Tam Dalyell – 1974 Speech on Tidal Power

Below is the text of the speech made by Tam Dalyell, the then Labour MP for West Lothian, in the House of Commons on 9 January 1974.

I wish to raise the question of a feasibility study for barrages and tidal power. When short-term problems look daunting there is a temptation to desert to the long term, which may appear to be easier. It is my purpose to follow up an undertaking given by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 10th December. I asked the right hon. Gentleman: Whereas it is true that when last looked at, in the middle 1960s, the Solway barrage was economically unattractive, is the Secretary of State aware that some people now seriously think that it might be economically attractive?

The Secretary of State replied: I shall look specifically at that scheme to see whether that is so, but my advice is that the barrage schemes available to us could not compete with the nuclear potentiality. Obviously I shall check on this specific scheme.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December 1973 ; Vol. 866, c. 10.] I followed up that remark and the statement of the Secretary of State for Scotland on 12th December 1973. The right hon. Gentleman said: The situation that we face at the moment is such that any possible new source of energy should be examined.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December 1973; Vol. 866, c. 406.] It is about 10 years ago to the month that I went, at the suggestion of a previous Conservative Minister, now Lord Errol, accompanied by Dr. Robert Drew, then of Chapelcross, to see Sir William Penney, then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority, about the possibility of a Solway barrage scheme combining tidal and nuclear power. Perhaps because we exaggerated our case and perhaps because the relative costs of fuel looked different in 1964 from costs in 1974, we received a fairly stony reply. The purpose of the debate is to start to scrutinise the action which the Government have promised to take and make just two points which suggest that what may have been irrelevant in the epoch of cheap oil deserves a hard, long and cool look today.

Within the limit of the time available I shall make general points that would apply either to the Solway or to the Severn. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer), formerly Chairman of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, has kindly agreed to speak on the special subject of the Severn.

First, progress has been made in France and Russia. Having visited Rance, in Brittany, I am aware that there have been disappointments about electricity output, although the French have 24 10-megawatt units. The Rance problems have been basically those of civil engineering and turbine construction. They do not stem from theoretical reasons against tidal energy. Rance does not rely on the crucial combination of tidal energy and pump storage by nuclear power. The periods of generation are dependent on the tide. That may not necessarily be so in the kind of scheme put forward for the Solway and the Severn. In the same breath I should say that the Government might do well to approach the Russians and talk to them about what they have been doing in Kislaya Bay, on the White Sea.

Secondly, whereas in the past the fundamental difficulty for tidal generation has been the difference between the lunar and the solar cycles, it is now possible on an economic basis to provide complementary pumped storage facilities. For example, development of the Chapelcross nuclear power station site could achieve a rational development by linking tidal output with pumped storage facilities within the Solway area on a low head basis. The multiple use of equipment reduces construction costs, makes additional transmission lines unnecessary and removes the pressure for special inland reservoirs. When one thinks of the difficulties of planning permission that is not a small point.

Unlike a conventional power station, such a combination would produce a steady output throughout the day, regardless of the state of the tide, and calculations show that if 4,000 megawatts of nuclear power were used to drive pumps throughout six and a half hours of low electricity demand at night that station would be able to produce a full 4,000 megawatts for the 12-hour daily demand. Therefore, the question of base load can be looked at as a practical proposition.

I come now to my two questions. First, can Lord Rothschild’s Think Tank be asked to weigh up the advantages as between a channel tunnel and a major barrage scheme on the Solway or the Severn, given that a barrage scheme of this kind might cost plus or minus £1,000 million? That is a legitimate question for the Think Tank.

Secondly, are the Government prepared to talk about tidal energy at an international level? I realise that any proposal likely to slow down the rate of spin of the earth deserves more consideration than in an Adjournment debate in the British House of Commons, but the serious question is whether there would be a problem of earth spin if several countries embarked upon tidal energy schemes. Would there be any adverse effects on the ocean bed? Do such fears apply at all if there is a two-basin estuary scheme? A great deal more could be said about it. I am limited in time, but I want to show that those who put forward such schemes are aware of the anxieties felt on this score. It would be silly not to express a certain sensitivity towards them.

We are saying, in shorthand, that proposals which in September 1964 or September 1973 would have seemed way out and uneconomic must now come within the orbit of serious consideration.

The argument tonight is not that this country should go hell-bent on tidal energy as some kind of a fad or panacea ; it is rather to extract information and to get the Government to assure the House that the case for tidal energy is not being allowed to go by default.

We warn the Minister in his new Department that he will be plagued by many questions on tidal energy as long as he stays in the Ministry of Energy or until he persuades us that we have no case.

Edward Heath – 1974 Speech on Fuel Crisis

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Heath, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons, on 9 January 1974.

I want at the outset of this debate to restate the hard facts which made the Government take the steps they announced in the House on 13th December. The underlying position has not materially altered since those measures were debated in the House on 18th December. The facts were not challenged then, nor were they refuted at the meeting of the National Economic Development Council which followed, at which I took the chair.

Now the facts are accepted by the vast majority of responsible opinion in this country. The only difference is between those who believe that the action we took was wise and those who consider that we should have allowed our stocks to be used up, with the risk of industry grinding to a halt and essential services being damaged.

The measures we took, including the three-day week, were forced on us by the need to make sure that our electricity supplies did not break down within a few weeks. This was a direct result of a fall in coal production, now down by almost 30 per cent., resulting from the miners’ industrial action begun on 12th November. I remind the House that it was only after five weeks of such action, when we could clearly see the consequences for the nation as a whole, that I made my statement to the House.

In the five weeks following the miners’ action, power stations’ coal stocks fell by 3.6 million tons. This compared with a fall of 500,000 tons in the corresponding period last year. At 8th December the stocks stood at 16.2 million tons. A continued rundown of stocks of nearly 1 million tons a week would have reduced this total to the critical level of about 7 million tons by early February. That was on the optimistic assumption that the weather remained mild. It also presupposed that the industrial action in the mines or on the railways was not intensified. We had arranged for increased oil supplies to be sent to the power stations, and at 1st January the Central Electricity Generating Board had enough oil for three weeks’ use at all its oil-burning stations.

The Government were not prepared to see a rundown in coal stocks such as I have described. The alternative was just to let the situation continue as we did in 1972, at the time of the miners’ strike. The Government were bitterly criticised at that time for so doing ; criticised by industry, criticised by the unions and criticised by the public, and, looking back, I should have to admit rightly so. But we have learned from that experience. In those circumstances, it was our duty to ensure as a matter of common prudence that the situation in 1972 was not repeated. In my belief, and, I hope, that of the House, no responsible Government could have done otherwise.

As a result of the measures that we have taken, the saving in electricity consumption has reached about 21 per cent. I should like to pay tribute to the public and thank them for their co-operation. The contribution which they have made by their economies is of major importance. Both employers and the trade unions have also striven to adapt themselves to the limited electricity supplies available. They have striven with skill and ingenuity, and the nation owes them—both employers and trade unions—a great debt for so doing, and I hope the House will join me in asking for their continued co-operation.

To ensure that we can together see the winter through without further major dislocation we need to consolidate that achievement and, indeed, to do rather better. The Government will continue to try to find ways of securing economies in the use of electricity and thus of giving more help to industry. In this we are assisted by the settlement within stage 3 made by the power workers on 5th January.

Since the electricity restrictions took effect we have saved about 1½ million tons of coal. In the week before Christmas, power station coal stocks fell by less than 500,000 tons compared with 1 million tons in the first week of December. Over the Christmas period, the stock rundown was 750,000 tons when the loss was expected to be 1¼ million tons. As I have already told the House, and as I explained to the NEDC and have said repeatedly in public, the three-day week can be ended as soon as the miners decide to return to normal working and adequate supplies of coal are reaching the power stations.

There is one other matter with which I should like to deal. [Interruption.] With respect, part of the agreement between the National Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers is that safety maintenance should be done by extra shifts. That is not occurring, and that is one of the main reasons for the fall in coal production.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

The right hon. Gentleman does not know the agreement.

The Prime Minister

I have it here, and I am prepared to read it to the House. Clause 3 of the 1947 five-day week agreement states: The union will enter into arrangements with the board to provide for the regular working of additional shifts by certain categories of workers where this is necessary to ensure the safety of the pit.

Mr. Skinner rose——

The Prime Minister

There is nothing controversial about this. This is a matter of fact and it is what justifies my statement that when the miners return to normal working it will be possible to get proper production and the coal will get through to the power stations.

Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry, no.

I listened to Mr. Gormley at the weekend, and there is one matter with which I should like to deal because there seems to be a genuine misunderstanding.

Mr. McGuire rose——

The Prime Minister

I am sorry, but I shall not give way.

Mr. Gormley said: If the members of the National Union of mineworkers went back to normal working tomorrow, you would still have this crisis. If it had not happened this month, it would have been in the next two or three months inevitably. If there is genuine misunderstanding here, I wish to remove it. The three-day week is in the use of electricity, and that is the consequence of the fall in supplies of coal to the power stations.

There is now another factor of the utmost importance for British industry: the reduction in steel production. It is not the three-day week that has caused the British Steel Corporation to cut back production to 50 per cent. It is the lack of essential coking coal for the mills. The facts are that normal deliveries of coking coal to the blast furnaces have been cut to two-thirds of what is required. The corporation’s margins of coal are now down to 3.7 weeks’ supply at full production. That in itself, irrespective of Government action, will involve major shortages of material in manufacturing industry, with consequent short-time working and unemployment.

The three-day week is not the consequence of the oil supply situation. The measures that we took in November would have been adequate to ensure the minimum of damage to industrial production from reductions in our oil supplies. We were assured at the time that industry could absorb those cuts by economies, and this has proved to be the case.

