Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising on Thursday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 26th October.—[Mr. Bowden.]
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Most of us would like to agree immediately to this proposal by the Leader of the House. Few Parliaments in recent years have better earned a respite from their labours, but, at the same time, there is some anxiety that we should make this decision when there is widespread anxiety in the country about the sort of management and leadership that we are enjoying.
§ Mr. Gower
I will substitute the word "enduring".
I want to ask some questions of the Leader of the House, because he will realise that there are people outside who feel that the direction of our affairs is not as certain or definite as it should be. This is particularly so in the financial and economic direction of our affairs. If calculations by right hon. Gentlemen opposite prove as incorrect and inaccurate during the next few weeks as they did a few weeks ago, will the Leader of the House give us an assurance that he will not hesitate to recall the House during the Recess, if necessary, or even during the early part of the Recess? If, contrary to the forecasts we have heard, there should appear to be a need to reassess our financial position, would the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the House would be given an early opportunity to do that, and long before the date which has been fixed for our return in October?
There are other points on which I want specific answers from the Leader of the House. Those of us who represent ports—constituencies which contain docks—are not at all satisfied. We are to have no guide at all about the response of the 1289 Government to the latest Report of the National Ports Council. This is a Report of tremendous magnitude and importance and could mean a great deal of hardship for certain areas, particularly like the Bristol Channel ports area in South Wales.
I remind the Leader of the House of the anxiety which prevails in Cardiff and in Barry, my constituency, where there is a widespread feeling that the Ports Council is wrong in its assessment of the future and of the best course for us to pursue. I should like an assurance from the House on this important subject before we assent to the Motion.
There is a good deal of concern in areas of South Wales about the nature of the proposed leasehold legislation which was promised long before the last General Election, but which has not made its appearance during this last year and about whose appearance we are beginning to have doubts. We in the South Wales constituencies are concerned that if such legislation is introduced it shall embrace houses owned by local authorities. I should be out of order if I went into this matter in greater detail, but I hope that the Leader of the House will be able to say a few words on this important topic.
There is also the question of the development districts—the development areas in South Wales, and, as has been mentioned by my hon. Friends at Question Time, in Ulster, Scotland and doubtless in the North-East, too. There is deep anxiety that the Government have not reconciled their development district policy with the latest steps which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced to deal with the needs of the economy at large. It seems to some of us who represent these sensitive areas in various parts of the United Kingdom that before we adjourn for the Recess we should have a more forthcoming statement, or some guidance from Ministers, or an assurance that they will not hesitate to take instant action to meet the needs of those areas if such a need be established during the Recess.
I know, as you Mr. Speaker pointed out to us a few moments ago, that the House has a very long programme of business to get through today. I will, therefore, limit my remarks to these few 1290 points, to which I hope the Leader of the House will be able to respond.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I am surprised that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) did not point out that all the subjects which he has raised could have been raised by the official Opposition on a Supply day. The reason I oppose the Motion is that I want to get some information from the Leader of the House about a grave matter which is not yet settled. I refer to the Rent Bill. This was in the Government's election manifesto. It was declared during the election that the Government intended to introduce this Measure. I pay full tribute to them for the excellent work that they have done.
What I am rather annoyed about is that a non-elected, non-democratic, body should have the temerity to "turf out", or at any rate to postpone, this Measure by making Amendments to it towards the fag end of the Session, thus delaying a progressive piece of legislation which the Government intended to bring in. I do not see why we should adjourn until this has been dealt with completely. It is possible for us to sit on for an extra day to do so. I do not see why we need leave it like this.
During the past few weeks we were kept up night after night because of the Government bringing in a Measure which was not in their legislative programme, or in their manifesto. I shall not go into details, except to say that, unfortunately, the Government—not supported by me on this occasion—were able to suggest an increase in salary for the noble Lord, Viscount Dilhorne. This was brought in and discussed. The House of Commons increased the noble Lord's salary so that he can oppose the democratic will of the elected Parliament, the Commons assembled.
§ Mr. Lewis
I will not go into details, but I opposed it. The hon. Gentleman 1291 did not support me and I could not get enough Tellers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I opposed that Measure from beginning to end, both on Second Reading and in Committee. I think that the Rent Bill is far more important than the Bill to increase the salaries of judges. Even now it is possible for the Government to ask the other place, "What right have you as a non-democratic, non-elected body to hold up legislation which the House of Commons has passed, which the country has voted in favour of, and which the overwhelming majority of the people support, including the constituents of hon. Members opposite?"
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
It is wrong to say that the Rent Bill is being held up only by the other place. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, although this Session started last October, the Rent Bill did not leave this House until 6th July and that on Third Reading on 5th July the Government themselves undertook to table various Amendments in another place?
§ Mr. Lewis
I agree that the Opposition violently opposed the Rent Bill and delayed it in Committee. I accept that they put up a consistent opposition to the Bill. As they are friends of the landlords, I would expect them to do that. I accept that the Bill arrived late in the House of Lords. That still does not alter the fact that a non-elected, non-democratic body—the House of Lords—brought in Amendments which were in direct opposition to the wishes of the House of Commons and of the electorate who voted in support of the Measure. I think that the Leader of the House could, even at this stage, bring these Amendments on to the Floor of the House of Commons, so that we can, in Parliamentary language, disagree with the Lords in the said Amendments.
I am sure that would be the wish of all my hon. Friends. I hope that it would be the wish of the Liberal Party. It certainly would not be the wish of the Tory Party, but we do not want the Tories to be here to vote for this. Let them go off on their holidays. Let us put this through. Let us say, as we would, that we refuse to accept these Amendments. Let these Amendments go back to the Lords, and let the democratic will of the people be heard on this issue.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Sir Rolf Dudley Williams (Exeter)
It is always stimulating to listen to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). He did not answer the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), namely, that it was the Government who tabled the Amendments in the House of Lords and who made use of the other place to get their Bill straight. Nothing would have been easier than to have kept the Bill here much longer. That would have delayed the Government's business still further. The Government could not have complained if we had had to sit on through the whole of August instead of being able to get away on Thursday.
When I came to the House today I expected, after having talked to some of my hon. Friends last night, that we should be able to get away for two or three weeks and that the House would re-assemble. This seemed to me to be a reasonable proposition. After all, during the Session we have just had to endure—I cannot say "enjoy"—the legislative programme has been grossly overloaded by the Government.
For the first two or three months of the Session the Government had no legislation at all. We heard stories during the General Election that they were ready to sweep into action, but when they became Her Majesty's Government they did not have the legislation ready to present to the House. So we wasted the first three months of this Session.
