weeks.
One of my constituents was keen on a career in gardening. He was delighted when he began his employment training course, but did he learn anything about sowing seeds and planting trees? No. He was expected to travel from Maryhill to Airdrie just to spend his time clearing rubbish from a derelict site. What on earth are trainees supposed to do? They cannot walk out. If they do, they lose their money. To whom do they complain? They cannot complain, because it is all perfectly legal. Trainees on hopeless schemes such as that have been writing to hon. Members, but until there is a Labour Government who have a decent notion of training schemes, there is little that anyone can do about it.
Is it not time that the Government stopped this farce and faced up to the fact that industry in general does not have a good record of training the work force? Training has never been a strategic boardroom issue. Industrial training boards were set up many years ago precisely because individual firms could not all be relied upon to provide effective training and education. Now, instead of, as in the past, apprentices achieving qualifications that would be recognised all over the world, we have Mickey Mouse schemes because the Government are as much in touch with the real world as Disneyland.
The slogan goes :
"Training the workers without jobs, to do the jobs without workers."
In Glasgow there are many thousands of unemployed workers and far too few jobs. Of the 20 worst unemployment black spots in Britain, eight are in Glasgow. Unemployment in my constituency, Maryhill, is 18.5 per cent., but it is even worse in other Glasgow constituencies. That percentage is the official Government figure, after they have counted out those on employment training and other schemes. Much of the decline in employment has taken place in manufacturing industries. Since 1979, manufacturing employment in Strathclyde is estimated to have fallen by 47 per cent., with the loss of 153,000 jobs. That includes
Column 195such places as Peugeot at Renfrew, which has shut down completely. They cannot all become property speculators, share dealers, estate agents and barrow boys.
It seems pretty obvious that we need investment in industry. If the private sector will not do it voluntarily, the Opposition argue that the Government must intervene. If investors see that a faster buck is to be made out of foreign investments, the Government must take action to provide work in Britain, not only for the sake of those who languish on the dole but also for the sake of this country's future. In our competitor countries, the school-leaving age is higher than it is in the United Kingdom. They do not begrudge spending money on education and training and on the very latest methods in every subject that one cares to name. They can hardly believe their luck that the nation that led the world in industrial technology now buys in the plant and machinery that it could perfectly well make itself. Thank goodness that we shall soon have a Labour Government who will start up the engines and get us moving again.
It is a great disappointment once again, but no surprise, to note that the Queen's Speech says nothing about equal pay for women, or about part-time workers getting full-time rights, or about abolishing tax on workplace nurseries, or anything at all about improving nursery provision. As many hon. Members have said, the Queen's Speech says nothing about war widows, or about improving safety in the streets for women by means of better public transport and improved street lighting. It says nothing about ensuring that divorced or separated women and their children are able to rely, for at least their keep, on the Department of Social Security while the former husband is chased up for the money that is owed because payments are irregular or never made. The Queen's Speech says nothing about restoring maternity leave and maternity benefits.
The Prime Minister is fond of saying that we cannot buck the market. Women in Britain are in the market for equal treatment in all spheres of their lives. They know that only the Labour party will provide it.
Dr. Michael Woodcock (Ellesmere Port and Neston) : I agree with some of the sentiments of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe). British industry needs to harness the untapped resources of women, particularly at management level. Opportunities for women are opening up, but there is still a great deal to be done over equal pay and the provision of workplace nurseries. I agree with the hon. Lady that the Government need to do more. The elimination of taxable benefit status from workplace nurseries would be fairly easy. It is wonderful that, once in a while, debates can be linked--in this case, on industry and the environment. Too often industry expands without proper concern for the environment. Too often those concerned with the environment fail to take into account industry's legitimate needs. We all want a healthy industrial base and a healthy environment. Despite what Opposition Members may think, British industry enters the 1990s in a much better state than it entered the 1980s. Ten years ago, much of our industry was overstaffed, riddled with restrictive practices and uncompetitive.
Column 196I have first-hand experience of how painful the restructuring process can be. There have been no fewer than 7,000 redundancies in my constituency, but they were not the result of Government policies. They were the result of years and years of failure to come to terms with world competition and economic reality. Much of what was the smokestack economy has now become the microchip economy.