The three-day week is not the result of higher oil prices. Indeed, it is essential that we meet this further external challenge by increasing production and exports to pay for the fuel that we require until our own resources are sufficiently developed to meet those needs.

We also have to make adequate arrangements to safeguard our supplies of imported oil. That is the object of the negotiations now under way with Iran and of our contacts with other oil-producing States which the Government have rightly taken on in the interests of Britain. We wish to co-operate with both the oil-producing and oil-consuming nations in making these arrangements, about both the supply and the price of oil. It is obviously in the interests of all that there should not be an unrestrained international scramble for the supplies that are available.

A number of proposals for international co-operation have already been made. It is right that there should be early talks between the major consuming countries, and that these talks should be broadened to include the producing countries. We have ourselves put some ideas to the American administration on how to follow up the initiative that Dr. Kissinger took in London at the Pilgrims Dinner, which I welcomed in the House and at Copenhagen and which I have welcomed on several other occasions. Meanwhile, I understand that an announcement will be made very shortly by the American Government about new proposals for a meeting in this connection. As soon as these proposals are received—which, I repeat, I understand will be in the very near future—we shall at once consult our Community partners about the response to them.

The recent developments in the supply and, above all, the price of oil have completely transformed not only the degree but the very nature of the energy problem that faces us and, indeed, most Western industrial countries in the coming years. They have clearly added to the amount of time and effort that needs to be devoted to the subject of energy both at ministerial and at official level. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and my right hon. Friend the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury have been handling these matters with coolness and skill, but inevitably they and their officials have had less time for the other major tasks facing the Department of Trade and Industry.

I recall that when I created the Department of Trade and Industry a few months after the present administration took office it was welcomed by the Leader of the Opposition, who had indeed said that similar thoughts had been in his own mind about this and the other major Departments. I believe that at the time it was right, in the circumstances of the energy supply situation, that the Department of Trade and Industry should have been created.

But the creation now of the new Department of Energy will enable the Secretary of State for Energy and his colleagues to concentrate on the development of the coal industry, on nuclear power and on our offshore oil and gas resources at home, as well as on those tasks of working together with other oil-consuming countries and with the oil-producing countries on the international aspects of the energy problem. It will also make it possible for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and his colleagues to concentrate more of their attention upon the implications of energy developments for British industry and on the other major tasks facing the Department, in our overseas trade negotiations, export promotion, industrial development and regional policy, prices, and the considerable burden of legislation on consumer credit and company law reform now before Parliament.

I return to the question of the three-day week and the crisis mentioned by Mr. Gormley, because the three-day week cannot be attributed to the balance of payments position. That demands, as I think everyone would agree, a full working week, maximum production and a continuation of the steady rise in productivity and of the rapid increase in exports over the last year. The three-day week cannot be laid at the door of an economic strategy for growth, which has brought substantial benefits to the people of this country in terms of a real improvement in personal standards of living.

Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)

There has been no improvement.

The Prime Minister

Then the hon. Gentleman is in complete disagreement with all the leaders of the TUC who have been taking part in the discussions we have had and who have constantly pressed for and supported a policy of expansion.

The measures we have taken were forced on us by the facts of coal production that I have described. No one—and this was made abundantly plain in the NEDC meeting—the Government, the TUC or the CBI, can possibly welcome the circumstances which bring about a three-day week. We have not got it by choice ; we have got it out of necessity. The Government have not deliberately precipitated the crisis. We have always been willing, indeed anxious, to consult and to take account wherever possible of the views of both sides of industry.

Mr. Kerr

Why did not the Government consult the TUC?

The Prime Minister

I am quite prepared to deal with that question. As I explained to the NEDC, on the question of the introduction of the three-day week—which is the responsibility of the Government and which they fully accept—there was deliberately no discussion with the TUC members who saw my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment the night before it was announced, because the Government did not wish to lay themselves open to accusations from any quarter that they had discussed the matter with the TUC before the meeting of the NUM at which there was to be a further attempt by Mr. Gormley—he having made it first after my meeting—to persuade the members of his executive to go to the ballot. We were not prepared to have the accusation made that we were discussing the three-day week with the TUC before the immediate meeting of the NUM.

I wish to deal with the record of the Government in consultation and in what have been the results of that consultation. [Interruption.] I understand, from the Press at any rate, that the nation is expecting the House to discuss this grave situation in a serious way. I certainly, as Prime Minister, propose to do so.

Mr. Skinner


The Prime Minister

I turn now to the question of the record of consultation by the Government because of the accusation which is frequently made—I do not wish to enter into personalities, but it is frequently made—that the Government are seeking confrontation. Far from adopting a policy of confrontation, we have now conducted for more than 18 months the longest, the most detailed and the most far-reaching set of talks in the history of relations between the TUC, the CBI and any Government. Indeed, there has been some criticism in the House of the fact that the Government have taken part in these talks and have engaged in consultation of the fullest kind about the management of the national economy.

Over the last 18 months we have had several objectives in these talks. We wanted to establish once and for all a reasonable basis for discussing common problems. I pledged myself to the nation to do this after the miners’ strike of 1972. It was then welcomed by the TUC and by the employers. We wanted to create a reasonable framework within which wage settlements could be negotiated. We wanted to develop the means whereby the Government, the TUC and the CBI together might review the working of our economy and our progress and discuss what further was necessary to achieve our objectives. Above all, we wanted to get away from the bludgeons of economic power and the blunt weapon of confrontation.

Mr. Kerr

After the Industrial Relations Act?

The Prime Minister

The overriding objective, recognised by all three parties to the talks, was to move away from the blind and indiscriminate use of economic power and to establish a system of wage settlements based on reason. That was the spirit in which we as a Government embarked on the discussions. During the summer and autumn of 1972, we held 11 meetings on a tripartite basis with the TUC and the CBI.

That was the spirit in which we continued the discussions in January and February last year about stage 2 and throughout the summer and autumn before the introduction of stage 3. I presided over more than 33 hours of talks with those concerned. During these talks there was never any suggestion of confrontation from any party to the talks. No one desired that. We were all concerned to maintain the expansion of the economy. The TUC and the CBI recognised that a price for this would have to be paid in the balance of payments, but both fully accepted it and for this reason welcomed the floating of the pound. We were all determined to do everything possible to ensure that our exports had every opportunity of increasing so that our standard of living could rise and so that we could improve the position of the lower paid, the pensioners and others who most needed help.

Those were our agreed objectives then and they remain our agreed objectives today. They are the objectives of the Government. We all recognised that we could not achieve all the improvements we wanted at once but that we could make progress by agreement in an orderly way and reach our objectives more quickly by so doing.

We did not achieve all that we had hoped in 1972. In the absence of voluntary agreement we were forced to take statutory powers. Nor, in the discussions in 1973, were we able to move forward from a statutory policy to an agreed voluntary basis for dealing with prices and incomes. But in these last 18 months a great deal has been achieved and we have deliberately carried through measures to meet as many as possible of the policies on which agreement was reached between the TUC, the CBI and the Government.

In fairness to all three parties to the talks, these achievements, I believe, need restating. By October last year we were making substantial progress towards the achievement of our joint objectives. The economy was expanding. Unemployment was down to under 500,000 and was still falling. Manufacturing output was up by 8 per cent. on a year before, and industrial production was up by almost 7 per cent.

In the export markets, we could sell our products more competitively than any of our neighbours. In the first half of 1973, the growth in volume of our exports was 24 per cent. at an annual rate, compared with a world growth of 17 per cent. to 19 per cent. In the same period the growth in volume of our imports was 18 per cent. at an annual rate, as compared with 24 per cent. of the growth of volume of our exports.

We were beginning to achieve the necessary rate of investment—

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West) rose—

The Prime Minister

I should say to the hon. Gentleman that, in fairness to all those who have done the work in industry, these figures should be stated. Surveys showed that 1974 would be the highest growth year for investment for more than a decade. Personal standards of living had grown by nearly 6 per cent. in 1972—faster than in any of the previous 20 years. The improvement in the first half of 1973 over the second half of 1972 was 3¼ per cent.
We were also agreed that an essential part of the strategy should be to provide for the lower paid, particularly the pensioners, and again we have acted positively in this.

Mr. Kerr

Dishonest government.

The Prime Minister

We have paid particular attention, as the TUC urged, to the problems of the lower paid. Under stage 2 the wages limit of £1 plus 4 per cent. and the provisions for equal pay, longer holidays and shorter hours were all particularly designed to assist the lower paid.

We continued all this in stage 3. In addition we provided for negotiators the alternative pay limit of £2.25 to help the lower paid. For the pensioners we have provided a secure future by ensuring that pensions should be uprated annually. Our record in this is second to none. Pensions have risen by 55 per cent. since 1970, which is far more than the increase in prices over the same period, and this does not include the £10 bonus which the pensioners have received for the last two Christmases.

Mr. Meacher rose——

The Prime Minister

I am giving the House these details again because it is essential that the House and the country should recognise the background to the negotiations now taking place under stage 3 of the code approved by Parliament. It is absolutely basic to the present industrial situation.

At the same time, all of us—the Government, the TUC and the CBI—recognised throughout our discussions that the reduction of inflation was a prime objective. I repeat that all of us would have preferred to find a way of achieving this voluntarily, but we should in no way underestimate the success of stages 1 and 2 of the incomes policy, for which I have paid tribute to both employers and unions.

Most of us—[Interruption.] I understand that the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) does not like hearing the facts of life. This is a grave situation—

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West) rose—

The Prime Minister

This is a grave situation—

Mr. English

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman obviously is not giving way.

The Prime Minister

—a grave situation, in which the nation—[Interruption.]

