HC Deb 29 July 1964 vol 699 cc1433-52

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Monday, 19th October.—[Mr. Selwyn Lloyd.]

4.0 p.m.

Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)

The majority of the hon. Members are obviously only too anxious to adjourn as quickly as possible, and I am not anxious to have to come back, but the wording of this Motion is of a very peculiar character in the circumstances with which we are faced.

The Government, apparently, are not thinking of recalling the House at all before the General Election, which is an unusual but interesting state of affairs, because it is quite clear, from what we have heard already today, that the Government are contemplating undertaking a number of extremely important acts of policy between the rising of the House and the date on which the General Election will take place.

There are many rumours about the possible date, but most pundits seem to agree that it will fall on 15th October, so that the clear intention of the Government, by naming the date of 19th October, is to ensure that, unless there is an emergency which would justify the recall of the House, the Government will be entirely free between now and the General Election to do exactly what they like without any parliamentary control whatsoever.

It is for that reason that I wish, first, to object to the rising of the House on Friday, because there are a number of matters of the highest importance about which the House should be consulted or about which it should be called upon to give decisions before we have another opportunity after the General Election of taking collective decisions as Members of Parliament. I can think of a number of matters which are outstanding on which we would like replies from the Government. I am very glad to see that we have a representative of the Foreign Office here, because there are some quite important matters on foreign policy about which the Government will have to make serious decisions within the next few weeks, as to which I want very briefly to call attention. I hope that we shall also have here very soon a representative of the Post Office. I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I see the Assistant Postmaster-General is here, wish to raise the question which I raised briefly in another form on a point of order.

Before I do so let me just briefly put one or two of the points on foreign affairs on which we should like to have answers. I, personally, would like to know what protest the Government intend to make to the United States Government about their reinforcement of their military forces in South Vietnam. Since the Prime Minister has committed this country to the support of American policy in Vietnam and specifically in South Vietnam we are very deeply involved indeed, and the fact that the Americans have now officially decided, and have announced their decision, to reinforce their troops in South Vietnam is a matter of very serious concern to this country and to the people of this country with all the repercussions which may flow from that decision, and I would hope that we shall have a reply on that point.

Then, the Organisation of American States has just decided, again on the initiative of the Government of the United States, to take collective economic sanctions against Cuba, collective economic sanctions in the form of the cutting off of all economic supplies to Cuba except for purely humanitarian purposes and the cutting off of all sea communications to Cuba. This is a form of economic sanction and, therefore, an enforcement measure which comes under the United Nations Charter.

The hon. Gentleman will know, if he consults Articles 52 to 54 of the Charter, which provide for the operations of regional arrangements within the Charter, that no enforcement measures can be taken without the approval of the Security Council of the United Nations. I want to know from the Government whether they intend to raise in the Security Council of the United Nations the question of the decision of the Organisation of American States to take enforcement action against Cuba without seeking first the approval of the Security Council. Can I have an answer to that, please?

Then, thirdly, I should like to know what protest the Government have made, or intend to make, about the speech made in Bad Tutzing in West Germany on 16th July by the American Ambassador to Bonn. This was a speech connected with the interests of this country, as I think the hon. Gentleman will immediately perceive if I merely extract one or two significant sentences from that speech. He said that Germany is now strong, politically and economically and that Germany is, according to many indices, the second strongest nation in the free world. Do the Government accept that Germany is now the second strongest nation in the free world? Do they regard this as the act of a friendly ally, that their representative should inform the German Government that they are now regarded by the United States as their strongest ally? Has the Foreign Office considered the implications of this statement for the Paris Agreements and the revised Brussels Treaty?

Thereunder, it was laid down that West Germany should never again become the strongest military Power in the Western Alliance and that its armaments and military strength would be severely limited and restricted so as to be at least below the level of those of any other major Power in the Western world. If this means that in view of the American Government the spirit and intentions of the Brussels Treaty and the Paris Agreements have been violated by collaboration between the United States and Germany, I want to know what the Government's intentions are in this respect.

