§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House, at its rising on Thursday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 23rd April.—[Mr. Peart.]
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
I rise to oppose the Motion. I do so for a number of reasons, but the one which primarily concerns me is the Government's prices and incomes policy, which is clearly going through yet a further interesting phase of development. The House should be fully informed of that development and not have to wait until Tuesday, 23rd April. Not only should the House not have to wait because of its own concern that it should come first in the interest and affection of the Executive, but it should be told of this further development before 23rd April so that the Government can also make available to those engaged in industry, either as employers or trade unionists, certain information so that they may conduct their affairs to some extent consistently with what the Government hope to be their policy.
I have a special reason for opposing the Motion in that I sought to indicate that I would raise on the Adjournment an unsatisfactory Answer which was given to me by the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. I then realised, of course, that there would be no opportunity whatsoever to raise it on the Adjournment if the House were to rise on Thursday until 23rd April. For that reason alone, therefore, in the light of my professed desire to raise the question of the prices and incomes policy on the adjournment—a desire which I expressed last Thursday—I would only be consistent if I invited the Government not to proceed with the Motion and thus enable me to raise that matter.
There are two or three points of recent concern which require a statement from the Government of far greater detail and commitment than we are likely to get between now and Thursday and which I do not believe can wait until 23rd April. The first, of course, concerns the announcement of the Cabinet changes and the creation apparently of a new office—that of First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. This is a major announcement, 904 the full implications of which should be made available to the House this week. We should not have to wait upon the pleasure of the Government until the end of the month before we know more about it.
This is particularly so because we are told, not in this House, but from what we read in the newspapers, that the prices and incomes legislation and the prices and incomes policy will presumably be increasingly under the authority of the new Ministry. But this is a Ministry concerned with wages. It is a Ministry concerned with incomes. It is not a Ministry concerned with prices.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss the merits or demerits of the Cabinet changes but must link them with his desire to come back earlier after Easter.
§ Mr. Biffen
Certainly, Mr. Speaker. My desire is two-ended—that we should not rise on Thursday and that we should come back before 23rd April. In either way the House could be apprised of the significance of the switch. I believe that the timing is all-important. It is all-important that we should be assured as speedily as possible what is the meaning of the transfer of the responsibility for operating the legislation and of the overall responsibility for the policy from one Ministry to another. We have to be assured in particular about the administrative arrangements now made for prices and incomes policy and to whom we should be addressing our questions on that account.
We cannot go away and spend the Easter Recess thinking up various questions we would like to put to various Ministers when the House reassembles if we are not certain which Ministers will be responsible for answering them. Nothing is more frustrating for an hon. Member than to be told that Questions which he has carefully allocated to a Minister on a certain day have been transferred because responsibility has been transferred. We must know, and know soon, what are the new divisions of responsibility.
Secondly, a statement should be made to the House about the new Department of Employment and Productivity because 905 of the emphasis on the word "productivity". It needs a fairly speedy and much more detailed definition from the Government than we have so far had, because negotiations are proceeding in industry leading to income settlements which, presumably, will attract either the satisfaction or the displeasure of the Government. We must know much more about the creation of this new Ministry and the new emphasis on productivity.
Perhaps I can give a demonstration of the significance of timing. This issue concerns things happening day by day and one cannot suspend the operation of industry for a couple of weeks just because this House does not happen to be sitting. The case I have in mind is the recent settlement of the claim of Merseyside tugmen.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is drifting into the merits of the subject. He is extremely competent to deal with the prices and incomes policy but not in this debate. He must now keep to the question of whether we should adjourn on Thursday until 23rd April.
§ Mr. Biffen
Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I would like your guidance at least on the point of whether, if a decision has been announced to the House by way of Parliamentary Question, and if there is no opportunity to get amplication of that decision before rising on Thursday. I would be in order in saying that we ought not to rise on Thursday until there has been amplification of the Answer. It is along these lines that I would like to proceed, because this particular dispute on Merseyside was of great significance. It was bound to be watched by many others hoping to determine incomes over the next two or three weeks, during which time the House is to be in Recess. Hon. Members will not be able to call upon Ministers to answer for policies to which they are committed.
The answer to my question on 28th March concerning the tugmen's dispute was: given by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who said:I have been notified of a pay settlement for Liverpool tugmen effective from 1st March. This was not a straight percentage increase in rates, since payment for overtime continues to be based on the previous rates 906 subject to special additions for Saturdays and Sundays.I come now to the significant part of the Answer:The increase in earnings is estimated to average 13½ per cent. The employers were informed that the Government noted the increases but did not propose to prevent payment".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1968; Vol. 761. c. 324–5.]That is an interesting answer which needs amplification instantly in the light of all the other settlements which may be taking place over the next few weeks. What is the significance of 13½ per cent.? Is it a significance which is noted, but not endorsed?
These questions cannot be left until the end of the month. They deserve immediate answers, because the Government do not, alas, proceed in this policy by legislation alone. We know only too well that it is a policy which proceeds on the indicated wishes of the Government, and the House is entitled to know what are likely to be the indicated wishes of the Government over the next three weeks or so when the House is not sitting and able to ask Ministers questions.
I turn now to the dividend aspect of the policy. At the moment, there is no legislation requiring dividend limitation, but, clearly, influence is being brought to bear on companies in this respect. As dividends are declared day by day over the next two or three weeks, the Stock Exchange will not go into a state of suspended animation, but will continue without the sniping, or assistance, as one will, from this place, but two instances have come up recently and require authoritative statements from Ministers, statements which we cannot reasonably expect to be postponed until after 23rd April.
The first was the grotesque announcement that Grattan Warehouses had cut its proposed dividend from 32 per cent. to 31.99 per cent. It would be extremely interesting to know, as there was no legal requirement on Grattan Warehouses to do this, whether this is the kind of way in which the Government want their policy to be voluntarily observed. It would be a nice calculation which we should like to have with some certainty before Thursday as to the amount of time and work and trouble—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is again drifting into discussing the merits. He must argue that he wants time before 23rd April to discuss the .01 per cent.
§ Mr. Biffen
It would take time immemorial to calculate the transfer from 32 per cent. to 31.99 per cent., and I shall not pursue that, for I reckon that the merits are self-evident.
The second example concerns fringe benefits supposedly paid with dividends, as undertaken by Berni Inns. The House should have time to debate this case. What happened was that Berni Inns, when paying its dividend, gave a luncheon voucher, or meal voucher, or meal ticket, worth 15s. with each individual payment and said that it had been told that it had Treasury permission to do this, because it did not infringe the Government's prices and incomes policy.
This opens up fascinating avenues of the ways in which fringe benefits might be paid, and we must have tune to discuss it fully and to reflect upon the absurdities to which this policy is leading us. By asking that we do not rise on Thursday, we give the Government one last chance to draw back from the futilities of a statutory prices and incomes policy.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
My reasons for being reluctant to agree to the Motion will not take long to explain. I regret that the Home Secretary is not here to listen to my representations, because he is in the best position to deal with them.
On 4th January, the residence of one of my constituents, Mrs. Callis, was searched by the police. Some time after that, a well-known figure featured in the Press when her premises were searched by the police with a search warrant. An apology was forthcoming to that well-known society figure within 48 hours. As a consequence, my constituent approached me to find why it was that although that lady had had an apology within 48 hours, no apology had been made to her.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss the merits of the case which he wishes to discuss if the House returns earlier than 23rd April.
§ Mr. Lipton
I am raising this matter because, although I wrote to the Home Office on 11th March about the police search of these premises, I have not yet had a reply, except to be informed in an Adjournment debate on 19th March that it is expected that inquiries will be completed very shortly. I hope that "shortly" means that I shall have a reply to my representations before the House rises on Thursday. I have been very patient and I have not made any undue demands on the Home Secretary. Without going into the merits of this case, to which I have already tried briefly to refer, I think that I am entitled to an answer before the House rises on Thursday.
A second reason why I suggest that we should not adjourn on Thursday depends to some extent upon the Ruling which I am about to ask you to give, Mr. Speaker. After we dispose of this Motion, we are to discuss the Eleventh Report of the Estimates Committee dealing with prisons, borstals and detention centres. This Report was ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on 27th July, 1967. It has a full index of 15 pages, but that index contains no reference to Durham Prison. All the recent events in Durham Prison which have caused disquiet occurred after the Report was made.
I have had a number of communications from Durham Prison, two smuggled out and three sent to me through official channels. I should like to know whether we shall have a statement from the Home Secretary about Durham Prison during the course of the debate on the Estimates Committee's Report, or on some other occasion before the House rises. A difficult and serious position exists in Durham Prison. Although it would be out of order to quote from the lengthy communications which I have received, I suggest that if discussion today of recent events in Durham Prison is out of order, we should have a statement from the Home Secretary before the House rises on Thursday.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I wish the Leader of the House every success in his new position. I am glad to see him sitting on the Government Front Bench, because I want to raise the question of foot-and-mouth disease and the importation of Argentine beef. 909 I hope that I shall not hear trotted out the old arguments which we have heard in recent weeks.
I find it difficult to agree to the Motion to go off on Thursday when the farmers in my part of the country, in Cheshire, are angry and disturbed about the whole situation concerning the import of Argentine beef. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) in his place, because I assure him that if he went up to Macclesfield he would gain a very warm reception for what he had to say about the import of beef.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is drifting into a debate which cannot take place today. We are debating whether we adjourn until 23rd April.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I quite understand, Mr. Speaker, and I follow your instructions, but I will have to expand a little to cover my argument.
The Minister is to allow Argentine beef to be imported into Britain. We have read in the Press various reports, in which the Argentinians said that they would send some beef, but the latest news is that they are not sending any. It seems to me that the former Minister of Agriculture, as I said at Question time one day last week, has got the worst of all worlds. He has aleniated British farmers, and he has pleased one or two of his hon. Friends who want cheap votes and cheap meat.