Now, I am pleased to say, investment is at its highest level ever. More people are in jobs than ever before, our industries are more competitive, profits are at their highest level for 20 years and more people own their own businesses. A new business is being created every seven minutes in the United Kingdom. The verdict of international investors is quite clear. That is why the United Kingdom is getting a much bigger share of foreign investment than any other European country.
Industry--particularly wealth-creating industry--has faced up to that challenge. It is important that other sectors of the economy face up to the same challenge and that those who spend our wealth--I include in particular the National Health Service--become more efficient. That is why I welcome the proposed National Health Service and Community Care Bill. It is also important that those who provide services, including the legal profession, should cleanse themselves of restrictive practices and offer better value for money. That is why I welcome the decision to introduce a Bill relating to the legal profession.
The remaining nationalised industries must also face up to the reality of the market place. Therefore, I welcome the proposals for further privatisation, including the proposal to privatise some of the services provided by the Property Services Agency and the decision to restructure the finances of British Coal--but this time not, I hope, as a further subsidy by the taxpayer of waste and inefficiency but as a proper prelude to the privatisation of the industry.
When I talk to managers--every year I speak to many thousands of them--I find that what they fear more than anything else is a disastrous return to the policies of a Labour Government. After 10 years of sound policies, management has at last regained the right to manage. It is recognised that strikes are second only to inflation in destroying jobs. There is a new sense of realism in most of British industry. Teamwork and industrial partnership are coming to the fore. Again we are matching the competition ; again we are putting the customer first.
I wish that I had the same rosy view of the environment as I have of industry, but I have not. That is why I am pleased that green issues are coming to the centre stage of British politics. I am concerned, as are many others, that throughout the past decades our green countryside has been so eroded. There have been huge and unnecessary losses of our traditional countryside features, such as hedgerows, ponds and broadleaved woodlands. Since 1950, our hedgerows have decreased by over 25 per cent. and our broadleaved woodlands by 40 per cent. That trend has often been encouraged by Government legislation--or by the lack of it. I trust that, since the over-production of food is with us, with the result that we are removing some land from agricultural production, we shall have the opportunity at long last to redress the balance.
I hope that the Government will do more to discourage the intensive use of nitrates and the insensitive siting of ugly farm buildings that do not require planning consent. I hope that they will tighten the law governing the ploughing and reinstatement of footpaths, because the
Column 197countryside is important for uses apart from farming. Our countryside is perhaps the most important part of our national legacy, and it is true that in the past we have not taken sufficient care of it.
At the top of the list of priorities for the environment is pollution, and in that term I include badly planned industrial development, buildings of little architectural merit, ugly fencing, the pollution of streams and rivers--sometimes by the water authorities themselves--air pollution, waste tips, litter and the dumping of sewage and colliery waste. I welcome the so -called green Bill and trust that it will address those issues.
Mine is an industrial constituency with a large petrochemical complex, an oil refinery and many large industrial sites. We generate our share of pollution--probably more than our share--but it is pollution that results from wealth creation. We also have a toxic waste incinerator which is shortly to be replaced by a larger and more modern version. No subject has inflamed local opinion more in the past year than the building of the new toxic waste incinerator. The present incinerator burns highly toxic waste, including PCBs, or polychorinated biphenyls. It burns waste not only from Ellesmere Port but from around the country and even some imported waste. Believe it or not, the incinerator is sited within half a mile of the town centre of Ellesmere Port. It emits a dangerous-looking plume 24-hours a day. I say "dangerous-looking" because I have no reason to suppose the incinerator poses any danger or that it is not operated to the highest possible standards. All my inquiries support that view. It is clear to me that there are far too many regulatory authorities and that emissions standards are not sufficiently clearly defined in the United Kingdom. I hope that the so-called green Bill will address those issues.
Also in my constituency is a uranium enrichment facility. I have a high regard for the way in which British Nuclear Fuels operates that plant, but many of my constituents believe that discharges from the plant into a nearby brook are potentially dangerous. Whatever the truth may be, if people believe something to be real, it is real in its consequences. I hope that the Environment Protection Bill will help to reassure my constituents that there is no danger. I shall examine the Bill closely, but I find the concept of integrated pollution control appealing ; it is certainly overdue and should be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Like the hon. Member for Maryhill, I welcome the reference in the Gracious Speech to training--probably for different reasons. It is estimated that today £18 billion a year is spent by employers on skill training-- rightly so, because responsibility for skill training should rest with employers ; that is where it belongs. In Britain today, investment in people is probably even more important than investment in products and plant. As the Secretary of State told the CBI the other day, we must either give employees more skill or face decline. I therefore welcome the training and enterprise councils to be led by employers.