Mr. English rose—

The Prime Minister

I think that the nation will note the behaviour of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.

A prime objective of these talks has throughout been to combat inflation. I repeat that no one should underestimate the success, with the co-operation of employers and unions, of stages 1 and 2. Most of us would have settled for a price inflation of 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. a year, and that is what we would have had, thanks to the vast growth of the economy and the restraint of employers and unions, but for the rapid and massive rise in world prices of foodstuffs and raw materials. [HON. MEMBERS: “Ah.”] Again, hon. Members are sceptical. Let me give them the figures, from the Economist. The world prices of commodities have risen by no less than 119 per cent. and the world price of food by 113 per cent. Against that background, I should have thought that both employers and unions can count it a substantial achievement to hold the increase in domestic prices to under 10 per cent

The effect of our counter-inflationary policy has been to ensure that we have been able to hold down domestic costs better than most other industrial countries. We have averted the danger of piling a substantial domestic inflation on top of inflation produced by world prices.

Perhaps I may quote the new General Secretary of the TUC. He has emphasised that In the long term, it is still true that the solution to our problems lies in economic growth, it lies in continuing expansion and it lies in continuing investment. That is still the Government’s view, and it makes it absolutely imperative that this country should continue the battle against wage-cost inflation.

Indeed, the large increase in prices that we shall have to pay for oil makes it more important to continue with expansion and not less important—

Mr. Skinner

Your own party does not believe you.

The Prime Minister

But, of course, the fruits of this expansion will have to go in a greater degree to pay for the cost of that oil instead of going to improve our standard of living. Those are the hard facts of the present situation.

In the present circumstances, therefore, I believe that, far from being accused of confrontation, the Government are entitled to ask for a positive response from the trade union movement as a whole for what we have achieved in reply to the points which they, with employers, have put to us. They have benefited from a policy of growth which they demanded and which they fully supported. They have benefited from a policy which brought unemployment below 500,000, which filled order books, which provided a high level of production, improved standards of living and brought over the last year a substantial measure of industrial peace.

In stage 3 itself, the Government have gone as far as possible to meet the points put to us in our discussions with the TUC and the CBI. They asked for a greater flexibility for negotiators. How often we hear at this moment that there must be flexibility. Well, let those who ask for that consider the immense amount of flexibility in the stage 3 negotiations which has been used, rightly used, taken advantage of fully and accepted, by so many negotiators who have already completed their negotiations.

Flexibility has been built into the code—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but in this serious situation, Labour Members will not shout me down, however much they may wish to do so. The flexibility has been introduced into the code in the 1 per cent. flexibility margin, in the provision for hours and holidays and, in particular, in the provision for unsocial hours and in the choice of pay limits. The TUC and the employers asked for the opportunity to negotiate efficiency agreements. These opportunities are included in the code and are being used.

I do not intend to speak in detail of the miners’ pay claim. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is discussing it with the NUM executive this afternoon and he will be taking part in the debate tomorrow. There are certain things in general about it which I wish to say. All the provisions of stage 3 are available to the miners for negotiation. The offer to the miners includes payment for unsocial hours. I am told that there are different arrangements about shifts in mining from manufacturing industry. [Interruption.]

Hon. Gentlemen are sceptical. It was Mr. Jack Jones who raised the matter in the National Economic Development Council. Of course, the miners have been offered an arrangement specifically to deal with the night shifts. If they so wish they can negotiate on these matters. What cannot be done is to deal with all the problems at once on a scale far greater than that already dealt with within the code.

In addition to the basic rate there is the flexibility allowance which the miners have chosen to use to extend their holiday arrangements. That is entirely up to them and is a perfectly fair arrangement for them to ask for. There are special arrangements for unsocial hours which they have opted to use for the night shift. There are bigger lump sums on retirement. All of these are part of the flexibility arrangements, in addition to the basic rate, which have been offered to the miners in the negotiations.

It can be summed up in this way. The offer made to the NUM represents the best offer made to its members in the whole history of negotiations. Even without a 3½ per cent. efficiency increase the offer would give 25 per cent. of miners £6.30p extra a week, 50 per cent. of miners more than £4.75p a week and 75 per cent. of miners more than £3.30p a week. This offer means that average earnings for some underground craftsmen would rise to £55 a week, for some power loaders to £51 a week and for surface men, grade 2, to about £39 a week. All this is before account is taken of the efficiency deal which is available for negotiation between the union and the National Coal Board.

When I saw the NUM on 28th November I discussed all of these details with it. I said to it, and I emphasise this, that if it accepted a stage 3 settlement and resumed normal production the Government would be ready immediately thereafter to consider with both sides of the industry the miners’ pay arrangements in the context of the longer-term future for the industry.

Mr. Skinner rose—

The Prime Minister

Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman were to listen to the offer which has been made.

Mr. Skinner

Why will not the right hon. Gentleman give way?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman listened to what I have to say, I might be more willing to give way.

As this point has recently been raised in the Press by responsible commentators it is right that they should have the answer to it. The Secretary of State for Employment repeated this to the leaders of the NUM on 20th December and will repeat it to the full executive of the NUM today.

There are some, including the Leader of the Opposition, who say that we should breach stage 3 and give the miners a better offer. For the Government to do that would be to break faith with millions of workers who have already settled under stage 3. I should like to give the House some figures. By the end of 1973 well over 550 settlements covering 4 million workers had been notified to the Pay Board. This includes over 1 million local authority manual workers, 250,000 National Health Service ancillary workers, over 300,000 agricultural workers and another 500,000 workers covered by various wages councils.

It also includes more than 1½ million workers who have taken advantage of the provisions in stage 3 to help the lower paid. Up to the end of December no major group of workers had failed to reach a settlement within stage 3 by the due date. That is an acceptance of stage 3 by nearly 4 million workers in nearly 550 settlements. I suggest that there is no evidence there of 4 million workers considering this as a confrontation with the Government.

The offer made to the miners within stage 3 gives an average increase of between 13 per cent. and 16 per cent., with the additional efficiency payments. The average size of the settlements agreed in stage 3, of which I have given details, is considerably lower than the 13 per cent. offered to the miners, which excludes the offer of the efficiency agreement of 3½ per cent.

While these agreements in stage 3 were being made we have been able, as a result of the Pay Board report on anomalies, to sort out a large number of anomalies and reach agreement. These were anomalies which arose as a result of stages 1 and 2. I would have thought that the House would accept that to sort out those anomalies by agreement with the unions and to have 550 settlements covering 4 million workers under stage 3 is no mean achievement and is due to the work of employers and unions within the framework of the code approved by Parliament.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

If the Pay Board report on relativities, which I understand is due out shortly, makes out a case for special cases to receive special payment, are the Government prepared to amend the pay code immediately?

The Prime Minister

That is a perfectly fair question for the right hon. Lady to raise and I hope that she will give the Government credit for having asked the Pay Board not only to deal with anomalies within stages 1 and 2 but also to deal with the much deeper question of relativities in industry. We have given an undertaking that immediately the report is published we will consult with the TUC and the CBI to take action upon it. We cannot give a clearer or firmer undertaking than that. We immediately entered into discussions with the CBI and TUC about the anomalies report and will do the same about the report on relativities when it reaches us from the Pay Board. We asked for it to come to us by 31st December. It is no fault of the Government’s that it has not reached us. On the other hand, we recognise the complexities of this matter and the details which the Pay Board has to consider in all the representations which have been made to it.

I suggest, therefore, that far from this being a confrontation between the Government and the unions, exactly the reverse is the case—that we have sought their assistance in consultation and that, under stage 3, 4 million workers have reached a settlement and many of the anomalies have now been dealt with and peacefully settled.

I believe, therefore, that we should keep faith with those who have accepted the code approved by Parliament and who, therefore, expected that the Government would ensure that the remaining settlements under stage 3 were fully in accordance with it. That, I believe, is an honourable position for the Government to take up.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Does the Prime Minister say, therefore, that the TUC is in favour of stage 3? Is he not aware—he has been told by the TUC—that the TUC is completely opposed to it and that many of the trade unions that have made agreements have been forced to do so by the Government’s policies? While the Prime Minister is talking about stage 3, will he say whether the Glasgow firemen’s settlement comes within its terms?

The Prime Minister

On the last part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, as he knows that is being considered by the Pay Board, in the way in which the other 550 settlements have been considered. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Government have been able to force anyone to reach a decision in this matter ; far from it. These are voluntarily negotiated agreements. [Interruption.] Let me deal with the hon. Gentleman’s first point. I have never disguised for one moment that both employers and trade unionists would prefer to have voluntary collective bargaining, provided that they could be assured that there would not be inflationary leapfrogging, and in none of these discussions has any way been shown how that can be avoided. It was, therefore, the responsibility of the Government to carry through stage 3.

Therefore, the objectives have not changed. We all want to reduce the rate of increase in prices which comes from wage costs, and that is the objective of stage 3. We all want, once the immediate emergency is behind us, to resume the expansion of the economy which we were able to achieve in 1973. We shall do our utmost as a Government to ensure that supplies of oil do not hinder us in this objective.

These objectives are agreed between employers, unions and the Government. The life of every man, woman, and child in this country will be better if we can realise those objectives. I say again to the House and to the country ; does not the best hope of doing so lie in our sitting down together, as we have done over the past 18 months, to talk to each other about these objectives—the Government, the CBI and the TUC?

Mr. Kerr

Repeal the Industrial Relations Act.

The Prime Minister

I have repeatedly made plain to those who have taken part in talks with us that we shall fully consider any proposals for amendments to the Industrial Relations Act. I repeat that no proposals have been made to us at these talks, by either the employers or the unions.

