Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House at its rising Tomorrow do adjourn until Tuesday, 17th January.—[The Prime Minister.]
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
The period of the Adjournment is in accordance with precedent and, in the ordinary way, would pass perhaps without too much comment. But the complacency with which the House can regard any period of Recess must, in my submission, depend on the degree to which a Government can be depended upon to act during the period of Parliamentary Recess with strict constitutional propriety and not in any way to trespass on the jurisdiction of Parliament.
I am bound to say that the record of the present Government to date does not build up in me any confidence or degree of comfort in the House going into Recess for what would ordinarily be a period acceptable to the House. They have, in a variety of ways, shown a disregard of constitutional propriety and a tendency to act with disrespect to Parliament, not giving to Parliament the jurisdiction and consideration which is its due.
I do not want to detain the House with a catalogue of examples, but there are a number which come readily to mind. There is, for example, the matter of the Parliamentary Commissioner, which led to the Government being severely rebuked for acting in anticipation of Parliament's approval of their action and in breach of the most elementary and basic constitutional doctrines which have animated this House for many generations.
Another example of even wider importance, and one to which I ventured to draw attention in an earlier debate this autumn, is in the Government's attitude to the so-called pay freeze and the period of severe restraint. In this context, the Government have shown themselves obdurately determined to proceed by way of Government exhortation and, to some extent, Government intimidation, rather than by the processes of Statute law duly passed by this House.
Another example is their insistence of bringing into operation the Land Com- 1196 mission without adequate Parliamentary scrutiny and proper preparation. This action is a matter which will be repented of hereafter, just as certainly and as deeply as the unwise development charge provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, under the Attlee Administration.
The final matter to which I refer—and the one that has mainly caused me to detain the House today—is in regard to the reference of the Rhodesian case to the United Nations. I argued in the debate a short while ago—and I do not want to repeat the arguments I then adduced—that this was a reference made outside the contemplation of Chapter 7 of the Charter. I argued then—and the argument has not so far been answered—that the Government should not have made that reference having regard to the fact that the matter was within the sovereignty and domestic jurisdiction of this country and that, therefore, under Article 2(7) of the Charter—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. and learned Member must, in arguing the merits of his case, link these points to the reason why he believes that we should or should not adjourn until mid-January.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
I was about to do so, Mr. Speaker. The only reason why I am being somewhat longer in putting my case than I would otherwise be is because I was, unfortunately, unable to catch your eye a little earlier when I was seeking to put a question to the Prime Minister, which might have clarified the point I am seeking to make. I am, as always, conscious of the passage of time and I will certainly make my point as concisely as I can.
I merely said by way of background explanation that that is the constitutional position as I see it about this reference to the United Nations. It was made without proper deliberation by Parliament when the initial determination was made in the United Nations last April, at the request of this Government, to the effect that a situation existed which constituted a threat to the peace. Now we have the situation that die machinery of sanctions has started through the United Nations.
I want to ask the Government to consider this. If we are to go into Recess for nearly four weeks during the initial 1197 very important four weeks of the sanctions procedure, what steps have the Government in mind to keep the House and the country informed about the implementation of the collective mandatory sanctions'? As the right hon. Gentleman appreciates, the Charter is silent about the machinery for the enforcement of economic sanctions, and I want to ask the Government whether they will make use of the Recess—they will have nearly four weeks—to prepare a White Paper saying what is the machinery which exists within the United Nations for the enforcement of sanctions by individual member nations.
I want to know whether they will also indicate in the White Paper which countries will require domestic legislation before they will be in a position to take any action over the sanctions. Will the Government then, having given us this basic knowledge, consider what steps they should take to give the House, and the country, a running commentary, as it were, on the progress of this matter so that we may see what is happening, and how far the implementation of the sanctions resolution by member nations marches pari passu with what is being done in this country. This is a matter of considerable constitutional and political importance. It is also of economic importance, as was brought out in the supplementary question of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) about the sharing of the load in this respect.
For all of these reasons, I feel less well disposed to a Recess of nearly four weeks than I would ordinarily, having regard to the fact that it is a period which is not of itself unduly protracted. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to deal with the specific point that I have made about keeping the country informed by White Paper, or as may be convenient, on the progress of the implementation of sanctions and the machinery therefor; and, secondly, that he will give some reassurance to the House that the Government propose to mend their ways about the observance of constitutional niceties and behave in a more democratic, constitutional and Parliamentary manner in future.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The House is being asked to agree to a 1198 Motion that we adjourn until 17th January. This is a very important decision to take and it must be given the greatest consideration by all Members, particularly in view of the situation in Vietnam. Before I could give my support to this Motion, I, and many other hon. Members on this side, would like assurances from the Government that will carry out their declared policy over the bringing to a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam situation.
I would draw the attention of the House to a statement made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when he spoke at the Labour Party conference earlier this year. He made the point that the answer to the Vietnam problem was the calling of a conference and that the first step should be that the bombing of North Vietnam by the United States and South Vietnamese aircraft should cease, and a pledge should be given that bombing would not be resumed unless and until the conference has met and failed, and the war is restarted.
The point is that the bombing of North Vietnam by the Americans continues, yet here we are contemplating going into recess when the danger exists of an eruption and escalation of this war into an even more dangerous situation. We are bound to ask the Government precisely what they are doing to bring about the conference which the Foreign Secretary said was necessary early this year. We know that the Americans have said that they are prepared to negotiate and have approached U Thant about peaceful negotiations, but U Thant has made it a condition that the bombing of North Vietnam should cease.
On the one hand, we have the United States talking in terms of peaceful settlement and stepping up the bombing of North Vietnam and Hanoi at the same time. It is quite clear that our Government have a responsibility, over their declared policy—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is drifting slightly into the merits of the case. He must link it to arguments as to whether we should adjourn until mid-January.
§ Mr. Heffer
I accept that, Sir. What I am saying is that I want an assurance from our Government that they will carry out their declared policy about this matter 1199 before I could vote for this Motion. That is why I want to know what the Government intend to do about the resolution carried at the Labour Party conference, composite Resolution No. 35, which made this point:This Conference asks Her Majesty's Government to dissociate itself entirely from the present U.S. policy in Vietnam. It is alarmed by the prospect of further escalation.Hon. Members, particularly on this side of the House, are entitled to ask the Government—I would need to have an answer to this before I vote for any adjournment until 17th January—what we are doing to put pressure on the United States to bring about a peaceful settlement in Vietnam. It is a long time until 17th January and it is clear that between now and then the war in Vietnam can escalate even further. The Americans now have 327,000 troops in Vietnam, and the number is growing all the time. What pressure is being brought by Her Majesty's Government upon the American Government about this resolution?
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, because I wish to put a point which will strengthen the case he is making. Is my hon. Friend aware of a new feature which makes the situation even worse? An American visitor to our country recently told us that in Redwood City, California, a chemical factory has just been awarded a contract by the United States Government for napalm equal in weight to 3 lbs. for every man, woman and child in Vietnam. This is a question of genocide and would certainly justify the case my hon. Friend is making, particularly as we have condemned—
§ Mr. Heffer
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. I confess that I was not aware of what he has told us, but it horrifies me a great deal. This is undoubtedly another reason why, before we support the Motion, we are entitled to ask the Government precisely what they are doing to bring about a peaceful settlement in Vietnam. This is the burden of my point.
1200 We have had a very clear statement from the Government that they are endeavouring to bring about a peaceful settlement in Vietnam. A resolution has been passed by the Labour Party conference. I was horrified yesterday by the replies given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, which seemed to go back on the original statements of the Government protesting at the bombing of Hanoi by the Americans. I should like an assurance from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that the points made yesterday by the Foreign Secretary were not the Goverment's policy. We want a further assurance from the Government that their policy has not altered and that we are opposed to the American policy of bombing Hanoi and Haiphong and wish to bring about a peaceful settlement in Vietnam at the earliest possible moment.
The whole world is crying out for peace in Vietnam. Last weekend I was at the Western European Union where delegates from various countries and various political parties in Europe unanimously passed a resolution calling for peace in Vietnam. Among them were the Christian Democrats of Western Germany, the Gaullists of France, the Labour Party in Britain and many others throughout Europe. The decision was unanimous. It included support by the Pope's brother, who is a delegate to the Western European Union from one of the Italian parties. The Western European Union is asking its constituent Governments what they propose to do about carrying out the resolution passed at the W.E.U.—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying a little wide of the Motion. He must link his remarks to reasons why we should not adjourn.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am just about to do that, Mr. Speaker.
Before I vote for this Motion, I want to know what the Government intend to do about the resolution passed at the W.E.U., and whether they propose to carry it out and do something positive along the lines which they themselves have indicated.
Will the Government tell the United States Government, as they have done in the past, that they oppose most strongly 1201 the continued bombing of North Vietnam, which will not help to bring peace in Vietnam but will have the opposite result? I ask my right hon. Friend to give us an assurance that the Government, during the Recess, will do everything possible to bring pressure on the United States Government to bring about quick and early settlement of the Vietnam problem. Otherwise, I could not bring myself to support the Motion.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
It is clear from the number of Members on both sides of the House who rose to speak that there is a general lack of sufficient confidence in the Government to cause the House to be willing to go away and leave the country to their tender mercies even for the comparatively limited period proposed. I suppose the feeling is that when the Parliamentary cat is away the mice on the Treasury Bench will play, and most of us have found—[Interruption] During the last two years, I agree—that these are mischievous rodents.
There is the Government's unwillingness—it lies behind this Motion—to make statements on important matters to the House. They want to send us away so that they can, with impunity, make their statements with all the favourable apparatus of public relations officers, and the like, and not be subject to the immediate criticism which they are certain to meet in the House.
We have had examples of that today. We were told by the Leader of the House that in the near future the President of the Board of Trade will make a most important statement on the future of one aspect of the Press. I took him to mean the future of The Times. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether that statement will be made tomorrow? If not, there are some of us who feel that the House should remain sitting so as to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to make a statement on the future and life of probably the greatest newspaper in the world. A Government decision on this matter should be announced in Parliament, where is can be challenged at once.
Perhaps the Leader of the House—I do not wish to misjudge him; I see his P.P.S. is already in motion—can answer 1202 that question. If he can say that the statement will be made tomorrow, one—but I am afraid only one—of my objections to the Motion will be immediately dissipated.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Richard Crossman)
I am always willing to oblige the right hon. Gentleman. I shall try to get the requisite information.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his habitual courtesy. I hope that I shall not try him further if I seek elucidation on one or two other matters relating to the Motion.
Many of us expected that today, instead of merely the publication of a White Paper, we should have had a statement on the Government's proposals for the future of broadcasting. If we have a Recess for four weeks, there will be no opportunity for hon. Members to challenge the Government on a matter in which our postbags show very large numbers of our constituents are intensely interested. [Interruption.] Perhaps the constituents of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) are less articulate and intelligent than mine. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) so pertinently points out, that accounts for the hon. Gentleman's return to the House.