The American Ambassador went on to say that as West Germany was now so strong she ought to accept her responsibilities not only in Europe, but also outside, and that If the world struggle against Communism is to succeed, this great strength is needed not just in protecting Germany's own borders but wherever freedom is in jeopardy.' I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would comment on the significance of that, which was underlined when the Ambassador went on to say that West Germany should give military and economic aid to countries in the free world which, as he put it, were in jeopardy, such as Vietnam. What is the position when two countries which are members of the N.A.T.O. Alliance assist one another militarily in the pursuit of military operations outside the area of the N.A.T.O. Treaty? What is the view of the Foreign Office on that question, if it has a view?

I deal next with a matter which affects the Postmaster-General. I imagine that hon. Members have not yet grasped the full significance of the agreements regarding the establishment of a world telecommunications network by means of satellites, which have been initialled and approved by the British Government.

Perhaps I might be allowed to refer to the significance of the agreements to bring home my point that the House should not rise until it has had an opportunity of expressing its view on British participation in the agreements. The significance of the agreements is that for the first time in the history of man it will be possible to establish simultaneous world-wide communications between all human beings all over the globe. This is an awesome prospect. It opens up immense possibilities for human good, for bringing human beings together in simultaneous communication, and for living through an experience together.

We all recall those moving occasions when, through the Telstar relay, we were able to witness the funeral of President Kennedy, and also to see Mr. and Mrs. Khrushchev going to the American Embassy in Moscow to pay their tribute, as private individuals, to the memory of President Kennedy. Through the medium of simultaneous television communication, that experience was shared not only by millions of people in this country, but by hundreds of millions of people throughout Europe, the Soviet Union, and the United States. The possibility of extending such a system of communications and of simultaneously living through moments of history together as human beings is something that we can hardly envisage.

These two agreements—one is a Special Agreement—provide for the design, ownership, management, operation, and control of a system of satellites which will make possible—and as far as I can see they will be the only carriers of such communications—simultaneous worldwide television communications.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

In a question which the hon. Gentleman asked yesterday, and which was the subject of his earlier remarks, he did not mention directly the interests of the United Kingdom. He mentioned the United Nations, and went on to talk about the Chinese People's Republic. I took that to be the Communist part of China. Why did the hon. Gentleman mention only that particular Communist country? Why did he single out that country as being one of those which did not belong to the International Telecommunication Union? Why is he particularly interested in this Communist country? Is he thinking of no other, or is he just interested in Communist countries?

Mr. Warbey

If the hon. Gentleman waits a moment, I shall answer all his questions.

I was about to deal with the involvement of British interests, Western European interests, the interests of Asian and African countries and the interests of Communist countries in this matter. As it is a global matter, the whole world is interested in it, and I should have thought that the British people would be the first to be interested in something which concerned the whole world.

One agreement begins with a preamble which recalls a resolution of the United Nations, in which the hon. Gentleman might be interested. It says: Recalling the principle set forth in Resolution No. 1721 (xvi) of the General Assembly of the United Nations that communications by means of satellites should be available to the nations of the world as soon as practicable on a global and non-discriminatory basis … I should have thought that the first interest of every hon. Member of this House would be to see that any system which was set up satisfied that condition; that it was one which was genuinely open to control by the peoples of the whole world, and not by any small group of countries, not by any individual countries, and, above all, not by commercial private interests.

The fact is that the agreement which the Government say thay have approved—but they have not made arrangements to seek Parliamentary sanction for their agreement to it—provides that this vast system of communications shall become a Western monopoly, that within that Western monopoly it shall be the monopoly of the United States, and that within the United States it shall be the monopoly of a private commercial interest, the Communications Satellite Corporation.

In other words, what we have enshrined in the agreements is a plan for commercial television on a worldwide scale which I doubt whether even hon. Gentlemen opposite, who always put commercial interests before the interests of the British people, would like to see, namely, a television system controlled and operated by commercial interests.

My first point is that in approving the agreements the Government have abandoned the interests of the British people and of the peoples of the whole world in the greatest of all applications of modern science. They have handed over the interests of Britain and of the rest of the world to the selfish monopoly groups.

As the hon. Member knows, the Agreements provide that the satellite system shall be owned, controlled, operated and managed by a committee in which 61 per cent. of the votes will be held by the Communications Satellite Corporation—a private American company with a Government subsidy. He knows, moreover, that British and Western European participation is powerless to have any effect on the decisions of the American Government and this American private corporation, because many decisions can be taken by a simple majority vote, which means simply by the corporation, and that even those decisions requiring a qualified majority of 69½ per cent. must be basically American decisions, because the qualified majority provision amounts only to a veto provision, and when we are dealing with practical operations in which all concerned are interested a veto provision is utterly valueless.

