Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising on Friday, 31st May, do adjourn till Tuesday, 11th June.—[Mr. Peart.]
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
I rise to suggest very briefly that the House should not go into the Whitsun Recess without a short time to debate the plight of a number of political detainees in Singapore held, as we believe, without trial, in deteriorating conditions, by the present Government of Singapore. I will refresh the memory of the House briefly on this matter. It was on 2nd February, 1963, at the time when Singapore and Malaysia came together, that about 130 Singapore residents were put into prison for varying political beliefs, part of which was opposition to the joining of Singapore to Malaysia. As far as is known, since that time those prisoners, some of whom might be termed prisoners of political conscience, have been held in gaol, without trial, by the Government of Singapore. I would name just three of them—
§ The Speaker
The hon. Gentleman must not go into detail about the matter which he wants to be debated if we come back earlier from the Whitsun holiday or if we do not have any Whitsun holiday at all.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I take this action because the matter is urgent since next month, before Parliament will have had time to debate the subject even briefly, my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary will be attending a five-Power Conference in Kuala Lumpur, and it is on the grounds of his attendance and participation in that conference that I seek to persuade the House that there is a certain urgency in this matter. I would seek to persuade the House also that this raises issues of some considerable importance, partly because the present régime in Singapore is sustained by the presence of a very considerable number of British troops and, in a sense, this nation is supporting the régime. Therefore we have an interest in these matters. I seek to persuade the House also that 1424 it is important that this matter be debated because very shortly the Commission under Sir Alan Dudley will be making certain recommendations and, if the House is to influence those recommendations, a debate will have to be held fairly soon.
Finally, I would draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House to the fact that Amnesty International sees this matter as one of urgent importance. It says:There are more than 300 political prisoners in Singapore, the majority serving prison sentences for unlawful assembly or contempt of court. Although these are political prisoners, in the sense that they are imprisoned as a result of actions motivated by hostility to the government, none has been adopted as a prisoner of conscience, since they had all, in effect, courted arrest. It is possible that there may soon be prosecutions for inciting electors not to vote…and the possibility of adopting such cases will be examined carefully.Prisoners of conscience in Singapore are usually detained under the—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman will remember that I said that he could not go into detail of the merits of the case which he wants us to debate if we do not break up.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I would sum up by saying that I think that these matters should be raised by my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary when he goes to Kuala Lumpur. In private correspondence—correspondence which necessarily and honourably must remain private—I have had complete courtesy from the Commonwealth Secretary and from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, who was at the Commonwealth Office, and they have argued that they really cannot raise the matter because to quote my right hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Speaker
This is what the hon. Gentleman will propose debating if he succeeds in persuading the House to have no Whitsun holiday or to go away later or come back earlier.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I am seeking to persuade the House that a short time should be devoted to this urgent matter before my right hon. Friend goes to Kuala Lumpur.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
It is very important indeed that before we rise for the Whitsun Recess we should have a 1425 debate on procedure because of the arrogant attitude this afternoon of the Government in refusing to allow proper time for debate on the Floor of the House of the Prices and Incomes Bill and of the guillotine Motion on the Finance Bill. It is extremely important that before we rise for the Whitsun Recess we should know why so much Government business is going upstairs. As the Leader of the Opposition said today from this Dispatch Box, for which he was severely criticised, Parliament is being brought into disrepute because it is no longer able to debate important issues on the Floor of the House. I claim that this is an urgent matter which we should consider before we rise for the Whitsun Recess.
The Finance Bill, the Race Relations Bill and the Divorce Reform Bill are being taken in Standing Committee. The Transport Bill was taken in a Standing Committee. Soon, we shall have the Prices and Incomes Bill taken in a Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
If it has a Second Reading, as my hon. Friend says. All of us on this side are most disturbed that, as a result of the way in which the Government are pushing through their procedure, the views of back-benchers cannot be adequately voiced. It is essential, therefore, that we have a debate on procedure before we adjourn for the Recess. The Government are treating the House in a most arrogant manner, and we must have an opportunity to speak. On the Order Paper now there are no fewer than 273 Private Members' Motions, which we are not able to debate on the Floor of the House. They cover many important matters. One of them criticises the nationalisation of ports, another is directed to the question of an Atlantic free trade area, another is about council house rents, another is about the population problem, another is about student problems. All those are important Motions which we have not been able to debate on the Floor, and it is essential that we have a debate on procedure so that we may make our voice known.
What troubles us in the handling of business by the Leader of the House is that the right hon. Gentleman is bringing 1426 on to the Floor small matters and leaving it to Mr. Robin Day on "Panorama" to discuss some of the most important and topical matters in national affairs. They are not discussed in the House of Commons. The procedure foisted on us by the Government is precluding proper discussion of urgent matters. I fear that the Government are stifling discussion and preventing back-benchers from expressing the views of their constituents because they are unwilling to realise how strongly the country feels. They are shovelling everything under the carpet in a Standing Committee and are getting away with far too much legislation. The country does not want so much legislation. It wants the topical and urgent questions of the day to be fully debated in the House of Commons.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Swain (Derbyshire, North-East)
I give three reasons why the House should not rise for the Whitsun Recess until we have either had a debate or received a report from Ministers. The first matter is the one which I raised a few minutes ago with the Leader of the House, the question of a debate on Motion No. 278. That Motion has been signed by 158 of my right hon. and hon. Friends and by me because we recognise the danger that, during the Whitsun Recess, Mr. Cecil King may again, because of his knowledge of the facts and figures concerning the National Coal Board's undertakings, come out with an outburst in the Daily Mirror and the Sun and do irreparable damage to the country's economy. The House should debate that Motion at length before we adjourn and arrive at a decision, or, alternatively, to remove the necessity for a debate, the Minister of Power should act in the matter, not in the interests of my hon. Friends and myself but in the interests of the country. There have been weeks and months of character assassination from that quarter, so I shall not go into the matter at length. Where there is no character, there is no need for assassination.