I want to know where we stand, because before the House goes into recess on Thursday there are thousands of farmers in the West Midlands and the North-West of England whose whole livelihood depends on these decisions. We have had seven or eight more outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in the last week or so, some of them being primary cases. Not only the farmers are affected. There are cartage men, hauliers and many others who are employed at cattle markets. Having suffered what they have suffered in recent months, I can only suggest to hon. Members that if they were to visit those areas and talk to farmers, they would understand the problem which I am trying to put to the Leader of the House.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider the matter, because he will 910 not get anywhere; he is not getting the beef. Therefore, why not wait until he has got all the reports and then make up his mind about the importation of Argentine beef? He has a fine opportunity this afternoon as Leader of the House to clear up this matter. I hope that he will put the anxiety of my constitutents at rest concerning this problem.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
I had hoped that we would have a statement or a chance to debate the question of Service pay and allowances before we rose for the Easter Recess. The Minister will know that we have been waiting for a statement on this subject for some time. It is, I think, the first time in nine years that the Services have passed 1st April without knowing the future of their pay and allowances.
You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that this matter used to be decided by the Grigg Committee, and it was to have been reviewed regularly. You would rule me out of order if I gave you reasons why I consider it unfortunate that this matter is now sent to the Prices and Incomes Board instead, so I will not pursue that one. The fact remains, however, that the result of passing it to the Prices and Incomes Board is that we have passed 1st April, and the people in the Services do not know what their future pay and allowances will be.
This is a matter which the Leader of the House should have considered important enough to be decided at the earliest possible opportunity. It does not need me to remind him that even the Minister of Defence recognises that morale in the Services is low after his efforts to knock them about in recent years with his continuing defence review. That being so, and bearing in mind that our ability to man the Services properly in future depends upon recruitment today and the number of certain categories we can recruit even in the next fortnight, this is a vital matter for the Services. I hope, therefore, that we shall have an opportunity to have a statement on which we can question the Minister, or even a debate. Failing that, I wish to oppose the Motion.
There are, of course, other matters about which the Minister of Defence needs to tell us before we can rise for 911 Easter. There is the question of the advanced combat aircraft. The TSR2 was cancelled three years ago. Since then, the Anglo-French variable-geometry aircraft has been cancelled, as well as the F111K which we were to have. We therefore find ourselves, three years after the cancellation of an aircraft which was to replace the Canberras, with nothing on the stocks. [An HON. MEMBER: "Except the Minister of Defence."] He should be in the stocks and not on them.
The Canberras are increasing in age and there is an urgent need for a replacement. I am sure that I am in order in saying this because, as you will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, these projects take five or ten years to develop. Thus, every week counts. If we get up now for two weeks knowing that nothing further is done, we shall be neglecting our duty.
We have been told in recent defence debates that the Navy is to depend upon land-based aircraft of the Royal Air Force for its future reconnaissance and strike rôles, as well as for its defence. Since the carriers are to go out of existence in 1971, it is vital that a decision should be taken on this matter immediately, because, as I have said, it takes five or ten years to develop these aircraft.
Likewise, the Royal Air Force has no long-range strike or reconnaissance capability of this kind. That Service, too, will find that in the early 1970s, the Canberras will certainly no longer be able to carry on.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not unsympathetic to all the subjects that hon. Members wish to raise in the week in which it is proposed that we should not be here. The hon. Member must, however, keep to the terms of the Motion.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, and I will not pursue that further. I add that the question of equipment of the Forces affects recruitment also. Therefore, it is vital that we should hear about these things and be able to debate them at an early date.
There is also the question of export possibilities. The Government are constantly telling everybody else that they should be exporting the country's goods and products, yet they are preventing the 912 aircraft industry from producing an advanced combat aircraft which could well be exported. They should make up their mind instead of constantly changing it.
In that way, the Government are preventing a valuable product from being got under way which could be exported in large numbers to foreign air forces. The aircraft industry is being delayed by the Government when a little encouragement and a decision or two, instead of constant changing of mind, would enable the industry to produce prototypes and start selling the aircraft.
On the same point, I should like to be able to raise the question of the Harrier, the Nimrod and the Jaguar. I would like to know why the Government have not yet placed production orders for these aircraft. We are told constantly that they are on their way, and we know that they are being built. The fact again remains, however, that foreign customers who would like to buy these aircraft cannot obtain quotations for them until a production order is placed at a fixed price by the Government. Bearing in mind the unceasing need for exports, this is another matter which I should like to have debated. If we are not to have an opportunity to debate before Thursday, I shall certainly vote against the Motion.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Dr. David Kerr (Wandsworth, Central)
The House is, curiously, thinly attended for what should be something of a rumbustious debate, ranging widely. I ponder on the curious paradox, when the world is so full of a number of crises, that more of my hon. Friends and more hon. Members opposite—[HON. MEMBERS "Oh."]—even more hon. Members opposite, are not seeking this opportunity to raise a number of different crises in the world at large.
As to prices and incomes, there are, perhaps, arguments for opposing the Motion as not giving us long enough to reflect about the matter. It might help some of my worthy colleagues and hon. Friends below the Gangway if we had a little longer to put our minds in order on this matter and to come back to the House determined that a prices and incomes policy is necessary and is capable of operating only with a big strong dose of Socialism. We cannot hope to operate 913 a prices and incomes policy success-fully—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is beginning to argue in detail a matter which he will be able to debate if he defeats the Motion which is before the House and brings us back early.
§ Dr. Kerr
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will leave the point and merely dwell upon the necessity, somewhat heterodoxly, of the need for a longer Recess than we are promised. It is not only that we need a little time to reflect on prices and incomes. There might even be some hope that during a more extended Parliamentary Recess the ferment in the world outside will subside a little.
I have in mind that the Government might wish for a little longer time, in the light of the obscene and tragic news from America, to reconsider our policy towards that nation. It may be that, in the light of the appearance yesterday in the Sunday Times of an account of the roverty-striken areas in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States, the Minister for Overseas Development might wish for a little more time to consider sending a team to that area to assist them in more community development.
If we are to accept that the House needs to come back a little earlier, there are also very cogent arguments for that, and I would refer to three areas which ought to demand our immediate attention within the next few weeks.
If I may come back, a little more seriously, to the situation in the United States, it seems to me that this is a little remote from us, and there is an unhappy tendency to regard the events in American cities today as being outside our interest, beyond our control. Yet the fact remains that they are influencing this country already. Today's evening papers carry news of the effect on our stock market of the riots in United States towns. I am not suggesting that we are in any way to be involved in the internal situation of the United States, but it may very well be that, in the course of the next week or so, the Government might face the further necessity to make announcements of the gravest importance to the House which would require debate. It is by no means beyond the bounds of possibility that a further deterioration in 914 the domestic scene of the United States could lead to a further weakening of the dollar, with all the implications for this country and for international finance which we have witnessed all too recently and all too unhappily.
Secondly, I would refer to the rapidly changing scene of the Vietnam war. It may very well be that the Government would wish to have the House in session much sooner than 23rd April, and I would venture to predict that many back benchers would wish to be in session much sooner than 23rd April, in order to discuss the Government's responsibility both in relation to the announcement by the President of the United States that he will open talks with North Vietnam, and to discuss the Government's responsibility to U Thant's proposals that discussions would depend upon the unconditional cessation of the fighting in North Vietnam. These are matters which we would all hope to have an opportunity to discuss and to assist the Government on.
Lastly, from my own point of view, I would once again draw the attention of the House to the situation in Africa. It is true that we debated this only a few days ago, yet already in those few days there have been two very striking developments. One has been the announcement by Ian Smith of the call-up of a small number of his home defence units. The implications of this in terms of the breakdown of law and order must clearly be a matter to which the members of my Government would, I hope, give the most urgent attention. At the same time, it speaks very loudly of a deterioration of the situation in Rhodesia between Rhodesia and her neighbours.
This brings me to the second point which I consider might require the urgent attention of the House long before 23rd April, and that is the news that Zambia is now proposing to embark upon a programme of arming herself, a programme which I can only regard as an inevitability in the light of the pressures to which she is subjected, but which would certainly involve this country, both in terms of Zambia's defence policy and the kind of economic aid and defence advice we might offer to that country.
In all these circumstances, there are very cogent and very powerful arguments indeed for bringing the House back into 915 session well before 23rd April. The rate at which changes in the international scene have occurred in the last week ought to be proof enough to any Member of this House that a fortnight's absence from the scene will bring us back to a vastly altered situation. I ask the Government to think again and to shorten the Easter Recess.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
I believe the House should not adjourn for the Easter Recess until the Government have dealt with two aspects of Service pay and allowances, one of which has been mentioned briefly by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew). First, there is the question of the overdue announcement of revised rate of pay and pensions for serving and retired Service personnel. There is clear evidence of great uncertainty in the Forces of the effect of this on morale, recruiting and re-engagement which was mentioned by my hon. Friend. There is no doubt that the House understands that the Grigg formula, as it is called, has been accepted by the Government and has been honoured ever since. There is a precedent. In previous years, in 1960, 1962, 1964 and 1966, where the adjustments in the Forces' pay were implemented by 1st April. This has conspicuously not happened this year. We have already passed 1st April, and the Forces remain in their state of uncertainty, not to say dismay.
The reference to the Prices and Incomes Board involves a completely new principle which the House has not debated adequately. The whole concept of the Grigg formula was that Forces' pay should be brought up to date retrospectively to match past adjustments of Civil Service pay and average industrial wages.
The Under-Secretary for the Army on 12th March at column 1297 seems to call in question the whole matter of the Grigg formula, and this leads to uncertainty in the Forces. I hope the Leader of the House will be able to answer these specific questions at the end of the debate. Firstly, when is the Prices and Incomes Board's report to be expected? Secondly, can he assure the House that priority 916 will be given to the urgent question of the Prices and Incomes Board? Thirdly, and very important—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
We cannot go into these questions. We can only give reasons why the House should not adjourn until 23rd April.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am putting exactly the point that the House should not adjourn because of these urgent matters affecting the Forces. I believe the question I am now asking the Leader of the House should be answered before we feel ourselves free to go on the Easter Recess. The most important one of all is that when these delayed pay increases are announced they will in all cases be fully retrospective to 1st April, the day on which they were due. Fourthly, that the increases will apply to retired officers and Service widows, as is the case under the Grigg formula.