I strongly believe—I repeat it—that it is only through reason, through reasoned argument and reasoned agreement, that, as a nation, we can progress. This does not mean that trade unions and other groups in our society are asked to neglect their own interests ; far from it. Again, in these talks all have always realised that. It does mean that they are asked to take the longer-term view of their own interests—

Mr. Skinner

Jam tomorrow.

The Prime Minister

—to consider their interests in the context of the needs and the interests of the rest of the community.

If we try to achieve sectional interests by fighting each other we fail in our sectional objectives and we end by destroying this country. Surely we should follow the alternative course—a course of reason and, indeed, of moderation.

We should be trying to marry our sectional objectives in policies and programmes which serve the interests of the community as a whole. That was the spirit in which the Government embarked upon the tripartite talks in 1972. My colleagues and I are ready at any time to resume discussions with the CBI and the TUC, together or separately, in that same spirit ; not to try to score debating points, not to exchange recriminations about the past—for we have, none of us, done any of this in the tripartite and bipartite talks that we have had so far—but to try together to work out a programme which may not immediately meet all the desires of any of us but which will provide a framework within which we can meet our agreed objectives for the country and make orderly progress with our separate aspirations, progress which is not at the expense of other people but which takes account of the needs and aspirations of the ordinary people of this country—consumers, housewives and pensioners—to go about their lives in order and stability.

There is to be a special congress of trade union leaders next week. I invite them at their meeting to take up this offer which I am making today here in Parliament, to come together with the Government and the representatives of management, not in a spirit of confrontation and suspicion—[Interruption.] I am sorry that Opposition Members should reveal their complete ignorance of the attitude of the trade union leaders who attended the No. 10 talks and the Chequers talks.

I invite the trade union leaders now to come together with the Government and the representatives of management, not in a spirit of confrontation and suspicion, but in a spirit of constructiveness, of moderation and of reason. It is not too late for reason to prevail. It is not too late to discuss and settle all these matters within the framework which Parliament has approved. It is not too late to look to the future and to plot our course together. Indeed, it is in the interests of the whole nation that we should do so, and do so as rapidly as possible.

Robert Carr – 1974 Statement of a State of Emergency

Below is the text of the statement made by Robert Carr, the then Home Secretary, in the House of Commons on 9 January 1974.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement.
Under the provisions of the Emergency Powers Act 1920 the proclamation made on 12th December will expire at midnight on Friday 11th January, together with the regulations made in pursuance of that Proclamation. Since there has been no resolution of the disputes affecting the coal mines and the railways and since there is continuing uncertainty over oil supplies, the Government consider that it is necessary for the state of emergency to be continued.

Although the existing regulations will not expire until midnight on Friday 11th January, in view of the recall of Parliament this week it seemed right and for the convenience of the House that there should be no uncertainty as to whether or not the state of emergency would be extended. A further Proclamation and emergency regulations have therefore been made. The regulations—to be known as the Emergency Regulations 1974—will be laid later this afternoon and copies will be available in the Vote Office. They will come into force at midnight on Friday.

In accordance with the undertakings which I gave to the House last December, two major changes have been made in the new regulations. The provisions of the old Regulations 21 and 22 relating to fuel, refinery products, electricity and gas have been omitted, because there are now sufficient powers under the Fuel and Electricity (Control) Act 1973. The second change is to the sabotage regulation ; Regulation 30 of the new regulations has been redrafted to meet the point raised in the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and also in the debate on the last set of regulations concerning the lawful nature of industrial action falling short of a strike.

There is a minor change in Regulation 17(2) which is extended to cover the consumption of electricity elsewhere than on the premises of the consumer.

Paul Tyler – 1974 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Paul Tyler, the then Liberal MP for Bodmin, on 12 March 1974.

I am grateful and honoured to have been successful in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker.

I hope that the House will not think it excessively precocious of me to leap in so early in a parliamentary career. I have two motives. One is that I suspect that this Parliament may not last all that long, so I want to take advantage of my presence here as quickly as possible. More seriously, there seems to be no opportunity later in the debate on the Gracious Speech to discuss housing, so I was compelled to try to catch your eye today.

My predecessor as Member for Bodmin was a devoted and diligent constituency Member. We admired him for that and were grateful to him for the hard work he put in on behalf of the division. He will be missed, I fear, from the House for an additional reason: I understand that he had the best batting average of any hon. Member. I must confess that cricket is not my game and that even if the House manages to stay together until the cricket season, I shall not be performing in that way.

The constituency that I have the honour and privilege to represent may be known to many right hon. and hon. Members. I hope that it is known to you, Mr. Speaker. I know that it is an old parliamentary game to try to lure the Prime Minister into one’s constituency, but I should be much more glad to lure you into mine. The Prime Minister, I understand, frequently travels through my constituency at speed by railway. I would far rather have your presence, Mr. Speaker, so that I could demonstrate to you that it is the most beautiful constituency in the United Kingdom.

More than that—it is at the moment a comparatively prosperous part of Cornwall. I say “comparatively” because the Duchy of Cornwall has not found it easy to keep pace with the rising cost of living in the rest of the country and we have consistently lagged behind in terms of incomes under successive Governments in the last 25 to 30 years. However, for a short time there was a more positive approach to the problems of low income areas and my constituency was fortunate enough to obtain new industry, particularly light engineering. As a result, small market towns have been enabled to expand.

Unfortunately, in the last three-and-a-half to four years, this expansion has slowed up—not just because of a lack of interest among potential industrialists, but because of the housing situation. On this subject, I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Robertson). The housing shortage is now a major social evil again. Perhaps for the first time, it is not just the central urban areas that are feeling the effect of the housing crisis. Certainly a rural area with comparatively small towns, such as South-East Cornwall, feels this now excessively, so much so that it is having a major impact on our whole economy.

Although five or six years ago, young people often had to leave the area because of lack of jobs, the reason now all too often is the complete lack of any suitable accommodation. Any hon. Member representing a large constituency must receive in his postbag details of many sad, unfortunate housing problems. On reaching this place, I certainly found myself engulfed in such a postbag. I know that the previous Member did a great deal of valuable work, but I suspect that my postbag is that much greater as a result of what has happened in comparatively recent months.

The sad fact is that the national and the local housing programmes have collapsed. The former Minister for Housing and Construction announced at the end of January that the figures for completions in the private sector had fallen to 186,100 and in the public sector to 107,500—decreases of 10,200 and 15,400 respectively, giving a total of 293,600 in 1973 compared with 319,100 in 1972. These are alarming figures.

The Natonal House-Building Council has already announced that in the first month of this year there has been a further drop in the private sector of 40 per cent. compared with the previous year. Judging from our own local experience, we in South-East Cornwall are experiencing this situation with the same gravity as that with which we meet all major economic, social and housing problems in the country. When the country gets a cold, we in Cornwall, I fear, seem to catch double pneumonia.

In the West Country in 1973 council housing completions were down by some 75 per cent. on the preceding 12 months. In East Cornwall the council house building programme is almost at a standstill. Very few family houses are being built. Only a handful of old peoples’ dwellings are being built. At the same time, the private sector is finding that it has no purchasers for the houses that it completes.

There are two or three immediate steps which the new Government could take. I think that I have my right hon. and hon. Friends with me in suggesting that this is something which the new Government should look at as a matter of urgency. First, it is now possible to give more responsibility to the local housing authority. Some of us had grave misgivings about the passage of the Local Government Act 1972, but its one merit was that in giving additional size and status to the new district councils, the new housing authorities, it should have been possible to trust them a little more. The first way in which I would seek to trust them a little more, to decide what their local needs are and then to meet them, would be to abolish the housing cost yardsticks.

As the House will remember, the housing cost yardsticks were introduced by a previous Labour Government in 1967. They tie down the local housing authority to an immense degree and to minute detail. They have all sorts of unfortunate side effects. Much of the condensation problem in recent council house building has been caused by the fact that the housing cost yardsticks provide for only partial home heating. The result has been that in the long term a great deal of remedial work has had to be undertaken, costing thousands or millions of pounds. The first step would be to abolish the housing cost yardsticks and to lay the responsibility fairly and squarely on the housing authority to undertake the sort of building that it needs for its own purposes.

Secondly, on the mortgages situation the Gracious Speech contains a splendid non sequitur. It states that Urgent measures will be taken to reverse the fall in house-building”. and goes on to elaborate other policies which are totally unrelated to that objective. Certainly at present the mortgage situation should be a cause for grave alarm on the Treasury Bench.

The Liberal Party has promoted for some years the idea of low-start mortgages. It is nothing new. Many hon. Members in all parts of the House now support that concept. But why is it that, when we have had an official report making it quite evident that it is possible to run such a scheme, it takes this country two or even three years to put it into operation? The National Economic Development Council produced a report at least two years ago, setting out in detail the financial implications of a low-start mortgage scheme, but it is still not fully operational.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant), who has now left the Chamber, referred to the role of building societies. I believe that building societies are too cautious. The Government should be in a position to encourage them to be much more open-minded and much more liberal with their funds. At the same time, the building societies should be encouraged actually to build. In the Scandinavian countries and in West Germany the building societies build houses. That is a role which would do a great deal for the societies and for the whole question of the finance of housing in Britain.

Thirdly, and very importantly, I believe that there should be immediate action to channel public funds to those most in need when it comes to buying a house. We must now wait for the Budget. It would be fair to say, however, that my right hon. and hon. Friends will be looking to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for some explicit statement or action to try to make sure that the tax allowances for house purchase go to those who are most in need of help.

The time has certainly come when we must regard housing as one of our biggest social problems. From this problem derive so many of our social difficulties. At the same time, we must not forget that it is a question of quality as well as quantity. We must be building to last. We must not be building the slums of tomorrow. The cost yardstick, sadly, has done a great deal to produce substandard homes in the longer term.