The next urgent matter arises from a debate which took place in the House on 5th December last year, 157 days ago. It concluded at 6.25 a.m. on 6th December. In that debate, the Committee stage of the Coal Industry Bill, a promise was made by the then Minister of Power that 1427 the regulations dealing with payments to redundant miners would be brought forward expeditiously. I make one short quotation to show the urgency of the matter. The then Minister of Power, who is now Minister of Transport, used these significant words:Even more important, it already involves in its social provisions payments to about 2,500 men. It would be a great tragedy if this Committee were unable—it applies to either side; I make no point of it—in an issue involving human considerations of this magnitude to see the Bill through to the end, even if it means tomorrow, mid-day."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1967; Vol. 755, c. 1205.]Those words by the then Minister clearly show the urgency of a full and clear statement about the progress of the regulations. They will be retrospective back to 18th July last year. When the Minister spoke in that debate, there were 2,500 men involved, and now there are about 3,750. That fact alone illustrates the grave urgency, on human grounds, of bringing the regulations forward at the earliest possible moment. I cannot possibly support the proposed Adjournment of the House for the Whitsun Recess until we have an assurance from the Government that the regulations will be laid and approved by the House before the suggested date for the Recess.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
Has my hon. Friend any idea what is holding up the regulations? Like him, I am constantly asked by redundant miners when the regulations are to be laid.
§ Mr. Swain
The only answer I can give my right hon. Friend is that we have had excuses given by successive Ministers of Power to the effect that discussions taking place between the National Union of Mineworkers and the Ministry of Power have held them up. I am a member of the national executive of that union, and to my knowledge our officials have attempted to expedite the discussions so as to get the benefits paid to members of the union who are suffering great hardship because of the delay.
Now, the third matter. When we discussed the National Coal Board's borrowing powers last year, we were told that the White Paper on fuel and power policy had been withdrawn because of the possible effect which devaluation and the Report of the Select Committee on 1428 Science and Technology might have upon it. That is a long time ago. The mineworkers are labouring under a delusion awaiting patiently the Minister coming to the House to tell us about the effects of devaluation. I suggest that the House should not rise for the Whitsun Recess until we have had a comprehensive report from the Minister of Power about the effect, however marginal it may be, that devaluation has had on the White Paper.
I pray in aid that immediately after devaluation the Gas Council announced that its added bill, because of devaluation, would be £3 million. Admittedly £3 million is marginal, but it is a hell of a lot of money in anybody's reckoning. We had the Gas (Borrowing Powers) Bill presented to the House in which I notice, significantly, that the borrowing powers are double. Therefore, there must be some effect from devaluation on the whole complex of fuel and power.
I suggest that my right hon. Friend draws the three matters I have raised, matters of grave urgency to the economy of the country, to the notice of the Minister of Power, so that we may have an immediate answer on them. There has been plenty of time since devaluation, there has been plenty of time since the Bill was given its Third Reading at half-past six in the morning, and there has been plenty of time since Mr. Cecil King made his outrageous statement last week for some action to have been taken by the Minister.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
I think that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain) was very modest during the course of his speech.
§ Mr. Peyton
I concede that, of course. He was, shall I say, unusually modest, even for him. He referred to the White Paper on Fuel Policy having been withdrawn because of devaluation, whereas it is common knowledge that the White Paper was withdrawn because the Government were frightened of him.
§ Mr. Peyton
He told them they should withdraw it. No one has known what the status of that White Paper has been 1429 ever since. So far as it is in doubt, the hon. Member is entitled to our congratulations.
Welcome though the prospect would be to me, and, I am sure, to most on this side of the House, of avoiding a daily confrontation with the occupants of the Treasury Bench, I am opposed to the Motion. There are abundant reasons why we should oppose it. First, I recognise that any kind of recess is a welcome respite to a Government who are under pressure—and under pressure which, in my view, is inadequate to match the full grossness of their defects.
Turning to the Finance Bill, we were quite clearly told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Standing Committee, and even in more detail by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, that it was essential, to fit in with the fiscal programme, that the Government should get through the Committee stage by Whitsun It has ben made far from clear what the Government's programme now is. I do not believe that we should rise without considerable further details.
I understand that a guillotine Motion—I would be grateful if the Leader of the House would contradict me if I am wrong—will be trampled through the House on Tuesday next. Meanwhile, the Standing Committee will meet on Monday—making what progress I do not know. As matters stand, the Committee will sit again on Wednesday in the morning, the afternoon, the evening and part of the night. We should like to know when the guillotine timetable becomes effective. Is there much point in the Committee sitting under the shadow of a timetable which has not yet been prepared? These are matters to which the Leader of the House should address himself, with particular reference to what progress he expects to get out of this abominable Finance Bill before the Whitsun Recess. If his timetable in any way varies from what the Standing Committee on the Finance Bill has been given to understand by Treasury Ministers, perhaps we could have a full explanation.
The right hon. Gentleman's incredible statement today—as has been pointed out, following the unfortunate precedent of Ramsay Macdonald—gave no details. It was announced against a background 1430 of complete silence by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has shown himself in Committee to be totally incompetent to lead or manage. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends, who have the doubtful privilege of sitting on that Committee, will corroborate what I say.
Having said that, it is only fair that I should express a word of sympathy for the Chancellor who finds himself bearing the responsibility and the consequences for this fascinating little experiment of the previous Lord President of the Council who, discourteous and inconsiderate as always, forced this unfortunate experiment down Parliament's throat. It is reasonable, before Parliament rises, to ask the Government for some undertaking that in future, when they are going to alter the fundamental ground rules of our procedure, they should consult and achieve some agreement with the Opposition.
Whichever side is in power, it is wrong that the Government should constantly seek to encroach upon the rights and privileges of Parliament. Whatever Parliament's reputation in the country may be, it represents far more the rights and liberties of the individual than does that rotten Administration that sits opposite dictating on the Treasury Bench.