My constituents are interested in this matter. It is quite wrong that on a matter in which millions of our fellow countrymen are intensely interested the Government should publish a White Paper on Broadcasting and send us away for four weeks so that opportunities of immediate challenge and even elucidatory questions are denied us. Why has not a statement been made on that matter?
We do not know how many more dangerous criminals will be allowed to escape from goal under the Home Secretary's administration during the Recess, or whether the policy of allowing extremely dangerous men out on working parties will be placidly continued, because they have, to use the Home Secretary's word, "matured", as if they were port. We do not know whether this disastrous policy will be continued, nor, if the House is not sitting, shall we have the right to challenge the right hon. Gentleman on 1203 this aspect. Only yesterday we had another case, and we do not know how many more of these people will liberate themselves during this period without let or hindrance.
Again, there is the extraordinary mess in which at present the whole situation with regard to the disposal of land is being left. We were led to believe—and many of us could recognise the normal signs of Ministerial guidance; after all, we have used it ourselves—that we were to be given a statement today by the Minister of Land and Natural Resources. There has been little time—and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman's airy remark that he discourages his colleagues might have had force—but we should be told whether the appointed day of 1st March is to continue, although the Bill is still in another place and there is no reason to know whether or not it will be law by that date.
Meanwhile, large numbers of professional men do not know what advice to give to their clients. Meanwhile, numbers of people do not know whether or not they can dispose of land with impunity. Of all people, the right hon. Gentleman—a former Minister of Housing and Local Government, even though I must point out that he was the Minister under whom housing declined, but even with that limitation—should know how unwise it is to leave uncertainty in this matter. The Minister of Land and Natural Resources might be allowed to tell us—assuming that he is still in occupation of his office, and even that is in question—what the position is and, perhaps, that he has postponed the appointed day so that ordinary land transactions can go forward, at least, at a pace to sustain the rate of the housing programme which the Government contemplate.
Again, today, for the "umpteenth" time, we have not had an assurance by the Colonial Secretary that he will not hand over the people of Gibraltar, without their consent, to any foreign rule. If we were able to continue to sit in the House we would be able to continue to press him, as some of us care a great deal about Gibraltar.
I give a great deal of weight to the anxiety of hon. Members below the gangway opposite over the highly dangerous situation in Vietnam. I agree with them 1204 about the seriousness of that position, although our approaches are exactly opposite. My alarm is that, while we are away, the Government may give us another sample of their weakness in collaboration with the United States as they did when the Prime Minister made that unhappy statement criticising the Americans a few months ago.
I am one of those who believe that the future peace of the world depends on the Anglo-American Alliance. I am not sure that I trust the Government, without Parliamentary criticism, to maintain that position during these next weeks. Though my views are exactly opposed to those of hon. Members opposite, we are united in the view that this is a delicate situation, and one that it is dangerous to leave to the unsupervised activities of Her Majesty's Government—
§ Mr. David Winnick (Croydon, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In relation to this Motion, is there any limit to where the Americans can go in Vietnam; any point at which the right hon. Members would say to the Americans, "So far, and no further"? Or does he believe in unconditional support of the American forces?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
That fascinating discussion must await another occasion, but I think that I can rely on the ingenuity of hon. Members opposite to find an occasion. Of course, if we were to succeed in defeating this Motion, we could have a debate on the subject on Thursday, when I should be happy to give my views on the subject, and give reasons for the view some of us hold about the future peace of the world. This is a delicate and dangerous situation, and we want a clear assurance from the Government on how they propose to handle it during these four weeks. If the Motion is carried, they will be immune from Parliamentary criticism during those weeks.
As the House knows, there are a great many more issues of great difficulty and great delicacy. Obviously, the House, and those who serve it, want and look forward to a period of relaxation. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that it would be a pleasure for you to see us not quite so consistently during the next few weeks, 1205 though we all want—[Interruption.] I am not indulging in any hypocrisy about it—to go away for the festive season with a good conscience. We would do that if we had a clear assurance from the Government that the dangerous and delicate matters they will be handling during the next few weeks will be handled in a way which the House would approve. That, I think, is the only responsible way in which the House can adjourn for these weeks.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I do not oppose the Motion. It is the Motion we all expected, and I do not know that anyone would vote against it except with his tongue in his cheek and for other purposes. But it has been the custom for hon. Members to use such Motions to raise matters in which they are in difference from the Government, or in which they have anxieties on which they think that the Government can give assurances that will, at any rate, tide them over the intervening period and relieve their anxieties. I have taken part in such debates myself, and I have the utmost sympathy and agreement with the points raised already by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer).
I want to raise a much narrower question, but one that I hope hon. Members think important. I hope that they will forgive me if I take just a few minutes—I do not propose to be long—in being a little technical about it. I make it clear at once that I do not have in mind or wish to refer to any particular case.
We have a number of British subjects serving at the moment in Aden in the Armed Forces. I am not aware of their exact numbers, but the figure of 7,000 or 8,000 is probably near the mark. What I am anxious about is to whom are those soldiers responsible. Under what law? Answerable to what courts? The position is very doubtful, and I want for two or three minutes—I promise not to be longer—to draw attention of right hon. and hon. Members, and particularly of my right hon. Friends, to the situation as it is disclosed by documents for which we are responsible.
Aden was at one time a Crown Colony. When it was a Crown Colony, there was no doubt about the legal position, and 1206 if it were a Crown Colony today I would not be raising the questions I now raise. Aden is no longer a Crown Colony. It is now a foreign State. By an Agreement made recently between this country and the Federation of South Arabia, Aden ceased to be a Crown Colony and became, instead, one of those federated States.
The Agreement makes it perfectly clear that nevertheless, British sovereignty was preserved by the Agreement under which Aden became one of the Federated States of South Arabia. It still remains British territory. Our sovereign rights and duties presumably still remain. I am not aware of any jurisdiction under which any officer of ours could create courts administering laws which did not exist while it was a Crown Colony and which do not exist in this country.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect, the hon. Gentleman is going into the merits of the case that he is troubled about. He must argue its urgency and its linking with the Motion that we adjourn to mid-January.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am very sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I am bound to go into a little detail—I shall be very careful not to be too long—to make my point clear. We have 7,000 British subjects there—young soldiers, some of them very young soldiers.
I want to quote one paragraph from the Agreement to which this country was a party and under which Aden became one of the Federated States of South Arabia. It says this:Save as may be otherwise agreed between the United Kingdom and the Federation in any particular case or class of case exclusive jurisdiction with respect to all proceedings against members of such Forces and the personnel mentioned in paragraph (1)(a) of Section 4 of this Annex"—which is the relevant one—shall be exercised by Courts and authorities established or recognised by the United Kingdom for this purpose".What I want my right hon. Friends to tell me, if they can—I think that the House ought to be told something about it before we go away for the Christmas holidays—is this. First, is there any agreement to the contrary? If so, what is it? Secondly, if there is no agreement to the contrary, what courts do we recognise or have we established in Aden 1207 since April of this year when Aden became an Arabian State? Thirdly, if we have established or recognised any courts in the State of Aden, what law do they apply? If they exercise any criminal jurisdiction, what sanctions are at their disposal? Is there a right of appeal? If there is, is there a right of appeal to any British court? If not, then to what court? What jurisdiction does any such court of appeal exercise?
I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will not think that these are irrelevant questions to ask about 7,000 young soldiers whom we export without asking them. Surely the men themselves are entitled to know to what law they are answerable? If they were tried by a British court, there would be no difficulty. If they were tried by a court-martial, this would be a British court; and a British court-martial would be bound by the law of this country, just as much in a Colony as it would be here. But this is no longer a Colony.
Yesterday, a statement was made with regard to certain pending investigations against a number of soldiers in Aden. A suggestion was made that they may be tried by a court-martial. Is that quite certain? Or could they be tried by a civil court in Aden; and, if so, what civil court in Aden? And what law would be applied in that civil court? What risks are they running if they do not behave themselves? Surely they are entitled to know this. It is one of the basic principles of our law that people are presumed to know the law, and ignorance of the law is no excuse for offences against it. Could such a principle be invoked in cases where ignorance of the law is inevitable, because nobody has ever told anybody, not even the House of Commons itself, what the law is.
If we are continuing this policy of sending a British military presence east of Suez or west of Suez or north of Suez or south of Suez, surely we ought to have some guide to ensure that the soldiers that we send there are properly protected by ordinary British principles in British courts exercised by British officials and that we do not hand them over to some vague, ambiguous, undefined, court in a foreign country, or foreign country even for a limited purpose—a court which we have established or recognised under 1208 some power which is outside the ordinary laws of the United Kingdom.
I do not want to labour the point in any way. I think that I have said enough to indicate that this is an important question. It is not my fault that I could not ask questions about it earlier. I sought to do so, but, for reasons that everybody knows, I was not allowed to ask the questions before and I am asking them now.
None of these questions has anything to do with the Royal Prerogative. None of these questions has anything to do with the particular penalty. None of these questions has anything to do with any particular case. All these things are things which the House of Commons ought to want to know. I hope that the Government, before asking us to take a final decision on the Motion, will give us some information to satisfy us that we are not sending young soldiers into foreign fields and subject to foreign law without any control or any right in any Member of the House of Commons to ask a question about it before, or after, or at any time.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
We are asked to agreeThat this House at its rising Tomorrow do adjourn until Tuesday 17th January.My point about the Motion arises from the fact that between those dates comes 1st January, from which time onwards a central feature of the Government's economic policy will be the criterion of severe restraint. It is very undesirable—I endorse the remarks of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker Smith) in this context—that the House should leave the Government in the present state of, as it were, suspended economic animation, because we know very little about the supposed criterion of severe restraint.
I think that it is very important not only that the nation should know, but also that the House should be told. Our experience hitherto suggests that these are, in fact, two different propositions, because, although the Government show a procilivity to consult those whom they regard as their friends among the elite of the C.B.I., the T.U.C., and various bodies like the National Economic Development Council, it is almost as a 1209 matter of privilege and condescension that back benchers are told what are the thoughts so privy to the Government's policy.
Our thinking has been concentrated on this point with the events of the last two or three days concerning the issue of lower-paid workers. This arises from the reference to the National Board for Prices and Incomes of the settlement of the Agricultural Wages Council. That has not yet been the subject of any discussion in the House, because no opportunity has existed. Are we to suppose that it is self-evident that agricultural workers do not come under the consideration of the lower-paid? Is it the Government's proposition that the record of productivity in agriculture is so self-evidently deficient that agricultural workers cannot have their claim considered to be covered by that criterion?
Those are precisely the issues that should be elaborated now, before 1st January, not only so that those employed in the industry may feel that they are receiving something like justice, but so that all those engaged in negotiations on incomes can build up some kind of guidelines from Government decisions of this character.
I regard the reference of the Agricultural Wages Council award to the National Board for Prices and Incomes with a great deal of suspicion, which is heightened by the Government's apparent reluctance to elaborate on exactly what thoughts and issues prompted them to made such a decision. We know that 80 per cent. of those employed in agriculture are presumed to receive earnings about the minimum rates set by the Board. The Government may feel that that is a relevant factor, and, if so, the House should be told before 1st January.