The second subject, an urgent one, which should be settled before we leave for the Recess, is the question of overseas pay and allowances which are payable to the Forces as a result of devaluation. The House should not adjourn, Mr. Deputy Speaker, leaving the situation as it is. To take a typical case of an Army sergeant serving in B.A.O.R., his basic pay has to be—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member must not go into specific cases of individual complaints on this Motion.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not intend to go into individual facts and figures. I want to put before the House what is the situation in the mind of an Army sergeant serving in B.A.O.R. who reads that his elected representatives have trooped off on their holidays.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member must relate that to the question we are considering, which is whether we should come back before 23rd April.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
I am putting to the House that we should not leave for our Recess on the date suggested, nor remain absent until 23rd April, unless this business which was raised by the Minister of Defence for 917 Administration has been cleared up. He said that he had received complaints about this matter because it had not been adequately dealt with, and men serving overseas would not feel that they were adequately compensated because of devaluation. I believe that before the Minister goes on leave, and before the House permits itself to go on leave, the right hon. Gentleman should explain what steps he is taking to deal with this outstanding matter.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)
There are three reasons why I think the House ought not to adjourn. First, I think that we should not go away for our Easter Recess until we have had an opportunity of discussing the Common Market. The House will recall that last May, when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was commending the course of action which the Government have pursued about the Common Market, he said that our application should be pressed home with pace and momentum; yet at Business question time a week or two ago, when I asked my right hon. Friend the then Leader of the House whether we could have an opportunity to debate the Common Market, he said that he did not think there would be time for it before the Recess.
If there is not time for it before the Recess, we should not have the Recess. We should discuss this important matter because of the situation which has developed in the Common Market countries, and also because there is evidence that many hon. Members have changed their minds since the subject was last debated in May. There is a clear indication of this among those who recently visited the United States to discuss the free trade area. They returned and indicated quite clearly that they had changed their minds. I therefore think that the House should have an opportunity to debate this matter before we adjourn.
My second reason for opposing the Motion is that we should have an opportunity to discuss the situation in South-East Asia before we rise. My right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary has recently been in South-East Asia. In fact, I am not sure whether he is back, but I think he ought to be, and we 918 should have an opportunity to discuss what he has found out there in connection with the decisions which were announced in the Defence White Paper, and by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 19th January. The House will recall that during the debate on the Defence Review some views were put forward about what could happen, particularly in Singapore and Malaysia, as a result of our withdrawing troops earlier than expected. There was a report in the newspapers, either this morning or yesterday, that the Prime Minister of Singapore had produced some new plan for training his Air Force. The House ought to have an opportunity to discuss what assistance we can give to Singapore and Malaysia, and indeed to our other Commonwealth friends in South-East Asia.
My third reason for opposing the Motion is that the House ought to haw an opportunity to discuss this new post of Deputy Leader of the House, which seems an extraordinary appointment. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary is to combine this office with his existing one. This puts many of us on this side of the House in a dilemma, because, in his capacity as the Patronage Secretary, he is such a stern disciplinarian that many of us quake when we come face to face with him. It would appear that he now has another rôle, that of defender of the back benchers. I think that we ought to have an opportunity to discuss how one can identify which rôle my right hon. Friend is appearing in when one approaches him. Will one approach him as the Chief Whip, and will he wear a different hat, or carry some weapon in that rôle? And when he assumes the mantle, if he does, of Deputy Leader of the House, will he carry a feather and go into battle against his right hon. Friends on behalf of the back benchers? I think that to ensure that hon. Members on this side of the House can sleep o' nights over the Easter Recess we should not adjourn until my right hon. Friend has had an opportunity to explain his new rôle.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I rise to oppose the Motion on rather more general terms than it has been opposed by some of my hon. Friends. I do so, first, because 919 of the unprecedented uncertainty in the country, and in the House, about the intentions of the Government on a wide range of subjects. I think that this is matched by the recent evidence of the unprecedented unpopularity of the Government in the country. Those two propositions linked together give us a strong argument for opposing the Motion, and for demanding that we should be allowed to stay here a little longer in an attempt to learn the Government's intentions.
For instance what do the Government intend overseas on the broad issue of foreign policy? Who in the House, certainly on this side, and who in the country, can give a sensible, comprehensive explanation of the Government's foreign policy? We know that almost every initiative which they have undertaken during the last two years has failed. Should we at this stage in the game, when, as the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) said, there is great danger in the world generally, adjourn for the Easter Recess? We have no idea what they intend in the Far East, the Middle East, or anywhere else.
A number of my hon. Friends, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), have asked what defence policy the Government have. We just do not know. We have a long catalogue of catastrophe and muddle which we have been debating for the last year or so. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain the Government's policy when he replies to the debate? I doubt it, and this is another reason why we should stay here until we find out.
§ Mr. Roebuck
Perhaps I can assist the hon. Gentleman. If he can tell the House that the shadow Defence Secretary is prepared to say what the Conservative Party's defence policy is, I shall be prepared to assist the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Hastings
I think that that is about the feeblest defence of the Government that I have ever heard. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to launch into a speech on our view of foreign policy, and defence policy, which is dependent on foreign policy, I could do so, but I am sure that I shall not be within the rules of order. The hon. Gentleman knows that I would not be allowed to discuss 920 that topic. What we are demanding is that we should stay here until the Government make it clear what they intend to do. We have not the faintest idea of their intentions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen), with his usual succinct accuracy and clarity, raised the whole question of the incomes policy which has been launched in various forms, including last week's incomprehensible White Paper. We ought to know much more about this before we rise for the Recess.
We have the right hon. Lady the ex-Minister of Transport suddenly promoted, now rising from a bed of nails to a springboard, and we should like to know what she intends to do. We have heard a lot about prices and incomes, but we are told that the right hon. Lady is the Secretary of State, not for prices and incomes, but for Employment and Productivity. What does this mean? Before we go away, we should have some idea of what this title means, for many of us are convinced it is just another Prime Ministerial gimmick.
The right hon. Lady is the Secretary of State for Employment. Does this mean that application must be made to her before people are employed in firms all over the country, or before somebody is made redundant?
§ Mr. Hastings
The hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear". We shall wait for an explanation of what he and the Government mean by that.
The right hon. Lady is also Secretary of State for Productivity. If we were to fill this Chamber with economists, and ask them for a definition of productivity, no two answers would be the same, and certainly we should not get a simple definition. During the debate on the Queen's Speech the then Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us a totally untrue definition of productivity. It is time that we had a definition of what the Prime Minister means, and we ought to get it before we go away.
Now we have the Mark II, stretched Cabinet. What does this mean for us all?
§ Mr. Hastings
A souped-un Cabinet. What does this mean for us? We should be told about it before we go away. We want to know the intentions of this Cabinet. We want to know the intentions and views of individual Members of the Cabinet, if possible, as well. I want to quote from a recent article by the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) which relevant to the reasons that I am putting forward for our staying here for the time being. In the article, published 10 days ago, he said:An important Cabinet Minister and a member of the inner Downing Street clique disclosed most indiscreetly his personal thinking a few days ago to a friend of mine who is a reliable witness.The Minister said, 'We are not going to be talked cut of office like little Attlee. We don't give a damn what the country says. We're just going to sit it out. If necessary, we'll pull the whole temple around us.'That is what was said by the hon. Member for Pembroke, who has as much right to his opinion as any other hon. or right hon. Member. I should like to know whether the Cabinet Minister to whom he was referring is a Mark I or a Mark II, Cabinet Minister. Is he still there? Did he really say this? Shall we have a statement about it? Will there be a denial? If we are going to get a denial let us have it before we are required to rise or the Recess.
If there is no denial we have a right to stay here and find out. I see that the Leader of the House, so recently promoted to his exalted office, sees fit to smile. There is not much smiling going on in the country or on this side of the House. Let him be clear about the fact that although these debates are traditionally treated with a certain levity he point that I am making has a serious purpose. We want to know about this matter before we are called upon to rise for the Recess.
I want to raise one other point concerning Central Africa and Rhodesia, which has already been referred to. I do not know why the hon. Member opposite should have raised the subject at this stage in the game. Those of us on this side of the House, who have done our best in recent months and year to comprehend both sides of this complicated question and who have sought—where we have thought it right—to defend the Rhodesian cause, will be very much gratified at the 922 news, this weekend, that the Rhodesian Government have now lifted censorship of all kinds. This announcement will be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is surely a mark of considerable confidence in the sort of things which the hon. Member opposite and his colleagues are normally supposed to support.
But at this moment we know that the Prime Minister is doing his best to reject and—if I may use the word—dodge the initiative and the most magnanimous offer of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) who only recently came back from Rhodesia and has offered to do everything that he can, regardless of Party consideration to assist in reaching a settlement and to get negotiations going again. What answer were we given to our Questions, and in the debate two weeks ago? None. The danger of violence mounts. In the view of my right hon. and hon Friends there is only one way to avert this danger, and that is to work, through negotiations, towards a settlement in Rhodesia.
Are we to go away now and leave a situation in which my hon. Friends and I are convinced that the Prime Minister is refusing to negotiate because he is frightened of his hon. Friend on the Left? That is the position, and that is another reason why we should remain until we receive some sensible answers to our questions about the main problems which face this miserable Government.
In my seven years of Parliamentary experience, if ever there was a moment when a Government had reason to want to get rid of Parliament that is it—and if ever there was a moment when Parliament should do its best to resist it is now.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)
The course of the debate has been somewhat spoiled by the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings). He spent his time interesting himself in the business of the Inner Cabinet and in wondering about the doings of that nice young lady, my right hon. Friend the ex-Minister of Transport. Finally, he gave a lecture to a legally constituted Parliament, speaking from his bench opposite as a supporter—a militant supporter—of 923 an illegal and unconstitutional Government in Rhodesia. It is an affront that the hon. Member, in a British Parliament, should want to talk about the need to stay here next week when his real allegiance is not towards democracy but towards totalitarianism.