Another point on which we are entitled to ask for clear guidance from the Government, and one which a number of my hon. Friends sought to raise during Business questions today, is: what are the Government's intentions about the by-elections? The right hon. Gentleman gave a ruling which was not entirely in concert with the ruling which Mr. Speaker gave a few minutes afterwards. He attempted to run away from the question by saying that it did not arise on next week's business. Of course it did. But the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to wriggle—he needs to—and he got away with the suggestion that he did not, in the business statement, need to explain the Government's intentions about the by-elections and whether he intended to move a Motion next week providing for those by-elections to take place.
But now not even the right hon. Gentleman can say that it is not in order for him to answer. It is. I am certain that others of my hon. Friends more eloquent 1431 than I will press the right hon. Gentleman on this seeking to know precisely why some citizens are to be deprived of representation almost indefinitely. I am sure that the inhabitants of Nelson and Colne and of Oldham will be curious to hear the answer. I hope that it will be specific and detailed and definite. Even if they are to be deprived of representation until the next General Election it would be nice for them to know before the House rises for the Whitsun Recess. There will then be some chance for people who live in those deprived parts of the world to make representations.
The two representatives of those constituencies were men who pre-eminently stood for Parliament. They were not great lovers of Front Bench wriggles. They did not altogether take kindly to Government manœuvres. They were fairly strict critics of authority, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the views which would have been expressed by Sidney Silverman or Leslie Hale had they been here. I can imagine some fairly coruscating phrases from both of 8them which would have seared the right hon. Gentleman, and even some of the more insensitive of his colleagues, because fairness compels me to say, as I have said before, that the right hon. Gentleman shows a measure of courtesy and consideration which his predecessor failed to show. I leave the question of the by-elections, vital though they are, with the comment that if the right hon. Gentleman is unable to give dates for them his failure to do so will be a further signal and indication of the paralysis of indecision into which the Government have sunk.
I turn, now, to the question of the Prices and Incomes Bill, which is rightly arousing anxieties among hon. Gentlemen opposite. I find it intolerable that we should be contemplating a 10-day Recess for Whitsun when we are able to have only a short day's debate on that Bill. I am opposed to the policy contained in it, and I always have been, for two reasons. First, because it is fundamentally hostile to freedom. Secondly, because I do not believe that it will work. I accept that hon. Gentlemen opposite who feel even more strongly about this subject than I do will suspect me of making a purely party point. I am not. 1432 I am protesting that the right hon. Gentleman as Leader of the House is falling short of the demands of his office in trying to ram this vitally important Measure through the House when, by his own confession, there is time available.
I think that before the right hon. Gentleman decides to press the Motion upon us he would do well to consider deeply a remarkable speech made in Committee upstairs on the Finance Bill by his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden). The hon. Gentleman there questioned the activities of the right hon. Lady—one has to draw breath before one mentions her title—the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. Her hon. Friend said, as is clear, that the activities and the speeches of the right hon. Lady were slap contrary to the policies declared by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being implicit in his Budget tactics. The hon. Gentleman said—I wish that I had a copy of his speech with me—that the activities of the right hon. Lady in going around the countryside distributing promises about prices remaining steady, or coming down, when the Government had declared the contrary, would bring a great deal of trouble.
Mr. Speaker, I see the Leader of the House looking towards you. He obviously wishes to relieve himself of the embarrassment which those facts cause him, but what I am concerned about is why the Government will not face the anxieties expressed by their hon. Friends before we rise for Whitsun. If the Government feel that there is insufficient time for their business between now and Whitsun, by all means let us sit on. I am prepared to accept the almost indescribable sacrifice of daily confrontation during what might be a pleasant respite from the ordeal. In two of the Measures announced today the Government have declared that Parliament is short of time. Shortage of time is the sole reason for the guillotine Motion on the Finance Bill. It is the sole reason for allowing only one day to consider the Prices and Incomes Bill. Time could be made up in the 10 days after Whitsun when it is proposed that we should not be here. It ill becomes the right hon. Gentleman 1433 to use such messy arguments when the time which he says he lacks is available.
In those circumstances, I think that the right hon. Gentleman will do wrong to press the Motion. He will do right to listen to the anxieties which have been expressed from both sides of the House. He will do well to make a gesture of respect to Parliament, even if it is at the cost of some mortification to himself. He should not, at the expense of Parliament seek to shore up the tottering prestige of the rotten Administration to which he has the doubtful privilege of belonging.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
I cannot always see the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) as quite the non-partisan/bipartisan figure that he portrayed himself to be at the beginning of his speech. Occasionally he manages to surmount his natural characteristics in that sense and to stutter out his feelings on other subjects. I shall, therefore, not follow exactly the points that he made.
I wish to press the Government on the matters of procedure which have been raised today. I agree with the reasons put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) why we should reconsider the Motion. I hope that an answer will be given to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Swain). I think that this is the first debate of this character that we have had since my right hon. Friend's appointment as Leader of the House. He should take note of the fact that all previous Leaders of the House whom I have known have had to pay special regard to my hon. Friend. Indeed, there were considerable periods during the highly successful tour of duty of the previous Leader of the House when accommodation had to be reached with my hon. Friend, when all the attempts by the Opposititon to direct the affairs of the House failed. My hon. Friend is a much more effective Leader of the Opposition than the rest of the party opposite. I warn my right hon. Friend that he should take especial note of the suggestions made by my hon. Friend.
I wish to raise a different matter. I believe that some of the questions asked earlier today during business question time are of great importance, and I hope 1434 that we will get clear answers to them from the Leader of the House before the debate is concluded. After all, the purpose of debate is to have the answers before the Division. I hope that my right hon. Friend will reply to the matters that I put to him.
I think that I speak for my hon. Friends when I say that we draw a sharp distinction between the claims which have been made from the benches opposite about the Finance Bill, and the claims that we are making about the Prices and Incomes Bill, and I should like to illustrate why I draw such a distinction. I do so because the question of how the House should discuss the Finance Bill has already been debated at great length in the House. They have been discussed in Select Committees and referred to the House and there have been lengthy debates about whether the House should try the experiment of sending the Finance Bill upstairs.