I feel strongly that we still have a long way to go, especially in management training. The average British manager probably still receives less training than the average British plumber. Compared with some of our world competitors, we are still lamentably bad at training managers. For instance, only 24 per cent. of our top managers have degrees. In Japan and the United States, the figure is almost 85 per cent. We have only 12,000
Column 198MBAs--masters of business administration--in this country, yet we have 120,000 accountants, as against only 4,000 in West Germany and 6,000 in Japan.
In the United Kingdom, quite wrongly, there is a belief in pragmatism rather than in professionalism--a belief that experience is the only worthwhile teaching. We still have no generally accepted signposted route into business management. By contrast, in many other countries, including the United States, West Germany, France and Japan, there is a widespread belief that managers need to be properly educated and trained before entering management and then helped throughout their working life. Regrettably, that belief is not widespread in the United Kingdom. It is true that we have some excellent managers, but we simply do not have enough.
Let me follow the example of so many hon. Members who have spoken in the debate by referring to the developments in eastern Europe--especially in Hungary, Poland and East Germany. I am sure that all of us welcome those developments, but we should not forget that British industry has a major role to play in fostering them. Trade, as well as aid, will be important in achieving the objectives that we all hope to see achieved in those countries. Not only in eastern Europe but throughout the world countries are throwing off the shackles of state socialism, and it is to the principles of competition and free enterprise to which they turn.
Recently I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a book that I had written with David Francis had been translated and published in Hungary. The book deals with the development of management skills in a competitive environment. A few years ago it would have been unthinkable for managers in a Communist country to buy and read a book about developments of capitalist ideology--especially a book written by a Conservative Member of Parliament, and a fairly dry one at that.
That is just one more sign of what is happening worldwide. Governments are increasingly following the path towards a free market. Worldwide, Socialism is being rejected. Our industry will continue to prosper as long as we continue to pursue the Government's sound policies. Our industry is strong and, with the legislation outlined in the Queen's Speech, it will become stronger. I wish and hope that our environment will become cleaner.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : In my 27 years in the House I have discovered that when Government and Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen tend to be united on a particular subject, Government and Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen can both be wrong. I have the good fortune on this occasion to be addressing two extremely clever men who are open to reason--my hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) and the Secretary of State for the Environment.
As a Scot, I am dismayed at the proposal to break up, in effect, the Nature Conservancy Council. I interrupted the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry this afternoon to ask why he did not consult my old friend William Wilkinson and his colleagues at the NCC. He said that he had talked to them many times. That is not what they said again this morning at their meeting at the Royal Society of Arts, which I attended.
For the sake of greater accuracy, I quote : "I do not propose"--said William Wilkinson--
Column 199"to conjecture what the Government's real reasons for doing this may have been. Certainly it was thoroughly ill- prepared. Perhaps they should have remembered the Duke of Wellington's dictum time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted'. He was after all a Tory Prime Minister as well as a superb general! On this occasion there was no reconnaissance"--
this refers to consultation on the bust-up of the NCC--
"and the Government's plan of action resembled the Bellman's map in the Hunting of the Snark--namely a perfect and absolute blank'." To continue the Lewis Carroll theme, we should adapt the Queen's pronouncement in "Alices Adventures in Wonderland,"--"Sentence first, verdict afterwards."
Will the Secretary of State for the Environment check with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether his reply was accurate--I will not use words that would embarrass the Chair and result in me being thrown out and suspended yet again. His answer is contradictory to all that I have learnt from the Nature Conservancy Council.
I can speak for myself. I have met William Wilkinson twice since I became Secretary of State for the Environment to discuss how, in the proposals put forward for the future of nature conservancy, we can best safeguard the science base for British work and an identity for United Kingdom activities on the international level with regard to nature conservancy.