As the only opportunity seems to lie in the answer to this debate, I hope that I shall not ask in vain, not least because the Leader of the House, who is to answer, is a farmer, and, therefore, has a direct interest in the agricultural prosperity of this country.
§ Mr. Biffen
The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) 1210 says that his right hon. Friend is a hobby farmer. I cannot entirely endorse his ungenerous comments, and I must ask him not to try to embroil me in that kind of controversy with his right hon. Friend.
My point is of a much more general application. After all, it was the Leader of the House who told us that the Government's economic measures were carefully calculated. If they are to be, and seen to he, carefully calculated, we must have a great deal more evidence of the care and calculation than we have hitherto been treated to, particularly in respect of the treatment of agricultural workers in the reference of the Agricultural Wages Council's decision to the National Board for Prices and Incomes.
My point may seem narrow, but it will not be considered narrow by those involved in agriculture and everyone else who has to deliberate on and conclude the fixing of incomes. I have dealt with the one point of how one defines the lower-paid. But my points could be made with equal, if not more, force when seeking to interpret how one decides whether productivity justifies the fixing of a certain income.
Many of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite also wish to contribute to the debate, and I therefore conclude my remarks. But I very much hope that the Leader of the House will seek to satisfy me on this.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I wish to follow the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in that I feel that as we go into recess this Christmas the world is beset with many serious international problems in Europe, Gibraltar and Rhodesia, but that none is as serious as the problem that faces the world in the war that continues and escalates in Vietnam.
Because of that and the very unsatisfactory replies my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave at Question Time yesterday on the extension of the bombing of North Vietnam, particularly the bombing of Hanoi, I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to clarify the position before we go into recess.
At present, many conflicting reports are coming out of Vietnam, and there are 1211 also conflicting reports on the American position. We now know that there are 378,000 American troops in South Vietnam, and we know that there was bombing of Hanoi. How great the bombing was, and how near the centre of the city, we are not absolutely clear, but it is clear that the population centre of Hanoi has been seriously bombed.
§ Mr. Crossman
Perhaps I misunderstood my hon. Friend. I thought that he said that the centre of the city had been bombed. Perhaps I misheard him.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)
Through my hon. Friend, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether the bombing of the suburbs of a city is not as damaging as bombing the centre?
§ Mr. Orme
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was trying to help my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr).
Because of the serious situation, the British Government's attitude should be made crystal clear. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is on record as saying that the Government dissociate themselves from the bombing of the population centres of Haiphong and Hanoi, and the Labour Party conference is on record as being against the extension of the bombing into North Vietnam. While I think that all of us welcomed the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and wished him success in his endeavours to reach a peaceful settlement in Vietnam, we were greatly distressed at his replies in the House yesterday, and we told him so then.
1212 Another point I wish to raise relates to the conflicting statements coming out of the United States at the moment. I think that all of us will be pleased with the statement—
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
When my hon. Friend says "all of us", does he include me? He said "all of us" twice, and I wish he would make it clear who "all of us" are.
§ Mr. Hale
My hon. Friend would not wish to misrepresent me. He included all of us in welcoming various decisions and statements that have been made and spoke of the general approval of all hon. Members on this side of the House of certain things that have happened. I hope that he will understand that I am in complete agreement with the point he is making, which is extremely important, but "all of us" commits too much. I hope that he will go on to say that there is now a possible threat from the American Senate of the bombing of British ships during the Recess.
§ Mr. Orme
My hon. Friend has, quite rightly, challenged the point I was making. I was trying to infer that, while not endorsing the policy that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary might be following—and I have been highly critical of this aspect of Government policy—we would at least wish the Government well if they were seriously considering getting a settlement of the war. I am not really interested in who helps to achieve it, so long as it is achieved. That is the only point I make.
I want to deal, also, with the conflicting statements that are coming from the United States. My hon. Friend referred to the statement that ships which are servicing Haiphong at the moment might be bombed. I would put on a different and higher plane the statement made by Senator Mansfield, the Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate, calling for an extension of the truce to 47 days so that the bombing might cease over that period and a real attempt might be made to reach a successful settlement.
1213 In addition, I think that my hon. Friends would say that we hope that the statement—and perhaps what I have said about the Foreign Secretary might be put in the same context—that Mr. Goldberg made yesterday to U Thant was made with sincerity and from a genuine desire to obtain peace in Vietnam, because surely we all hope that U Thant can be in a position to negotiate something that he has long desired to negotiate—a peaceful settlement.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
I agree with what my hon. Friend is saying. Does he think that there is any connection between the peace talks which we hope will develop and the bombing of Hanoi because, being suspicious-minded, it would appear to some of us that the bombing of Hanoi is deliberately intended to "kybosh" the possibilities of a peaceful settlement?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. It is not in order to canvass this point in any detail. Hon. Members must address themselves to the question of whether we should adjourn until 17th January.
§ Mr. Orme
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that I can link that point to the question of the Adjournment.
I know that many hon. Members wish to speak on this issue and I conclude with one final appeal. Certain moves have been made—Mr. Goldberg's approach to U Thant and Senator Mansfield's appeal for a 47-day truce—but none of these things can be successful while the bombing is extended and escalated into North Vietnam. This is where the British Government, as co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference, have some responsibility to say to the United States that we will not achieve a peaceful settlement if bombing of Hanoi or Haiphong and other population centres is extended.
I implore the Government to say to the United States, during the Recess, that if we wish to achieve a peaceful settlement of the war, the first thing that must happen is the cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam. This must be made clear and categoric. From that could come other measures which could bring about a peaceful settlement. I ask the Government to concentrate on this position.
1214 There are all sorts of rumours about the United States wanting British troops to support American troops in Vietnam and there are conflicting reports that they want a peaceful settlement. I believe that the majority of our people, both in this House and outside, want to see a peaceful settlement and not a further escalation of the war. Let us take the first step by asking that the bombing cease, that peaceful negotiations start and that we have implementation of the 1954 Geneva Agreement.
I urge the Government to implement this policy during the Recess.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
There are two quite different reasons why the House should not adjourn tomorrow although they are wholly unconnected. The first directly affects the position of the right hon. Gentleman as Leader of the House. We have not had an opportunity to debate the extension of Parliamentary privilege which has resulted from the decision taken by the Prime Minister just over two years ago to protect M.P.s and peers from the possibility of the tapping of their telephones on the authority of the Home Secretary.
I do not think that anyone in the House was very impressed by the Prime Minister's argument that this was not an extension of Parliamentary privilege, because, clearly, it must have been. It is only the fact that I have the letters "M.P." after my name which has resulted in this extension of privilege to me. I think that the House will agree with the Prime Minister that it is not for him, as he said, in reply to a Question I put to him last week, either to increase or decrease Parliamentary privilege. He has shown considerable reluctance to pursue this matter further and his replies to Questions have been unsatisfactory.
Members of Parliament and peers have not asked for this privilege. In my opinion, they do not deserve it and I believe that a great many hon. Members on both sides will agree with that. They do not want to be above the law in this respect. The unanimous recommendations of the all-party Committee of Privy Councillors which reported in 1957 made it clear that, excepting insofar as the very narrow confines of existing Parliamentary privilege are concerned, when it comes to 1215 telephone conversations hon. Members should not be above the law in this very important respect.
I do not want to make a long speech about this important question now, which is a matter for Parliament as a whole. I am sorry that the Prime Minister apparently did not consult anyone, apart from the Paymaster-General, as far as I know—he has told us that he consulted him—before making this decision in secret more than two years ago without announcing it to the House. The decision he made then was wrong and unjustified. I believe that this is a non-party House of Commons matter, about which there must be a great deal of agreement on both sides of the House. The question should be debated and a full explanation given to the House by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
My only reason for interrupting is that I would not like the hon. Gentleman to continue his speech on the assumption that both sides of the House agree with him that telephone tapping of M.P.s' telephones is desirable. I certainly do not agree.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I am glad to hear it. The hon. Gentleman and I do not agree on the matter. I have a shrewd suspicion, however, that there must be hon. and right hon. Members on both sides who regard the Prime Minister's decision as wrong and unjustified and a clear extension of Parliamentary privilege. I hope I am right in saying that this is not a party matter but a House of Commons matter, but I know that the hon. Gentleman does not agree with me and that he may not be alone in that.
I want to turn now to the other question I wish to raise. It arises from the unhappy Rhodesian situation. Many of us wanted to speak in the two-day Rhodesia debate and many were disappointed, including myself, although that is something I have become used to after a number of years in this place. I shall not make the speech now that I was going to make then, but there are two aspects of the Rhodesian question which I wish to raise now.
The first is my anxiety, which I believe to be very widely shared in the country and throughout the Conservative Party, 1216 that the imposition of mandatory sanctions by the United Nations may well have dangerous side effects and escalate beyond this country's control. The fact that the Government are still maintaining the fiction that the South African Government is likely to co-operate with the United Nations in imposing mandatory sanctions seems to be an absurd situation.
We should be told before adjourning whether the Government would use the veto in the event of a demand at the Security Council for mandatory sanctions to be imposed by force against South Africa. Would the veto be used or not? We ought to be told. If we are not told that it would, that is bound to heighten our anxiety that mandatory sanctions may well get beyond Britain's control.
The chief point I want to make is much narrower, although equally important. The Prime Minister told us only today—and this emphasises the need for this matter to be further discussed—that the offer of independence before majority rule had been withdraw. The House has not had an opportunity of expressing its views about that flat refusal to continue with that offer.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the Prime Minister gave this information to the House only today, but he will be aware that clause 10 of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' communiqué provided for certain measures to be taken in the event of failure to agree and that that the Prime Minister said some days ago that clause 10 was now in operation.
§ Sir T. Beamish
The Liberal Whip is assuming that the Prime Minister was right in being forced into this unhappy position at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference, something with which I do not personally agree. If it is right up to 31st December to offer the illegal Government of Rhodesia independence before majority rule, it must also be right on 1st January, 1967. Today, the Prime Minister slammed the door on further negotiations with the illegal Government. If I am wrong in that, I hope that I shall be told, but if it is the case, a new situation has arisen which ought to be debated in the House before we rise for the Christmas Recess.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
I think that my hon. and gallant Friend will be interested to hear that I have today had a very disturbing report from Rhodesia to say that a party of people who had chartered a flight from Trans-Globe Airways to fly back here had had their aeroplane cancelled because all aeroplanes had been commandeered for the removal of British troops to Central Africa and Malawi.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I have no knowledge of that, but I am sure that the House has heard with interest what my hon. Friend has said.
The point I want to make about this withdrawal of the offer of independence before African majority rule is that the effect is to pull the rug away from beneath the feet of the moderates in Rhodesia whom we want to encourage, men like Lord Malvern, who has just taken a full page advertisement in the Salisbury Herald for a statement which has already had the support of more than 400 leading citizens of Rhodesia, and who once told Mr. Smith that the right thing for a Rhodesian Government to do was to "build up an African middle class and make friends with it". That is the good advice which he gave and that is the sort of advice which I want to be followed.