Most hon. Members opposite thought that the experiment should never be tried. We understand that view, but it was the considered decision of the Government and of the House itself that the experiment should be tried. It has generally, although not invariably, been the view of the House in the past that, in matters of procedure of this nature, when the House decides to try an experiment, time should be given to see whether it works—
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
Would the hon. Member add that the Select Committee on Procedure made no recommendation and was, therefore, thoroughly surprised, I think, when the ex-Leader of the House decided to put his own procedure into operation against the advice of the Committee appointed by the House?
§ Mr. Foot
I do not question that. I said that the matter had been considered at considerable length by Select Committees.
The present Government are not the first who have not necessarily accepted the advice of a Select Committee, but have acted on a matter which the Committee had considered. I was saying that the question whether the Finance Bill should be sent upstairs has been extensively considered so we should not delay this Motion about the recess on that ground. As I said, I am drawing a sharp 1435 distinction between that argument and the one which I wish to present to my right hon. Friend that we should not carry this Motion unless he can give undertakings about the business next week.
The Finance Bill is a different matter. It can be attended to by different means, because it is a question which is taken up by the Opposition Front Bench. Front Benches have the capacity, under our procedure, to look after themselves. If they want to force debates, they can always do so. This may be what the leaders of the party opposite are considering at the moment. They have left the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) to "look after the office", but I dare say they are considering whether they should force a longer debate on the guillotine Motion, as they have the power to do.
Therefore, on the question of the Finance Bill, I do not believe that there is a case for not adopting this Motion. The Opposition Front Bench have their remedy for that if they wish to take it. I hope that they will not, incidentally, because they will merely force the House to reconsider a matter which we have already considered at great length. As between Front Benches, I do not make great moral judgments, believing as I do that all is fair in love, war and Parliamentary procedure between the two Front Benches.
But it is a different matter when we come to the protection of the rights of minorities on either side. Naturally, I am particularly concerned about the minority on this side—if, indeed, we are a minority. If we are a majority, it is more serious for the Government, but we have not determined that and we will not know until the debate is over. That is why we want proper time in which to consider the matter.
It is a very serious matter, in our view, if an attempt is to be made to have the debate on the Prices and Incomes Bill compressed into a single day. It will mean, as my hon. Friends said so forcibly, when putting questions earlier, that probably only one or two speakers on this side who may be critical of the Government's proposals in the Bill will be able to speak—and possibly only one.
1436 The same may apply to the party opposite. We know that there are varied opinions about incomes policy there. It must surely be in the Government's interests that all that wide variety of opinion should be properly represented—
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
Not only are there wide differences among the back benchers opposite. Surely the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) might want to put his own difference of view.
§ Mr. Foot
Yes, we should have both the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling)—and the Leader of the Opposition could make a speech on one side on the first day and on the opposite side on the next, in which fashion he would be able to unite his party.
It is, therefore, in the Government's interests, in that sense, to have a longer debate. But I am pressing this matter for serious reasons. My right hon. Friend knows that extremely strong views are taken about the Prices and Incomes Bill in this party. Our discussions in other places have made that quite apparent, but my right hon. Friend must also know that few Measures introduced by the Government have been more widely discussed in the country than the prices and incomes legislation. Few matters have aroused such hostility and resentment among the supporters of this party in the trade union movement.
Almost every time that they have gone on record about penal legislation, they have opposed it. There is no case, to my knowledge, when at any rate strong representations have not been made at trade union conferences on this question. It has been shown in recent months that the opposition, so far from getting weaker, has been getting stronger. A conference of trade union executives was held on this very matter, for which I am asking for extra time, at which a vote was passed extremely critical of any suggestion of legislation, particularly the kind which we will discuss next week, in the inadequate time of a single day.
Therefore, in seeking to compress the debate into one day, not only will the Government deny hon. Members on this 1437 side, who wish to present what they believe might turn out to be not such a minority opinion, the opportunity to express their view, but would say to the whole trade union movement that they could not find more than a single day to discuss the main principles of this Measure. If my right hon. Friend can say now that he is not just reconsidering the matter, but has had time to reconsider it and that he will give the extra day, he should do so, because nothing else will satisfy us.
It is not sufficient for him to say, "We will have an extra hour", or something like that. That would not be satisfactory; it would mean the addition of only one or two speakers to the debate. I can think of many occasions on which important matters which have been discussed with two whole days for the discussion. Certainly, the Government cannot argue that this is not a matter of paramount importance. Indeed, they say that the Measure is indispensable to their whole economic strategy. That is their case. Many of us disagree with them, but the place for them to argue their case must be, primarily, here in the House of Commons.
Therefore, what is to be the position of Government spokesmen? On a measure of this character, the debate being of such importance, I would have thought it perfectly proper that we should hear contributions from the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It has been considered necessary in some other places not far from here for contributions to be made by all those three speakers in the same debate.
Are we to be denied a contribution of any of the three on Second Reading of the Prices and Incomes Bill? If so, of which one? Who will be knocked out? I am sure that it will not be my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity. I am sure that she will be here to introduce her own Bill. I am very sorry for her, but I am sure that she will be here, and also that the Prime Minister or the Chancellor will intervene—but the House should hear from all three.
The Government must, therefore, consider this extremely seriously. I hope that, at the end of this debate, my right hon. Friend will not be content merely 1438 to say that he has promised to consider the matter and that he will do so. I hope that he will undertake that we will have the extra day for which we have asked. It would be in the interests of the proper business of the House, and in the Government's interest, to ensure that they can present their argument on this essential matter in the best possible way; and it is in the interests of the country in our relations with the trade union movement outside.
All of us in the House know that debates on whether we should adjourn contain an element of hypocrisy, because we all wish to depart for the recess, however passionately we may be forced to present arguments to the contrary view. We all know that this is so. We all wish to depart for what Jonathan Swift once called "the lucid interval". I am aching to reach the lucid interval, after the events of the last few weeks. I am sure that the Government are, too.