Since then, Parliament has been completely jammed up with business. So heavy has been the programme that many hon. Members have not been able to pay sufficient attention to the legislative programme to enable them to understand it. I will not talk about the deplorable record of the Government in connection with the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill. That was a complete mess-up. Even now, after several months' struggle, we have not got the Bill back to this House from the other place.
There are other grave reasons why the House should not rise from Thursday till 26th October. There are very grave matters confronting the nation. I know that provision is made for the recall of Parliament, subject to advice which may be tendered to you, Mr. Speaker, by 1293 Her Majesty's Ministers, and I am sure they will pay attention to any supplications which are made by the Opposition. But I repeat there are grave issues confronting the House.
There is the question of the defence of sterling, in which we hope we shall be successful. If sterling has to be devalued, the repercussions thoroughout our economy and throughout the whole world will be grave. I do not think that anyone on this side of the House can hope for anything but success for the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his struggle. However, it is essential that Parliament should be assembled to show to the world that we on the Opposition benches are right behind the Government on this important issue. We should not absent ourselves from Westminster for three months and enjoy ourselves jaunting round the world, or wherever hon. Members who support the Government wish to go. We should be here supporting the Government, ensuring that this important factor is properly discussed in the House and that it is made clear to the world that we are not going to give way where sterling is concerned.
We know that it would be convenient for the Government to be able to deal with this matter away from Westminster. We know that the Cabinet is split on the issue. We know that one section of the Cabinet wants to follow a restrictionist policy and that there is another section of the Cabinet, led by that redoubtable right hon. Member the First Secretary, who want to pursue an expansionist rôle. These matters should be discussed in the House of Commons and not in some committee in Downing Street. They should be discussed here; people should come out into the open and say what they intend to do on this important issue.
Also, during the long period when we shall be loafing about in the country we should discuss certain aspects of our trading policy. We might have discussed East-West trade, in which case we could have got some valuable information from the hon. Member for West Ham, North, who is an expert on this subject. We should discuss trade with the Commonwealth, trade with the European Economic Community, and so on.
1294 There is another issue which is very attractive to many hon. Members opposite, and that is the war in Vietnam. I cannot see in the Chamber this afternoon the hon. Member who has been so critical of the Government on this issue. He certainly was not here last night. I should have thought that while this grave war was raging in South-East Asia it would have been desirable for the House of Commons at least to be in attendance occasionally and not be dismissed till 26th October. This is another reason why we should not have this protracted holiday. I should have thought that something like the end of August would be a much more convenient time for us to return.
There are other grave matters confronting the country and which are seriously worrying to the people. One is the rise in the cost of living. An enormous increase has taken place in the period since the Government were returned. Running at the rate of 6.6 per cent., it is well over twice the rate at which it was running when my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) was Prime Minister. While we were in power it was something like 2½ per cent. and now it is 6.6 per cent. This is a grave matter which is worrying the people and it is our duty to be here to combat it.
My bet is this. The Government have deliberately chosen this date so far ahead as 26th October because they know that they cannot surmount the problems which are confronting them. They also know that they are divided in their inner counsels. It is my belief that if this House rises on Thursday it will not meet again in this Parliament.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
The speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) is really an argument for having a much longer Recess than that which is mentioned in the Motion. If that is the kind of contribution that he intends to make to our Parliamentary proceedings, Parliament should adjourn for a much longer period.
Of course, this Motion provides additional opportunity for hon. Members opposite to give vent to a large amount of synthetic indignation—[Interruption.] I repeat, synthetic indignation, and if hon. 1295 Members opposite will allow me to develop my argument, they will see what it is leading to.
Only one issue of any importance has been raised in the course of this debate, and that was the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). Let me put this to the Leader of the House. Many of us represent constituencies in which the electors regard the Rent Bill as one of the most important issues raised this Session. Housing still remains a vital and burning issue among many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. It is most deplorable that, whatever may be the reason, the Rent Bill is not on the Statute Book before we adjourn for the Summer Recess.
I hope that I have the support of hon. Members opposite in suggesting that we should defer for just one or two days our departure for the Summer Recess. We do not need to postpone it for a week. One or two days are sufficient for disposing of the wrecking Amendments which have been made in another place, and for enabling this House to get the Rent Bill on the Statute Book before we go on our holidays.
I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Exeter seems to be nodding approval. If his nod means that he is prepared to stay for another day or two to enable the Rent Bill to be placed on the Statute Book before we go away for our summer holidays, I hope that will make a suitable impression on the Leader of the House. The passing of the Rent Bill is now, whatever may be the reason, being deferred for something like three months. For another three months the hopes, wishes and desires of thousands of tenants are to be frustrated. There is a genuine case for postponing the beginning of the Recess, even if it means that the other place has got to sit for another day so that the Royal Assent is given to the Rent Bill.
If only because of this one vitally important issue, the House should sit another day or two to enable the Rent Bill to be placed on the Statute Book before we disappear for our summer holidays.
§ Mr. Lipton
The hon. Gentleman's support makes me feel a little doubtful about my argument. Nevertheless, I welcome his support. Now that we apparently have all-party support for getting the Rent Bill on the Statute Book before we rise for the Summer Recess, I hope that the Leader of the House will make the appropriate gesture.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
In my recollection of over 20 years in this House I do not think that I have ever felt that we were going away for the Summer Recess when we had less justification for doing so. Judging by the Chancellor's remarks this afternoon, in reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot), and in the light of the state of the gold reserves as indicated on the tape this afternoon, all of us ought to be acutely aware of the fact that one of the most difficult things which the Government have to do over the period during which we are now proposing to go into recess is to sustain the confidence of the world in this country's currency.
It is a great pity that on an occasion such as this the Prime Minister, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has not stayed to hear the debate. The Chancellor is quite right when he says that it behoves us all to be very careful indeed about what we say in public about the state of the nation's finances. I am sure that this goes for both sides of the House.
Yesterday, when the Conservative Party was electing its new Leader, one of the most remarkable statements made at that meeting was made by Mrs. Charles Doughty, wife of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), who, speaking on behalf of Conservative women, pledged the party to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath), whose appointment we so much welcome, even if he was prepared to support the Government in some unpleasant measures which might become necessary. It was an unusual and a brave statement to make and it behoves us all to be ready to support the Government if we on this side of the House believe that the measures, stern though they may be, are absolutely necessary.