What can one do with one's veto power? All that one can do is to stop anything being done at all, thus producing a complete deadlock. Therefore, since everybody wants something to be done, in the last resort everybody is forced to accept just what the corporation proposes.

Even in the narrow terms of the agreements the Postmaster-General has not fought for any real British share of control. Why are we contributing only 8.4 per cent.? If we contributed 8½ per cent. we would have been able, together with the United States, to dominate the committee even on matters requiring a qualified majority. But we are allotted only 8.4 per cent., so that we do not even have that minor concession.

We can be outvoted and outnumbered by the Common Market. Countries belonging to it are bound by the Treaty of Rome to act together in the matter of telecommunications, as the Postmaster-General knows, and their combined votes will be double ours. So, to the extent that there is any power in this committee which is shared with the United States it will be the power of the Common Market, and not Britain. What other countries are admitted to this secret inner circle at the beginning? They are other Western European countries, the white members of the British Commonwealth—none of the African or Asian nations—Spain, Portugal and Japan. These are the countries which are assembled together and gathered round this American monopoly. This is what the right hon. Gentleman has consented to. In so doing he has abandoned British interests. He has abandoned even British commercial interest.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the money that we are putting up is "chickenfeed". We are called upon to provide £2 million a year for three, or possibly five, years by the terms of the agreements. We could easily have provided £10 million a year for a project of this magnitude. Why did not the Postmaster-General stake a bigger claim—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must remember the Question before the House.

Mr. Warbey

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I was putting a question to the Postmaster-General which I wanted him to answer before the House rises, namely, why he has acted in the way that he has done already in initialing and approving the agreements. I was asking the specific question why, if he felt that it was necessary and that we had no alternative but to enter into some kind of agreement of this character because the Americans were determined to go ahead anyhow, he did not at least put up a fight for British interests. Why did not he combine with the Western European countries in ensuring that Britain and Western Europe would have a dominating interest, or at least an interest equal to that of the United States?

Finally, I want to know when the Postmaster-General intends to get from this House the approval of a British signature to the Agreements, which he said on 26th February that he would seek. In reply to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) he said that the House ought to consider and pronounce upon the Agreements before the Government signed them, and that he hoped that it would be possible for us to do so. How does he now intend to carry out that promise? Will he tell us today how he intends to carry out his undertaking that the Government would not sign the agreements until the House had had an opportunity of considering them, in detail, and pronouncing whether or not they were good agreements and ones to which this country should be a party?

I want to know exactly when he proposes to submit the Agreements to the House for approval. If he cannot tell us the date on which they will be submitted for approval, I want from him an assurance that the British Government will not sign the Agreements until after the General Election. I want a general assurance one way or the other, either that there will be a date on which Parliament will pronounce on the Agreements, or that the Government will not sign them until after the General Election.

They become open for signature on 19th August, when we are in recess. They become effective and binding upon the Government's concerned as soon as two Governments have signed them. On 19th August it will be necessary only for the United States Government and one other Government to sign them for them to become effective and to come into operation immediately. The commercial company can then begin to place the orders and contracts and begin to prepare agreements with the earth stations and communication carriers, such as the B.B.C. and I.T.A. All that can happen on or immediately after 19th August.

Once again, I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we will have a chance, before that date, to pronounce upon it and, if not, whether we can have an assurance that the Government will not sign the Agreements until after the General Election.

4.30 p.m.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

I wish to say only two words. They are—

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

The hon. Gentleman has said them.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

—more in the nature of an appeal to hon. Members on both sides, but particularly to the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey).

I do not think that it would be a bad idea if back benchers, on this occasion, followed the lead given by the two Front Benches. We have heard from the Leader of the Opposition that the Opposition have agreed to call off a debate so that more time may be given to 15 back bench Members who have given notice of topics that they wish to raise and so that back benchers can have their full rights with a Minister in attendance to give an answer. That agreement has been made through the usual channels, and it reflects good sense and is helpful to parliamentary procedure.