I say this with the utmost seriousness to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I think that all of us on this side wish him the greatest success as Leader of the House. We think that he will make an admirable Leader of the House, as successful a Leader of the House as he was Minister of Agriculture—and that is very high praise. We can apply the soft soap as well as hard words! On this occasion there is a balance of both in our arguments, as I hope that my right hon. Friend realises.
My right hon. Friend can tell the House that we are to have an extra day to debate the Prices and Incomes Bill. We will accept that with the utmost good grace. We will not suggest in any way that he has acceded to pressure. We will attribute his concession to his statesmanship as Leader of the House. If, on the other hand, owing to lack of experience or for some other reason, he were to think of deciding not to make the announcement now, who can say how long this debate will last?
I can see present many of those who have not been able to say all that they have wanted to say in Standing Committee on the Finance Bill. They may choose to take this opportunity of saying it, because apparently one of my right hon. Friend's proposals may deprive them of the opportunity of deploying the rest of 1439 their case on the Finance Bill. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend, whose arithmetic has always been very accurate, will look at these ventures and see that the course of wisdom is, as usual, the course of democracy and will tell us that he has always had it in his mind to give the extra day, that he thinks the arguments for it are overwhelming, and that he proposes accordingly.
If he does that, he will send us all away happier for our "lucid interval", because we do not want him to overlook the matters raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East. If he makes this announcement, my right hon. Friend will send us away with unanimous agreement, except for a few nondescripts on the other side of the House. We could all go away in a much happier spirit. That is my advice to my right hon. Friend. I am sure that he will take it.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
After our experience earlier this afternoon, the Leader of the House will not be surprised if we are rather suspicious of this apparently innocuous Motion. The first question I wish to put is: why does it appear so soon before the recess? This is exceptional, in my experience. Normally, these Motions are discussed during the week that we rise for the recess. There may be a reasonable and innocent explanation, but we are now in such a state of suspicion of the Government's handling of Parliamentary business that we want to know exactly why they have taken the very unusual course of tabling this Motion unusually early.
Are the Government frightened of having it discussed later? Normally, it is taken at the latest convenient time, in case something blows up either at home or abroad. The Government wish to keep their powder dry and their options open. If the House approves the Motion now, the Government will have tied their hands far in advance of the normal procedure. Why? The right hon. Gentleman must not be surprised or hurt if we are suspicious after what happened earlier.
The second point stems directly from what the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said. The hon. Gentleman drew a distinction between the two explosions of this afternoon. 1440 The hon. Gentleman was not concerned about the Guillotine on the Finance Bill or about the question of the Finance Bill going to a Standing Committee. He said that that was a separate question from the question whether there should be one or two days for the Second Reading of the Prices and Incomes Bill. I suggest that the two matters are much more related than that.
The whole raison d'etre, the whole argument for sending the Finance Bill to Standing Committee, was that wide-ranging debates of national importance should take place in the Chamber, that the Floor of the House should be freed from the boring minutiae of our tax system and that arguments on our tax system should go to Standing Committee where there could be prolonged and detailed scrutiny free from the political atmosphere of the Chamber.
Now we are to get neither. We are not getting the opportunity of detailed scrutiny in Standing Committee, nor are we getting wide-ranging debates of national importance in the Chamber. Since the Finance Bill went into Standing Committee, with practically no exceptions the only debates which have taken place on the Floor of the House on subjects of wide-ranging national importance have been those held on Supply days about topics chosen by the Opposition. The Government have put forward a diet of grit, a lot of detailed legislative proposals, Statutory Instruments—all the day-to-day business which they want to get through. The Government cannot be blamed for wanting to get it through. However, that is how the Government have used this exceptional opportunity, exceptional in the sense that that is what they sought to achieve when they sent the Finance Bill to Standing Committee.
They now have a chance of repenting. Now they can use the time that they have to spare as a result of sending the Finance Bill to a Standing Committee to have a wide-ranging debate of great national importance, namely, two days instead of one for the debate on the Second Reading of the Prices and Incomes Bill.
Unless the Leader of the House yields to the demands made from all quarters—I am glad to see that the Patronage Secretary has come in to instruct the Leader of the House to give way to this universal demand—he will lose far more time on 1441 this rather extraordinary Motion—or, rather, this ordinary Motion which has been brought forward at an extraordinary time than he would otherwise. The Government are in Parliamentary disarray. Their business has got into the most frightful mess due to their overloading the machine. The Leader of the House knows that, because he is a man of common sense. This is his chance to show repentance and show a little respect for the universal wish of the House.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I require some assurance from the Government on two very important matters before I can support the Motion. These are inter-related and virtually important matters.
The first is the question of the time to be allocated to the debate on the Second Reading of the Prices and Incomes Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), in his brilliant, witty and entertaining speech, clearly demonstrated why we should be given a second day for the debate. It is obvious that there are hon. Members on both sides who wish to speak in this important debate, just as they wish to speak in a debate, for example, on whether Britain should apply to join the European Economic Community. There are deep feelings about this matter, feelings which tend to cut right across the parties. It is clear that one day is totally inadequate to allow proper and thorough discussion, with all points of view adequately expressed.
The other matter, which is inter-related, is that we are talking in terms of going home for a few days away from the House of Commons while people in the City of Liverpool are walking the streets because of a bus strike, which has been going on for 10 weeks and which arose basically out of the policy on prices and incomes. It would be absolutely absurd if this House adjourned without some positive and concrete steps being taken by the Government to get that dispute concluded at the earliest possible moment.
My hon. Friends will be aware that when we came back from the Easter Recess I raised this matter by a Private Notice Question. I asked then what actions were to be taken by the Government to get immediate conciliation with a view to a solution of the 1442 problem. That was several weeks ago. The strike goes on and people in Liverpool are still walking the streets. The old are confined to their homes and relatives cannot go to see people in hospital if they cannot afford taxi fares or find friends who have cars to take them. Many are having to walk to work, sometimes seven or eight miles a day.