§ Mr. Hastings
On a point of order. I am willing to accept anything from the other side, normally, but I ask for your protection now, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Like many others in the House, I spent a number of years doing my best to do away with totalitarianism. I do not see why I should accept that accusation from the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
No point of order arises. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) was giving his reasons why we should not adjourn until 23rd April, and the hon. Member for the Hartlepools (Mr. Lead-bitter) was endeavouring to reply. We must confine the debate strictly to the question whether or not we should adjourn until 23rd April. It is not right to go further into the details of the Rhodesian problem.
§ Mr. Goodhew
On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Member opposite to accuse my hon. Friend of supporting totalitarianism?
§ Mr. Roebuck
On a point of order. Is it in order for Members of the Opposition to support an illegal régime?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
In answer to this series of points of order, I must say that I have heard accusations and complaints of this kind in previous debates.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
This was rather different from previous accusations that we have heard from across the Floor of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This was a positive accusation that my hon. Friend owed an allegiance to totalitarianism. I would have thought that most hon. Members heard those words quite clearly. Most of us would ask you whether you do not think that that remark should be withdrawn.
§ Mr. English
Surely to say that one owes an allegiance to an ideology can hardly be an accusation of high treason.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
I was going to point out, in effect, that this was an argument why we should not support the hon. Member in his opposition to the Motion.
It is a nauseating experience to sit in a British Parliament and hear an hon. Member make out a case for staying here over the Easter Recess when it is common knowledge that his criticism of a British elected Government is that it is not acceptable to him—he used those words—yet an illegal régime in Rhodesia is. I leave that point there. I have made it, and it is understood. In course of time the hon. Member will realise that the long-lasting influences of British Government—of whatever nature—will endure when the unhappy story of Rhodesia has long been forgotten.
I want to come to the reasons why we should be here during the Recess—[Interruption.] I have learned that interventions like that are characteristic of the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs. The subject I wish to raise is of immediate importance. With the exception of that of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire, I have respected every case put forward so far. Many of them are of great interest, but nothing is of greater interest to 3,000 men than the subject which I wish to raise.
At the moment, in the most modern shipyard in the whole of Europe, 3,000 men have been told that they will lose their jobs. Although discussions, which the Minister described to me this afternoon, are going on, until last Saturday neither the men nor the management nor hon. Members had had any indication of any firm Government statement of intention about what can be done in the circumstances in which the yard is to be closed. In a few days, one of the ships which has been completed will be launched and already the design staff in this important yard—the Furness shipbuilding yard on Tees-side—are serving a month's notice.
It follows that, after the launching, there will be a firm time scale of redundancies. I do not want this Government—
§ Mr. Leadbitter
That kind of comment also is very childish. As long as I have the floor, I will say what I have 925 to say on behalf of 3,000 men who expect me to do my duty. If hon. Members want to snigger at that, they will answer for it.
I do not want this Government to hold these discussions in a Recess during which the one of the last ships will be launched, when there is no clear intention of keeping the yard open. Therefore, I ask the Leader of the House to remember that there are positive reasons here why these matters should be discussed next week.
Also, the Government have a large financial stake in the yard. Some 40 per cent. of the costs of re-equipping and modernising it are provided through investment incentives. The yard is also probably the most modern in the western hemisphere and the amount of work there, capable of producing ships of 240,000 or 250,000 tons is remarkable. If nothing is done by the Government, this will be the first time in the annals of shipbuilding that such a modern yard, with such new equipment, ahead of every other ward in the country with productivity agreements and so, on, has been dosed. In terms of finance, labour relations and recent re-equipment, the yard should not be closed.
If we do not discuss the matter in a few days, it could be too late. There is nothing worse for a development area than the closure of a shipyard, because, alone among industrial activities, it is the heart of an area, with a remarkable psychological effect. I hope that the Government will understand that, if they are thinking of not keeping the yard open, they should declare it now, and that, if they intend to keep it open, we are entitled to a statement this week or during the Recess.
The final and most important consideration is that we cannot afford, in Hartlepools, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, an area with a high industrial potential, where unemployment is running at six, seven and eight per cent., a further 3,000 men unemployed, because the skills involved cannot wait for promised industrial development, but will migrate, leaving too many unskilled men. That is just the North-East's problem—too many unskilled men with a shortage of skilled people, who are the first to migrate from depressed areas.
926 I therefore ask my right hon. Friend not to underestimate the problem or the fact that there are 3,000 very angry men in this yard who cannot see the sense of its closure. It is no good saying that this is just private enterprise—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member must relate his remarks to the simple question of whether we should adjourn until 23rd April.
§ Mr. Leadbitter
The case for a debate cannot be opposed simply on the grounds that this is confined to private enterprise. It involves tremendous national assets of equipment and manpower and these men would far rather have their Members debating it next week. Where is the sense of a British Government giving about £36½ million to British shipowners in the next few years to build ships abroad, so as to close our own yards? That is the final question which Northern Members would be expected by these men to ask should the Government agree to postpone the recess.
I said that this matter was immediately important. The Government have done a remarkable job in the North-East Region, but the improvement is not keeping pace with the decline in the basic and traditional industries. I ask the Leader of the House to complement what has been done by conducting an emergency operation to save a valuable industry.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)
I remind the Leader of the House of a very serious problem, particularly in the South-West, which needs an immediate answer—that of rising unemployment, especially in North Devon, where, in spite of the holiday trade, which is under way, the unemployment figure is rising rapidly. We ought to be discussing it in the House and we ought to have a statement from the Minister of Labour on how he will deal with it. Unemployed people, not only in the South-West but throughout the country, will look with disfavour upon the House going into Recess without dealing with the problem and without a statement from the Minister of Labour and the Government on how they will overcome it. That is my first—and valid—reason why we should not go into Recess at the moment.
My second reason is concerned with agriculture, in which I am particularly 927 interested. Before the Recess we ought to have a debate or at least a statement from the new Minister of Agriculture on how he will deal with some of the urgent problems which affect not only agriculture but also the consumer, as I shall seek to show. Before we rise for the Recess, the Minister of Agriculture ought to make a statement on what he intends to do about foot-and-mouth disease. That situation has altered radically in the last week or two and we cannot leave it without a statement before the Recess. There have been further outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, all adding to the risk to farmers of a further primary outbreak somewhere else, and we ought to know exactly what the Minister proposes to do about it.
The consumer, too, is affected. As we have said many times in past debates, if we have a further outbreak the consumer will suffer not only in the increased price of meat but also in the dislocation of communications which arises through a very serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The House ought to know what the Minister of Agriculture feels about it and he ought to make a statement. I should like to see the new Minister of Agriculture at the Dispatch Box so that we may find out whether he can cope with this problem before the Recess. When such serious problems abound in agriculture, it seems an odd time for us to have a new Minister of Agriculture. We ought to know from him exactly how he will deal with these problems.
Agriculture is suffering from a variety of difficulties which ought to be debated—or, at least, we ought to have a statement from the new Minister. The flood of subsidised imports, particularly of cheese and dried milk, is causing grave problems to agriculture. I may be asked why these problems should be raised before the Recess. The answer is that they are having a serious effect on farmers' incomes. Already we see the effect of these imports as they dilute the milk pool price. What does the new Minister propose to do about that situation? Will he simply leave it and allow it to drift? We want to see him at the Dispatch Box so that we may question him.
It is all very well for the new Leader of the House to smile. He has left these 928 difficulties. It would be unfair for me to say that he has ratted, but he has certainly left the new Minister of Agriculture with very serious problems, including those created by foot-and-mouth disease and the import of cheese and dried milk.
The Report of the little Neddy on the bacon-curing industry raises important issues. I want to know what the new Minister of Agriculture feels about them and how he will deal with them. The problems are serious and not easy to resolve, and I want to know, before the Recess, how the Minister will tackle them.
I could draw attention to many other agricultural problems which ought to be considered, but I come back to foot-and-mouth disease. The previous Minister allowed imports of beef again in spite of all our warnings and in spite of fresh outbreaks. I hope that before the Recess we shall have a clear-cut statement from the new Minister of Agriculture reversing the decision of the previous Minister so that farmers and, more important, consumers, may be protected. I hope that the Leader of the House will take note of what I have said and pass my views to the new Minister of Agriculture, and I hope that we shall have a debate or, at least, a statement before the Recess. If not, we must oppose this Motion.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
We ought not to adjourn while Motion 191 remains on the Order Paper—
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to remove the name of Sir Thomas Hugh William Beadle from the list of Her Majesty's Honourable Privy Council.]
That Motion consists of an attack upon one of Her Majesty's judges and demands that his name be removed from the list of the Privy Council. The Government have a special duty towards Her Majesty's judges. The judges cannot protect themselves, and it is therefore the Government's duty to take steps to protect them—and immediate steps—when they are attacked in this manner. No Motion such as this should be tolerated in our Journals, and I know of no instance in our political history in which an attack on one of Her Majesty's judges has been allowed to rest on the Order Paper with 929 nothing done about it. I recall an occasion when we took grave exception to a Government in Africa taking action against a judge because that judge had reached a decision which they did not like. A suggestion that we ought to do that sort of thing ought not to rest on our Order Paper.
This is no new kind of case. Where there are rebel régimes and occupations by an enemy, judges who are loyal to the Queen find themselves in a difficult position. They can retire, they can refuse to go on, or they can continue to work, as did a number of judges during the American Revolution and as did the judges of the High Court of the Channel Islands during the German occupation. That choice, certainly in the case of Sir Hugh Beadle, is not one of which we can complain, because we asked him to carry on.
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot argue the merits of the Motion 191. He can only draw attention to the reasons why we should discuss it before we adjourn. He cannot go into the details of the matter.