But the financial system which ensures that loans are raised for a period of 60 years, and then after that period we forget about the structure of the buildings, has also ensured that we have moved inevitably towards more and more throw-away building in the last 20 to 30 years. That process must now be reversed, because the energy crisis and the material crisis mean that a house or any building today must be built to last if we are to get good value from the public money which we invest in them. Buildings must be built to last at least 100 years, if not 150 years.

We must hope that the new Government will look again at the subject of housing. I fear that the brief reference in the Gracious Speech does not encourage me to think that the Government will approach this subject with a freshness which will enable them to insist that the particular representatives of our community, who are responsible for planning the shelter of our citizens, should look at the subject in the interests of all future generations. It is not good enough to build just for here and now. We must be building for a generation after the next generation. If we are to do that, we certainly cannot continue with the present hand-to-mouth financial restrictions which prevent local housing authorities from doing a good job for their community.

The time has come to trust the people and the representatives of the people. That must mean less Whitehall interference, rather than more.

Malcolm Rifkind – 1974 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made in the House of Commons by Malcolm Rifkind, the then Conservative MP for Edinburgh, Pentlands, on 19 March 1974.

It gives me great pleasure to participate in this debate, but as a new Member I feel that, both of necessity and through pleasure, I should make some observations on my constituency and on my predecessor. I have the pleasure of representing the Pentlands division of Edinburgh, a city that returns some seven Members to this Parliament, thus ensuring that all the deadly sins are well represented on both sides of the Chamber; I leave it to hon. Members to decide for themselves which should be attributed to whom.

Pentlands is somewhat unusual for an urban constituency in that almost half its area consists of the impressive hills that give it its name. In addition, within the boundaries of the constituency there are three thriving villages, and at least one full-time shepherd, which ensures that the agricultural interest cannot be ignored. The bulk of the electorate, however, live in the gracious houses of Colinton and Merchiston, the new massive council estates of Wester Hailes, the older estates of Sighthill, and the new private housing estates of Bonaly, Buckstone and Baberton.

My predecessor was a man whom the House held in high regard—a former Lord Advocate, Norman Wylie. He had the somewhat unusual distinction of having Front Bench responsibilities not only from the very day on which he entered this Chamber but as Solicitor-General for Scotland for some months before that. I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House will have been delighted to hear of his elevation to the Scottish Bench as a Senator of the College of Justice.

I, too, am an advocate, and I am sure that the House will be glad that the quota of lawyers in this place has not been diminished by Norman Wylie’s departure. However, I can sympathise—if not agree—with those who, like Burke, believe that the country should be governed by law but not by lawyers.

I am particularly delighted to be able to speak in a debate on foreign affairs. It has been one of the sadder features of recent election campaigns that our overriding infatuation with economic statistics and the cost of living has driven considerations of Britain’s international rôle into forgotten corners.

Perhaps the only issue which came to the forefront in the election campaign was our relationship with the European Economic Community. It was sad that, for the bulk of the electorate, that was largely a matter of domestic significance, concerned only with the price of butter and eggs. We are in danger of becoming morbidly introspective and insular, forgetting that, while we do not have an imperial tradition to continue, we have a vital contribution to make towards the solution of international problems.

I hope that I am not being unduly optimistic. I accept that we cannot look back on a world that has left us for ever. I know that we cannot emulate the naïve innocence of Canning, who, having sent British troops to Portugal in 1822, was able to remark that the British flag now flies from the heights above Lisbon, and where the British flag flies no foreign domination shall come.

However, Britain—as, indeed, does France—has a strength which cannot be matched by the super-Powers. We share parliamentary, historical and linguistic links with the great majority of the nations of Africa and Asia. We are part of their history, and they are part of ours. More importantly, we are no longer a threat to their independence or to their security. At such a time as this, Britain and France have the potential to bridge the awful and depressing gulf between the rich nations and the poor nations, which happen also to be the white and the coloured nations. It is a terrible responsibility upon us, and it would be tragic if at such a time we were to retreat into being a small island off the western coast of Europe, concerned only with our domestic problems and whether we should sub-divide ourselves even further, like some schizophrenic amoeba.

I wish to speak specifically about Southern Africa. I believe that Britain has a rôle, through both history and inclination, of vital importance to that area. I speak with a little knowledge, having spent almost two years working at the University of Rhodesia in Salisbury. That university was multi-racial in character, which is very unusual for that country. Indeed, it was its multi-racial character which caused some of the Rhodesian Front members to describe it affectionately as the “Kremlin on the Hill”.

Despite that, Rhodesia is of considerable importance. It has, perhaps, been one of the more endearing features of the activities of this House that successive Governments have produced what can only be called a bi-partisan policy on the problem of Rhodesia. I, for one, welcome that fact. Few who have been to Rhodesia, whether to visit or to live there, cannot but be aware of the grave injustices that one finds in Rhodesian society. One cannot but be aware of the deep division in Rhodesian society between white and black, and of the great gulf that separates the two halves of the population.

There is one aspect of the present Government’s policy towards Rhodesia which I cannot but regret. As I see it, there are two schools of thought in Southern Africa. There are those who, on the one hand, however optimistically, however naïvely, believe passionately in the possibility of a multi-racial society in that unhappy country. There are, however, on the other hand, those who, equally sincerely and perhaps equally passionately, believe that the only alternative to European domination is African domination. Adherants to the latter view can be found both in the Rhodesian Front and in the African Nationalist Parties.

While I clearly and willingly accept that the Government in their policy support the former view that we must work towards a multi-racial society, there is one aspect of their approach which belittled that. We saw how, in the Queen’s Speech, it was stated that the Government would accept only a settlement that was supported not by the majority of the population but by the African majority.

Likewise, the concept of NIBMR is often referred to as “no independence before” not “majority rule,” but “majority African rule.” That is not simply a matter of linguistic importance. It is of great importance, because it suggests that the Government of our country are moving towards a situation where they believe that the only alternative to European domination is African domination. Indeed, it confirms the belief of the Europeans in Rhodesia that Britain in general, and the Labour Party in particular, does not care for the interests of the European community in Rhodesia with regard to their long term future. It is terribly important that at every available opportunity we should make it abundantly clear that we believe that there is a long-term future for the European community in Rhodesia, albeit in a very different Rhodesia from that in which they are living today. But it is vital that we should put that point.

There is one final matter concerning Southern Africa to which I should like to refer. Many arguments are made about the rights and wrongs, the pros and cons, of economic or diplomatic boycott. I should not wish to enter into those arguments at present, save only to say that the arguments have force on both sides. But there is one passionate plea that I would make, and that is to dissuade as far as I am able those who would argue for a cultural and academic boycott of Southern Africa. I do not, for one moment, doubt the sincerity of their motives, but I know from the people, both black and white, who are fighting against apartheid—not in Trafalgar Square, but in Southern Africa itself—that this sort of approach creates the greatest of anguish.

There is little enough originality, creativity or progressive ideas in the Southern part of the African continent, and it would be singularly unfortunate were we to support those who suggest that what little originality, what little cultural creation there is in that part of the world should be stifled from it. I say instead that we should encourage all forms of cultural and academic contact with Southern Africa, not because it will turn the Europeans into the great believers in a multi-racial ideal—I am not sufficiently naive to believe that to be likely—but I believe that where there are whites and blacks in Southern Africa fighting for contacts with the finest parts of Western European civilisation we should maximise their opportunities and not minimise them.

I have said what I wished to say. A former resident of my constituency—Robert Louis Stevenson—once remarked that politics is perhaps the only profession for which a training was not thought necessary. I thank the House for listening to me, and I hope that I have not confirmed that observation.

Walter Clegg – 1974 Speech on Fleetwood

Below is the text of the speech made by Walter Clegg, the then Conservative MP for North Fylde, in the House of Commons on 1 April 1974.

The last Parliament had one distinct advantage over the present Parliament, in that the hon. Member for North Fylde, being then a Government Whip, was unable to speak except to move the Adjournment of the House. Alas, those halcyon days are past.

Other hon. Members left the Chamber swiftly as soon as I rose to make what is virtually a maiden speech after four years of silence. But I propose to bear in mind what I call Clegg’s Laws of Listening, which I formulated after sitting for many a weary hour on the Government Front Bench and keeping silent, as you have to do in your Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The first of those laws is that the second half of any speech appears to be twice as long as the first, and the second law is that the enjoyment of a speech is in inverse proportion to its length. I shall try my best to bear those two laws in mind when I speak.

The problems I have chosen to raise in the debate affect the port and town of Fleetwood in my constituency. They are very much the problems of success and not of failure. Not many years ago many people said that the port of Fleetwood was finished and that Fleetwood as a town was on the way down. That is quite contrary to what has happened over the past few years. From about 1970 onwards the port and the town have flourished.

The change started with the reinstatement of the Isle of Man steamer service for summer travellers to the Isle of Man from the port. Then we had the expansion of industry on the town’s estate, after the adoption of Fylde as an assisted area, and next we had remarkable development in the port itself.

First, we had the new Jubilee Quay for the inshore fishermen, and in the space of one year alone the inshore fleet doubled. We have also embarked on the modernisation of the fish dock. Work on that has just about started, and it will mean a much better dock for the use of the fishing fleet in future.

In addition, we have had a development of the dry cargo side of Fleetwood, which has been remarkable. I pay tribute to the British Transport Docks Board, and particularly to our local manager, who has played such a great part in the operation. From being a port that handled comparatively little dry cargo, we are now handling more and more through lift-off facilities. Roll-on, roll-off facilities are being made available. A Private Bill has come to Parliament from the board to provide even more facilities in the port. This is very good for the town and the port of Fleetwood. We have very good labour relations.