1297 But in going away for this Recess what indication have we been given of what the Government intend to do to hold the position? This is perhaps the most serious doubt that must be in our minds as we go away for the Recess at the end of this week. It would be a good idea if the Leader of the House were to consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ask him whether there is any means whereby hon. Members on both sides of the House may be better informed than perhaps hitherto they have been ever able to be informed on the state of the nation's finances as the weeks go by.
If we are to make responsible statements in the country to our constituents it is important that we should be as well-informed as possible. One of our great difficulties as back benchers has been to know the full measure of the Government's mind and knowledge on this vital matter. It is no great credit to the present Administration that we should be going away in this grievous state. I believe that what has been going wrong, and what I hope the Government are taking steps to put right, is the total fallacy of believing that we can divorce the internal economy from the external economy. These two are so closely related that the longer we overspend in our own internal economy on what may be desirable, but, nevertheless, cannot be afforded if the priorities are right, the more certain it will be that our external position will become more and more difficult.
I ask the Leader of the House that in the intervening months—and it may be only weeks—before we next meet, the Government will give some undertaking that they will cut the internal economy according to the cloth available, as well as the external economy. When one hears the right hon. Lady the Minister of Overseas Development making the sort of statement she made this afternoon introducing, naturally, very desirable measures dealing with overseas aid, and the statement is made as though in defiance of the things which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been saying, I hope that it is not unfair to say that one has doubts about the Government's resolution in these matters. I hope that the Leader of the House will give us an undertaking that the Chancellor will see whether there are any new 1298 ways of informing hon. Members while we are away, as we have never been informed before, about the state of the nation's economy.
Secondly, I ask for another assurance. The Prime Minister, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, today reiterated the Government's determination to keep defence expenditure within £2,000 million. There is a wealth of matter which we ought to debate before these kinds of decisions are taken, as it were, off the cuff like this. The Government have announced what can easily prove to be a catastrophic decision over the Territorial Army. Grave doubts have been caused in the minds of those who, over the years, have tried, mostly voluntarily, to put the defence of this country as top priority in their lives.
It is unforgiveable that we should go away for the Recess with only the hope of a White Paper when we come back to reassure us on these matters. I do not know whether the Leader of the House realises that at present something like one-third of those going through the Staff College go into the administration of the Territorial Army and about one-half of the staff through-put from the Royal Artillery go to help maintain that Territorial Army. What effect will the Government's decision have on the Staff College training which would be necessary in the event of a national emergency in the future? These are uncertainties left in our minds and, what is worse, in the minds of those most directly affected.
Rarely have ducks and drakes been played with the defences and finances of the nation in the manner such as we have witnessed over the last nine months. Before we go away we must have this assurance that no irrevocable decision about the structure of our Armed Forces, be they Reserves, or Navy, Army and R.A.F. Regulars, will be taken while we are away. There must be no irrevocable decision about the formation and general structure of the Regular and Reserve forces. We must have that assurance and I hope that the Leader of the House will be prepared to give it.
I do not remember having to express such strictures on a Government before going away for the Recess on any previous occasion. The temperature in which we have been living in this place over 1299 the last few months is one for which we would welcome a contrast, nevertheless if the Government at any time feel that they cannot give the undertakings, which I hope they will now give in answer to my points, for the whole period of the anticipated Recess, I hope that they will recall the House at once and have these matters debated without delay. They are vital matters affecting the health and wealth of this country and the preservation of peace and our ability to keep it.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give the closest attention to the points which I have raised and to make sure that he and his colleagues will consult together to see that we are given real assurances.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)
While I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) that it is important that we should have these assurances, which I hope will be within the ability of the Leader of the House to give, nevertheless that does not detract in any way from my desire to support the Motion, which I do for a number of reasons.
First, I am getting a little "fed up" with the elaborate charade which goes on every time this Motion is proposed, with hon. Members who have already fixed their holidays making speeches postulating their desire to remain here longer and longer when they know that if their wish were granted it would upset all the arrangements they have already made with the transport office downstairs. It is because I object to this charade that I support the Motion. In my view, the House needs a period of recess in order to deal with certain important matters.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has rightly said that he is worried about one aspect of legislation, the Rent Bill, and he wishes the House not to go into recess until that has been settled. But this is not the only problem. There are people who are worried about rates as well, for example. There must be a period of reflection for the Government to make up their minds how far they can go on the question of assistance to ratepayers and how far they cannot.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
There is this difference between the problem of rates and the problem of rents. In the one case, we have a Bill which has gone through all its stages except that we need half a day to deal with the Lords Amendments. In the case of rates, we start from scratch.
§ Sir S. McAdden
I agree, but no one must run away with the idea that the only people affected in this sort of way are those who live in rented houses. In his own constituency, the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) has many people, retired people particularly, living on fixed incomes who are seriously affected by the Government's failure to deal with the problem of rates.
It is desirable that these matters be dealt with so that more of our citizens can have a fair crack of the whip at the right time. The Government should have a period of reflection in which to make up their minds on whether they intend to go on with the ideas which they advocated before the last election, or whether, in the sobering light of their experience, they want to think about something else.
Moreover, it is important that the Recess should continue until the date suggested by the Leader of the House so that the Labour Party may hold its conference and thrash out anew what its policies are to be. The decisions taken previously have now, in large measure, been overthrown, and it is right that right hon. and hon. Members opposite should be able to have some contact with the rank and file of the party so as to determine what proposals they wish to bring back to Parliament towards the end of October.
I add this further reason, a reason which, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may find a sympathetic response in your heart. I am anxious that the House should go into recess because I consider that some of our procedure in Parliament has not added much to its dignity. Perhaps we have had a long and exhausting Session, with a long and complex Finance Bill which has kept hon. Members up all night.
I sincerely support you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in all you have sought to do to try to bring a better sense of toleration and understanding between hon. Members on both sides in the conduct 1301 of their debates. In our opening Prayer which is said each day, if I remember aright, we are exhorted to have true love and Christian charity one toward another, but one rarely sees much of this in our debates in the House.
This may be due to the fact that we have had such an arduous Session, and I hope that, if the Motion is passed, we shall learn in the intervening period to conduct ourselves in more seemly fashion and to listen to an opponent's view, respecting him for his sincerity and not always believing that sincerity is the monopoly of any one party.
§ Sir D. Glover
The last time I heard my hon. Friend having a row, it was with one of his own colleagues, not with an hon. Member on the other side.