§ Mr. Paget
I respectfully agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but in order to indicate the nature of the Motion and why it is such a grave debasement of our Order Paper and such a derogation of the duty owed by the Government to the judiciary that it be allowed to stay there for a single week, I must point out the circumstances. Therefore, it is necessary simply to indicate what the position of Sir Hugh Beadle in this matter is. He is a man who served in the difficult position of a judge loyally to Her Majesty, carrying on under a rebel Government; and he did so because Her Majesty's Government asked him to. In doing so, he had certain duties. Those duties are fairly well settled in international law. First, he must apply international law to the authority of the Government as he sees it and finds it in practice.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot argue the merits of the matter as distinct from arguing the necessity for debating it be-lore we adjourn.
§ Mr. Paget
It is very difficult to draw a fine line here between saying that something should be debated and saying what 930 should be debated. I believe that, where there is a Motion on the Order Paper calling for the removal of one of Her Majesty's judges from the list of Her Majesty's Privy Councillors, it is necessary to indicate what the complaints against that judge are and to say that those are complaints with regard to which this judge is not only entitled to be defended but is entitled to be defended immediately by Her Majesty's Government, because this is the essence of the matter. There is authority after authority for the proposition that, where a judge is attacked in Parliament and upon our Journal, it is the Government's duty to take immediate action.
I therefore believe that it is necessary here to indicate certainly what my view is—that in a number of very erudite and, I believe, deeply impartial judgments this Chief Justice, one of the Queen's most distinguished judges, did no more than his duty and did no more than the law required of him.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman feels very strongly about this, and I have no doubt that it is a matter which should be debated, but the rules of the House make it clear that these matters of a personal nature can be properly debated only on a specific Motion and it is not appropriate to debate the merits of the Motion concerning Sir Hugh Beadle on the Question now before the House as to whether we should adjourn. I must ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to realise that he has drawn attention to the urgency of the matter and to the need, because this Motion is on the Order Paper, for not agreeing to the Adjournment Motion, but it would be quite out of order to pursue the merits of the matter now, because there would be no opportunity of reply.
§ Mr. Hastings
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I respectfully submit that the Motion on the Order Paper concerning Sir Hugh Beadle has caused many hon. Members, probably on both sides, a great deal of concern. Moreover, the majority of us are not learned in the law. To enable us to make a judgment as to whether we should adjourn before the matter is satisfactorily explained by the Government, it is of great benefit to hon. Members on both sides to hear something of the legal case propounded by 931 the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The difficulty is this. It is perfectly open to the House to negative the Motion tabled by the Government to the effect that the House should adjourn. If the Government's Motion is negatived, no doubt there would be an opportunity of discussing the Motion relating to Sir Hugh Beadle. However, it would be quite irregular, because of the Motion now on the Order Paper, to embark upon a debate on a matter which is no doubt very serious and very important but to which there would be no opportunity for a reply.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Further to the point of order. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) has said. As I am not a lawyer, I find it very difficult to come to a conclusion on this. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) is certainly informing back benchers. I recall the Prime Minister's saying not long ago that Sir Hugh Beadle had the courage of a lion. This Motion on the Order Paper should be cleared up before we go on holiday.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
It is perfectly In order to put forward that argument that in view of the Motion about Sir Hugh Beadle the House should not adjourn. But obviously the House cannot in this debate form a judgment about the merits of the Motion relating to Sir Hugh Beadle. Therefore, it would be quite irregular to embark upon such a debate, however desirable it might be at some other time.
§ Mr. Paget
I do not intend to go into this at any length. I have not even brought into the Chamber the judgments of Sir Hugh Beadle, which I have read. It is something on which I could make a very long speech, but I have not the slightest intention or wish of doing anything of the sort. You said in your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to which I pay the utmost respect, that this matter could be discussed only on a Motion—that this judge can be defended only on a Motion. This is precisely my point. There is this Motion on the Order Paper. It is the duty of the Government to take immediate steps to deal with the Motion.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Many of us entirely disagree with the views now being advanced by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). We cannot debate the question. If my hon. and learned Friend is proceeding to put arguments in favour of it, it would be only right that we put arguments against it. I therefore put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is quite out of order for this matter to be proceeded with in the way that my hon. and learned Friend is doing.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I have already indicated my view that it was open to the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) to draw attention to the Motion on the Order Paper as a reason why we should not adjourn. As the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) has indicated, it would be quite improper if we were to embark upon a general debate upon the merit. I repeat that I think that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton has already adequately given the reasons why he thinks it is a reason for not adjourning. It would be wrong to pursue the matter further in any detail.
§ Mr. Paget
Further to that point of order. I must protest a little. It is impossible to rule in advance that what I was going to say is out of order when you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, first ruled that to raise the question that the House should not adjourn until the Motion has been discussed, and discussed as a matter of immediacy, is in order. In view of that Ruling, all that I propose to say—I do not propose to take this in any detail—is that Sir Hugh has given certain judgments, that those judgments, in the view of many lawyers, are not only erudite and able, but clearly right upon the law as it stands—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I must adhere to the Ruling I have given. It would be wrong for the hon. and learned Gentleman to pursue this matter in the way that he is proposing to do so.
§ Mr. Paget
In that case, I will not go further. I will simply say that I hope very much indeed that the Government will take a very serious view of this 933 matter and of their duty to do it judicially. They are wrong to allow a judge to be abused in this matter. The fact that his judgment may be something they do not like and something that some of their wilder supporters do not like does not change their duty in the least. Their duty is to deal with this matter. Their duty is to the judge, whether or not they or their supporters like his judgment. We should not adjourn, and leave this matter as something that can be ignored. It disgraces and debases our proceedings.
Rhodesia is, quite clearly, a deteriorating situation. From every point of view things are getting worse. We have an opportunity, and it may be the very last opportunity, to negotiate. The matter has been so much a conflict of personality and a lack of trust, but we have a man whose integrity is completely respected, a rid not only on both sides of the House, and who is trusted not only here but in Rhodesia. We should get some assurance that these valuable services, which could a: long last bring this folly to an end, are not being neglected. This is something we should reasonably ask of the Government
§ 5 32 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
I am very glad to follow the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), and to support him on both his counts. The Motion standing on the Order Paper to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred, and which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, said needed debate, is a very grave Motion. It is, indeed, an injustice if we are to go away without this learned and honourable judge, whom the Prime Minister praised so highly, and requested to remain at his post and continue with the administration of justice in Rhodesia, being given an opportunity of clearing his name.
A debate would be a necessary debate, and it would bring to light some anomalies, because if it is suggested by hon. Members opposite that Sir Hugh Beadle should be removed from the Privy Council—
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
The hon. and learned Gentleman says "Hear, hear"—it would be brought before the House and made known to the public that the 934 list of members of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council included the name of the Honourable Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
I support the hon. and learned Member for Northampton who, as time has shown, is so much better informed about Rhodesia than are his right hon. Friends and most of his hon. Friends. I ask the Leader of the House, whom I welcome to the Treasury Bench in this capacity, to assure us that we shall have from the appropriate Minister a clear statement that Her Majesty's Government will urgently follow up the offer made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) to place himself at the disposal of the Government in a search for an honourable settlement with Rhodesia.
The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the situation there is deteriorating. If it is deteriorating in Rhodesia, it is certainly deteriorating in the United Kingdom. The report of the Constitutional Commission cannot be much longer delayed. Indeed, if we go away on Thursday we may find before we come back on 23rd April that the report of the Constitutional Commission—which, I understand, is now before Ministers in Salisbury—has been made public. Once that is published—we do not know what it will contain—positions may be taken that will make it well nigh impossible for an honourable, peaceful and early solution to be reached.
Good things have happened in Rhodesia, and I am a little surprised that hon. Members opposite who raised the subject of Rhodesia did not see fit to mention them. Hon. Members opposite are always eager to mention the things that are bad in Rhodesia, and that reinforces the argument for the urgent need of a statement, if not a debate, on Rhodesia. Mr. Ian Smith has announced the raising of the censorship—
§ Dr. David Kerr
Has the hon. Member noticed that there is no official Press censorship in South Africa, either, but that does not stop the South African Government pursuing their policy just the same?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I shall not be tempted to discuss South Africa. When I was interrupted I was mentioning new factors which emphasise the urgency of the Rhodesian situation. On the one hand, we have the danger of the report of the constitutional commission and, on the other hand, we have certain constructive features which suggest that there may now be another opportunity of negotiating for a settlement. The first factor is the lifting of the censorship. The second is the speech made by Mr. Ian Smith against racialism. The third is the speech made by a cabinet colleague of Mr. Ian Smith against republicanism. Those are three new factors that have emerged since the debate we had not so long ago. There is now what may be a last chance for the Government to seize the opportunity of negotiation.
I shall not rehearse any of the arguments on Rhodesia that we have had a number of times in the House. I shall not repeat anything that was said in our recent debate—but it was a most unsatisfactory debate. At the end of it, we were left with an impression almost of hopelessness. Nothing was offered by the Government in the way of a constructive approach to the problem. The Prime Minister's speech was sterile, negative, destructive, and emotive to the point of hysteria. We now ask the Leader of the House in this Mark II Government to try to do better, and to put before the House a clear statement that an effort will be made while there is yet time to reach a settlement with Rhodesia so that we may retain or regain something at least of our trade and influence.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)
Like some of my hon. Friends who have opposed the Motion, my complaints about adjourning on Thursday go back to the reshuffle at the weekend. I take it that what we had then was what the Lord President rather humorously, as I thought, called "Wilson Mark II". If that is so, I must tell the House that it is the Lord President's position that I put forward as the reason for this House not rising on Thursday.
The announcement stated that the Lord President was to preside over a merged Ministry of Social Security and Health. We have today not had any statement 936 from the Government about the details of this proposal. It is a proposal of the very greatest importance—and, incidentally, it is one that we ourselves have been pressing for months, indeed for years. Only last Tuesday I had an opportunity to put it forward, and at that time the Government seemed wholly uninterested. Naturally, we are delighted to find that the Government have now adopted it, but the trouble is that when the Government steal our clothes they tend to put them on the wrong way round. We should therefore like to have a statement from the Government as to what is intended. That statement should be made before we rise.