The Adjournment Motion is important. If there are legitimate reasons why it should be questioned or commented upon, it is right that that should be done. However, I hope that because 15 hon. Members are waiting to state a case of which they have given notice hon. Members will not take up too much time on this Motion in order to jump the queue.

Mr. Warbey

I have not done that.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

I am not charging the hon. Gentleman with having done anything other than ask a question. I thought that he took rather longer in asking it than was necessary, but that is a matter of opinion. Certainly, the first part of his speech came in the category of what I am saying now. In the first part he raised general foreign affairs, which he knows come within the scope of the House being recalled by the direction of Mr. Speaker if that needs to be done. It might be that some comment is called for from the Front Bench on the second half of the hon. Gentleman's speech about the timing of the signing of the Agreements to which he referred.

I feel that we as back benchers, who are always complaining that members of the Front Benches take up far too much time, now have an opportunity to help ourselves. I hope that on this occasion hon. Members will not jump the queue, as has happened on many other occasions in the past, by making during the debate on the Adjournment Motion speeches which could and should be made after giving formal notice, which other hon. Members have done. I am merely asking for restraint.

Mr. Warbey


Sir Harmar Nicholls

That is a difficult thing to ask of the hon. Gentleman, but perhaps others will heed it, because by doing so we shall be helping ourselves as back benchers.

Mr. Warbey

Since the hon. Gentleman has made some implied accusations, may I say this. First, he will bear in mind that, if 15 hon. Members want to speak this afternoon or this evening, no more than five hours will be needed. Secondly, there are some matters which hon. Members wish to raise which cannot properly be raised on the Consolidated Fund Bill because they deal not with past decisions, but with decisions which are in prospect. Those are matters which can properly be raised on the Motion for the Adjournment, because they are matters which require the House to stay in session so that the decisions of the Government can be communicated to it.

4.34 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

I will not take the advice of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), who thought fit to lecture back benchers on their duties, but, none the less, I do not intend to speak at length. The Leader of the House is a Methodist, and I think that he is a good one. He will know that every Methodist preacher, if he is wise, has three points for his sermon and a good peroration. I have one point and no peroration, which the House will be pleased to hear.

I should be failing in my duty to my constituents and to the people of South Wales if I were to let the House adjourn without reminding right hon. and hon. Members that it is wrong to leave unsettled the grievous problem of the security of people in their own homes. Two hon. Members opposite for whom I have very great respect—the hon. Members for Worcester (Mr. Walker) and Norfolk, Central (Mr. Ian Gilmour)—have issued a pamphlet on house ownership and on giving young people the opportunity to buy their own homes and to have security.

If the House accepts the Adjournment Motion, it will be saying to the people of South Wales that it is not concerned with their security in owner-occupation. The Minister will know that there are no people in the United Kingdom with a greater pride in home ownership than the Welsh people. In South Wales, 50 per cent. of the houses are owner-occupied. In the valleys, where there is a massive Labour majority, 75 per cent. of them are owner-occupied.

Our people believe in having a stake in the country if they are allowed to have one, but, unfortunately, as we were reminded by the Lord Chancellor, when he was Attorney-General, when they buy their houses on the leasehold system they are only tenants. A property-owning democracy is not possible until this system is reformed. I hope that the Leader of the House will bear in mind that it would be wrong to adjourn without the Government making a statement about their policy on this question.

Another point about which I am concerned—and I will keep my promise to be brief—is that every day I am getting letters from people who are frightened of their ground landlords. Hon. Members who come from Wales will know that I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that good, thrifty, hard-working people who bought their own homes are frightened because they know that when the ground landlord refuses to renew the lease they stand in danger of losing their homes. It would be wrong to adjourn without the Government saying that they are prepared to do something for these people.

On the last "Welsh day" but one, the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs told us that he thought that Western Ground Rents, which is the largest single ground landlord in South Wales—

Mr. A. Lewis

Who are the directors?

Mr. Thomas

One hon. Member opposite is a director. I will not name him, because he is not here.

This company charges as much as £500 merely to renew the lease on a terraced house and then increases the cost of the lease by four times—400 per cent. Is it fair that there should be in our island people who are held to ransom in this way, with the Government having nothing to say in their defence before we adjourn for our long Recess?