I am pleased that the board has made an effort to develop our port, but it produces problems, as success often does. One problem is the flow of traffic to the port, which has to come through some winding country lanes from the present M6. When the Blackpool spur of the M6 is built, it will still have to come through country lanes. The part I am concerned with is a stretch between the end of Amounderness Way and the boundaries of Fleetwood.

I have been given figures by the board of the flow of traffic along the stretch of road which goes through Thornton Cleveleys in my constituency, quite a heavily populated area. In 1973 the estimated number of road vehicle journeys—vehicles using the port, and not light traffic—was 61,630. This year that figure will increase to about 73,000. but I am told that in 1975—and this is a revised figure I received over the weekend—the estimated number of road vehicle journeys is about 200,000.

All this is in addition to the normal traffic to the port, which includes holiday traffic going to Fleetwood itself and to Thornton Cleveleys—both holiday resorts —private motorists going to the Isle of Man steamer and other heavy vehicles which use the same route for the factories that ICI has in the area and for the power station. It is true that we have a railway system for freight which still goes to part of Fleetwood but it does not go into the port itself. It stops short at the power station and the ICI sidings. One can see little hope of relief in that respect.

The impact upon Thornton Cleveleys already is quite intense. I want to quote what the local newspaper had to say about the stretch of the Fleetwood Road which is now used by these heavy vehicles. I travel along it frequently and it looks something like the Menin Road in the First World War—as though it had been shelled—because, in addition to all the problems of traffic, we have had the construction of a major sewerage scheme and a drainage scheme, and the road is upset.

The Thornton Cleveleys Times of 22nd March had the headline: ‘It’s Murder’, says traffic sufferers and it went on: Walls and chimneys cracking, tins of food jumping off shop shelves, beds shaking and pictures moving on the walls were just a few complaints from up-in-arms residents this week complaining about heavy traffic using the Fleetwood Road, Thornton. One of my constituents said that it was almost like living in a house with a poltergeist, because everything was always on the move.

There is also the problem of safety—of heavy vehicles using a narrow road lined for the most part on both sides with houses.

The Minister is probably well aware of this problem because it has been put to the Ministry before. What is needed most of all to effect relief is the completion of the Thornton Cleveleys bypass, which would take traffic from the end of Amounderness Way and take it through Copse Road, Fleetwood. This would have an immediate effect if it were constructed as quickly as possible. I have been in touch with the Lancashire County Council—the road authority—and with the new Wyre District Council, which was inaugurated today, and to which I wish the best of good will. Both councils give very high priority to this project.

I ask the Minister two specific questions: first, has there been any delay in letting the Lancashire County Council know the full material it needs for its transport policies and programmes, and, secondly, when will it be possible for the Department to let the county council know how much money it will have available?—because I understand that in this case these priorities are set more by the Lancashire County Council than by the Department itself.

The key factor for the county council is: when will it know how much money is available so that it can allocate priority to this road? The needs for this road are incontestable. They are two-fold. First, there is the need to look after the safety of the people using the road at the moment and to look after the lives of the people living along the road, in the environmental sense, and, secondly, the need for new communications, especially with the new spur of the M6, which is essential if the port of Fleetwood is to develop, remain properous, and become more prosperous. I press the urgency of these items on the Minister and his Department. I urge them to do all they can to give us this relief road as soon as possible.

I now turn to some other problems of the port which are not the direct responsibility of the hon. Member—I have informed him of these—but which he could well pass on particularly to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The Fleetwood fishing fleet is under some difficulty in that it must be kept fully modernised. It is easy for ports that do not have modernised fishing fleets to fall by the wayside. For example, Milford Haven is now virtually finished as a fishing port. That leaves Fleetwood as the major deep-sea port on the west of the country, including Wales and Scotland.

Fleetwood has a strong desire to keep its fishing fleet up to date. It has that desire for more than one reason. Deep-sea fishing is a highly dangerous, skilled and arduous job. If any job was referable as a special case involving hardship at work, the trawlermen’s job would surely come into that category. Fleetwood wants to send its men to sea in the best equipped ships that it is possible to have. I ask that consideration be given to reinstating the grant which was obtainable for the building of fishing vessels.

At the same time I ask that consideration be given to the impact of oil fuel costs on the fishing industry. If it were possible to get back such costs from the market there would be little or no problem, but I doubt whether that is possible. I am not asking specifically for the refunding of such costs, but I ask that the matter be kept under surveillance. At one time there was an operational subsidy, but that is no longer in force. Fuel costs are having an impact on the fishing industry, and I ask that the matter be kept under review. Unless there is a proper return from the market or some sort of subsidy it is possible that fishing will become unprofitable. That would be a dangerous situation.

Finally, I draw attention to the problem of fishing limits. Fleetwood vessels are still fishing around Iceland, but that fishing will come to an end. The Law of the Sea Conference at Caracas will take place this year, and many countries are saying that they are determined to obtain wider fishing limits. If that is so, the fishermen of Fleetwood will want their share of any new limits that the conference hands out. We must have fishing grounds to enable the fleet to live.

The fishermen have suggested a limit of 200 miles. If other countries get wider limits, that is what Fleetwood will want. We shall have to bear in mind the points of view which are expressed at the conference, but if other countries leave the conference with wider limits there will be a tremendous reaction in this country right around the coast if similar limits are not granted to our fishermen.

I have referred to some of the problems in the port and town of Fleetwood. Happily, they are problems which arise from success and not from failure.

Merlyn Rees – 1974 Statement on Belfast Bomb

Below is the text of the statement made by Merlyn Rees, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in the House of Commons on 1 April 1974.

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about events in Northern Ireland in the last few days. I do so in the full realisation of the weight of my responsibility to this House.

On Thursday 28th March a bomb of between 500 and 600 lb. exploded outside a hotel in the centre of Belfast which is at present an Army headquarters. On the following day there were more bombs outside Catholic bars in Belfast, and on Saturday 30th March the level of violence was further stepped up, with bomb and incendiary attacks in Armagh, Lisburn and Bangor as well as more incidents in Belfast, and the violence continued on Sunday 31st March.

In these four days six civilians were killed and 65 injured. The Army had eight casualties and the RUC two, fortunately not serious. The pattern of these incidents shows a succession of acts of retaliation and revenge between one community and another.

On Friday morning I visited the city centre and in the afternoon had an urgent discussion on the security situation with the GOC and the chief constable. On Saturday I visited other areas of Belfast in company with the brigade commander, meeting some of his local commanders and troops responsible for security in the area. My hon. Friend the Minister of State had discussions in Belfast on Sunday morning with the GOC and the deputy chief constable. Later on Sunday afternoon, in company with local representatives, he visited Lisburn and Bangor. He reported to the Prime Minister and to me last night by telephone. After further consultation this morning, he returned to Northern Ireland.

In the course of our visits, both my hon. Friend and myself have talked to many members of the public and are in no doubt about the strength of their feelings at these latest outrages. I am sure that the whole House will join me in condemning these senseless and vicious attacks which cause so much distress and damage and, I say again, will achieve nothing. I find it impossible to understand the motivation of those, from whichever side they come, who believe that political ends can be achieved by violence or who seek to destroy the Constitution Act and power sharing not by political action but by bombing and killing.

It was a bad weekend, and it has led—and I fully understand this—to demands for increased action by the security forces. If violence on this scale occurred in cities in Great Britain hon. Members would rightly be demanding that all available resources should be thrown against those responsible. As hon. Members will know, I have since I came into office four weeks ago been reviewing with the GOC and the chief constable the security situation. I can already say quite clearly that no increase in the number of troops in Northern Ireland would eliminate the sorts of incident which happened last weekend. For example, I was told on Saturday in Belfast by Army commanders that the security forces are making about 100,000 searches a day at the Segment.

The small incendiary bombs which wrecked the stores in Bangor are easily made from commonplace materials, secreted in books or cornflake packets, and placed by apparently innocent shoppers. They cannot always be detected by security forces; their placing can be prevented only by the vigilance of other shoppers, and by effective security arrangements for which the stores them selves must be responsible.

Much the same is true of city centre car bombs. Hon. Members will probably have heard that a huge but selective anti-terrorist operation involving sealing off a complete area near the city centre and conducting a thorough search began this morning. It would be feasible completely to close off city centres to cars and lorries; it would cause massive congestion and bring the commercial life of the Province to a virtual standstill. It would not prevent the placing of devices of the type which were used in Bangor.

I want to make it absolutely clear that, important as the role of the security forces is and will continue to be, much of the sort of violence which happened last weekend can effectively be prevented only by the actions of ordinary citizens, who have a plain duty to report to the police suspicious activities which they see or information they have about those who plan or carry out destruction and violence. I know that the terrorists try to prevent this by intimidation; the more people who come forward to help the security forces, the more difficult it will be for them. The security forces will continue to do their utmost to arrest them from whichever section of the community they come, and to remove them from the society which they are poisoning. Some of them are even prepared to give interviews to the Press about their crimes.

There is no question whatsoever of the security forces being prevented by political directives from taking any necessary action against terrorists; the forces have always to bear in mind the consequences of their actions on the commercial and social life of the community which they are protecting. At the end of the day, it is for the community and the police in close co-operation to bear the main responsibility for law and order in Northern Ireland. I can assure the House that I will do everything practicable to support them in this; and to any of the terrorist organisations who, as I have heard suggested, have increased their acts of violence recently to test the present Government I can say quite clearly that I pledge this Government to act resolutely to deal with the terrorists from wherever they come. Nor will they deflect us from those political decisions and actions which this House has supported.

George Young – 1974 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by George Young, the then Conservative MP for Ealing Acton, in the House of Commons on 18 March 1974.