§ Sir S. McAdden
My hon. Friend does me an injustice. I am sure that Mr. Deputy-Speaker would confirm what I say, were he permitted to do so, when I reply that I have never had a row with anyone in the House. I have urged a point of view or one of my hon. Friends who, in my view, was falling short of his duties, and I have sought to bring him up to a better standard of performance. This is what I am seeking to do now in addressing myself to all hon. Members on this occasion.
I urge the hope that we may have a better understanding and better standard of conduct in our affairs when we return than we have had in the past.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said that he had never before had to deliver such strictures on the Government on the occasion of one of these Motions. This is not entirely surprising, as we have had a Conservative Government for the past 13 years, and I do not imagine that the hon. Gentleman would have put into words many of the views which he has expressed today even if he had thought them at the time of previous economic crises under a Conservative Government.
In the few years I have been in the House, I have heard many such speeches. Since the change of Government, they have come from Conservatives instead of from Socialists. They do not impress me very much. I agree with the hon. Mem- 1302 ber for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden) that we are a little hypocritical, because we have already made our holiday arrangements and we intend to honour them, going away in the certain knowledge that the Leader of the House will refuse to accept any of the points put to him this afternoon. Nevertheless, I support what has been said on the subject of the Rent Bill by the hon. Members for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and for Brixton (Mr. Lipton).
The Rent Bill is in a quite different category from all the other reasons which have been advanced for rejecting the Motion. I am glad to see the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government present, because I am sure that he will agree with one point which I shall make. Apart from the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill, the Rent Bill is the only outstanding Bill which has been through all its stages in this House and in another place, having only to come back here for us to disagree with the Amendments put in by another place. There is this difference between the two Bills, that we are giving effect to the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill although it is not yet on the Statute Book. No person will, in fact, suffer the penalty of hanging irrespective of the fact the Bill will not be through all its stages until we return in October. For this further reason, the Rent Bill is in a special category, being different from all the other matters which have been mentioned.
I do not agree with everything said by the hon. Member for West Ham, North about their Lordships' action on the Rent Bill. It is true that they have put in Amendments and the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) is wrong in thinking that these Amendments were put in by the Government. For example, the reduction of rateable value limits was inserted by the Opposition, not by the Government. However, I notice that, in spite of his unexpected support of the case advanced by the hon. Member for Brixton, the hon. Member for Exeter did not feel strongly enough on the matter to remain in the Chamber to hear what the Leader of the House had to say about it.
I should be delighted to postpone my holiday if the Leader of the House would agree to give one extra day for this 1303 purpose. I shall not by hypocritical and say that I would cancel my holiday altogether. I fully intend to go through with it. But I am sure that many hon. Members on both sides would be perfectly willing to sacrifice one day—that is all I am demanding—to see the Bill through all its stages. The Leader of the House has power to do this. As is said in "Iolanthe",You shall sit, if he sees reason,Through the grouse and salmon season".All we ask is one day, so that we can complete the procedure on the Rent Bill.
I come now to the reason which I said would receive the support of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. Unless we complete all the stages of the Bill, the Minister will not have power to set up the rent assessment committees provided for under the Bill, and clerks of county councils will not be able to appoint the rent officers who will have the important function of arbitration before differences between landlord and tenant even have to go to the rent assessment committee and who will be charged with the duty of maintaining the register of fair rents.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Is it not a fact that in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, as in mine, many tenants and landlords have said, over the past two months or so, that they would not take action because they were expecting the passage of the Bill by August and they would resolve their questions when the Act came along? I have advised many of my constituents to wait pending the passage of the Bill. But now they will have to wait six or nine months all told before settlements can be reached.
§ Mr. Lubbock
That is quite right. This is why I hope that the Conservative Opposition will support what I say. In Committee, they complained of the long delay there would be under the procedure laid down before fair rents were fixed. Now there will be a further lapse of three or four months before we can even establish the machinery under the terms of the Bill.
This is a very serious matter for both landlords and tenants. It is serious for tenants because they do not know exactly where they stand. The hon. Member for West Ham, North has said that he is advising his constituents to wait until the Bill reaches the Statute Book, and then 1304 they can go, with their landlords, to the rent officer, and he will arbitrate between them and decide what is a fair rent, and following that they can appeal to the rent assessment committee if no satisfaction has been achieved.
On the other hand, there is the landlord with controlled properties whose rent cannot be revised until the rent officer has dealt with all properties which were decontrolled under the 1957 Act. That is a point about which many hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House feel very strongly. They say it is grossly unfair that a landlord who has let his house at a controlled rent for many years should have to wait a further period before there can be any prospect of revision in spite of the fact that the Conservative Party was not committed to any further measures of decontrol had it taken office last October.
For all those reasons, I appeal to the Leader of the House to treat the Rent Bill as quite different in character from anything else which has been advanced to him as a reason for not accepting the Motion. I do not mind about all the rest. I agree that there is machinery for the House to be recalled if any urgent financial crisis happens during the Recess. That does not worry me at all. I am sure that that is well taken care of. But the needs of my constituents, whether landlords or tenants, which are to be satisfied by this most important Bill will be neglected by the Government unless they give us the half day for which I ask.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
There are two matters which should be explained to us before we agree to adjourn for the Summer Recess. One has been referred to, and one has not. First, I should like the Leader of the House to tell us something about the state of the negotiations between the Labour Party and the Liberal Party to form a pact. If a pact is formed, it will alter—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
Order. This is a very interesting question, but I do not think that it bears on the Motion before the House.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I am very sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I was out of order, but what I was about to say was that if a pact is agreed to and signed—we understand that it has been discussed—it will 1305 alter the whole course of events in this country, and if it were to happen during the Recess, it would be a matter of very great moment indeed. I do not wish to refer to it at any great length.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot debate the reasons for the Adjournment or postponement of the Adjournment on an hypothesis.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I prefer not to. If I was out of order, I guess that the interruption may be out of order as well.
§ Sir T. Beamish
The second point has been touched upon briefly by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), but I want to approach it in a slightly different way. This is also a very important matter. It arises out of two events which occurred yesterday. I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) in his place, as I had not warned him that I intended to refer to him personally. However, he is very much personally involved.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I must leave at five o'clock because I have a very important meeting to attend.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I can easily say everything I wish to say in two or three minutes.
The Leader of the House must give us an explanation of the significance and strength of the Socialist Party caucus and its influence on Government policy. The Leader of the Opposition put a Question to the Prime Minister about this today and had an extremely unsatisfactory Answer. We know that the Socialist Party caucus met yesterday and passed what all the newspapers report was a motion which apparently was not debated at great length and not voted upon, asking for "drastic" cuts to be made in the defence programme.