It is ridiculous that we should be talking about adjourning for Whitsun without taking some positive action for a solution to this problem.
§ Mr. Tim Fortescue (Liverpool, Garston)
Does the hon. Member agree that it is the almost unanimous view of the people of Liverpool that if the bus strike had been in London it would either have been solved weeks ago, or there would have been no question of this House going into recess until it was settled?
§ Mr. Heffer
I am grateful to the hon. Member for reinforcing the point I make. I entirely agree that the view of people in Liverpool is that if the dispute had been in London, if there had been a bus strike and possibly an Underground strike in London, there would have been no possibility of the House rising until a solution had been found. The fact that through the Port of Liverpool goes one quarter of the imports and exports of the country, does not seem to matter at all. It matters very much to my constituents and to the people of Liverpool as a whole.
I do not say that the Government are entirely responsible for this dispute. As a result of the prices and incomes policy the reference was made, at the request of the Ministry of Labour, to the Prices and Incomes Board of the 23s. which had been agreed by the local authority, the Transport and General Workers' Union and the General and Municipal Workers' Union. That happened on 1st March and on 11th March the busmen of Liverpool struck. They are still on strike. Almost immediately they transformed their demand into a £17 a week demand, very much to bring them into line with the dockers fall-back pay.
How is it possible to agree to adjourn on 31st May when we have this example of the operation of prices and incomes policy as it exists and not to give adequate time by provision of an extra day 1443 to discuss the operations of the legislation. There is no justification whatever for this. I do not suggest that greater steps could not have been taken in Liverpool. I think there could have been; for example, the chairman of the transport committee refused to meet me to discuss the matter, despite the fact that I had acted as a mediator in the 1960 seamen's strike, and that I was one who helped to bring it to an end by mediation. I have had some experience in these problems, but it appears that one can seek to bring the dispute to an end only through limited action through the Government machinery. More could have been done.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. I understand how strongly the hon. Member feels, but he cannot debate that matter on this Motion.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am not debating the issue of the Liverpool strike on this Motion. I am strictly debating the Motion. I am merely giving examples of why I think it would be criminal for this House to adjourn on 31st May unless we have extra time to discuss the operation of prices and incomes policy and before getting assurances from my right hon. Friends that we can do something more positive to bring the strike to an end. I hope that I am keeping within the bounds of the debate. I am doing my best.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have give the hon. Member a great deal of latitude. He has gone into this matter in great detail, I must ask him not to do so any more.
§ Mr. Heffer
It is quite clear from what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and by me that the prices and incomes policy is causing great concern and requires much greater debate than we have had and than is suggested in relation to next week's business. I cannot agree to give my support to the Government on this Motion—I am very serious about this—unless we have more time to debate this question.
The Croydon conference was a meeting of the executives. It took a decision that the T.U.C. would support a voluntary incomes policy, but since the Croydon conference there has been conference after conference of various trade union organ- 1444 isations which have gone on record against the operation of a compulsory statutory incomes policy. This matter has to be aired fully on the Floor of the House. Various trade union-sponsored hon. Members ought to be given the opportunity to present the views of their unions. Many hon. Members opposite have ties with the C.B.I. They would like very much to put the C.B.I. point of view. We should not deny them the opportunity for it is very important that it should be put. It would be very revealing if it were expressed fully.
I appeal to my right hon. Friend to give two assurances. The first is that we will have at least two days for the Second Reading of the Prices and Incomes Bill. I trust that he will convey what I have said to the Minister responsible for conciliation in relation to industrial disputes. The second, therefore, is that we will have some positive action to bring the Liverpool strike to a close. If my right hon. Friend will give those assurances he will have my support today.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I assure the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that I have no objection to him making his views clear at considerable length. He has every right to do that, even though it means that we will have less time to discuss the Hovercraft Bill later. I consider that Measure to be of considerable importance, although I recognise the importance which the hon. Gentleman attaches to the problems which he raised.
The debate so far has been enough to show that we are faced with a most unusual Motion. The Leader of the House will have realised that there is universal demand for more time to be made available for certain matters to be discussed and that, therefore, the demand to further shorten the Whitsun Recess is not just a matter of form. I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) that many things are often said in debates such as this in an effort to disguise debating points which one does not have time to raise. On this occasion, however, the overwhelming majority of hon. Members are in favour of curtailing the Whitsun Adjournment still further.
§ Mr. Lubbock
That is an excellent idea, but we must be realistic. The Government are hardly likely to drop that Measure. In default of their accepting such a suggestion, I trust that the Government will heed the genuine demands that are being made.
I have been struck by the universal agreement that more time should be allowed for a number of matters to be debated. If we rise for the time proposed by the Leader of the House these matters cannot be discussed. The hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) pointed out the difficulties that are caused by this Motion having been laid more than a fortnight in advance of the Whitsun Recess. Many things may happen in the intervening period which might cause the House to alter its decision. Even if hon. Members were prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, one can think of all sorts of events that might occur in the next fortnight which the House would wish to debate as a matter of urgency. I will mention a few.
The Nigerian situation was raised at Question Time today and a number of hon. Members are disturbed about the Government's continuing supply of arms to the Federal régime, which, according to some reports coming out of Biafra, are being used to massacre the civil population there. We have not debated this subject, and if these disturbing reports have any vestige of truth, the House would not be fulfilling its responsibilities until a series of questions were asked and answered about the supply of arms to the Federal régime. I hope that the initiating of talks will lead to a peaceful settlement, but developments might take place in the next fortnight which the House would wish to discuss.
There has been a sense of growing industrial unrest in the country. We have had the one-day engineering strike, which paralysed industry, and this might be the signal for further stoppages of work as the Prices and Incomes Bill approaches and as many workers wish to express their repugnance of the Government's policy. If this happened on a wide scale 1446 the House would want to take note of it at the earliest opportunity.