The last point that I wish to make is this. If people want to move from the City of Cardiff and take employment elsewhere, they find that they cannot sell the house or that it has to go for a song if the lease is under 30 years. The mobility of working people is impeded. Have the Government nothing to say to people who cannot sell their house because of the present system, who cannot renew their lease and who are held to ransom in a ridiculous way?

It was said of one of our monarchs—

Sir Harmar Nicholls

This is the peroration.

Mr. Thomas

Yes. I have got one after all. The hon. Gentleman is very mean to draw attention to the fact!

It was said of one of our monarchs that when she died there would be found written across her heart the word "Calais". I believe that when I die there will be written across my heart the word "leasehold", because I have lived with this problem. I see it in operation, and I have resolved that, if I do nothing else as long as I am here—and I hope to come back—I shall do my best to ensure that the leasehold problem is tackled. It would be very wrong for us to adjourn for a long period without the Government saying something on this problem.

4.40 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). I wish that he had mentioned the hon. Member who is the director of the company to which he has referred, because I am interested in the fact that the hon. Member, who is absent—and who, incidentally, is often absent—in addition to his many other commitments as director of various land companies, also does legal work, for which I do not know what he gets.

I was interested in column 1203 of HANSARD for yesterday, from which it will be seen that a number of hon. Members, in addition to their Parliamentary salary and legal fees, receive quite handsome rewards. For example, the hon. Member who has been mentioned and others get £200 a year and £25 per day. It may be wondered what this has to do with the Motion for the Adjournment. I want to oppose the Motion until such time as I get from the Leader of the House information about what the Government intend to do between now and 19th October—which, I see, is the date when it is suggested we should return—to give active help and assistance to old-age pensioners and those living on retirement pensions.

We shall be going away from here. Most of us will be having a holiday. According to whether our seats are marginal, such as mine, or whether they are not, hon. Members may be working in their constituencies. Quite a lot of hon. Members, however, including myself—probably most of us—will be going away on holiday. Some will, perhaps, go abroad, and some to places in this country. No doubt, and rightly, they will enjoy that well-earned rest.

But there will be hundreds of thousands of men and women who have given a lifetime of service to the country, who have helped to build up our so-called affluent society, and the wealth of the country, who will not be able to afford a holiday this summer. If we can afford to pay hon. Members £20 or £30 a day, as well as £300 or £400 a year, in addition to their Parliamentary salaries, we ought to be able to pay something to the old-age pensioners.

I want the Leader of the House to consider this suggestion and to ask the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he can do something. I know that time is short, but it is not impossible. Last week, by arrangement, we dealt with the Malta Independence Bill, which we passed through all its stages in one day. I am sure that there is not one hon. Member in the House, with the exception probably of the Government Front Bench, who would not welcome the raising of old-age pensions. I do not think that there is an hon. Member, on either side, even though hon. Members opposite may have opposed such a move consistently in the past, who, if the Bill were introduced at this moment, would not give every help and support to get it through, as it could go through.

I do not see why the Leader of the House cannot promise us that tomorrow, on the nod, his right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance will introduce a Bill to increase retirement pensions by 5s. or 10s., or whatever the sum may be—I should like to see it 10s.—because over the years, and particularly over the past few months, the Government have been responsible for increasing the cost of living.

I had a reply to a Question, which appears in HANSARD this morning, from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food stating that in one month, from May to June, the cost of food alone rose by another 2 per cent. This is happening almost month after month. What will happen now? We are in July. Then we shall have August, September and October—2 per cent., 2 per cent. and 2 per cent. [Laughter.] It is not a laughing matter. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) may try to be impertinent and tell us what we should and should not raise on this Motion—

Sir Harmar Nicholls


Mr. Lewis

No, I am not giving way. It is not a laughing matter. It is a serious matter. If there is a cost of living rise of 2 per cent. last month, 2 per cent. this month and 2 per cent. next month, which is what has been happening, it is very hard on those on retirement pension and on limited incomes.

Hence, I do not think that we should adjourn until such time as we have from the Leader of the House a promise either way—I do not care which way it is—that the Government will increase retirement pensions, or will see to it that the cost of living and the cost of food will not again go up in August, September and October. There is no question about November. We shall have another Government then. We are not worried about that. I am dealing only with the Motion, which proposes adjourning until 19th October.