1306 We cannot possibly adjourn unless we know what this meant. We have already had the announcement of very severe cuts, which are disturbing to many of us. We have had the announcement about the Territorial Army. If further drastic cuts are to be made and new plans cast during the Recess, we are entitled to know what those plans are.
There is a Motion on the Order Paper, signed by 67 hon. Members opposite, all of whom belong to the Left wing of the Labour Party—the dominating Left wing of the Labour Party caucus—demanding cuts of £200 million a year in the defence budget, colossal cuts which would have a profound effect on the ability of this country to carry out its international obligations and make the maximum possible contribution to the maintenance of an honourable peace in the world, two things which are a paramount duty of any Government and any party in this country. This meeting of the private party caucus upstairs was the first example of the influence on the Government of the party caucus.
But there was another example yesterday, when the right hon. Member for Easington jumped to his feet during Questions and gave a proper "ticking off" to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for giving a perfectly innocuous and sensible reply to a supplementary question about the Common Market, towards which the Government's policy is in a state of total confusion hidden behind a smokescreen of double talk.
Twice in one day we had the party caucus at work trying to influence Government foreign policy and Government defence policy. I do not think it would be right for us to adjourn for the Summer Recess until we know positively and precisely who is running this country. Is it the Socialist party caucus dominated by the Left wing, bearing in mind that the Socialist Party in Britain is the only Socialist Party in the free world which still contains a Marxist wing? Is this country being run by a party caucus under the domination of the extreme Left wing, or by the Government? I want to know before we adjourn for the Recess.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. William Yates (The Wrekin)
First—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I shall certainly say quite a lot—I should have 1307 thought that after President Johnson's speech, which was broadcast throughout the United States and has underlined that the United States feels that manpower will be essential if the Korean conflict—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which conflict?"]—the Vietnam conflict develops, as it might well do, into a sort of Korea issue—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. E. Shinwell), who in 1951 was Minister of Defence—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Defence at that time surely.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, this is the third occasion on which I have been involved in a controversy. I plead not guilty.
§ Mr. Yates
I do not mind whether the right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Defence or not at the time.
One of the underlying problems which beset this country at the time of Korea was manpower. I am absolutely astounded that the Government should announce to the world that they are about to cut our national reserves of the Territorial Army by half. It was a most inept announcement.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am not questioning the rightness or wrongness of what the hon. Gentleman says, but he must link it with the question of whether we adjourn to a certain date.
§ Mr. Yates
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
If the Leader of the House cannot answer the very important speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), I must vote against the Motion. I had hoped to be able to support the Motion on this occasion. The situation and the announcement concerning our national reserves made at this time must cause every hon. Member concern. I forgot to declare an interest in this matter. I am an officer serving in the Territorial Army. I think that I moved a Motion in this House congratulating the Territorial Army in 1957.
It must be wrong at a critical time in international affairs, and especially in view of the difficulties in the Far East, suddenly to announce that the Government propose to cut our entire reserve 1308 forces by half and cut the national defence Estimates by millions of pounds. I hope that the Leader of the House will do all he can to make up for the extraordinary announcements that we have had, one made by the Minister of State for Defence for the Army and one emanating from the Parliamentary Labour Party.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
I, too, will be brief because I am anxious to get on with the next business. I suggest that the Leader of the House cannot let go unanswered the remarks of the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) about the reason why we should take the further stages of the Rent Bill before the Recess. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will refute the arguments adduced by his hon. Friend as being the reasons why the Bill has not been passed by now.
The hon. Member for West Ham, North said, first, that the delay had been due to the deliberate determination of the Lords to take up time over this issue. When, in an intervention, I pointed out that the Bill did not leave this House until 6th July—and I see that it did not begin its Committee stage in the Lords until 22nd July—he then said that it was the fault of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman should make it clear that the Minister of Housing and Local Government, during the Committee stage of that Bill—and the hon. Member for West Ham, North did not serve on that Committee, although I did—said on numerous occasions that he was not suggesting that any undue time was being taken by the Opposition over the discussion of the Bill.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
If the hon. Gentleman will read the report of what I said in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow he will see that I did not refer to delays on the part of the Opposition. I said that the Opposition, as I naturally expected, had defended the interests of the landlords.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I withdraw what I said if I have wrongly interpreted the hon. Gentleman's words. I understood him to say that the Opposition opposed—
§ Mr. Carlisle
—the Measure and I further understood that his intention was to 1309 say that the Opposition had deliberately discussed at length the Bill and that that had delayed its passage. As I was saying, the Minister of Housing and Local Government went out of his way on several occasions in Committee to make it clear that there had not been any undue time taken by the Opposition over the Bill. Indeed, he agreed that it was a serious matter which required urgent and careful consideration Clause by Clause.
I hope, therefore, that the Leader of the House will make it clear—while I agree with the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) that it is unfortunate that the Bill has not reached the Statute Book before the Recess—that the blame for any delay must rest with the Government for not having brought the Measure forward with the priority which they had originally undertaken to give it and that it is not the fault of the Opposition in regard to the conduct of my hon. Friends during our consideration of the Bill.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I have just discovered that the meeting at which I was expected to be present, and to which I referred a few moments ago in an intervention, has been postponed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that it is a most important meeting and that the discussion that will take place there will do the Opposition no good at all; at least, that is my intention.
I was interested in what the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) alleged about pressure being brought to bear on the Government as a result of a private meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. I assure him that no pressure has been exerted by the Parliamentary Labour Party and that it would be improper for any outside organisation—that is, any organisation outside the Government—to bring pressure to bear on the Government to seek to determine Government policy. If that was the hon. and gallant Gentleman's allegation, I assure him that there is no substance in it at all.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I was not suggesting that it was wrong to bring pressure to bear on the Government. Indeed, that is the way democracy works. However, I did say it was wrong for the Govern- 1310 ment to be influenced by pressure which was contrary to the national interest.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that no such thing arises. I have known him for a long time and have regarded him as a person of considerable intellectual stature. I am surprised that he allows himself to misunderstand the situation and misrepresent what has happened as a result of his own imaginings.
I reiterate my assurance that no pressure of any kind is being brought to bear on the Government to influence Government policy in the sphere of defence. There has been none at all. The position is quite clear. It is clear to me and to my hon. Friends and I shall endeavour to make it equally clear to hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Sir Rolf Dudley Williams
I am interested to hear that no pressure has been brought to bear on the Government. Would the right hon. Gentleman now say that the Parliamentary Labour Party is wholeheartedly behind the Government's defence policy and has not asked and is not asking for any reduction in defence expenditure?