The Nature Conservancy Council has today put forward very helpful proposals towards securing those objectives. We will respond to them as soon as possible. We will have an opportunity to discuss them in the House during the passage of our legislation. I hope that we will have found an accommodation with the NCC so that the best of its work can go ahead as well as possible. I can add only that the hon. Gentleman should consider some of the things that his Scottish colleagues have said about the future of the NCC because the Labour party's position on that does not appear to be at one north and south of the border.
Mr. Dalyell : I am aware of that and I began with a remark about both the Opposition and Government Front Benches being in agreement because I know what my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) has to say about this.
Let me say why, as a Scot, I am concerned about these issues. We are not concerned about the traditional landowners. Bluntly, as a Labour Member, I say that the Duke of Atholl sitting in Blair and the Duke of Buccleuch sitting in Drumlanrig will probably do the right thing for the environment. I am concerned about the agroforestry interests and the people at the top of tall buildings in the City of London who make decisions purely on an accountancy basis. That is why the impartial scientific decision-making at Peterborough is very important. Peterborough also gives some authority to the often young area officers who must enforce the actual decisions on conservation areas and sites of special scientific interest which may be unpopular in some areas.
What the Secretary of State for the Environment has just said about science was music to my ears. It is
Column 200important that science should be brought into decisions at the design stage. The scientists should not have to face a rescue operation. Science should be introduced at the very beginning, as Derek Ratcliffe, to whom I am greatly indebted and who after great service has just retired from the NCC, wanted.
What will happen to the funding? I hope that the funding question will be answered during the negotiations. It will be more expensive to break the NCC into three.
I want to see in print what the Secretary of State said earlier about the European aspect. I do not know whether he fully explained how the Government square their attitude to supporting the habitat directive, which is specifically designed to provide a uniform approach for habitat selection and protection throughout the EEC, with the Government's proposed splitting of the NCC which it would appear, from statements already made-- but not necessarily, I concede, by the Secretary of State for the Environment--will create a different approach in England, Scotland and Wales for selection and protection of sites. There is considerable concern whether we are credible internationally.
Mr. Chris Patten : I hope that I can be helpful at least in part to the hon. Gentleman. I represent the United Kingdom on the European Environment Council. I believe that I am pretty well the first Secretary of State for the Environment from this country to do that, although I believe that one of my Labour predecessors attended that Council once. I represent United Kingdom interests on issues such as habitat and nature conservancy. That is the position, and I do not believe that it is affected by any reorganisation of nature conservancy work in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Dalyell : May I then offer the Secretary of State some friendly advice. So far, the Minister for the Environment and Countryside--I mean no disrespect to him--has been dealing with people like Ian Presst of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. I am not alone in my views. I attended a conference at Baden-Powell house with Wildlife Link. The Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Worldwide Fund for Nature and 20 other organisations were represented and presented a unanimous view. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has been in the Chamber now for a long time, so I will leave my point there. However, I was pleased by the Secretary of State's response.
In 1981 some of us spent many hours in the Committee considering what became the Wildlife and Countryside Act. We were trying to establish the principle of marine nature reserves. By wearing down the Government, who did not wish to guillotine the Bill, we were able to get the MNR principle established. It has taken a terribly long time. Something has happened at last in the Scillies and progress is being made with Skoma. There have been endless negotiations with many fishing interests. However, I want to be frank with the House. Part of the trouble is that some of the fishing interests are worried about the environmentalists being too curious, not because of the environment, but because of the involvement of the Inland Revenue and the possibility of having to pay tax where they had paid none previously. I do not say that all the fishermen are up to it, but I am sure that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey), like the people at the
Column 201NCC conference, is aware that that is true. Will the Secretary of State take a personal interest in MNRs besides meeting
representatives of Wildlife Link?
I have a few kind words for the Secretary of State. We had various debates together on the rain forests in his previous incarnation. I welcome publicly and privately what he did in Brazil. Would it be possible to do the same for Colombia? That must be a Government decision. The Minister for Overseas Development said that we should do one thing at a time.
Last night at the Museum of Mankind I attended an extremely impressive lecture given to the Gaia foundation by Martin Von Hudebrand, the assistant to the President of Colombia. The biological and botanical diversity of the Colombian Amazonian rain forest is as great as that in Brazil. I asked Martin Von Hudebrand whether he wants the kind of agreement that the Secretary of State for the Environment negotiated in Brasilia and his answer was emphatically yes. In this environment debate I want to put down a marker that the matter is urgent in Colombia, although it involves a rather different problem from that in Brazil.