What help is it to men like Lord Malvern and other moderates in politics or the Churches or the responsible Press or leading members of the business and commercial community to pull the rug away from their feet at the very time when at last they are beginning to exert some influence in Rhodesia, something which they have been unable to do because of the censorship in the last 12 months.
§ Mr. Hale
I am distressed by the interruption of the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor). We should have a little more detail about where the telegram came from. However, would the hon. and gallant Member be good enough to tell me how he defines "moderate" in politics?
§ Sir T. Beamish
I would not like to do so on the spur of the moment, but I can think of a good many definitions. What I mean by moderate in politics in Rhodesia is precisely what I have said. 1218 I mean anyone in Rhodesia, no matter what the colour of his skin, who believes in a non-racial society and who wants to create one. That is moderate in terms of Rhodesian politics. I can think of all kinds of different definitions, but I hope that that makes clear what I am talking about in the context of Rhodesia.
These moderates exist. Let the House not forget that the 1961 Constitution, which it was generally thought would lead to African majority rule in Salisbury in about 15 years, was accepted by the Rhodesian electorate by two to one in the June, 1961 referendum, thus showing that the Rhodesian electorate is at heart a moderate electorate which realises that it has to live with an African majority. I profoundly believe that to be true.
By his unqualified withdrawal of the offer of independence before African majority rule the Prime Minister has done something which will be extremely distressing for moderate opinion, African and European, in Rhodesia and the House ought to have the opportunity to debate this very important aspect of the Rhodesian situation before we adjourn for the Christmas Recess.
This would at any rate give the Prime Minister the opportunity to show that the offer of independence before an African majority has been achieved was still open to any legal Government in Rhodesia. If not, I believe that he will have made a terrible mistake.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I wish to return to what I regard as the most important question of all, that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and others on this side of the House—the issue of Vietnam. Of course, I would not deny for a moment that there are many other important questions which hon. Members have raised, or may wish to raise later.
All I will say in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) is that if the Government had not made their statement about Rhodesia today there might have been trouble in other quarters. We were extremely grateful to hear what was said by the Government, and I am sure that the Leader of the House will not in any sense qualify what was said by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Foot
I have my right hon. Friend with me right away, for he is much too cautious and timid to do that. Anyhow, he agrees with the Prime Minister.
Of course, the declaration by the Government was extremely important, and I am gratified that the Government made it so clearly and I hope that it will be appreciated throughout the whole of Africa and the rest of the world, and that its significance will be appreciated at the United Nations.
I now turn to Vietnam. The proposition which I should like to put to the House, and the reason why I believe this to be strictly relevant to the Motion before us, is that in some respects it appears that the next three or four weeks may be the most crucial weeks in the whole period since the intensification of the Vietnam war from February 1965.
During the past 10 days and in the last few hours, a conjunction of events has occurred which means that it is extremely probable that the countries involved in the Vietnam dispute in one way or another will have to take critical decisions during these weeks. That is why we are so concerned to have declarations, or at any rate indications, by the Government of what their policy is.
If we can solve the Vietnam dispute, who knows what else can be solved throughout the world? We could get settlements between East and West; we could get settlements with the Soviet Union. Things we have been longing for for years could be almost within our grasp if we could get a settlement in Vietnam. The whole complexion of the world could be changed. The Government may well have to make decisions during these next two or three weeks, decisions which may affect the whole outcome in Vietnam. This is what I wish to present to the House, underlining some of the points which have already been made, but indicating how crucial is the situation now presented in Vietnam.
Firstly, we have to consider exactly what has happened in Vietnam itself during these last few days to alter the situation and to make it so crucial now. The answers which were given by the Government yesterday did not seem to indicate that they understood. The 1220 replies given by the Foreign Secretary seemed to accept—I do not put it more offensively than that—the explanations which were being made by the American administration about what had happened in Hanoi.
I ask the Government to consider one of the reports we have had from elsewhere,from Hanoi itself, and not from any North Vietnamese witness but from the journalist acting for the French newspapers in Hanoi. This was his report on 15th December.This city was once more plunged into total war with the raids of Tuesday and yesterday, the longest, the most violent, and perhaps the most menacing to the future of this city's people.Then followed a long report from the French correspondent in Hanoi telling of the effects of the bombing, of how near it had come to the centre of the city, and what were its consequences—an account which certainly could not be squared with that given to us by the Foreign Secretary yesterday.
Let us consider the significance of bombing on this scale so near to the centre of Hanoi, and how this may affect the situation in the next few weeks. Let us take again, not the comment of a biased witness, but that of the New York Times. Only a day or two ago, the New York Times had a leading article on what it thought were the facts of what occurred in Hanoi. It said,Once bombs dropped on the fringes of the city, nothing could possibly have been done to prevent the world from learning the fact. Instead, Saigon denied it, Washington equivocated, and the world had another reason to doubt the news—or the lack of it—that comes out of the United States about Vietnam. Bombing within an hairs breadth of Hanoi has a special meaning, and its impact is going to be world wide. Unfortunately for the United States, that impact is going to be all the greater because Washington and American Headquarters in Saigon did not admit such bombing—and, in fact, denied it—until circumstances forced a confession. As the war escalates, so does the credibility gap.This is the New York Times commenting on what occurred in Hanoi last week, and I think it would have been much better, and certainly more comforting for hon. Members on this side of the House, if the Foreign Secretary had not appeared to accept so readily the earlier American explanation of what had occurred, and if he had taken into 1221 account what is being said by such independent witnesses as the French journalist I have quoted in Hanoi and the New York Times in its leading article in the United States.
There are further implications. Even before the most recent bombing, there were, of course, discussions about new peace moves. One of the most sinister aspects of Vietnam, ever since February 1965, if not earlier, has been that whenever there appeared to be a strengthening of moves towards a settlement, orders have been given for intensification of the war. This has occurred on frequent occasions, and this latest event is a very serious aspect of the whole affair.
I do not ask hon. Gentlemen to accept my word. I beg leave to quote the comment of the New York Times on the situation which we face today, and which we shall have to face in the next few weeks, on the conjunction of the bombing, the intensified bombing, and the possibility of moves towards peace. I am sure that the members of the Government, in-eluding the Leader of the House, are as passionately eager to see peace in Vietnam as I am. I am not questioning the Government's good faith in that sense. I am sure they are, but I wish the Government would pay more attention to these facts which come from independent witnesses, of how there are elements in the United States who do not wish to see the peace that the Government want to see. Whenever there is a move, whether by our Government, by elements in the United States, or by U Thant, to start negotiations afresh, orders are given from the Pentagon, or from some other source, which endanger it.
I do not ask hon. Gentlemen to accept my word. I ask them to listen to the comment of the New York Times on precisely the situation which we have to deal with here, a comment made in last Saturday's editorial:The bombing of targets on the fringes of Hanoi, when new efforts are under way to achieve peace negotiations, is bound to undermine faith in the genuineness of Washington's latest offer to discuss a prolonged cease fire. Unhappily this is not the first instance of intensified American military action during peace efforts. Initiation of continuous bombing of North Vietnam was ordered in 1965 after months in which the Johnson administration ignored secret offers of Hanoi to confer communicated through Moscow and U Thant.1222 It goes on to describe other instances of when peace moves were initiated and intensified military action was initiated almost at the same time. It concludes:Canada's peace envoy, Chester Ronning expressed a widespread belief among experts when he said recently that the bombing is stiffening Hanoi's determination to fight on. 'They will not come to the conference table on their knees', he said.That was said by the last independent person of authority from the West who was able to visit Hanoi. I suggest that the House and the Government should take some note of it. It is a representative of the Commonwealth speaking there. The leading article in the New York Times continues:The bombing of targets close to the heart of Hanoi—whether initiated this month or earlier—obviously precludes such discussion.That is, that the peace discussion.Mr. U Thant has described it as an intensification of the war and most other observers would agree. It also represents a change of administration policy, which earlier excluded the densely populated Hanoi and Haiphong areas from aerial attack. The manner in which this critical policy change …This is the New York Times description of what has happened in the past ten days—… has reached public awareness, and the evasive statements that have accompanied it, cannot help but sap world confidence in Washington's intentions. For, along with military targets, what has been bombed on the fringes of Hanoi is any prospect of peace talks.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman should not pursue this in greater detail. He must confine his observations to giving reasons why the House should not adjourn until 17th January.
§ Mr. Foot
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I was seeking to do that. I am seeking to argue that the next few weeks, because of the reasons which I have sought to outline, will be more critical in the Vietnamese war than any other period. It may very well be that decisions will have to be made in the next two or three weeks, by the American Government and by other Governments, including our own, which will affect the question of whether the war continues. Therefore, before we allow the Government to depart for this period, in which they themselves may have to participate 1223 in decisions having such long-term consequences for the whole world, I want to know what is the Government's policy. What the Government has told us since these new critical events have occurred do not give me any comfort.
I have, I hope, quite fairly and for the most part not in my own words, but in the words of the most distinguished American newspaper, described the new situation which has to be dealt with arising from the bombing. But there is also, I am glad to say, a new situation arising from the initiative described in today's newspapers, the initiative taken by Mr. Arthur Goldberg on behalf of the United States Government at the United Nations in appealing to U Thant and suggesting to him that this is the moment when he could mediate or take proposed action for discussion.
I a very glad to read that statement, and I am very glad that Mr. Goldberg has made it. Many of us have for weeks and months past urged our own Government to pay special regard to the proposals which U Thant has made for settling the dispute. I do not quarrel, therefore, with any proposal that he should be asked to mediate. I am very much in favour of it. In my view, it would have been very much better if the United Nations had been brought into this matter much earlier. Indeed, the Americans would not have any authority to continue with their retaliatory bombing in Vietnam if this matter had been brought to the United Nations at the very beginning. However, that is beside the point.
The question now is how our Government are to make sure in the next week or two that we use our maximum influence to ensure that the initiative which U Thant is being asked to undertake shall prosper and that the intensifying of the bombing, which could destroy the whole of that initiative, shall be stopped. This is what concerns us, and we have had no plain indication from the Government of what their attitude about it is.
I hope that the Government will tell us, as my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) asked, that we shall be pressing most urgently throughout this coming period for the stopping of the bombing. That is not 1224 all we should press for, of course, but I put this request to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. Will the Government now, in private but also, and preferably, in public, make a statement, which they have so far refrained from making, and act upon it? I do not believe that the statement for which we ask would offend any section in the House or the country. In fact, it would be widely welcomed. On many occasions during these past months, I have asked the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and others to say whether the British Government agree with the three points put forward by U Thant for an approach to a settlement of the Vietnam dispute. Each time I have asked, I have been given what I can only describe as a reply which does not deal with the question. I have been told that the Government seek peace, that they want a negotiated settlement, that they must pursue it in their own way, but I have never had an answer on whether they agree with the U Thant proposals.