§ Mr. Shinwell
The Parliamentary Labour Party is loyal to the Government, to all that the Government are doing and to every aspect of Government policy. Indeed, if there were any lack of loyalty on the part of the Parliamentary Labour Party I am sure that we, the members of that party, would be capable of correcting it. I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that what I say is the position. I appreciate that they are worried about our situation, although they must agree that they have plenty to worry about themselves. I will leave the matter there.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I would like to pass to my next point and I hope that I will not have any further interruptions, because I dislike having the thread of my discourse interrupted; it disturbs me very much.
There is another matter which needs to be cleared up. The Government have decided to take measures to reduce military expenditure. No one can object to that, not even hon. Gentleman opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Let me put it this way. Hon. Gentlemen opposite 1311 must be anxious to reduce military expenditure—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—within the context of the security which must be assured to this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am pleased that we can agree on that, because that is precisely the position which has been stated and restated by the Government and by the Labour Party when we were in Opposition. We have repeated it time and again.
There is really no difference of opinion on this issue. The Government have stated their policy in relation to the possibility of reducing military expenditure. This is desirable in the context of the national economy and having due regard to the security which is essential if we are to meet our obligations. That is the position. The Parliamentary Labour Party met and the newspapers have revealed in reports certain aspects of that meeting.
To make a slight digression, how the Lobby correspondents get their information, I would like to know. Perhaps one of these days inquiries will be instituted to ascertain how they obtain their information about the proceedings at private meetings.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I think that the right hon. Gentleman has pursued that digression long enough.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I would be delighted to pursue it further, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I always seek to obey the rules of order. Perhaps I may be allowed to pursue it slightly further, but from a different point of view. The Government have decided on their policy. That is supported by the Parliamentary Labour Party and hon. Gentlemen opposite—
§ Sir D. Glover
On a point of order. I am sure that the whole House is interested to learn how the Parliamentary Labour Party works, but has this any bearing on the Motion? What has it to do with whether or not we should adjourn on Thursday?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope that the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) will not try to instruct the Chair on the rules of order. This matter was raised by one of his hon. Friends as a reason why the House should not adjourn until the date suggested in the 1312 Motion. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) is answering that.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have no desire to pursue the matter too far, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I have dealt with it because the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes seemed to have a grievance. I am trying to eliminate that grievance and it seems that the point needs some clarification. I have, therefore, ventured to point out that there is no difference of opinion among the members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, whether they are regarded as being on the right of the party, in the centre or what is called the Left wing. There is no difference of opinion, having regard to the state of the national economy and the need for us to meet our obligations about the desirability of reducing military expenditure.
The Parliamentary Labour Party has presented its point of view, and the Government, naturally, will consider it, just as hon. Members on the other side present their point of view to their own leaders, presumably. It is within the discretion of the leaders of a party whether they accept the view of the back benchers on their side. That is the position. There is nothing new, unusual or uncommon about it. There is no innovation.
The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. William Yates) is extremely concerned about the possibility—I will not say "the probability"—of a 50 per cent. cut in the Territorial and Auxiliary forces. It is not our intention, nor is it the Government's intention to cut them by half; the intention is to make them much more effective. I understand the Territorial and Auxiliary position as well as any hon. Member on the other side. I was at the War Office way back in 1929, and from 1947 to 1950 I was Minister of Defence, so I know something about it.
We have always had difficulty about our reserve forces, and in recent years even more so. If our reserve forces are to be of any value in times of crisis in order to maintain peace in the areas with which we are concerned, they must be made effective as a defence force, and they are not at present. In times of great emergency and crisis, men are called up as a result of conscription.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is now pursuing the 1313 merits of the proposal dealing with the Territorial Army. He must not do that.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is about time hon. Members on the other side understood something about the situation, instead of belly-aching about it from time to time.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am not questioning any of the arguments that the right hon. Gentleman is using, or their importance, but they must be linked to whether or not we should adjourn.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I will come to the point that really matters. I understand that hon. Members on the other side want to continue discussions and hear more about Government policy. For example, the Chief Whip of the Liberal Party wants more information about rents, and wants the Rent Bill to be proceeded with. That is what the argument is about—that we should not adjourn; that we should go on. I am perfectly happy about that, because I am not going on holiday yet. I am quite prepared for the House to meet for another two weeks, or even until I go on holiday at the beginning of September. If hon. Members opposite are willing to sacrifice going to the grouse moors and the other places they frequent when on holiday, we are willing to accommodate them. But let them be quite frank about it. What is it that they want?
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) is the last person in the world whom we want to see back at any time. I say that with the utmost friendliness, meaning no offence whatsoever. He and I are on the best of terms, so long as he behaves himself.
Therefore, I say to hon. Members opposite, do not play these tricks. I have been 40 years and more in the House. I know that you really want to adjourn. Is not that true? Of course, you do. You deserve to adjourn, because we have given you a rough time.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The Chair is willing to tolerate a great deal, but the right hon. Gentleman has accused the Chair of a lot of things in the last thirty seconds.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you know that I did not mean you, naturally. All that I require to say to hon. Members opposite is, give it up and go on holiday.
§ Mr. William Yates
I put to you a sensible suggestion, which you knew very well, as a former Minister of Defence.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. It is a bad thing for the House if hon. Members address each other, rather than speak through the Chair.
§ Mr. William Yates
With your leave, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I think that the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well) was endeavouring to answer one of the reasons why I did not wish the House to adojurn, namely, that concerning the Territorial Army. The right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Defence in 1950.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Member does not understand the point of order. If he addresses the right hon. Member, he must do so through the Chair.
§ Mr. William Yates
I am now addressing the right hon. Member for Easington. I did not mean to refer to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. What I was endeavouring to get from the right hon. Member was this one fact. Surely he must know that during the Korean troubles he wanted manpower. I am objecting to the adjournment of the House because it is suggested that the manpower of the Territorial Army should be reduced. I agree with him about efficiency.
§ Mr. Shinwell
We cannot pursue this. Perhaps the hon. Member will have a talk with me before the Recess, when I will tell him all about what happened during the Korean trouble—how we alerted a brigade for Korea, and even a Commonwealth brigade. I was as much responsible for that as anyone else. But the hon. Member does not know anything about it.