Then there are the Vietnam peace talks. The House should surely have an opportunity of discussing this matter as soon as any reports come out about the conversations between the Americans and North Vietnamese; or will the House entirely ignore what is probably the most important issue of our generation—whether a peaceful settlement can be secured in Vietnam, with a cessation of hostilities and the rebuilding of the shattered land of both North and South Vietnam?
Although we will recess for Whitsun we will not be having a nice long holiday. I am always annoyed when people say, "What a nice holiday you will have". Although the majority of hon. Members work hard during the recesses, they are not doing their principal job which is to be here to debate matters of national and international importance.
At business question time today my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) raised the important question of the time allowed for Amendments to be tabled to the Transport Bill. According to my hon. Friend—I am horrified to think that this may be true; I have every reason to believe that it is but if my hon. Friend is wrong I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will correct him—the Bill will be published over the weekend so that hon. Members will not get copies of it, because the Vote Office will be closed, until Monday. Yet hon. Members must submit their Amendments by Tuesday morning so that they can be submitted to the Business Committee on Wednesday.
If this is true—and the leader of the House did not deny it earlier—then it is a denial of the rights of hon. Members who were not on the Transport Bill Standing Committee but who may wish, having studied the amended Measure, to table Amendments on Report. The Bill is extremely complicated. I will not have time on Monday, when I must be concerned with the Town and Country Planning Bill on Report, to phrase the Amendments which I wish to table to the Transport Bill and get them to the Public Bill Office by later that afternoon. This would be an impossibility for me and other Members who have not been 1447 on the Standing Committee, and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will consider allowing more time for this process to be followed. The right hon. Gentleman told my hon. Friend that he would consider the matter and announce his decision later. I hope that he will announce a concession at the end of this debate because that would make a considerable difference to my attitude towards this Motion.
There is then the question of the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which is to be debated next Thursday after an intolerable delay—that is, remembering that the Committee published its Report last October and, at the request of the Government, had worked through the recess to complete it. So far there has been no reaction from the Government on this matter and we await the observations of the Minister of Technology and the Minister of Power about the recommendations in that Report.
Before deciding to rise for Whitsun we should know the attitude of those Ministers and, if they are not to be announced to the House until next week's debate—and perhaps they will not be announced until the reply speeches—hon. Members who took part in that Committee's deliberations and many others will not be able to do justice to their consideration of this important matter. We may wish to have a further debate on some of those implications when we have listened to the Minister's speech.
The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North East (Mr. Swain) raised another very interesting point, the question touched on in his Early Day Motion, which he says is so important that it should be debated by the House. I rather agree, because if one compares the Government's treatment of Sir Reginald Verdon-Smith and Mr. Brian Davidson, the directors of Bristol Siddeley Engines who were criticised in the Wilson Report, with their treatment of Mr. Cecil King, one finds a great and glaring inconsistency. Whereas Sir Reginald and Mr. Brian Davidson were dismissed from the public offices they held because the Government considered them to be irresponsible in their conduct of the Bristol Siddeley Engines business, here 1448 we have a man who has done something I should say was infinitely more irresponsible—I choose my words very carefully—in using the columns of a national newspaper to make damaging statements about this country's financial affairs and the state of the pound. This is a matter which should be very seriously considered by the House and by the Government in deciding whether this man is fit to hold public office.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I have one or two other things to do in the House besides putting signatures on Motions, but certainly I am not disagreeing with the views the hon. Gentleman has expresed, and I support his plea that this is a matter of such great public importance that it should be discussed by the House before it rises for the Whitsun Recess.
I should find the 10 days of the recess very useful in my constituency, and I can certainly do with that break from my activities in the House. But in view of all the matters that have been raised I consider that the Leader of the House should think again. I am not just saying this as a matter of form, as one so often does in these debates, but because I genuinely believe that it would be wrong for the House to go away for 10 days with such urgent matters still to be considered.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I want to add one more voice to an extensive chorus. I hope that when my right hon. Friend has reconsidered the Prices and Incomes Bill he will decide to give two days for its Second Reading debate. If he does, he will satisfy many people who not only believe that the Bill is of major importance but are also interested in the proper working of the House and in adequate time being provided for the expression of majority and minority views.
My main purpose now is to call the attention of the new Leader of the House to the part which the House should play in the formulation, exposition and control of British policy in international affairs. Unless the problems of what we call foreign policy are solved in the 1449 next 10 or 15 years in a way which gives us permanent peace, it is highly probable that all the other work done by hon. Members with such devotion here will be in vain, for our children and grandchildren will have no habitable world to live in.
I want the Leader of the House to consider the debates we have had on Vietnam. Vietnam is very parallel in many ways to the civil war in Spain from 1936 to 1939. It may be the first fighting stage of a world war. It looks better now, but a few months ago many very responsible people were regarding that as a danger. We had a debate on Vietnam on 8th February, 1966, another on 7th July 1966—an interval of five months, another on 27th April, 1967—an interval of nine months, and that was a debate on a Private Member's Motion by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) on a Friday—and on 23rd October we had an Adjournment debate about the admission of Vietnam students which occupied a few columns of HANSARD. That information, which I was given by our Librarian, who serves us so well, shows the attention the House has given to Vietnam over the past 2½ years.
Before the war we used to debate Spain almost every month, sometimes more often, and the appalling work of the so-called Non-Intervention Committee. Of course, the Opposition have never raised Vietnam because their view has been that military victory for the United States is the right plan, and some of them still say that after most of the American people have taken a different view. I believe that the Government should have found time and should still find time very soon for a debate on this vitally important matter.
There is also the question of Nigeria, which we have never discussed at all. There is China. There have been serious events in Hong Kong and in Peking, concerning our Embassy there. I had a description this afternoon from an eye witness of how the Chinese Army, which is supposed to be ravening for the blood of foreign capitalists, helped to save the lives of our embassy personnel. The soldiers carried no arms, because the Chinese Army does not carry arms, but they intervened to save our people—[Interruption.]—Hon. Members laugh, 1450 but that is exactly why we should have a debate.