Due to the operations of the Boundary Commission, I have no fewer than three immediate predecessors to whom I must pay tribute in my maiden speech. One of them—Brian Batsford, the former Member for Ealing, South—did not seek re-election. The second—Nigel Spearing, the former Member for Acton—sought re-election and, after a vigorous contest with me at the hustings came second. The third—Mr. Molloy—sought re-election at a modified constituency, Ealing, North, and was duly returned. It does not need me to remind the House of his ceaseless efforts on behalf of those of his former constituents whom I now represent. He may not be very sorry to lose them, because he did not get many votes from that section of the constituency, but a lot of them are sorry to lose him, as he was a tireless and often pugnacious fighter on their behalf.

My predecessor in Acton—Nigel Spearing—earned the high regard and respect of his constituents in the three years in which he represented them. The closeness of the result doubtless reflected the local good will which he accumulated. He is by profession a school teacher, and in view of the current shortage of members of that profession in London, I hope that I have performed some small public service by enabling him to return to his previous vocation.

Brian Batsford represented Ealing, South for 16 years. He was a highly respected and much loved local Member who will be sadly missed. I am very grateful to him for the advice and encouragement which he gave me when I was a candidate.

I am honoured to tread in the collective footsteps of those three men.

I wish to speak briefly about my constituency. It is an amalgam of a highly industrialised area—Acton—with a large section of Ealing, a predominantly residential area with a major shopping centre at Ealing Broadway. Acton has the distinction of having more railway stations to its name than any other place in the country—North Acton, South Acton, East Acton, West Acton, Acton Central, Acton Main Line and Acton Town. It is, none the less, extraordinarily difficult to travel around it by public transport.

As with other industrial areas in London, Acton is suffering from the progressive rundown of industry. Successive Governments have taken the view that London has an inexhaustible supply of industrial firms which can be exported to other parts of the country. As a result, when firms in London wish to expand or modernise, they find that the planning and fiscal incentives to do so are almost irresistible. Consequently, there is a danger of London’s being left with the most inefficient and least modernised firms in the country. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue, it will undermine the economic base of the capital and adversely affect the employment prospects of those who live and work in it.

The Ealing section of the constituency is a pleasant residential area. Its main problem is a disease called planning blight, for which there appears to be no known cure and which can last for 25 years. Indeed, I had some pleasure in tracing back one set of road proposals to the last Liberal Government.

I am honoured to represent this new constituency and hope that it will be many decades before the House has to listen to another maiden speech from the Member for Ealing, Acton.

I wish to speak briefly on one matter concerning the economy, namely, the role of the public sector. Until recently I was an economic adviser in one of the largest nationalised industries—the Post Office Corporation. I was able to observe at first hand the effects of price restraint in this section of the economy. At a time of rising prices any Government will seek to use its influence to keep down prices, and it always does so in the nationalised sector because that is where it has most influence.

Historically, the nationalised industries have been the first to respond—not always willingly—to the call for price restraint. However, we should be under no illusion about the danger of this course of action if allowed to go on for long. First, many of the nationalised industries supply energy—the Central Electricity Generating Board, the National Coal Board and the Gas Council. At a time when the country must economise in its consumption of energy, it is indefensible that energy should be available to private consumer and industry alike at a price which is less than its true cost.

Secondly, pegging prices at low levels artificially increases demand, and in response to this the nationalised industries have put forward ambitious investment programmes. Many of the nationalised industries are capital-intensive and large sums of capital money are needed to increase their output. The two largest nationalised industries plan to spend £8,000 million in the next five years. If their investment plans are based on incorrect assessments of demand there will be a serious misuse of this country’s investment resources.

Morale in the nationalised industries falls if there is continued price restraint leading to substantial losses. Most of the nationalised industries are, in the normal sense, technically bankrupt and it is somewhat dispiriting for management in the nationalised industries to know this and to have to put up with it. Furthermore, the knowledge that the taxpayer will always foot the bill deprives management of the commercial criteria it needs to make sensible decisions.

Finally, price restraint in the nationalised industries has meant that they have had to have recourse to the Treasury for funds in order to keep going and to finance their investments. Not only is continuous Treasury interference in the affairs of the nationalised industries not always a good thing; it has pushed up the borrowing requirement of the Treasury and added to inflationary pressures. The Economist estimated last Friday that current subsidies to the nationalised industries were running at £1,100 million per year. In other words, twice the sum that is apparently available to subsidise food is currently being used to subsidise goods and services because they happen to be produced by the nationalised industries. I see little economic or social logic in this. It will always be difficult to get back to sensible pricing policies for the nationalised industries, but the later we leave it, the more difficult it will become, and in the meantime the greater will be the distortions in our economy.

It is probably too late to influence the Chancellor’s Budget next week, if, indeed, he would welcome any influence from the Conservative benches. But before the right hon. Gentleman commits himself to large increases in personal taxation, perhaps lie will look at the public sector deficits caused by the nationalised industries. If he were to remove these subsidies, the money he would get in would be equivalent to a 15 per cent. increase in personal taxation. Most people would maintain that it is much fairer to remove those subsidies than to put up personal taxation by that amount.

Nigel Lawson – 1974 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Nigel Lawson, the then Conservative MP for Blaby, in the House of Commons on 1 April 1974.

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye for the first time, on All Fool’s Day, too—a date whose appropriateness to the occasion of a maiden speech needs no underlining.

This has been a wide-ranging debate, and I could not pretend to be able to follow all its twists and turns, but I am particularly glad to have had the opportunity of speaking after the hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne), whose presence here is a symbol of a form of security of tenure which all of us have deeply at heart, although he has perhaps caused a lot of trouble at the United Nations.

The new constituency of Blaby, which I have the honour to represent, is in South Leicestershire. It is roughly 60 per cent. of the old Harborough division, whose Member, happily, continues to serve here as Member for the new Harborough division. Therefore, for me to pay the customary tribute to my predecessor would in the circumstances perhaps be in questionable taste—rather like publishing an obituary of the living. Therefore, I shall simply say that it is my ambition to serve my constituents as well as my hon. Friend did when they were his constituents.

Blaby is in a real sense the centre and heart of England. It is there that those two great Roman roads, Watling Street and the Fosse Way, cross. To come to the present day, it is in Blaby that the M6 meets the M1. As hon. Members of a monetarist persuasion will instantly recognise, that leads me logically to the subject of the Budget.

As a former professional Budget-watcher it was easy for me to recognise the parentage of this beast. It is by the TUC cart horse out of the Treasury grey mare. Therefore, I was not in the least surprised to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that later in the year he intends to introduce a Budget of his own. In view of the speeches made earlier today, many of us on the Opposition side of the House would rather it was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who introduced the subsequent Budget. However, I have always believed that every Chancellor should be allowed at least one Budget of his own. I am sure that will be the case on this occasion.

In his Budget speech the Chancellor said: Unless we can somehow halt the accelerating inflationary trends in our economy, the resulting political and social strains may be too violent for the fabric of our democratic institutions to withstand.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March 1974; Vol. 871, c. 290.] Those were sombre words, but I fear that the right hon. Gentleman did not exaggerate. Yet there was nothing in that long and complex Budget which did anything to halt the Gadarene stampede to which he referred. Indeed, some measures in it may actively make matters worse. It seems that everything has been staked, indeed gambled, on the success or failure of the so-called social contract between the Government and the trade unions—the philosophy, we are told, on which the Budget has been based.

A social contract is all very well, but, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), I found it difficult, in looking at the Budget in detail, not to be a trifle sceptical about it. Are we supposed to believe that the stony heart of the militant shop steward will melt at the thought of paying more for his cigarettes, petrol and beer in order to allow his wife to pay a little less for bread and milk? Perhaps this rather touching picture of male altruism is well founded, but I doubt it. It seems to me more likely that the Labour Party, which has always had a strange predilection for sacred cows, has gone one step further and now believes in sacred milk, too. Are we to believe that the great mass of trade unionists will suddenly be reconciled to the paths of moderation in wage claims by the knowledge that in future 33 per cent., and not 30 per cent., of any wage increase will be taken from them in tax? That applies to a married man, with two small children, earning as little as £25 a week. If hon. Gentlemen do not believe it, they should look at Table 17 in the Red Book.

Are we meant to suppose that trade union activists will feel that an extra 2½ per cent. rise in the cost of living imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer “at a stroke” is a small price to pay for the promise that one day there will be a wealth tax?

The social psychology of clobbering the rich is a subject deserving of study. As one close student has written, there is a curious tendency within the Labour Party towards a suspicious, militant, class-conscious Leftism. That is the observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Environment in that classic work, “The Future of Socialism”. Can it be that fostering this suspicious, militant, class-conscious Leftism is compatible with the stirring cry for national unity which the Chancellor made the theme of his peroration in his Budget speech?

Perhaps, after all that, it is not to the Budget that we should look for the key to the so-called social contract, the sop to the trade unions. Perhaps, instead, that key, that sop, is to be found elsewhere—in the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act and the “Footwork” that we are told will replace it. At first sight, that seems to be a more plausible candidate, but, even so, there is something curious about it.

When I was listening recently to the eloquent oration of the Secretary of State for Employment, I was struck by the passage in his speech in which he accused the previous Conservative Government of having conceived of the statutory incomes policy as a kind of blunderbuss to brandish in the face of the Trades Union Congress and say to it ‘Stand and deliver’.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March 1974; Vol. 870, c. 697.] Most people in the country, and certainly the great majority of my constituents in Blaby, would say that if there is anyone these days who is inclined to say “Stand and deliver”, it is the big trade unions. One of the more endearing characteristics of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) is that he is inclined to live in the past. No doubt he imagines, even today, that he is marching alongside the Tolpuddle Martyrs or fighting the Taff Vale decision. But the rest of us know that times have changed and with them the balance of industrial power—and the balance of weaponry, as some of his right hon. Friends can testify. Some of us recall, during the celebrated “In Place of Strife” saga, the plaintive cry addressed by the Prime Minister to Mr. Scanlon, “Get your tanks off my lawn, Hughie”. I am afraid that Hughie’s tanks are still on the Prime Minister’s lawn and, in the light of that, the present Government’s intentions towards trade union law in general and picketing in particularly are thoroughly alarming.