It could be that decisions will be taken during the Recess about the shape of the new Ministry. They might be wholly against the ideas which we have put forward. Our suspicions in this respect were increased this afternoon by a remark by the right hon. Lady the Minister of Social Security. She said that the merger was not to be of the sort we had asked for. It was to be less in extent. We should like to hear more about this before a final decision is taken. Many of us believe that there is nothing in the whole field of Government administration more important than getting this matter right. Therefore we think it quite wrong that the House should rise before the matter is settled and we are satisfied. I ask the Leader of the House, when he addresses the House, to give a firm indication that there will be a statement on this merger before we rise for Easter.
One thing makes me extremely suspicious. The right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) remains Lord President of the Council. A new Ministry is not being set up; he apparently is to preside over a merger. What is to be the time-scale? Is this another kind of whitewashing or a gimmick operation similar to those to which we have become used, or is it a real proposal for a merger? These questions should be answered from the Government Front Bench before we rise. What will be the relationship between this new Ministry and local authorities? To this we should have an answer. Merely to merge two Ministries and to produce a mammoth Department would be to go against the proposal for devolution of power to local 937 authorities. We should like to know whether the concept of devolution is part of the idea of the merger.
Only a week or two ago the Prime Minister announced, in similarly vague and inconclusive terms, a merger between the Commonwealth Office and the Foreign Office. In that case also existing Ministers were to continue and the change was to be made some time in the future. Only with the greatest difficulty were try hon. and right hon. Friends able to extract a direct statement from the Prime Minister. Only after pressure was a statement made. This increases my suspicion. I think it a right and proper request to make to the Government that before we rise for Easter we shall be provided with a full statement with opportunities for questioning on this proposed merger.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)
I think it hypothetical of hon. Members in many cases to argue against this Motion. When I looked into the cloakroom today I counted 14 bags with airline tickets on them. They were for various countries—Rhodesia, South Africa, Greece, and mine is packed to go to East Germany. The Governments of the four countries I have mentioned are not recognised by this House. I repeat that it is hypothetical of hon. Members to argue against the Motion.
Unfortunately, my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) is not now present. He referred to 3,000 men in the North-East. I want to raise a similarly important question which should come before the House before we rise for the Easter Recess. I wish that that Recess could be five weeks instead of one week because, apparently, all the business of the House is taken over by the Executive. We are just called to go through the Lobbies in support of the Executive. This happens no matter which party forms the Government. Perhaps the longer we are away the more business will be done by the Government.
I raise the question of the mining industry. My hon. Friend said that 3,000 jobs were in jeopardy in the shipbuilding industry, but in my county—not merely is my constituency—during the past two months we have lost 3,250 jobs in the mining industry and 22 per cent. of those 938 declared redundant are men over 55. I have consistently asked since November last year when the Regulations pertaining to Sections 4(3) and 5 of the 1967 Coal Industry Act would be laid before the House, debated and ratified. In the debate in November the then Minister of Power begged on his hands and knees of the miners' group and of this House in Committee to give him the Bill with the utmost urgency so that the benefits could be paid during the Christmas holidays.
We are now to adjourn for Easter and those Regulations, although they have been completed and I have had a sight of a copy of them, have not been ratified. It is of the utmost urgency that they should be ratified by this House at the earliest possible moment. The benefits given by the Act will be retrospective to 18th July last year. Men who were declared redundant on 21st July have not received a penny benefit under the Act. This is a grave matter of urgency. Although many consider that 2,000 or 3,000 men in the whole complex of industry do not amount to much, to one man who is denied benefit because of the lackadaisical attitude of the Minister it is most important. This is of urgency for the man concerned.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the new Leader of the House on his appointment. No doubt he has had a real feeding up in the Ministry of Agriculture. I am surprised at the carping criticisms of his activities which have been made by our opponents. He has had a very difficult job. In my constituency he has done magnificently. I must insist to him that the matter I have raised is one of urgency. I do not suggest that we should oppose this Motion. If anyone wants to oppose it I am prepared to go into the Lobby in support of it. This is one of the things on which I am always willing to support the Government, allowing for seasonal adjustments and my Division records.
I ask my right hon. Friend to bring to the notice of the new Minister of Power the urgency of the matter I have raised. I am speaking, not as chairman of the miners' group but as the Member for Derbyshire, North-East. There are at least 2,000 men in my constituency who should be beneficiaries under the Act. The Regulations are quite satisfactory 939 and there is nothing to stop them coming before the House earlier than Wednesday evening at half-past ten. I ask my right hon. Friend to draw my remarks to the attention of the new Minister and that if possible he will bring the Regulations forward for ratification so that the money can go to the men who have been suffering hardship since last July.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I assume that the Minister is unlikely to accept the objections which have been raised against the Motion. I regret this because the arguments for debating certain vital matters before we adjourn should be accepted, even by the new Leader of the House. If he does reject them, I must argue against the Motion on the ground that the proposed Recess is insufficiently long.
I advance this view not as an hon. Member of the Opposition but because of the insufficiency and incapacity of the Ministers who are at present in office to adjust themselves to the realities of their Departments and because they need at least another week in Recess to acquaint themselves with what is going on. The new Leader of the House needs far more than another week.
These new Ministers have not had time in which to recognise their limitations. They should be allowed time in which to commune with themselves so that these limitations become obvious even to them. For example, the new Minister of Transport must be limited when faced with the task of taking over a Bill which is enmeshed in Committee and gripped with the Closure Motion. He is even deprived of the assistance of a junior Minister who knows his way about the Bill. Indeed, the House should be invited to reconsider the Sittings Motion because even if the new Minister knows what is in the Bill, which I very much doubt, he cannot be aware of whether the timetable is appropriate.
The Minister of Defence could use another week in which to think about Service pay. Threatened with a Recess, the Services do not know what is to happen to their pay. This should be most worrying for the Minister, particularly in view of the low morale of the Services and the low recruitment 940 figures. While I do not condone the incident of last Friday, when apparently a flight lieutenant in the R.A.F. elected to take a dangerous course to demonstrate his private resentment against the Government's refusal to allow a ceremonial fly-past in commemoration of the R.A.F.'s fiftieth anniversary, it is obvious that the morale of the Service is much lower than the Government should have allowed it to become.
§ Mr. Onslow
The Motion requires us to adjourn until 23rd April. I am arguing that we should adjourn for at least another week so that certain Ministers have an opportunity to improve their performance and revise their ideas.
Many other examples could be cited; for example, the incomes policy, which was mentioned so effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen). More time is needed for this to be given some serious rethinking. The Government need time to rethink their policies over Rhodesia. The responsible Minister needs time in which to prepare a proper attitude for the conduct of these affairs.
Perhaps the most tired and broken man in the Government is the Prime Minister. He certainly needs more leisure time in view of the way in which he has utterly misconducted the nation's affairs. An extra week in the Scilly Isles would allow him to do a little quiet reflecting and perhaps he could reassess the whole position of his Administration. It might make him recognise that the reputation of Parliament, at his hands, has sunk so low that only a General Election can save it.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I am glad of this opportunity to give a few reasons why we should receive statements on various matters either before we adjourn or immediately we return. I am pleased to see the Patronage Secretary in his place, because in his combined rôle of Deputy Leader of the House and Patronage Secretary he may recognise his responsibilities to the House and accept the request of most hon. Members, including a number of those behind 941 him, to reject the Motion. Alternatively, he may agree to a free vote taking place, if the matter is forced to a vote.
We must insist on receiving a statement, either before we adjourn or immediately we return, from the new Minister of Agriculture. One can understand why the new Leader of the House left the Ministry of Agriculture. The Minister who has replaced him will no doubt hasten to undo some of the damage his predecessor did by allowing Argentine meat to be imported before a full report of foot-and-mouth disease was received. We should receive a statement from the mw Minister explaining that he appreciates the errors of his predecessor's ways an that he intends to stop this importation. Now that the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) is no longer in the Cabinet to support the former Minister of Agriculture, we can appreciate why the right hon. Gentleman had to retire from the Ministry of Agriculture. I say that because I understand that the only time that he got anything through the Cabinet was when he had the support of the right hon. Member for Belper.
A number of other matters need clarifying; for example, what is happening with the prices and incomes policy? Although the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs made a speech in the House the other day, he has now been deprived of half his Department. One might almost say that the poodle has had its bark taken from it. We need statements from other new Ministers. We should know precisely what is happening in their Departments and how the Mark II Government are likely to operate.
Rural transport is another matter which needs clarifying. Unless there is proper co-ordination between the railways and bus transport, parts of the country will be denuded of population. Statements on these subjects must be made before the Recess, or, alternatively, we should have a shorter Recess.
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
The hon. Gentleman has just said that we should have a shorter Recess. As the Recess at present is only one week, will he tell us to what extent would shorten that week?
§ Mr. Harrison
I thought that a week was seven days, and it seems to me that 942 the Recess will be a little longer than that.
Before we went away would be a suitable time to have a statement on rural transport, which is very necessary if we are to remain healthy as a country.
For those reasons, and because of the complete disarray in which we find the organisation of Government, which must be clarified very rapidly, we are entitled to oppose the Motion.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
I suppose that on both sides of the House there would be agreement with me when I say that no Government within living memory has needed a rest more than the present one. Nevertheless, it should resist the tendency to lay down the load and go away, and I oppose the Motion. There has been a good deal of criticism rising in recent months about this House in general and about particular features of it. Some of it is misdirected and should fall on the Government, and some of it is unfair, but there would certainly be much warranted criticism if we all go away now while 500,000 or 600,000 men and women of the Armed Services are waiting to hear when the decision is to be made on their pay and pensions, a decision which is now overdue.
The Grigg Commission considers the pay of the Armed Forces biennially. That is the normal procedure, and its considerations cover to what extent the Services' pay has fallen behind that in civilian life, and recommends accordingly. It does not necessarily recommend an increase. It merely makes a recommendation to maintain the Services' pay, the rate of advance of the Services' pay the same as rates in civilian life. The procedure means that over a period of two years the Services gradually fall behind in their rates of pay.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We cannot discuss the particular recommendations of the Grigg Commission. We can only discuss the date of the Easter adjournment.