This is the time when the Government should make perfectly clear that they will give the maximum support to U Thant in the efforts he will make. They can best do this by saying that they appreciate the proposals which U Thant has put forward and that the British Government now favour them. I think that that would be going further than they have already gone. I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will be able to say that tonight and that it will be the policy pursued by the Government in the coming weeks.
I hope, also, that we shall have today, before Parliament departs, a plain reiteration of the Government's declared policy on the question of the bombing. Many of us have protested bitterly against the support which the Government declared for the American bombing of North Vietnam. I was bitterly opposed to the whole bombing project. In my view, it was never justified and could not be justified in any way under the Charter of the United Nations. But we did have from the Government, following strong pressure from this side of the House, at the Labour Party Conference and elsewhere, a clear undertaking that they dissociated themselves and this country from the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. That was part of their policy, and we, therefore, asked yesterday that 1225 the Foreign Secretary should repeat the undertaking in words which could be understood here and on the other side of the Atlantic as well. But we did not get it. We are absolutely entitled to it, and I hope that we shall get it today.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Leader of the House to sit there reading the Evening News when my hon. Friend is asking these questions? Should not he listen to the debate?
§ Mr. Foot
I am asking my right hon. Friends to consider whether they will reiterate the statement which was made to the House and the country that they are opposed to the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong and that they dissociate themselves from it entirely.
There are many other things which they will have to do during these weeks. They will have to exert their influence where we have an influence. Many of us on this side have had differences with the Government on this question over many months. Our difference has been that we believe that we should have expressed our dissociation from American policy right from the beginning, and we still hold strongly to that view. The Government have always replied—it is the best answer which they have had to offer and, although it has not persuaded me, it has persuaded many people—"Our policy means that we have power and influence with the United States Government, and by not making ringing declarations in public we have the power to persuade them behind the scenes". That has been their claim. Very well. This is the moment for them to exert their influence and press to the very limit. They will be pressing on the side of the New York Times and all those elements in the United States which have been pressing in the same way. One of the most regrettable aspects of the whole matter is that, while there have been many people in the United States and large sections of liberal opinion—Senator Fulbright, Walter Lippman and others—who for months and, indeed, throughout the whole Vietnam war have been pressing for a different policy, those people have had precious little assistance from Her Majesty's Government.
I ask that the Government, during these critical weeks, use all their power 1226 on the side of those in the United States who are pressing for a liberal policy in Vietnam and use all their influence to oppose those who wish to intensify the war there. They should make these intentions as plain as they possibly can to the House of Commons today.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
I have been struck by the illogical attitude adopted by some hon. Members who suggest, on the one hand, that we should do everything possible to end a war in Vietnam—I entirely agree there—but who, at virtually the same moment, suggest that we should do everything possible to start another war in Africa. This is what is likely to happen as a result of the Government's present position on Rhodesia and what hon. Members are now urging.
I believe that it is not too late even now, while we are in Recess and before 1st January, for reason to operate on both sides and for efforts to reach an agreement on the procedure to be adopted regarding Rhodesia, which, in any event, in my opinion, is a matter of only minimal importance. But, as I say, there are many hon. Members who amaze me by seeming to suggest that we ought to do everything possible to cause another nation to end a war while at the same time doing everything possible to bring about a war with one of our Colonies.
However, I shall spend no more time on that. I return to the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen), who asked some very interesting questions about the prices and incomes policy. What is to be the Government's attitude during the Recess with regard to Regulations under Part IV of the Prices and Incomes Act? It was during the last Recess that Regulations were laid which prevented employers from carrying out the terms of contracts which they had entered into long before 20th July.
There were many of us who, both in the House and in the Standing Committee on the Prices and Incomes Bill, pointed out that the procedure for the laying of Regulations under Part IV was quite contrary to the procedure under Part II of the original Bill. Under Part II, Regulations were to be laid under the 1227 affirmative procedure, and they could operate only after the House had passed a Resolution. Under Part IV, a Regulation can be laid and can become operative immediately so long as within 28 days thereafter the House of Commons is asked to confirm an affirmative Order.
That means that at any time during the Recess the Government will be able to lay a Regulation to bring in Part IV of the Act concerning any part of the wages, salaries or prices structure. The reason why I ask for confirmation or explanation on this point is purely because the last Recess was used to introduce Regulations.
We have not had information about how the period of severe restraint will operate. It is due to operate, we are told, from 1st January. General guidelines have been laid out, but there are many people, not only Members of the House of Commons, but people actively engaged in wage and salary negotiations, who seem to be as much in the dark as we are. This is completely wrong.
Indeed, I read a statement only the other day by a man who was a member of the Prices and Incomes Board who was reported as having said that never again will we go back to what we formerly knew as the wage negotiating system. Is this part of Government policy? These are the sort of questions that require an answer before the House decides to go away for this period.
The other point which I wish to raise obviously affects my constituents, who ask what sort of protection they can have or can expect from the Home Secretary when prisoners escape so often from Dartmoor Prison. Not only are my constituents, the normal citizens, with wives and families, disturbed when a newspaper report suggests that a recent escaped prisoner should not be approached as he is extremely dangerous and suggesting that farmers should get out double-barrelled shotguns before they approach this prisoner, but constituents who are members of the police force and of the special police are called upon to turn out and set up road blocks and do everything they can to take the prisoner and prevent him from becoming a danger to the community around the prison.
1228 I notice that in his statement on this prisoner's escape the Home Secretary said thatone of the important provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill is designed somewhat to reduce the prison population".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1966; Vol. 738, c. 253.]This is one way in which the prison population is helping the Home Secretary, by leaving the prisons, but I do not think that that was what the right hon. Gentleman really meant. When we read reports of the sort of conditions in which this prisoner lived, one begins to wonder why he left prison at all, unless he wanted to spend Chirstmas at home.
The important thing is that the Home Secretary has, I understand, had an inquiry made at the prison into the circumstances surrounding the escape and, I hope, the general circumstances surrounding other escapes, which are becoming too numerous for my constituents and, no doubt, many other people in Devon to feel other than that the situation at Dartmoor leaves a great deal to be desired. Questions of this sort should be answered before we pass the Motion.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) and others of my hon. Friends have raised matters of global importance about Vietnam, to which I would add just one point. As one who six months ago was in Cambodia, I am extremely concerned that the Government should keep an eye on the alleged violation of the Cambodian frontiers and, equally, an eye on what is happening in Thailand, which could develop into as serious a situation as Vietnam. But although these matters of global importance and other issues concerning the economic situation have been raised, I wish to speak shortly on a relatively minor matter of nothing like the same importance.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will recollect that week after week my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) and I have, with dogged persistence, although regrettably unsuccessfully, asked him to afford time for a debate on sport. There is no formidable lobby for sport in the House of Commons, but there are a great many 1229 people outside who are interested in it. I put it to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that certain urgent matters arise not only following the publication of the first-ever Annual Report of the Sports Council, but out of the urgent question of money. It needs no inside knowledge, of which I have none, of the way the Government work to realise that this will be the time of year when major decisions will be taken concerning the allocation of public expenditure for the coming year.
The purpose of my intervention is to bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House the feeling that expenditure on sport should not be cut down any more and should, if possible, be increased. I am well aware of the difficulties of the Government, and I would not wish to criticise them for what they have had to do in the measures of 20th July to the sports budget, because, if anything had to be cut, perhaps it was right that it should be expenditure on swimming baths and the like, which clearly take a priority far less than that of housing, schools and our other absolute priorities.
None the less, by 17th January it will be too late to do anything about these matters. For better or worse, public expenditure decisions such as sport will be solidified. That is why I ask my right hon. Friend to give us at least the assurance that he will convey to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the other decision-makers in these matters that the feeling has been expressed that the sports budget should no longer be the Cinderella in our major Cabinet decisions.
It is not, however, merely a question of money. There is need for time to be allocated to a fruitful debate on the workings not only of the Sports Council, but of the regional sports councils, on which several hon. Members of this House serve. If it is doubted that there is urgency for this matter, the fact is that many important conferences will take place, as they always do on these matters, over the Christmas and New Year period at which decisions will be reached. Before those conferences take place during the Recess, there is, I would have thought, a case for Members of Parliament to express their views on these matters.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that the earlier reply of the Leader of the House that this was a matter for private Members is somewhat unfair as the Report of the Sports Council is a report from a body set up by the Government and a body responsible to the Department of Education and Science and, therefore, ultimately, in a sense, responsible to this House?
§ Mr. Dalyell
I agree to this extent. I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House meant to be helpful in replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley that this matter was, perhaps, best attended to by Private Members; but it is not for want of asking on the part of certain private Members that there has been no opportunity to debate sport this Session.
§ Mr. Dalyell
There is another matter of some urgency. In the Annual Report of the Sports Council, attention was paid to great projects which could be started by several authorities acting together, for example, in the Lee Valley, at Poles-worth and at Aintree and the like, but if this is to happen, it requires legislation, and it requires urgent legislation, because as the law stands at the moment there are difficulties over the provision of finance from Government sources towards schemes which are initiated by local authorities. That is a matter for Parliament, and the local authorities cannot start moving in these matters till such time as Parliament has made up its mind. There are also other decisions which are to be taken or started to be taken during the Recess—the arrangements for the British Olympic Association and the Government's contribution to it, on the advice of the Sports Council, for the Olympics in Mexico in 1968. All of these are matters of urgency, and so are the development of regional sports councils and the recommendations of the technical advisory service.
Finally, there are certain misconceptions which should urgently be cleared up, resulting from the recent contribution by Mr. Christopher Chataway in the Sunday Times, because to read that one would think this Government had done very little to help sport, whereas my hon. 1231 Friends know—my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley know—great strides have in fact been made. Although there have been certain financial difficulties, remarkable developments have taken place and the misconception that this Government have done nothing to help sport should be cleared up at the earliest opportunity. For all these reasons, I would ask that the Leader of the House pay attention to this matter when he winds up.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine (Tavistock)
I regret that the House should be considering an Adjournment for the Recess before it has had the opportunity to consider the report, or that part of the Mountbatten Report, prepared by Mr. Mark, the Chief Constable of Leicester. The events of the last few days surrounding the escape of Frank Mitchell from Dartmoor Prison are obviously matters of concern beyond my constituency or of just any one hon. Member, although perhaps hon. Members will understand that this particular case, affecting this particular prison, is to me personally one of the very greatest significance, as it is in that locality, and my constituents have every right to be concerned that this matter is not to be debated before the House adjourns. I would be the first to commend the Home Secretary on the speed with which he asked Mr. Mark to go to Dartmoor Prison and prepare his report, but I think one would be forgiven for questioning why there was such dramatic need for speed if we are not to have the opportunity to debate this report before this House adjourns.
It would seem that the Home Secretary, in asking that the Mark report should be added to the Mountbatten report, must have been aware that this would make it impossible for us to have the opportunity to discuss this issue before we adjourn—as it will be impossible if this Motion is carried. I would ask the Leader of the House if he could obtain a statement from the Home Secretary as to why it was not possible for the Mark report to be published separately so that we could have debated it before the adjournment of this House, and why it should be tagged on to the Mountbatten inquiry in the first place.