I read last week that the price of bread is to go up again. Confectionery is to go up again. Fares have gone up. Old-age pensioners cannot get concessionary fares because of the Government. All these things are happening, but we are talking about going away on holiday, or about hon. Members opposite trying to save their seats, some of them trying to retrieve their positions. We will mostly be on holiday. It is terrible that we should leave the situation as it is without getting something from the Government. We have had from the Prime Minister on many occasions the statement that there should be frank speaking. Let us have some frank speaking today.

There is another point which is rather strange. The Government claim that they will always implement their promises. For the past 12 months, I have been asking the Government to implement just one promise and I have put down a number of Questions, to which I have not as yet had a satisfactory answer. I have received various Answers saying that the Government would implement their promise, that they intended to do so and that they did not need legislation for the purpose. If we adjourn, as the Motion suggests, from the end of this week until 19th October, when will the Government implement their promise to denationalise Richard Thomas and Baldwins? They promised me only a week or so ago that they intended to do it and that they did not need legislation. That is another promise—I could quote hundreds of such promises—that the Government have made. I want to know from the Leader of the House whether that will happen when the House is in recess, because it was said in reply to my last Question that the Government do not need legislation and can do it at any time.

May I have an assurance from the Government that they will not denationalise Richard Thomas and Baldwins whilst the House is in recess? If they intend to implement their promise, if they are denationalising, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that he will arrange for the House to be recalled before it takes place?

Therefore, I will support the Motion for the Adjournment of the House until 19th October if I get satisfactory replies to these two vital questions. In fact, I shall be pleased to do so, knowing not only that we will adjourn until 19th October but that we shall not see the present Government sitting on the benches opposite after we return in the autumn.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

The Question is, That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Monday, 19th October. Those that are of that opinion say "Aye". … To the contrary—

Mr. A. Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Are we not to have a reply from the Government? If not, I must raise another point on the Motion for the Adjournment for the Recess.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I had begun to collect the voices. I was very deliberate in putting the Question.

Mr. Warbey


Mr. A. Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. With respect, I do not think that you had actually collected the voices. I think that you had read the Motion and were about to put the Question.

Sir Harmar Nicholls


Mr. Lewis

I am on a point of order. With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think that you were starting to put the Question when I rose to raise with you the fact that I thought the Minister was not going to reply.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I should like to—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. If I may reply to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis), I am sure that no one in the House wants to close the Session on a note of misunderstanding. I thought that I had put the Question rather deliberately. I thought that I had collected the voices "Aye", but it is a fact that I had not collected the voices "No". If an hon. Member wishes to rise and make a speech, not an hon. Member who has already spoken, I am prepared to call him.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd)


Mr. A. Lewis

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I thank you most sincerely for the way in which you dealt with that point of order?

Mr. Lloyd

Perhaps the reason why I did not rise to speak just now was that I feared that it might interefere with the apparent note of harmony in our proceedings.

I will deal with the speeches not in the order in which they were made. I know the anxiety of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) about the position of leaseholders. He made a very good constituency point. This is a matter which has been ventilated from time to time, and I really do not think that the existence of the problem is a reason why we should vote against the Motion.

The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) has been a Member of the House of Commons, except for an intermission—the cessation of which some of us regret—since 1945. Perhaps there is one matter which gives us equal satisfaction—that we completely disagree with one another on almost every issue of foreign affairs, because I take the view that the hon. Member loses no opportunity of injecting poison into any matter affecting our relations with our allies. I think that he is the fellow-traveller par excellence and the friend of every country but his own. That is my view. The hon. Member probably disagrees with me on that just as profoundly as he does on other matters.

Mr. Warbey

I must say that I am astonished at the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He started off by talking about harmony after he had tried to run away from his obligations to the House on a procedural device. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, the right hon. and learned Gentleman tried to take advantage of the fact that Mr. Deputy-Speaker had risen to collect the voices. He sat there in silence because he was afraid to answer the questions that had been put to him by hon. Members. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will now behave with a little more dignity and a little more sense of respect for the House and give some replies to the questions that we have put to him and stop this electioneering nonsense.

Mr. Lloyd

I have heard of Satan rebuking people for sin, but I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should be so sensitive in view of some of the things that he says about other people from time to time. It is interesting to see how sensi- tive he is. He put forward his very well-known views on foreign policy, and I really do not think they are worth dealing with; and I think that that would be the general view of most hon. Members.