If I may draw an analogy following the “blunderbuss” of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, there is in the United States considerable concern over the constitutional right of every citizen to bear firearms and the violence and bloodshed that result from it. Sensible people there are campaigning to try to get the right limited by law. The position of the Government in a similar situation boils down to saying, “Of course people will be frustrated if they have only rifles, and this will lead to violence. For real peace and good order you should let them have machine-guns, or even bazookas.” That is a serious point. The central problem of our time, however much hon. Members on the Government benches may try to hide away from it, is the problem of the abuse of trade union power. If a social contract is to mean anything, it must mean that that power has to be used responsibly, but we will not ensure that by enlarging that power, or making its abuse still easier.

The link between trade union power and wage inflation sheds a spotlight on the basic fallacy that underlies the social contract/egalitarian approach. The mechanism of wage inflation rests on two simple and unequivocal facts. First, there are more groups of workers who feel strongly that their relative pay in relation to that of other groups of workers should be improved than there are groups who feel that their relative position should be allowed to deteriorate. Secondly, many of these groups—not all—have the economic and industrial power to be able, at least in the short term, to force the relative improvement they seek.

No amount of egalitarianism—of clobbering the so-called rich in the sacred name of the social contract—can make the slightest difference to this central issue. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer can have Mr. Harry Hyams hanged in public—and drawn and quartered, if he so wishes—but it will not make a jot of difference to the differing views of ASLEF and the NUR on the relative standing of their respective members. Why should it? Again, the right hon. Gentleman can, if he likes, impose a 90 per cent. capital levy on second, third, fourth or even fifth homes, but it will not make the slightest difference to the view taken by mineworkers about their position in the industrial league table. Again, why should it?

Let us suppose that it made sense for the Government to base all their hopes on the all-important struggle against inflation on the social contract. The crucial fact remains that there can be no such thing as a contract, social or otherwise, unless there are sanctions against those who break it. The question is—and this is the crux of the matter—what are the sanctions to be against the TUC or its member unions if they break the social contract which the Government are currently endeavouring to negotiate?

There are three, and only three, possible answers. The first is that the Government could stand by and allow the strongest groups to grab what they can, but refuse to increase the money supply accordingly. They could let events take their course so that there are bankruptcies, falling real wages and large scale unemployment among the groups which are less strong. The second possible sanction is to take the “free” out of free collective bargaining, which would envisage a return to the statutory incomes policy and all that—assuming we ever leave it. The third possibility is to take the “collective” out of free collective bargaining, and move to curb trade union monopoly power—which sooner or later is bound to happen.

The question to which we want an answer is which of those three possibilities is to be chosen by the Government. It must be one of those three choices. What is to be the sanction against breach of the social contract? Trade union members have a right to know the small print of the contract which they are being asked to enter into. But, above all, we in this House and the country have a right to know, and I trust that we shall be given the answer before this debate draws to a close tonight.

Before entering the Chamber tonight, I took the trouble to read an essay which appeared in the Spectator on the subject of maiden speeches. It was written by my predecessor as editor—Iain Macleod, whose loss to this House, to the Conservative Party and to the country is still deeply felt by all of us. His principal piece of advice—indeed his only practical advice—was that a maiden speech should on no account exceed 15 minutes. I apologise to the House, for I fear that I may have transgressed that advice, but I shall try to do better next time.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East) The conventions of the House require that I congratulate the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) on his maiden speech. He delivered it very well and was rather witty at the expense of trade unions. He talked about militant shop stewards. But his view of the trade union movement is as inaccurate as his recollection of the figures contained in my right hon. Friend’s Budget speech. I do not recognise the trade unionist whom the hon. Gentleman described as being the militant trade unionist who would not be prepared to sit back while some of the lower paid and weaker elements in our society got a rather better deal such as that which my right hon. Friend has offered them. Nor do I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the accuracy of the figures which he quoted. He said that a married man with two children and an income of about £30 a week would pay more in income tax. He is wrong—

Mr. Lawson rose—

Mrs. Short I am not giving way.

Mr. Lawson The hon. Lady is wrong—

Mrs. Short I repeat, I have not given way to the hon. Gentleman. A married man with two children earning that sum will pay £47 per annum less in income tax. In fact, he can earn £3,000 a year and still pay less tax—

Mr. Lawson rose—

Mrs. Short No. I will not give way.

Mr. Peter Rees Give way to a maiden.

Mrs. Short I hope that the hon. Member for Blaby will be a little more accurate in future when he quotes figures—

Mr. Lawson rose—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. George Thomas) Order. If the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) does not give way, the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) must himself give way.

Michael Ancram – 1974 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Michael Ancram, the then Conservative MP for Berwick and East Lothian, in the House of Commons on 14 March 1974.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to make my maiden speech at such an early stage in this Parliament. It is with a great respect and awe for the traditions and history of this House that I do so. I am grateful, also, for the opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, Mr. John P. Mackintosh. He is a man of great ability, with a great knowledge of the democratic institutions of this country. He will long be remembered in the constituency which I now represent for the hard, diligent and conscientious way in which he attended to his constituents for the eight years that he represented them. He is also well-remembered and well-liked by hon. Members. I hope that they will all join me in wishing him well in the future.

I have the honour to represent a constituency which could well be described as a microcosm of the country. It contains 56,000 electors and comprises a majority of the facets of Scottish life. Although it has no coal mines, it contains several mining communities, which reflect well the problems and aspirations of the coal mining industry. It has a thriving fishing industry, but one very conscious of and sensitive to rising costs, especially the rising costs of fuel. As a vital part of our food industry it rightly looks to the Government for assistance.

Berwickshire and East Lothian has also a growing tourist industry with a great potential for increasing the prosperity of the area, consisting as it does of some of the most beautiful countryside and coastline in the Scottish Lowlands and the borders. I sincerely hope that the commercial value of the environment in my constituency will be kept firmly in mind by the Secretary of State for Scotland when he has to decide upon detailed planning applications for the construction of nuclear power stations within the constituency.

Over the past few years Berwickshire and East Lothian has developed industrially, mainly in terms of light and specialised industries, which have been successful in reversing the previous trends of depopulation and unemployment. There has been created over the past few years—I say this without complacency—the basis for a stable local economy but, at a time of economic difficulty as there is at present, such industries are the most vulnerable, and I hope that the Government will make strenuous efforts to cushion them from any stringent policies that they may adopt.

The constituency is also a rural and agricultural one, and it is on that subject that, with the House’s indulgence, I shall speak. Before I do so there is one matter on which I hope to receive an assurance from the Minister. On Tuesday the Prime Minister while speaking on the Government’s plans for oil referred to assisting passenger transport services within rural areas through adjusted selling prices for petrol and diesel oils. Be that as it may, having recognised the particular needs for such areas and the disadvantages under which they exist in terms of transport, would it be possible for the Government immediately to give financial support towards improving the public transport system in such areas, at least to meet the present needs?

I come now to the question of agriculture. It appears that hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the position of low-wage groups, among whom farm workers must be a comparative example. Their position needs to be improved, and I had hoped—and still hope—that they might be assisted by the relativities machinery of the Pay Board. But farm workers work in a fractionalised industry, where each man ultimately depends on the viability of the farm on which he works. Their relatively low position is now threatening a shortage of such labour, which in turn could severely threaten home food production unless the relative position of farm workers is recognised immediately. Of one thing we can be certain: the betterment of a farm worker’s income ultimately depends on the economic viability of the farm on which he works, and many sectors of the farming industry, certainly in Scotland, are facing severe economic difficulties.

We have heard in the debate that horticulturists, and especially those in the glasshouse sector of the industry, are threatened and are already suffering from unpredictable rises in the price of fuel. I was grateful to hear from the Minister that the Government intend to take speedy action on this matter, and I hope that action will indeed be speedy, for the situation is urgent.

Pig producers, too, are facing an impossible position. During the election campaign the previous Government announced that they had placed the problem of pig farmers under urgent review. I urge the new Government to complete this review with all possible speed before this sector of the industry severely cuts back on production. Pig farmers simply cannot go on producing at a loss. In my area that loss is recognised to be about £5 per pig. No producer can carry on in this way. If pig producers are driven to cut production that must inevitably increase our national import bill.

Urgent measures are also needed to assist beef producers. They are getting between £2 and £3 per cwt. less than the suggested price last year. Apart from any question of end price support, there are more immediate ways in which help can be given to mitigate some of the producers’ costs.

Despite any difficulties arising from our membership of the EEC, I hope that the Government will review the position of subsidies on fertilisers and lime, as suggested by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells). Retention of these subsidies—in particular, the subsidy on lime—would be of general assistance to most of the farmers in Scotland. It would help them to restrict their costs to a level at which they could hope to see a reasonable return on their farming operations.

I also urge the Government to consider the possibility of making cheap money available to farmers for expansion projects. It appears to be generally agreed by hon. Members that expansion in the agricultural industry is necessary and, indeed, that is made clear in the Gracious Speech. But that can be achieved only by providing incentives to farmers to expand their production. Although it involves an apparently debased word, that can be done only by encouraging farmers’ profits. I hope that the Government, in the national interest, will now determine to ensure the profitability and the security of the agriculture industry as a whole.