§ Captain Elliot
I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I apologise if I am straying out of order. I wanted to make these points to lead up to a criticism of the Government's referring the matter to the Prices and Incomes Board 943 and so delaying the decision and arousing anxiety in the Services, which should be allayed before we adjourn. As a result, if the recommendation is accepted the Services' rates of pay become level with those in civilian life, and so they are not the pace-setter in this matter. Therefore, it seems to me absolutely unnecessary that the Government should have referred the matter—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sorry. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now dealing with the merits of a particular issue, and that cannot be discussed on the Motion for the Easter adjournment.
§ Captain Elliot
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I strayed out of order, but I have come to the end of that part of my speech.
The Government could only have done what they did in order to delay the recommendations being put into operation and it is too cynical and would be bad for the reputation of the House if, having done that, we now go away for our Recess, leaving the hundreds of thousands of men and women in the Services in suspense and doubt as to their future conditions of service. For that reason, I strongly oppose the adjournment of the House until a statement has been made on the subject.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
The most interesting comment in the whole debate was the intervention of the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), whose opinions are always listened to with great respect in the House. He asked if a day would make any difference to the Recess, which he said was to last for a week.
§ Mr. Dempsey
When the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Brian Harrison) talked about reducing the length of the Recess, I said that it lasts for exactly one week, or seven Parliamentary days, and asked to what extent the hon. Gentleman would reduce it.
§ Mr. Taylor
I listened to the hon. Gentleman with great interest, and I remind him of the remark attributed to the Prime Minister, that a week is a long time in politics, as we all know. Although the 944 Recess is just seven Parliamentary days, seven days matter a great deal under the present Government because on the average day of Labour Government we have had £1½ million of extra taxation, 50 extra civil servants have been employed, and 800 people have left the country to look for an opportunity overseas which they cannot have in this country. Although I respect the hon. Gentleman's opinions, I think that in view of those figures of £1½ million extra taxation, 800 emigrants from these shores and 50 additional civil servants then an extra day or one less day on the Recess matters a great deal.
I can well appreciate the feelings of the new Leader of the House, for whom we all have great admiration, because he hears conflicting arguments. One of which we are all well aware is that it might be a good thing to have a slightly longer Recess to enable the new Minister of Transport to look closely at the dreadful Transport Bill. I have had the pleasure of sitting on the Committee considering that Bill. It is absolutely shocking that we have been prevented from discussing important and significant Clauses, which could have a major effect on the people of this country, because of the imposition of the guillotine. We have tried to make very great progress, and have done our best to get through the arguments as quickly as possible, but despite that we have not had time.
There has been a dramatic change. We have had the appointment of the new Minister of Transport, and we have had the Joint Parliamentary Secretary promoted to another post. In these circumstances, it will be absolutely intolerable if we do not give the new Minister time to think about the problem, time to look at this dreadful Bill, with 169 Clauses and over 260 pages. It is absolutely intolerable to expect him to take over and know exactly what is going on. The new Minister has had experience of this. He was responsible for piloting through the nationalisation of iron and steel. I was a member of the Committee that considered the Iron and Steel Act, and I told him then that it was a mistake to nationalise iron and steel. I said that it would cause a great deal of harm to the country. I think that he would now admit that I was right, because a highly profitable industry had been brought into a serious state in the interim. We must give the 945 Minister time to think about the implications of the Transport Bill, particularly as it affects Scotland. I and other Scottish Members will be absolutely furious if we do not have time to discuss those matters adequately.
That is one argument for extending the Recess. There are many arguments for shortening it, one of the most important of which is to enable Scottish Members to have an opportunity of a proper one day's debate on the dramatic rise in violent crime in Scotland. We had a short discussion on the subject at three o'clock in the morning some time ago. I know that the new Leader of the House takes a very real interest in these matters.
Crimes of violence have doubled in 10 years in Scotland, and the murder rite has doubled in six years. There is the outstanding question of a request from the magistrates and the police in Glasgow for additional powers of search. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is sincerely and carefully looking at the problem, which involves many difficulties, but I am sure that he would agree that it is a matter of urgency. In these circumstances, we want a full-scale debate on the Floor of the House to give Scottish hon. Members an opportunity to look at the problem in all its aspects. This difficult problem must be carefully examined and debated urgently. We are asking for a return on 22nd April so that we can hold such a debate. This is not just the Conservative Party's point of view. The important series of articles in the Scottish Daily Express in the last week have shown that this is a matter of universal concern.
The third reason for shortening the Recess concerns our financial affairs. It is difficult to understand from Ministers whether the country is in a serious economic plight or not. However, we are told that, even after six Budgets in three and a half years, the country is still in a serious position. We should have more time for the Government to explain their policies. I was surprised to read in HANSARD the reply to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), who asked if we are going into the money-lending business. It was revealed that the Government were to lend the U.A.R. money to enable it to pay off a loan from the I.M.F.
946 It is staggering that this country, which has recently borrowed so much money from the I.M.F., should lend some of it to the Egyptians to enable them to pay back money to the I.M.F., particularly when we bear in mind that our financial troubles partly stem from the activities of Nasser over the Suez Canal. The Government are giving him money to keep the Suez Canal closed.
No doubt President Kaunda of Zambia is looking for more help from the Government. Last year, we agreed to give Zambia £13.85 million for approved projects. Unfortunately we had no opportunity to debate this then because of a Recess. I hope that we shall have an opportunity this time. On 26th March, in HANSARD it was shown that not all the money had been spent because not all the approved projects have materialised. However, the Government are still to give the whole sum to Zambia, so £5 million not required is to be given to Zambia just the same.
Is this the action of a Government facing an economic crisis? I remind the House that President Kaunda is enabling facilities to be provided for armed terrorist attacks on Rhodesia. Is it also the action of a Government facing economic crisis to give a loan to President Nasser, who has closed the Suez Canal to us? The actions of the Government do not make it clear whether or not we are facing an economic crisis. It is high time they told us.
We must also have an extra day to discuss the prices and incomes legislation. Whether such legislation is right or wrong, we should be told what is to happen when the compulsory powers are removed. The moment they are removed—and we know this from three temporary doses already—there will be a flood of wage claims which will knock the economy scatty. I do not want to face the prospect of this happening without having one extra day in which to discuss this vital matter. It is important that the Government should tell us what their policy is to be after the compulsory powers disappear.
We need a Recess so that Members of the Government and of the House can have a reasonable rest but we need an extra day of Parliamentary time to enable the Government to tell us how they are 947 to run the affairs of the country once these compulsory powers are removed. A day is an important matter. A day under Socialism means 50 extra civil servants, £1.5 million of extra taxation and 800 people emigrating from our shores. When we face these stark facts, it is all the more important to have adequate Parliamentary discussion and I am hopeful and confident that the right hon. Gentleman will accede to this reasonable request.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
We cannot possibly adjourn for Easter while British citizens are still being held in prison by the Chinese [Laughter.] A constituent of mine, Mr. Watt, has been locked up for six months in China and not one British consular official has been able to see him. I resent the jeers on the benches opposite. The freedom of British subjects should mean more to this House than the jeers of the Socialists on the benches opposite.
Mr. George Watt is an engineer employed by Vickers Zimmer in Lanchow on a synthetic fibre plant. He has been held since September. Mr. Grey and Mr. Barrymaine and others—no one knows how many—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot go into the merits of the case, in which he commands the sympathy of the whole House.
§ Mr. McMaster
I shall not do so, Mr. Speaker. The Foreign Office has recently reported that, as a result of probing and questioning, not one but three British citizens are held in prison in China—Mr. Watt, Mr. Grey and Mr. Barrymaine. We do not know how many British citizens are being held in China and before we go into Recess we should know what the Government intend to do about these citizens. What representations are being made to the Chinese so that our consular officers can see them? They have not just been kept under house arrest. I was recently told, indirectly through the New China News Agency, that one has been accused and sentenced to three years' imprisonment—and still no consular official has been to see them—and he has been unable to communicate with his wife and family.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We are debating whether the House should adjourn for Easter until 23rd April and the hon. Gentleman must keep himself to that. I have assured him that on the case itself he has the complete sympathy of the whole House, including Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. McMaster
Then I will conclude this part of my speech by saying that, before we adjourn for Easter, I would like a statement made not only about these men but about our relations with China, a country with over 700 million people and with which we should have good political, economic and trade relations. This matter has been ignored completely by the Government.
§ Mr. McMaster
I will not seek to debate it, Mr. Speaker, but will simply call for a statement before we adjourn about what the Government are doing to improve trade and political relations with China. The peace of the world may depend on good relations with China, whose population is growing each year at a rate equivalent to the population of the British Isles. This is a serious matter and we on this side are particularly concerned for those British citizens who are under arrest there.
Other important matters have been raised in the debate on this Motion, notably the Transport Bill. This Measure will have a considerable effect upon Northern Ireland, adding to the cost of our trade with Great Britain. This is another matter which should be dealt with urgently. Two new Ministers have been appointed, and there should be a new Motion in the Standing Committee on the Transport Bill to give these Ministers time—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot traverse in debate all the business in which the hon. Gentleman is interested. He must argue why we should not come back until 23rd April or should come back before that date.
§ Mr. McMaster
My argument is that, while the Government are chopping and changing, while new Ministers are being appointed as Bills are in progress which affect the prosperity of the nation, we should not adjourn. All these matters 949 should be fully debated. Many parts of the Transport Bill have not been properly considered. One example is the question of aircraft policy, which has a particular effect on my constituency. Some of my hon. Friends have spoken already of matters relating to the design of our military and civil aircraft. All these questions should be fully considered by the House before arrangements are made to go into Recess.
There is uncertainty in the shipbuilding industry. Orders are going abroad and unemployment is threatened. These are serious matters, and it is quite wrong for the House to go off for two weeks—not seven days; it is almost two calendar weeks—without being able to discuss them. Two weeks of Socialism can do a great deal of harm to this country.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
I add my voice to those who have congratulated the new Leader of the House on his appointment, and express the hope that he will start well by answering many of the points which have been raised in the debate. The debate has ranged over a wide area, which is only proof of the wide area of dissatisfaction with this Government throughout the country.