1232 I am sure every hon. Member would accept that if we are going to achieve this object, which can only be found in a full debate in this Chamber on this subject, it is important to do so at the very first and earliest opportunity, and there are various reasons why I believe this is important. First of all, it is important to maintain public confidence in the prison service and in the Home Secretary. That is a very important factor. Secondly, it is necessary, from my point of view, to be able to answer my constituents' legitimate doubts and worries on this matter when I go back to my constituency at the end of this week, and before I am in a position to do this it seems to me it is necessary for me to have seen and considered and questioned the findings of the Mark inquiry. This, I suspect, I am not going to have the opportunity to do, and that is why I believe that this House should stay here till that report has been published and has been put before all hon. Members. It can only be done, I would submit, with a full debate, and a full opportunity—not only for hon. Members representing constituencies around Dartmoor, but for all hon. Members. It will be remembered that the chances are that Frank Mitchell has now left the vicinity of Dartmoor—and there are hon. Members on both sides who would like to have the opportunity to examine and debate that report.
I think it is profoundly unsatisfactory that people who are directly involved in this escape are not going to have the opportunity for their names to be cleared before this House adjourns. The gravest possible allegations have been made about the Home Secretary himself, about the prison officials in general, and indeed about the prison officers. All these people have had their conduct questioned in the most unfortunate and regrettable way, and all hon. Members will greatly deplore that those people are not going to see their names completely cleared before this House adjourns. It is only fair to those people that we should have the opportunity to see this report and debate it before we adjourn, and I think that we should do so if for no other reason than that.
I would be the first to say—I hope that this is true—that a large number of the things that have been said about the 1233 events leading up to the escape of Frank Mitchell from Dartmoor Prison will be found in the findings of that report to have no substance in fact. That is what I hope to hear. It is what, I am sure, is the wish of all hon. Members in this House. I have no wish here today to encourage or perpetuate the rumours which are flying around my constituency and in the country at large—no wish at all; but the only way in which those rumours can be stopped is, if we are allowed to see the findings of that report.
Those rumours are doing a great deal of harm. All hon. Members know about the rumours which are going about—about taxi drives, to buy budgerigars, about visits to inns in the locality. These may or may not be true. It is not enough for me as the Member representing that constituency to hope they are not true. It is necessary for me to be sure that they are not true, and I can be sure only when I have seen the report and heard it debated in this House.
But the rumours do not stop there. Only today I heard of even more extraordinary events which may have taken place and which I should like—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member cannot go into this matter in great detail. He may only give reasons why the House should not adjourn till 17th January.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I quite appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I was trying to make the point that there is a continuing emergence of rumours of one sort and another, and that they are causing great harm to the prison service, to the Home Secretary, to the prison officers; those rumours are continuing to emerge, and the only way we can stop them from emerging is by publishing and debating the report. I would, with respect, submit that even today I am being presented with an example where it was felt that the honour party—the working party to which Mitchell was attached before his escape—was found to be too close to a firing range at which small arms and ammunition were available, and that it was submitted to the prison authorities that in fact prisoners might be able to obtain either small arms or ammunition. This is yet another rumour which is only just beginning to emerge. This is an example 1234 of what is going on, and the only way to stop it from happening is for us to see the report and debate it in this House.
As I have said, it would give me the greatest possible satisfaction to see them all proved to have no substance. This is what we all want to see, and I think it must be in the interests of the House and of the prison service to have the truth and not speculation about these matters.
I should also like the House to have the chance to consider the cost of recapturing prisoners escaping from Dartmoor. Under the present system the cost of capturing prisoners is borne as to 50 per cent. by the local ratepayers in the county of Devon. This must place upon the shoulders of those whose job it is to organise the hunt the responsibility for deciding the scale on which the hunt should take place, and there is a financial incentive to keep the number of searchers as low as possible. If we are to see yet another escape from Dartmoor prison in the near future—and there have been ten in the course of this year alone—I should not like to think that the local authorities responsible for these hunts were under any sort of financial disincentive to use the greatest possible number of people available.
Public confidence has been badly shaken over the Mitchell escape—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member really must not go into great detail about this episode in giving reasons why the House should not adjourn until 17th January.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I had hoped that I could draw the attention of the House to the need to try and bring speculation to an end as quickly as possible. If we are not able to do that, it will go on until 17th January, by which time it will be far worse, and we do not even know if we shall have a chance to debate the matter then. It would be valuable if the Leader of the House or the Government could tell us if there will be a debate when we get back, but it would be more valuable to have a debate before we go away in the first place.
If I may, I want to give the House an example of the sort of anxiety which surrounds the people living under the shadow of Dartmoor prison. A letter on 1235 the subject has arrived in the last day or so. It reads as follows:…it so happens that over the last few days my wife has been at the farm near Tavistock and alone, except for our son. This has put a most extraordinary strain on both of them, living almost under seige conditions. Milking times have had to be adjusted so that they are in the house before dark with everywhere bolted and barred like a castle, and my wife has been too terrified to walk from one room to another after dark without being accompanied by my son with a loaded gun.What do I say to constituents like that, if we have not been able to examine the matter thoroughly on the floor of the House before we adjourn?
One can understand the human anxiety, to which the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) drew our attention earlier. Simply because we are dealing with speculation, we cannot deal with fact.
There is one final reason which I would put to the Home Secretary in urging him to publish the Report and enable us to have a debate on it before the House adjourns. In this country, over a considerable period of time, there has been a growing feeling for liberalisation of prison conditions and for penal reform of one sort and another. There are many hon. Members who have worked hard to achieve this, and there are many bodies of distinguished people outside the House who have given their lives to try and bring about a different attitude to the conditions that used once to exist within our prison system. The purpose was to try and retrain people who had failed to return to society and give them another chance.
It is one of the great tragedies of the Prison Service that its members are never praised for their successes but only blamed for their failures. By permitting speculation to continue and by enabling this story to be blazoned across the headlines of the nation's Press day after day, the work of those people to improve prison conditions is being threatened in a way totally out of accord with the significance of one particular escape. The longer it goes on, the greater will be the prejudice to the work that they have done. Again, I would say that the only way in which this can be brought to an end is if we can replace the rumour and secrecy with which the matter is surrounded by truth and confidence.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
The House is proposing to adjourn at a time of considerable tension and anxiety in a number of respects. In the last two days, yesterday and today, we have had published a couple of White Papers on matters which are of continuing interest to the House, and I hope that, before the House adjourns, we shall have some statement concerning the future of the British Press which is in grave jeopardy at present.
The first of the White Papers, published yesterday, is entitled, "Report by Mr. Roderic Bowen, Q.C. on Procedures for the Arrest, Interrogation and Detention of Suspected Terrorists in Aden." It is important to say that, contrary to the impression which might have been given by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary yesterday, possibly unintentionally, it does not deny the allegations made by Amnesty International. It neither confirms nor denies them, but certainly it creates a prima facie case for carrying out a thorough investigation during the period in which the House will not be sitting into whether there is substance in the Amnesty report, and I am sure that that will be carried out with great attention.
Today, we have received another White Paper. My right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General decided that he would not offer a statement to the House upon it. I think that he was right in that decision, because White Papers should be the subject of debate rather than the subject of statements. This is a very debatable White Paper, and there are a number of statements in it which the House will want to examine in detail.
Perhaps the Press might bear in mind the fact that, although a White Paper forecasts the probable nature of legislation, it is not in itself legislation. To take certain parts of a White Paper and assume that legislation will follow those parts is not a particularly scientific thing to do. Because we cannot return to this matter until we come back after the Recess, I should like to correct a couple of points before bringing up—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
We really cannot debate the contents of that White Paper. All that we can discuss is whether we should adjourn until 17th January.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I was proposing in this context to suggest that it would be wrong for the House to adjourn until 17th January if it was under the misapprehension that the White Paper was a precise programme for specific action in relation to the future of broadcasting. It seems to me to be a misapprehension which the House might easily have unless one or two words are said in correction of it. What I want to say is no more than that.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government encouraged misapprehensions, if mis-apprehensions there be, by the way in which they have brought in the pay freeze and the period of severe restraint, and that there is far too much Government by White Paper already in other spheres than the one to which the hon. Gentleman is referring?
§ Mr. Jenkins
No. I would not agree with that, and I am not sure that it would be in order for me either to agree or to disagree with it. In fact, I do not agree with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said.
I wish to point to the fact that the Government have said that they do not rule out advertising as a means of financing broadcasting stations in public ownership. I would add to that one further point on the White Paper. It is that the Government consider that more information is required before final judgments are made on the way in which this new service should be constituted and organised. I will say no more on the subject except that if, as is suggested in the White Paper, there is to be local broadcasting in this country, it must be under local control and cannot be controlled centrally by any body.
I should now like to refer to the intervention made by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), which was extremely interesting and pertinent. He referred to reports that British forces at present stationed at bases in Asia are, according to his information, apparently proceeding to bases in Africa at the present moment.
That suggests that, if there is any substance in these reports, during the Recess something may happen which will constitute a re-orientation, or perhaps one can say a de-orientation, of the presence, of British troops in the world. It may be 1238 that British concentration on Asia is to be replaced by concentration on Africa. There are many hon. Members on this side of the House, and there may be some on the benches opposite, who would regard this as a welcome development, because although this country may have—in fact I am sure does have—a peace-making rôle in Asia, I do not believe-and I think that the House generally does not believe—that we have any longer a military rôle to perform in the Far East. If what the hon. Gentleman said were to happen during the Recess, and we were to return to find that a change had been made in the position, or location of British Forces from Asia to Africa, many of us on this side would welcome this development.
I propose now to say a few words in support of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). I ask the Government to recall the House if the bombing of Vietnam is recommenced during the Recess. I welcome the initiative of the American Government in referring the matter to the United Nations, but, as my hon. Friend said, too often in the past President Johnson's fair words of peace have been accompanied by actions to escalate the war.
If the President really wants peace, the best thing that he can do is to stop the bombing unconditionally—
§ Mr. Jenkins
—and, as my hon. Friend says, withdraw his troops. The British Government will carry no credibility as international peace-makers until they tell the United States to do precisely that, but it would be unrealistic to suppose that the American Government would be likely to withdraw their troops from Vietnam prior to any negotiations.
It has been suggested from time to time that those who have spoken in the sense that my hon. Friend has spoken, and as I am speaking now, should address ourselves also to Hanoi. I have done that, and my final comment to the Government is that if they were to pay a little more attention to what is said from Hanoi, and to check the reports which are made by French correspondents and others who have been there, they might 1239 decide to change their attitude to this matter.
The most certain way to stiffen the will of a nation to resist is to bomb it. It all depends on what sort of bombing is carried out.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I do not want to keep interrupting the hon. Member, but this is really quite irrelevant to the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am bound to suggest that if bombing is carried to a certain point it changes its nature, and we may have the development of escalation to the point of nuclear war. If, following the President's peace approaches, the previous pattern is followed, and a major peace approach is accompanied by a major escalation of war, it is possible that while we are away the world will find itself faced with a nuclear war.