The hon. Member raised a particular matter in connection with the Satellite Communications Agreements—

Mr. Warbey


Mr. Lloyd

I will not give way.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) will not abuse his position. He has made one speech, which is all that he is entitled to make. He has, by courtesy, been allowed to raise more than one question, but I hope that he will not abuse his position.

Mr. Warbey

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. You are rebuking me for abusing my ability to rise and catch your eye, but I hope that you are rebuking the right hon. and learned Gentleman equally for abusing his position by running away—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order, Order. I was, in fact, rebuking nobody. I was expressing a hope.

Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Member for Ashfield talked about the Satellite Communications Agreements. I think that he talked more nonsense about that subject in 10 minutes than I would have believed possible. He made a point against my right hon. Friend, saying that he was in breach of an undertaking to the House. What my right hon. Friend said was that he hoped to be able to consult the House about the matter. The timing of the negotiations has been such that the agreements cannot be signed until August.

The hon. Member raised again the bogies of black versus white and the spectre of private enterprise. He knows as well as I do that there is provision in the agreements for other people to join. They are not in any way exclusive agreements. It is open to others to join if they want to. The hon. Gentleman knows well that this is an executive act that the Government have to take if they are responsible. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman would want us to stand aside and let this great enterprise go forward without us. If he did so, I suspect that he would be the first to criticise us. I believe that we have done an absolutely right act of government and that it is consistent with what we have said and very much in the interest of not only our people, but the people of the world.

Mr. Warbey


Mr. Lloyd

The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis)—we have agreeable interchanges from time to time—had the courage or effrontery, whatever one calls it, to raise the question of pensions, and asked what we meant to do to help old-age penioners. I think that we are all aware of the difficulties of old-age pensioners. They have had five increases in pension in our time as the Government. For every 1s. rise in the cost of living since we have been in power the pension has gone up 2s. 3d. Between 1946 and 1951 the cost of living went up faster than the pension.

The hon. Gentleman also talked about food prices. Between 1957 and 1963 the rise in the price of food was 9 per cent., or 1s. 10d. in the £, whereas between 1946 and 1952, even with food subsidies, the rise was 58 per cent., or 11s. 7d. in the £.

Mr. A. Lewis

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will recollect that I was not asking him what was happening 10 or 20 years ago, particularly in 1945, because a lot of the old men who were alive then are now dead and are not interested in whether the cost of living goes up or down and whether the Government have doubled the pension or not.

What I emphasised, and what I thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman understood, was the fact that in the last two or three months, since the pension increase, the price of food has gone up. During the last month it has gone up by 2 per cent. In fact, it has been going up consistently 2 per cent. each month. I asked what he intended to do in anticipation of the increase that will be going on between now and October. Can he tell us what he will do about those months—which are ahead of us and not behind us?

Mr. Lloyd

Yes, I will tell the hon. Gentleman very plainly and clearly. I do not accept his statistics. But when we are returned to power we will ensure that the old-age pensioners share in the increased prosperity of the country, which we have done, and which the Opposition failed to do when they were the Government. That is our policy. That we stand by, that we will do and that we will have the chance to do. Whether the hon. Member is here to see us or not, is a different matter.

I come back from this nice electioneering atmosphere to the practical problem of whether the House should rise on Friday. I say again what I said during the debate about the Whitsun Recess. It is a matter of duty that I should press this Motion upon the House. The tired, worn-out, dispirited Opposition need a rest, particularly the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, who has a highly marginal seat. He must be about his business, nursing his seat and seeking out the small number of votes which might conceivably bring him back to us.

In all good temper, I really feel that I am speaking for the Opposition when I say that it is right that the House should accept the Motion. It is in the interests of right hon. and hon. Members opposite in particular and also of hon. Members in general. I must, therefore, press the Motion.

Mr. A. Lewis

I expected the right hon. and learned Gentleman to deal with the other question I raised—the question of the sale of Richard Thomas and Baldwins. We have had a pledge from the Government about it and the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that they observed their promises. Is that pledge to be implemented?

Mr. Lloyd

I doubt whether during the Recess.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, at its rising on Friday, do adjourn till Monday, 19th October.