I was just beginning to get warmed up, and now it appears that I have to cease. But I am not responsible for this series of exchanges. I accidentally came into the Chamber, and I was no sooner here than I was attacked, bitterly assailed, by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes. I am bound to respond, otherwise hon. 1315 Members may imagine that I am weakening, and that I can never allow.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
I cannot possibly support the Motion for this long adjournment. We should consider this a little more seriously than we have been doing, having listened to the music-hall act from the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). He is very good at it, and he amuses us, but the time comes when we must consider these matters in a more serious light.
As elected Members of the House, we never tire of saying that the employer and the employee should work a lot harder and should not be away from their work for too long, for the reason that production will cease. At the same time, we ourselves think that three months is quite an adequate time for us to be away from the House. I have always disagreed, and thought it too long, and on this particular occasion it is far too long, because many of the things which have been mentioned today are perfectly true.
We could have a crisis at very short notice and, with the Prime Minister and other Members of his Cabinet in the Scilly Isles, and the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) possibly wanting to converse with them, we should be more accessible to the House. After all, the House is the place where policy decisions have to be made, and we know how difficult it is, when hon. Members have gone to the four corners of the earth as they do during Recess time, to get back again in a hurry. There is always a tremendous temptation for Ministers wishfully to think that the crisis is not here and put off the recalling of Parliament until the last possible moment, sometimes with bad effect.
I urge the House to think very seriously—if not on this occasion, for other occasions—whether we do not, whilst urging other people to get off their backsides and work harder, rather ourselves retire to the sun for far too long a period.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I support the Motion before the House, because 1316 I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), that there is a good deal of humbug talked about the adjournment of the House, particularly for the Summer Recess, although I must say that I do so this year with far more reluctance than I have done for a great many years in the past, and not purely and simply because we are the Opposition party.
We are living in dangerous times. There are many problems on the financial front with which the Government are grappling, and we are running into a period of the year when the crisis might come. It is not quite the same when Parliament reassembles for three or four days for debate; we do not have the discussions, we do not have the atmosphere that exists when Parliament is in uninterrupted Session. It is, therefore, perhaps unfortunate that this year we are to adjourn until 26th October.
It is also unfortunate that Parliament is about to go into recess when we have just recently had statements about the defence structure and the drive to cut defence expenditure. I hope that the Lord President of the Council will give us an assurance that no irrevocable step about the Territorial Army or about cuts in defence expenditure will take place before the House has had a proper opportunity for debate.
In the context of the proposed Summer Recess the problem of the Territorial Army is not urgent at the moment, because the Secretary of State for Defence has told us that the proposed changes will certainly not come into operation until 1967. That means, to my mind, that we could stop those changes, if the weight of the argument was powerful enough, by having a debate as soon as possible in the next Session, and perhaps even in this present Session.
It is, perhaps, the final criticism of the Government that we shall start the Summer Recess on a Thursday, when we could easily have continued to the Friday, or even to the Monday or Tuesday of the following week. It is a criticism of their efficiency that a Bill on which they have placed the greatest weight—the Rent Bill—will not have reached the Statute Book by the time we rise. Here is muddle and confusion. This Measure was one which the party opposite said it must have in 1317 this Session—priority No. 1, as it were. Now it is not finished, and not finished for lack of about one day—
§ Sir D. Glover
The hon. Member had to get back to that Bill.
I was not on the Committee on the Rent Bill, so I cannot speak with authority about it, but I know that it contains provisions that both sides of the House are very anxious to see begin to operate, and the present proposal will cause much more delay in getting the machinery working once the Bill is enacted.
It is a final criticism of the way in which the Leader of the House has managed the business of the House, and of how the Government have managed their own business, that we should now be debating the Adjournment for the Summer Recess with what is perhaps the most important part of the present legislation still in a locker and not yet allowed to be put into operation.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Bowden)
It might be convenient to the House if, at this stage, I were to reply to some of the reasons given by those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen for the House not adjourning for the Summer Recess, and to those given by the one or two hon. Members who feel that perhaps we should adjourn. I will deal, first, with two or three main points, and I start with the serious contribution made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke).
I am sure that what the hon. Member said commends itself to all of us, because, wherever we may sit, we are all concerned with the country's economic situation and with the importance of protecting sterling. I am not sure that by continuing the Session, and continuing economic debates, with some of the speeches we get, we should achieve any contribution to that situation. But I agree that it is important that, if the Government feel that they should recall the House at any time because of the economic situation, they should do so without waiting unnecessarily; and, on the other hand, that the official Opposition—or, in fact, any hon. Members 1318 who make representations in this direction to the Government—should be heard and their recommendations considered before Mr. Speaker is asked to recall the House.
The position of sterling has been debated only very recently. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a serious statement last week, and I am sure that the House would now prefer to wait and see what happens as a result, bearing in mind that all the time it is the desire of the whole House to help in the economic situation and to protect sterling, and not unnecessarily to exacerbate the position by saying things inside this House, and outside it, that can be harmful.
The second main point related to the Rent Bill. There seems to be some confusion in the minds of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) spoke of muddle and confusion, and said that the Bill was only one day short of completion. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) asked for an additional half day to deal with the Lords Amendments. In fact, by the time we rise on Thursday, the other place will not have completed the Report stage—or it may have done so, it depends on how it gets on—so it will have to return to take the Third Reading in the first week of the spill-over. That is why I have announced consideration of the Lords Amendments for the Monday of the following week.
It has been suggested that there was delay on the part of the Government in introducing the Rent Bill. It is true that it was not introduced as quickly as the Government woud have wished, but it was a difficult Measure to draft. Anyone who has been in Government knows perfectly well that drafting Bills is very different from setting out policy. That is a position that every new Government have to face. They can, on occasion, take on some hangovers from previous legislation—we have done that to some extent, as every new Government will—but new legislation has to be discussed, policy decided, and Bills drafted.
There was no delay at all. Once the Bill was drafted and had been presented to the House—and I would be the last to suggest that the Bill has been held up at any stage in its passage through the House. It went to the House of Lords 1319 a relatively short while ago. Their Lordships' procedures are completely different from ours. It is true to say that they do not debate legislation at the same sort of length as we do—though they go into a great deal of detail—but their procedures require longer gaps between the various stages. It is not for us to suggest to them they should change those procedures unless we are prepared to face some constitutional changes which are not at the moment under consideration.