It therefore seems right and proper that we should draw attention to the fact that at a moment of hope for peace, there is also a moment of peril, namely, the possibility of a further escalation of the war, and I think that we would do well to seek from my right hon. Friend an assurance that if anything of that sort were to occur during the Recess he would not hesitate to recommend the Government to recall the House.
The special relationship which the Government are supposed to have with the Americans would be of no value at all if the price of support on Rhodesia was consent to disaster in Asia. Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary refused to reafirm the Prime Minister's opposition to the killing of civilians inherent in the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. I hope that my right hon. Friend will reaffirm that opposition when he replies to the debate. It must be reaffirmed if the Government wish to retain the support of the House. I am convinced that neither Members of Parliament, nor the people of this country, will allow the Government to consent to the continued and increasing slaughter of the people of a small and almost defenceless nation in the name of freedom.
I have received a letter, and perhaps I might be allowed to quote from it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have indicated the limits within which this debate must take place, and I think that the hon. Member has transgressed those limits.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker and will say no more except to invite my right hon. Friend to deal with some of the points which I have raised.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
In only seven years in this House and during the course of about 28 of these debates. I have not heard hon. Members mention so many subjects on which they have grave anxieties. It is clear that it is not just on this side of the House that there is a deep mistrust of the way the Government may behave when the House is in Recess.
I want to say a few words about Rhodesia, about which I am far from happy, because it seems to me that many questions have been left unanswered. One of them was answered today by the Prime Minister, and this was the question of the threat of the withdrawal of all previous proposals for a constitutional settlement and an undertaking not to submit to Parliament any proposals for independence before majority rule.
The Prime Minister made a statement today, but he carefully avoided making one when asked outright to do so during the debate only ten days ago. It seems to me, therefore, that there may possibly have been a change of mind on the part of the Government. I am astonished that the statement was made in this way today, because in the United Nations only a day or two ago Lord Caradon assured the Afro-Asian group that the Government would not support a measure of this kind because this was a matter for the British Parliament, the responsibility of the British Parliament. If this is so, why are we not being given a chance to debate this very important decision? This is a change from the position taken during the debate two weeks ago. Surely we should at this time have further opportunities to debate what proposals might now be made to solve the Rhodesian problem?
The second point which worries me about the Rhodesian situation is the 1241 danger of sanctions being extended during the Recess to South Africa and Portugal. The Prime Minister has given us an assurance that he does not wish to see these sanctions escalate in any way, but again he has been very careful to avoid giving a reply when he has been asked to state that the Government would use their veto if such a Motion were put before the United Nations. Will the Government give in to pressure from the Afro-Asian group yet again if the matter is raised during the Recess? Why cannot we have an undertaking on this before the House rises?
There are in today's Press reports of increased naval activity off the coast of Mozambique. What is going to happen there? What instructions have been given to the commanders of ships off Mozambique? What sort of ships will they intercept? Will they intercept those going to Mozambique? Will they intercept those going to South Africa? Which ships will they intercept? We have not been told.
We have had no assurances about this escalation into a complete blockade of the whole of Southern Africa. I would remind the House that it was during the Easter Recess that the last blockade was started and that the Navy was given instructions to intercept ships going to Mozambique at a time when the House was not sitting and able to debate the matter, or to have any say in it whatever.
The difficulty is that we have had nothing but equivocation and double-talk from the Prime Minister on this matter. When he first came back from Salisbury he made it abundantly clear that there was no question whatever of majority rule. He said there was no question, today or tomorrow, or in any time measurable by the clock—I am paraphrasing what he said—and that it was quite clear that this was a matter for rate of development of the people of Rhodesia. Today we have had his statement about the present proposals and the decision that there shall be no independence without majority rule. He has gone back on his first statement.
We have had these twistings and turnings so often that it is difficult for us to have any trust in the Prime Minister while the House is not here to question him. We have had a constant use of 1242 language which, in my view, has been calculated to make a settlement virtually impossible. I hope that during the Recess the Government will examine the Paris Treaty, which I saw in the State Department at Washington recently. This was the Treaty signed by the British Government and the then rebel régime in the United States of America in which it was said in the preamble that the two countries wishedto forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore; and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse between the two countries, upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience, as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony ".I commend to the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends that during the Recess they read that Treaty again. I suggest to the Prime Minister that this is the manner in which he should approach the problem. I do not want to see, during the coming Recess, a recourse to warfare and bloodshed, such as happened in the case of the United States.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Richard Crossman)
In his closing peroration—
§ Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)
On a point of order. As you have called the Leader of the House to reply, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I must ask whether an attempt is being made to prevent the discussion of the urgent matter of the Land Commission Bill. As you know, last night the Minister of Land and Natural Resources told the Press that he would make a statement in the House today about the date of the first appointed day, which is of tremendous importance and which affects all the professions and every house owner. The Minister has not made the statement. It is believed that he will delay the first appointed day, but he has not said anything to that effect, and we do not know what the situation will be.
In those circumstances, is it in order to request the Leader of the House to state precisely what the position is with regard to the first appointed day under the Land Commission Bill—whether it will be delayed, and, if so, in what way and for what reason?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am not aware of any attempt to prevent the discussion of anything. The hon. Member has made his point and I have called the Leader of the House in answer to the debate.
§ Sir C. Taylor
Are those who have been trying to speak during the debate and have not yet been called to be deprived of an opportunity of speaking before the Leader of the House replies?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The speech of the Leader of the House does not necessarily conclude the debate. It is my duty to call any Member who catches my eye. It so happens that the Leader of the House caught my eye, and that is why I called him.
§ Mr. Rankin
May we therefore hope from what you have said that we shall hear more of the Leader of the House later on?
§ Sir C. Taylor
Are we to have the benefit of a further reply from a Minister to the speeches which follow that of the Leader of the House?
§ Mr. Crossman
I thought that it would be to the benefit of the House if I intervened at this point. My intervention does not necessarily conclude the debate.
I want to reply to the speech made by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), who gave the impression that at least he wanted a Recess in which he could do something useful. I have a feeling that he was in favour of our having a Recess, during which time he wanted to go to Washington. I shall try to be brief and to sum up the multifarious questions that have been asked, although I may have some difficulty in doing so because of the rules of order.
In each of these debates the ingenuity that hon. and right hon. Members show is eluding the rules of order in an attempt to bring in their points of policy is extremely impressive. Their ingenuity is also very great in seeking to inveigle the Leader of the House into making statements or giving information which his colleagues do not want to give. There- 1244 fore, he is always in a very delicate position in deciding whom he will satisfy.
I thought that I would start with individual points and go as fast as I could, taking each of them in the proper way and explaining why we might have to postpone the Recess in order to meet them. I was gratified when the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said that the Government got rid of the House in order to make statements with the full apparatus of public relations officers. I can assure him about the issue of The Times. On that issue I was accused by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis)—who has now left the House, as usual—of glancing at an evening newspaper. I was reading it so that I could assist myself in answering the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of The Times. I saw that there was a certain amount of news in the evening newspaper. There is a Question on the Order Paper on the subject, and, whether or not it is reached my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will, I hope, be making a statement at 12 o'clock tomorrow morning.
The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for St. Albans also asked me about the Land Commission Bill. The Minister's reply is on the tape, but perhaps it should go on the record now. It might be in order for me to read the Written Answer of the Minister. He says:…in the expectation that the Land Commission Bill would receive Royal Assent before Christmas I had announced in the summer my intention, if possible, of making the first appointed day 1st March, 1967. In view of the progress of the Bill and in deference to representations from professional bodies and others of the administrative advantages that would accrue particularly because of the interaction of the Bill on Capital Gains Tax, I intend to fix 6th April, 1967, as the first appointed day under the Land Commission Bill.So hon. and right hon. Gentlemen can feel that their solicitations have been heeded, and that a slight postponement has been made to 6th April for the institution of the Land Commission. We shall then be able to test, after it has been set up, whether or not the charges made against it are justified.
I now turn to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman). I do not want to spend too long on it, except to say that I have taken a lot of trouble 1245 about his case. There seems to be no doubt that he is wrong in thinking that because Aden has now joined the Federation it has changed its position as a Colony—
§ Mr. Crossman
I thought that my hon. Friend said that it had ceased to be a British Colony. It remains a Colony and, therefore, remains under British law, and Article 2 of the Treaty provides that nothing in the Treaty shall affect British sovereignty over Aden. The Supreme Court itself is established under Part 5 of the Aden Constitution and, therefore, anybody—I shall not mention individual cases—who was tried there would be tried before the Chief Justice, Sir Richard Le Gallais. In the exercise of its jurisdiction, the Supreme Court of Aden has the powers and authorities vested in the High Court of Justice in England from time to time, and there are, of course, residual powers resting here and exercised by the Foreign Secretary.
We therefore think that there is no reasonable doubt that if, in the cases which my hon. Friend raised, British citizens are tried in Aden, they are tried in what is still a British Colony, and, since there is an appeal to Britain and to the Prerogative of Mercy here, they fall under the category on which, Mr. Speaker, your Ruling was given—
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
Does my right hon. Friend not realise that the doubt is not about the validity of the court or the British sovereignty over the territory, but about how the law is being administered?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am not a lawyer, like my hon. Friend, nor versed in the semantics of the law. Our expert authorities tell me that the strictures which my hon. Friend made in his Motion are not justified. He asked whether or not the constitutional basis on which his stricture was made was justified. We consider that it is not, and we think that, in this case, the normal practice would stand.
The subject of the Prices and Incomes Bill has been raised. The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) mentioned the reference of the farmworkers' wages to 1246 the Prices and Incomes Board and the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) said, rightly, that in January and February, we shall enter the period of severe restraint, when very interesting new precedents might be established. The hon. Member asked for an assurance that no more negative Orders will be laid. I can give no such assurance. The Government have the right to lay such Orders and may well do so. We must await events.
There has been a great deal of discussion both in general debate and in Prayers about this subject. It is a subject which we have fully discussed and I think that we may be discussing it further when we get back. We need not stop our Recess in any anxiety of being denied discussion on this subject.
The hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) said that he was deeply concerned about telephone tapping and the denial to us of the common right to be tapped by the Secret Service—[Interruption.]—or the removal of the privilege, whichever he likes. I will pass the hon. and gallant Member's remarks on to the Prime Minister. I recognise that they were sincere. There are two sides to this question and he was putting one which has taxed a number of hon. Gentlemen and even a number of Peers. I will put to the Prime Minister the case for M.P.s' telephones being subject to tapping.
I now turn to Dartmoor escapes. I thank hon. Members for the sober way in which they put the issues. I see the argument that we could have had two reports. From the point of view of the House, however, a single report on escapes and how to stop them is better than two. This one will be completed in the near future and when we have had time to digest it—we will have a good deal during the Recess—we can discuss through the usual channels whether and how we can debate it. It will be an important report.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised the subject of sport. He was right to do so, although he was mistaken in thinking that there is no sports lobby in this place. There are many active and passive sport experts here who put pressure on the Government. My hon. Friend was also right to say that sport has received harsh 1247 treatment, partly because of the local authority cuts which were necessitated by our economic difficulties.