I hope that the new green Bill will not be guillotined. But if the Secretary of State believes that that is necessary, I say to him, after what he has said, "Bethink you : you might be wrong." 8.48 pm
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay) : I welcome many of the liberating measures that were outlined in the Gracious Speech. It is almost a feast of solutions to over-regulation, and I congratulate the Government on putting together such an extremely tasty package. Broadcasting services are to be liberated, and we are to have more competition. There will be liberating measures for the Health Service, through the introduction of competition, which will be wholly good for the quality of service that patients are entitled to receive. We will liberate the coal industry by bringing in new measures to prepare that industry for the happy day when miners are able to buy shares in coal mines. We will also liberate the legal profession. For too long, it has been controlled by vested interests, which has made it difficult and expensive for ordinary people to obtain justice. We will liberate pensions procedures so that people will be more able to move their pensions with them as they change jobs and generally be more in control of that aspect of their lives.
Even the trade unions will get a little more liberation, with more power to control wildcat activities, and power to deem illegal actions which are designed to put out of business or jobs people who are unconnected with strikes. I am happy to note that we are also to liberate our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland by reassessing the amount of local control that they have over their affairs. That is a wonderful step in the right direction, and it will be accompanied by the formation of branches of the official Conservative party in Northern Ireland which, in the near future, I hope will elect Conservative candidates directly to the House. I invite the Labour party to join us in that most liberating mood. It will have a profound effect on the future stability of Northern Ireland. I am delighted also to note that the Government are continuing their proud record by selling off parts of our cumbersome state machinery. I refer to the Property Services Agency, which has not been short of scandals in
Column 202its recent past, such as wasting public money by getting involved in dubious and unsuccessful enterprises. I refer also to the Crown Suppliers, which has acted as a kind of mummy figure for overseas Governments which, once upon a time, were considered to be too immature and too slow to cope with buying their own products from us. They have all grown up now that we are into the Commonwealth, and we are making it easier to buy direct from our firms.
All those ideas are wonderful, and I welcome them. They warm the cockles of my private enterprise heart. However, two measures trouble me a little, and we must pay close attention to them as we discuss the Bills in the House. I refer to the Bills on the environment and on our food industries. If we are not careful, those Bills could usher in a new wave of unnecessary or inappropriate bureaucratic regulations and intervention. Mark Twain said that politics is the invention of bugaboos. It has been part of the tradition of the political Left that it invents demons which only the politician and the bureaucracy can exorcise. The myths or scares that are drummed up are the means by which legislation is introduced to coerce people into doing things which they would not otherwise do.
In the 1940s, we saw the development of huge state corporations in the steel and rail inustries, and the nationalisation of the coal industry. Those measures brought Governments into issues from which the present Government have subsequently withdrawn with the greatest success. In the 1950s we saw the development of social services and the Health Service, which took from people control over those aspects of their lives, and again ushered in a massive bureaucracy which consumed a great deal of the resources available for those services and which we are only now beginning to unwind and, I hope, let in the fresh air of competition.
The 1960s was the era when housing became the subject of massive Government intervention. It was the era of planning and of the hideous tower block. We practically exterminated the remnants of the private housing market. Again, the Conservative Government have taken the initiative by allowing council tenants to buy their own houses. Again we see the need to liberate what we thought necessary to regulate.
The 1970s was the era of prices and incomes controls, greater Government intervention in the money supply, the development of massive inflation, intervention by the World bank, and the virtual bankrupting of this country by the Labour Government, which led to the election of the Conservative Government in 1979. Again, the Government have brought intervention under control.
The 1980s was the era of the liberation of privatisation, by bringing back markets and introducing competition. It troubles me that the 1990s might be the era when we start to move back from that noble position to more Government control in the food industry and the environment.
That does not mean that I am not concerned to ensure that our water is pure, that our air is fit to breathe and that our food is clean, hygienic and healthy. Of course, like everybody else, I believe that, just as we all believe in God--to be against it would be a mortal sin. It is not necessary for the House to load industry with a great mass of new regulations. The private enterprise structure has its own solutions to these problems. To begin with, we have the common law, which has been much neglected in our legislative discussions. Under common law, one can