The Bill has gone ahead as quickly as possible. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing will be as disappointed as any one else that he has not got the Royal Assent by the end of July or early August, but the Lords Amendments will come to us after the Summer Recess, and will be dealt with as expeditiously as possible then—
§ Mr. Lubbock
If members of another place have not completed this work by the time we rise, why not make them come back as well?
§ Mr. Bowden
They are, in fact, coming back at the same lime as the House of Commons—on 26th October. They will take the Third Reading of the Rent Bill, with other legislation, in their first week.
The third major point referred to defence and the Territorial forces. I agree with the House that any cut in defence expenditure needs to be looked at very carefully. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has stated on a number of occasions that, when the defence review is completed, a White Paper will be presented to the House, and we shall have a debate. No changes whatsoever in our defence needs are likely to take place during the Summer Recess—
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
I just want to check one point. The right hon. Gentleman said, I am sure that it was a slip of the tongue, that the Rent Bill would have the Royal Assent by the end of July or early in August. He must have meant October.
§ Mr. Bowden
I said that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing would have liked to have had the Royal Assent by the end of July or early August, but that he is now likely to get it by the time the House gets up at the end of October.
1320 The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden) referred to the long adjournment as a "holiday" of three months. I do not quite like the idea of referring to the Summer Recess as a "holiday". Every right hon. and hon. Member knows that this is not so. A Member's work is not only in this Chamber or in the Palace of Westminster. If he is doing his job he should do work in his constituency as well. If he is like me, he will have a great deal of reading to catch up with. He should take part in our economic and export drive and visit factories and workshops to see what can be done there.
The suggestion that, because the House is in recess, the Government are going away to the Isles of Scilly for three months may be a nice thought, but it is not likely to happen. Activity will be going on in all Government Departments and offices, not only by civil servants but by Ministers, after a short break.
§ Mr. Lagden
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is not so naïve as to think that his hon. Friends spend the whole of the Recess working in the desirable manner he mentions. I agree that many of us go abroad in an endeavour to help exports, but he must know in his heart that many hon. Members spend a lot of the Recess on pure holiday.
§ Mr. Bowden
This is a matter for individual Members. If an individual hon. Member wishes to spend the whole of the Recess on holiday then that is a matter for him but if his constituency is anything like mine it will take notice of the fact. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is not often that I get cheers from right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I thank them very much.
The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir S. McAdden), in an excellent contribution and a very honest one, referred to what he regarded as a charade at the end of the Session before we rise for the Recess. Perhaps he is to some extent right. All of us, if we inquire into our innermost hearts, will admit that. There are occasions when I have gone into the Lobby against a Motion for a Summer Recess hoping and praying that I would be defeated. We have all been in that position. The hon. Gentleman said that the House has not added to its dignity by behaving in this way. I am not so sure. 1321 This is one of the occasions when speeches are made concerning why the House should not rise but I am sure that every hon. Member really wishes it to rise.
The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) asked about the report of the National Ports Council. I cannot give him any detailed information now but I admit with him that there are extreme differences of opinion and no decision is likely to be taken until the House resumes. He also asked about the proposed White Paper on leasehold enfranchisement. I cannot give him the date of that but I think and hope that it will be out before the end of the Recess, with, of course, a debate when we return and, if necessary, any legislation.
The hon. Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) was concerned—although I do not quite see how it was in order—about the activities of Government back benchers. He referred to the fact that meetings take place in another place and have their effect upon the Government. The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes also raised this point. I am not sure what the hon. and gallant Gentleman meant when he referred to the "Socialist party caucus", unless it is a sort of Labour Party equivalent of the Conservative 1922 Committee.
The two hon. Gentlemen know, as everyone knows, that it is healthy in a democracy, where there are political parties, that those parties should express their views. It becomes unhealthy if the Government of the day, although they are entitled to listen to points from their own party, act in accordance with views which they do not feel are in the interests of the country. It is the duty of a Government to govern and this Government will do just that.
The hon. Member for Exeter suggested that we should continue to sit to deal with the cost of living. We debated the subject last week and there have been an additional 32 Supply days during the year on which many of these matters could be raised. I do not quite like the way he referred to hon. Members "flaunting themselves" around the world and "loafing" about the country. If my experience is anything to go by, next week I hope to be tied up on the Exeter by-pass for a few hours; but perhaps 1322 that subject is more correctly raised in the debate to follow.
Finally, I remind the House of the figures of previous Recesses. Unless we are recalled—and I hope that economic circumstances or the situation in Vietnam will not make it necessary, for no one would want such circumstances—we shall have 82 clear days during this Recess. Last year's Summer Recess was 79 days, but then we had the General Election and, therefore, it was curtailed by three. The year before, the Recess was 100 days, but on that occasion we had an additional 18 days because the then Prime Minister could not sit in this House and we had to wait until he could.
Under the terms of this Motion, the House will return on 26th October unless, at the request of the Government to Mr. Speaker—taking into account, of course, any representations by the Opposition—it should be recalled earlier. I suggest that the House should now come to a decision. I am sure all of us share the hope that we do not have to come back for either of the reasons I have mentioned.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
I have been at the receiving end of debates on similar Motions and I therefore have some sympathy with the Leader of the House. He has spoken to us today with his usual courtesy and moderation. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. A. Lewis) talked about "synthetic indignation" on these occasions. I think that we had 13 years of synthetic indignation from the benches opposite. Today, however, our indignation is not altogether synthetic.
I agree with the criticisms of the conduct of business and of the overloaded programme and the fact that some of the Government's measures were ill thought out. There has been a good deal of talk about the Rent Bill but, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the Report stage is going on in another place and indeed it is not quite certain, I believe, that the Government have had their last thoughts about the Bill. This is not the fault of the Opposition and it is reasonable that the Bill should be properly considered in another place.
Some of my hon. Friends have raised serious problems, for instance, about the 1323 future of the Territorial Army and the economic situation. They were right to ventilate them but we have now had certain assurances from the right hon. Gentleman. He has told us of the power to seek the recall of Parliament and has said that the Government will listen seriously to representations by the Opposition on these matters. I think that he deals straightly with the House and I accept his assurances.
In spite of what was said about the figures, I think that the Adjournment is rather a long one, but we in the Opposition welcome the opportunity to point out throughout the length and breadth of the land the manifold deficiencies of the Government. If my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams) thinks that he will be allowed to loaf about, I shall do my best to see that he plays his part.
Finally, of course, we recognise how much the tired, dispirited, ill-tempered and nervy supporters of the Government need a good long holiday. I ask the House to acquiesce, albeit with reservations, to the Motion.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House, at its rising on Thursday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 26th October.