Certainly, I will convey to the Chancellor, to the Secretary of State for Education and Science and to his Parliamentary Secretary the points which my hon. Friend made. This is a subject which the House should consider. Neither we nor the local authorities should let sport be the "Cinderella". I hope that local authorities, when asked to make economies, will not always cut back on sport.
My hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) raised the subject of the White Paper on Broadcasting. I cannot predict whether we can give time to a special debate on it; that depends partly on when we get the Bill on marine broadcasting offences, how wide it is drafted and whether we can have a debate on that, including discussion on other parts of the White Paper. If that is impossible, I will consider whether or not we can have a debate. We have waited a long time for the White Paper. It is an important one, and we want to have an informed discussion in the House.
I now turn to the two major issues. Ironically enough, on the first day that I held the post of Leader of the House last August, I had to answer an Adjournment debate and then, also, Rhodesia and Vietnam were the main subjects and there was this curious separation, with all the speeches about Rhodesia from one side of the House and those about Vietnam from the other. In both cases, there was a plea against, and a fear of, escalation.
I know the strength of the feeling among my hon. Friends about Vietnam. There have been incidents recently which could have justified them in feeling anxious. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) says that it was very ominous that whenever there was any chance of peace breaking out some heavy bombing occurred. He thought that that was a demonstration of something like sabotage by the military of the efforts to make peace.
This is an unlikely explanation. If we are to talk about hypotheses, the hypothesis of "brinkmanship" is probably more likely than that of a split between the Pentagon and the State 1248 Department. We must all remember that what we have to face, among other things, is the fact that, in the past, particularly during the Korean war, one of the methods of ending it was a combination of negotiation with an ultimate threat of force.
Certainly, that is a grace danger here. If that hypothesis were correct, in a sense it would be more dangerous even than that which my hon. Friend suggested. Certainly, when my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) asks for an assurance that we will bring all the pressure which we can on the United States Government to achieve a settlement, I would point out that, for two years, the Government have been bringing all the pressure they can, privately, to achieve a settlement. My hon. Friend may think that it is unsuccessful, but it has been there and it has been continuous.
I give him, and my hon. Friends the Members for Putney, Ebbw Vale and Salford, West (Mr. Orme) the assurance which I gave in August. Of course, if the situation became suddenly so grave as to warrant a recall of Parliament, we should not be afraid of doing so, but I devoutly believe that this will not be necessary—
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Does my right hon. Friend not feel that, possibly, public pressure on the Government of the United States over Vietnam might have more effect than the private pressure which has been applied until now?
§ Mr. Crossman
I see that my hon. Friend is once again trying to inveigle certain statements out of me. I will certainly pass on to the Foreign Secretary what she says and he will no doubt discuss it with her.
§ Mr. James Dickens (Lewisham, West)
Before my right hon. Friend turns to that subject, may we have from him tonight an undertaking to the effect that he will pass on to the Foreign Secretary the grave anxieties of many hon. Members on this side about the current trend in Vietnam? May we have a statement from the Foreign Secretary tomorrow, reaffirming that the British Government dissociate themselves from the bombing of urban centres of population in North Vietnam?
§ Mr. Crossman
My hon. Friend can have the first and not the second. I should like now to try to reply to some of the other points which have been raised.
The other subject is Rhodesia. On this, I have requests from the hon. Member for Totnes, the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), the hon. Member for St. Albans and the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes. The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East asked me what steps we were taking to keep information going on the implementation of sanctions, and put it to me that there should be a White Paper on the United Nations machinery. As advised, I can see no useful purpose being served by our issuing a White Paper on the machinery that exists. One can get all the information one needs without such a White Paper. All the machinery is there to be studied. Indeed, we have issued today a White Paper which is highly relevant to this matter, and which is entitled Documents Relating to Proposals for a Settlement, 1966. That is now available and a White Paper relating to the United Nations machinery is not necessary because, as I say, the machinery is there to be studied.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The right hon. Gentleman says that the machinery is there to be studied. The machinery for the application of economic sanctions is certainly not there to be studied in the Charter. The Charter has certain articles prescribing machinery for the application of military sanctions but, as far as I am aware, nothing of the sort exists for the application of economic sanctions.
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that for some countries a resolution of the United Nations may be automatically written into their domestic law, while for other countries domestic legislation must be introduced. A timetable is, therefore, necessary in those cases. This House and the British people are entitled to know how all this will work, because at present nobody knows and I suspect that even members of the Government are in complete ignorance, with the rest of us, on this subject.
§ Mr. Crossman
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman's latter suspicions were correct, a White Paper would be an 1250 impossibility. However, I assure him that. Her Majesty's Government know what they are doing and I am sure that when he has reflected on this point he will find that it would be unnecessary for us to issue a White Paper for this purpose. The Order in Council which we will require will, I believe, be laid during the next day or two. That will give us plenty of time in which to consider the matter. There will be 28 days—sitting days and not calendar days—in which to debate this issue, as, no doubt, it will need to be debated in this House.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East also asked if we would say in advance whether or not we would use the veto. As the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have both stated, we cannot consider such hypothetical questions. Just as the prediction that the institution of mandatory sanctions would wrest control from this country and lead us to disaster have not been fulfilled, so we believe that, on the whole, this operation has been successful up to now and we are confident that it will continue to be so through the Christmas Recess.
I hope that, with this explanation, the House will agree to come to a decision on the Motion and will be in favour of our adjourning our activities until 17th January.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)
There are a number of powerful reasons connected with the Land Commission Bill why the House should not adjourn tomorrow. Until today the Minister of Land and Natural Resources has asserted that the first appointed day under that Measure should be 1st March, 1967. I am, therefore, grateful to the Leader of the House for giving us the information that that date has been postponed. I assure him that his right hon. Friend has been wise in moving the date to 6th April, which will certainly simplify the taxation complications, particularly in regard to Capital Gains Tax.
However, whether or not that will give us time in which to deal with the outstanding complexities involved in this Measure must be a matter for doubt. The fact that the first appointed day has been put back gives me some optimism to feel that further changes in regard to this Measure may be on the way.
1251 On the first appointed day the Land Commission will come into being, with its staff of 2,000 civil servants, its head-quarters in Newcastle and with 11 regional offices throughout the country. From that day on the Commission will exercise considerable powers over transactions involving houses, shops, factories and land.
Yesterday, I presented a petition to the Minister of Land and Natural Resources signed by 109 professional men—architects, solicitors, surveyors and accountants—practising in Birmingham and the Midland area. The grounds of their petition were that the complexities of the Land Commission Bill had caused them to ask for the Bill to be deferred because they were finding it impossible to advise their clients about the effects of the Bill. The wide-ranging consequences of the Measure must be borne in mind when considering the urgent request contained in their petition. The Land Commission will have tremendously strong powers of compulsory acquisition and, in certain circumstances, those powers could be used without reason being given.
§ Mr. Eyre
I must briefly mention these powers, Mr. Speaker, and I will link them directly to the Motion and explain why something must be done urgently about this issue, before we adjourn for the Christmas Recess, for in certain circumstances these powers could be used without an owner having a proper opportunity to object.
The Land Commission will be able to levy taxation on property transactions to the extent of about £80 million a year. It is becoming clear that these enormous powers will not be confined to operating upon a limited number of large land-owners but will bear on every private house-owner, as well as every factory, warehouse, office, shop and other property owner. Under the provisions of the Land Commission Bill, more than 1 million transactions affecting houses and all sorts of property will have to be registered with the Land Commission and the right to charge a levy on the proceeds of the sale of an ordinary private house will continue for six years after the date of 1252 the transaction has been completed. This means that a person selling a house in the ordinary way will not know for six years whether or not that transaction has passed outside this liability. No wonder professional men are concerned and apprehensive.
On Third Reading of the Land Commission Bill, the Parliamentary Secretary promised that a detailed explanatory memorandum would be issued in book form, to the professions which must deal with these matters and that a simpler and shorter version would be available to the general public. No such publication has been made available and the professional men concerned have not been helped in this way.
The Bill is still under consideration and while the Leader of the House said that the first appointed day is being postponed until 6th April, the complexities of the Measure are such that that is too short a time in which to consider these matters, remembering that the Bill has yet to be placed on the Statute Book, that the explanatory memorandum has yet to be issued and that these complexities have yet to be considered by the professional men who must advise their clients on these matters.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
Has the hon. Gentleman noted that the Leader of the House said that 6th April of next year will be the operative date? Surely between now and then there will be ample time to prepare any necessary explanatory memoranda, leaflets and whatever other documents are needed. Why is he suggesting that the House should not adjourn tomorrow for the Christmas Recess, since that by 6th April he will have all the information he needs?
§ Mr. Eyre
That intervention shows how important it is that we should not adjourn until the necessary memoranda have been issued. When will the terms of the memoranda be decided? Only when the final terms of the Bill are known. They will certainly not be completed before the end of January, or even perhaps by the end of February. Even with this postponement there will be little time for people to understand the complexities of the Bill. It is precisely for this reason that the House should not adjourn for the Christmas Recess and we should consider this piece of outstanding business 1253 which is important to every owner-occupier.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Would my hon. Friend not agree that the debates on the Land Commission Bill have shown conclusively that not only the professional men outside do not understand the Measure and its ramifications but that even the Government do not understand it?
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order. Are not the points being raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Flail Green (Mr. Reginald Eyre) outside our normal debates on this sort of Motion? To speak about Vietnam or Rhodesia is to speak about peace and war. However, the hon. Gentleman is speaking about a machinery point and is saying that we should not recess for certain reasons connected with that point. Is not this an abuse of the purpose of this debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot enter into an argument between the right hon. Member and the hon. Member who has the Floor.
§ Mr. Eyre
I maintain that these are matters of serious practical consequence affecting every person involved in property transactions. From this moment, leading up to 6th April, there are strong reasons why the House should determine the final form of this legislation so that people may know where they stand. What are the professional advisers to say to their clients? How can they accurately forecast the consequences of legislation of this kind?
In another place, Amendments of the kind moved by the Opposition in Standing Committee many months ago are being considered and certain undertakings have been given. The purpose of these Amendments is to soften the harshness of the Bill in its effect on individual owners—
§ Mr. Eyre
They are important, Mr. Speaker, because they would soften the consequences of this harsh legislation. It is important that these matters are finalised before we recess. Safeguards could be introduced to protect the purpose of the Bill and, at the same time, protect ordinary house-owners and owner-occupiers from the fantastic complications of the Measure. In any case, the collection of the levy would far exceed the practical—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. As I pointed out, the hon. Member must not go into the merit of those Amendments.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Silkin)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly and agreed to.
That this House at its rising Tomorrow do adjourn until Tuesday 17th January.