The arguments for amending or opposing the Motion have been of two kinds. Some hon. Members have argued that we should have a longer Recess and some that we should have a shorter Recess. It was argued by the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) that the Government needed more time to sort out their ideas. He even seemed to paraphrase a famous phrase, suggesting that they needed months, not weeks, to do it. Then, it was argued by my hon. Fr end the Member for Woking (Mr. Or, slow) that more time was needed to show how the Transport Bill could be handled with a change of Minister in the middle of the passage of a most complicated piece of legislation. That is a thoroughly valid point.
Incidentally, on the question of Ministerial changes, the House should be told more about the position of the new Deputy Leader of the House, who is both Patronage Secretary and Deputy Leader of the House. This is the only example I can recall of someone who has simultaneously to be both a hawk 950 and a dove. We want to know what the right hon. Gentleman's plumage will be like and what sounds, if any, he will emit in the House. We hope that, before the House rises for the Recess, we shall have some information about that.
I suspect that those who argued for a longer Recess argued with less vigour and, perhaps, less conviction than those who argued for a shorter Recess on the ground that there are many important matters which ought to be dealt with before the House adjourns. I shall not catalogue them all. They were raised on both sides. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) raised the important matter of the Motion on the Order Paper about Sir Hugh Beadle. The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) is concerned about the closing of a shipyard in his area. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) is concerned about miners in his constituency who are awaiting their redundancy payments. All these are genuine examples of urgent matters which hon. Members are entitled to have dealt with in some way or other before the House can feel entitled to take a substantial, though not a long, Recess.
From our side, many matters have been raised, and I shall take up three specifically, all examples of questions calling for urgent action. First, the question of foot-and-mouth disease, raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) and for Malden (Mr. Brian Harrison), all of whom stressed the urgency of the problem. In his new capacity, the Leader of the House can call on the resources of his own experience in dealing with it. There is genuine concern about the recrudescence of foot-and-mouth disease and the effect of the Government's decision about the importation of beef from Argentina. This matter should be cleared up before the House can reasonably rise for the Recess.
The second matter of urgency I take up is the question of Forces' pay, raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles), my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Captain Elliot). They 951 all stressed the exceptional situation this year, the first time for nine years at least, I think, when the Forces have not known so late in the year what the position regarding their pay will be. We warned the Government when they referred this matter to the Prices and Incomes Board that there would be this delay. There is clear evidence that it is an urgent matter, and it is one which ought to be dealt with by the Government before they allow the House to go into Recess.
The third urgent matter is the prices and incomes policy and the need for further clarification about it. It is urgent because decisions are being taken day by day throughout the country, and the form of these decisions is influenced by Government policy although that policy has not been adequately clarified. What is their exact policy regarding rents, regarding dividends or regarding rate fixing in industry? All these are matters on which daily decisions have to be taken by Her Majesty's subjects although they are still in ignorance of the Government's real purpose and intention. The Government seem determined to act retrospectively, to legislate to validate acts of influence, as they call it. They cannot properly ask the House to go into recess without vouchsafing more information about their policy.
I have confined myself to matters requiring urgent consideration which are, therefore, proper for this debate. A good many other points were raised, but I need not rehearse those. To recapitulate, the three main matters raised from this side on which urgent action is required are the danger of foot-and-mouth disease, the urgent need for an announcement on Forces' pay, and the urgent need for clarification of the Government's policy on prices and incomes. I ask the Leader of the House to make a good start in his new capacity by dealing with them, in so far as his colleagues' inadequacies allow.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
I thank right hon. and hon. Members on both sides for their kind remarks about me. I confess that I shall miss my Department. It is a very fine Ministry, even though it has been mentioned again today in a critical tone. It is not unusual 952 for a Minister making a change to miss his Ministry, and I shall miss mine. However, I shall do my best in the position which I now have the honour to hold.
I have been in the House now for 23 years, 19 years as a back-bencher. I can remember many occasions when I, as a back-bencher, pressed Ministers, as hon. Members have pressed them so effectively today, conveying to the House their interest and concern on specific matters and calling for a change in Government policy. I understand that. I believe that a Leader of the House should not only see that Government policy goes through smoothly but should also represent the rights and interests of individuals and of both sides of the House, in the best sense. I trust that I shall do that in my period of office. I believe it to be the right approach.
I listened carefully to the many points raised today. In his concise speech, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) highlighted some of the main problems which are worrying hon. Members on both sides, although, naturally, the emphasis was on the views of the Opposition, as is only right. First, the question of foot-and-mouth disease. Here, I am not briefed. I must speak from my own experience. Only a few days ago, I answered questions on this subject, not only Questions in the House but questions in the Welsh Grand Committee as well, as Flintshire, a small Welsh county, has been considerably affected. I am aware of the anxieties of many hon. Members in this connection. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) chided me, as he has done on many occasions in agriculture debates. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), because of the nature of his constituency, quite rightly expressed his concern. He has always taken a considerable interest not only in foot and mouth, but in brucellosis.
I have never denied the existence of anxieties. I was the guest of the National Farmers' Union at an annual dinner in Flintshire only a week ago when many farmers whose farms had been affected by the disease spoke to me. I think that there was an appreciation of what the Ministry of Agriculture had done to meet this terrific disaster for many farmers in the belt of the country that runs through Shropshire and Cheshire, 953 how the Ministry had coped with it and how, even though the slaughter policy had been attacked in many quarters, we had succeeded in containing the outbreak.
I know that there is now concern about recrudescence of the disease and reinfection. It is quite right that hon. Members should express their concern and I will convey it to my right hon. Friend who only today has taken over as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. If it is necessary for a specific statement to be made, it will be for him to make it. I have been frequently pressed to give information to the House, but I hope that hon. Members will not now panic.
I was asked about food imports. It cannot be said that the present supply of imports from the Argentine has affected recrudescence and reinfection. A decision was taken and the House debated and approved it. But that is no reason for opposing the Motion. We have spent a considerable time discussing this subject, although I appreciate that hon. Members may want to return to it. There is the Northumberland Report, and my right hon. Friend will get the report of the veterinary mission which is in the Argentine. I will convey to him the anxieties which hon. Members have expressed today.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
I appreciate the reasonable way in which the right hon. Gentleman is referring to this problem, but in view of the statements being made by the Argentine Government, is it likely that we shall be able to import beef from the Argentine?
§ Mr. Peart
I answered a Question on this subject only last week, when I said that the trade was now making arrangements. As far as I know, there has been no definite promise of any meat coming from the Argentine. I understand that there are certain difficulties, but these are matters for the trade and for private enterprise. I do not suggest that the Sate should interfere with normal trading.
§ Mr. Peart
I recognise that, Mr. Speaker. I was trying to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman.
954 I accept what the right hon. Member for Barnet said about Forces' pay, a subject to which a number of hon. Members have referred, including the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) and the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Worsley). I understand the worry. Other hon. Members have tried to develop the defence aspects of the matter in greater detail. I shall convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence what has been said about Forces' pay, the production of aircraft and the needs of the Forces in different parts of the country and in the world. But none of these things is a cause for opposing the Motion.
I was asked specifically by the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester when we would have the N.B.P.I. Report, but I can add nothing to the answer given last Thursday. The Board is well aware of the importance of the subject. I cannot discuss its merits, but I will note what has been said. I know that hon. Members are anxious to have a quick report and for the Secretary of State to make his attitudes known. I shall certainly convey those sentiments to him.
The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) began the debate by stressing the importance of the prices and incomes policy and the need for a clear statement about the new position of the new Ministries. Several other hon. Members pursued the subject. I will convey to my right hon. Friends what has been said. There ought to be more information about the responsibilities of my senior colleagues in their new Departments. The hon. Member for Chelsea asked me particularly about social security and the social services.
My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) spoke about the state of the mining industry and asked me to convey to my right hon. Friend the importance of speeding up the issue of regulations which will very much affect the mining community generally. My hon. Friend the Member for The Hartle-pools (Mr. Leadbitter) spoke about the Furness Yard. As he knows, I have a constituency which is similar to his. I assure my hon. Friend that I shall convey to my colleagues responsible his anxieties about 3,000 shipbuilding workers who may be made redundant.
955 A number of other matters were mentioned. One subject was the Common Market and the need to clarify the position in view of a change in situation. I note what has been said, but I see no reason for altering the Recess. During the few days before we adjourn, hon. Members will have the opportunity to cross-examine Ministers and to consult them about matters of detail.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) spoke about the detention of British citizens in China. He must be aware that the matter was raised in debate on 28th March when we discussed the Consular Relations Bill. He will find a report of that debate in columns 1843 to 1864 of HANSARD for that date, and I hope that he will read it. We must continue to press the Chinese Government so that we can have good diplomatic relations and make certain that the rights of British citizens are safeguarded.
§ Mr. Roebuck
My right hon. Friend very briefly passed over one of my reasons for opposing the Motion. Can he make some statement about the duties of the Deputy Leader of the House in view of the matters which I raised? I do not know how to approach my right hon. Friend. Can the Leader of the House give us some assistance?
§ Mr. Peart
Any need to make a statement on that matter is no reason for altering the date of the Recess. I shall be only too pleased after this debate to explain the new arrangements to my hon. Friend. I think that they will improve the efficiency of the House and considerably help me in my duties as Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Roebuck
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I shall be unable to sleep at night until I know precisely in what way to regard my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary—as the friend of all back-benchers or as a stern disciplinarian.
§ Mr. Peart
I hope that my hon. Friend will sleep longer when he has the Recess so that he can come back refreshed. I hope that, after his talk with me after this debate, he will appreciate how much this procedure will help to improve efficiency.
For all those reasons, I hope that the House will now agree to the Motion.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
It is a different matter. The right hon. Gentleman has not addressed himself to the points which have been raised, from both sides, regarding the Report of the Constitutional Commission, which makes this a matter of grave urgency. The whole Rhodesian affairs may move to a decision during the proposed Recess—
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House, at its rising on Thursday, do adjourn till Tuesday, 23rd April.