I have here the three red books which are the bibles of Maoist thought. If they are studied and if one examines how they are used in China by the people, one will see that the picture of China as a dangerous Communist State thirsting for world conquest is utterly false. It is urgently important that we should have a debate on the relations between China and the West, because the future of our children and grandchildren may well depend on whether there is a conflict between the white and coloured peoples of the world.
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be a gesture by the Chinese régime to allow the personnel of the British Embassy in Peking to be relieved at last?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I must insist that we do not go into a foreign affairs debate. Hon. Members must refer to the Motion.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I want very much to debate with the hon. Member, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give us a chance. I shall not push the matter further now. The hon. Gentleman's intervention shows how very important it is that the relations between China and the West should be debated in the House by representatives of the nation, who have much greater interests in Asia than the people of the United States.
There is also the question of the arms race. I cannot remember when we had a debate on disarmament; it is very long ago. But nobody who studies the facts can doubt that international disarmament under general control is the only sensible form of national defence for Britain today. I recommend all hon. Members to study the report prepared by a group of experts for U Thant on the effects of nuclear war which has just been published. The principal author was Sir Solly Zuckerman, of our own Ministry of Defence. If they study it they will quickly come to the conclusion that the House should be debating disarmament not once every five years but very often.
I cannot remember that we have ever had a debate on chemical weapons. I 1451 have here a new book called "We All Fall Down", by Robin Clark. He says in the preface that the new gases compared with the gases of the First World War are like the H-bomb compared with the first atomic pile of Professor Fermi in the squash court at Chicago.
The new nerve gases are hideous menaces to the civilian population. We make vast quantities of nerve gases. We are spending great sums on research. All this is never debated in the House. We are making biological weapons. I venture to read one sentence on the subject by Mr. Clark, who saysIf and when biologics are ever used in war they will achieve a notorious military first. They will be the first weapons on any scale to have been liberated on an enemy before their possible effects were known … They will constitute a human experiment of a magnitude far outstripping those that were perpetrated in the Nazi prison camps.We have never discussed biological warfare. We are spending vast sums of money on research. We are preparing biological weapons. One of our research workers caught and died of bubonic plague a year or two ago.
I ask my right hon. Friend to see that, in the rest of this Session and in the next, we give proper attention to these vitally important matters. He now has more days at his disposal because the Finance Bill is being taken upstairs and with that extra time we should give proper attention to these vital affairs.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
At a time when Parliament seems to be in a state of disrepute in the country, to which there can seldom have been a parallel, it is significant that in this debate on procedure and the Adjournment for a recess, there should be such a very wide measure of agreement across the Floor of the House. It is both significant and important.
It is admitted in all quarters that the Government have got themselves into a most inextricable shambles procedurally. In spite of the fact that the Finance Bill Committee is being taken upstairs, the Government still cannot find the time to do what the House wants and allow the House to discuss what it wants to discuss.
First, there is the extraordinary way in which the revolutionary Prices and 1452 Incomes Bill is being given a most exiguous time for discussion when it is known to be perhaps the most controversial of the many wildly controversial things the Government have inflicted upon the country. Secondly, the Finance Bill is being taken upstairs through a cockeyed article which my former school companion, the Lord President of the Council and ex-Leader of the House—leader of only one side during his tenure of office and certainly not of the other—inflicted on the House. Thirdly, the Government are forcing through, on top of that most improper devolution of the Finance Bill, a guillotine with the additional outrage that the Motion is to get only a two-hour debate.
All this is an accumulation of insults which this institution of Parliament can never have had to put up with in its history. I pass over the impropriety with which the Transport Bill is being indecently rushed through in such a way as to make it virtually impossible for Opposition Amendments or for Amendments from anyone else to be placed in time for the Report stage. All this is no more than the grossly evident symptomatology of the complete collapse of the Government's authority and of their capacity to govern and do anything for the sake of the country.
We should not let this debate conclude without pressing the Government very hard to cease the disfranchisement they have forced upon various electors in Lancashire simply because they know that the next representatives of these constituencies will be Conservative. The Government are flinching from these by-elections, and have been doing so for an intolerable period. I hope that the electors of Lancashire and of the rest of the country will raise havoc about this abuse of Parliamentary practice. The Government are inflicting disfranchisement on a number of electors not just for one Bill or for several Bills. They are preventing them from being represented in the House of Commons at all for an unreasonably long period.
All this represents a prolonged and growing contempt of the House and the country, and for this Motion to be brought forward at a time when the programme of the Government is in such disarray is piling insult on injury. The House ought not to adjourn in this 1453 situation. It should sit on until business has been disposed of or until the Government have fallen, whichever is the sooner.
It might be as well to say a word of solace to those hon. Members opposite, whom we do not see much of nowadays and who came in with such reformist zeal in 1964 and 1966, believing that they could put everything right, notably by stopping the Opposition from speaking, which would make it easy for the Government. They do not have much time left here and we should like them to sit in continuity until the demise of this Government, which will not be long now. This idiotic and irrelevant Motion has been perpetrated by the Government in weakness, indecision and cowardice in running away from the storm they have whipped up for themselves, and I hope that it will be rejected.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
The exaggerated language and synthetic emotions displayed by the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), for whom I have a genuine liking on many other occasions, do not help the serious aspect of this debate. However, his approach is time honoured and does not vary from Adjournment debate to Adjournment debate before our recesses. If he feels that it was necessary for him to make that sort of speech, that is up to him, however.
But I want to urge upon my right hon. Friend a serious case concerning one limited aspect. There is bound to be a variety of subjects introduced into a debate of this kind, but I have always felt that the general case of the large number of items which have not yet been debated and cannot be debated before a forthcoming recess always has an academic appearance, for if we were to act on that principle the House never will go into recess and would have to sit for 365 days a year, which would be nonsensical.
What really matters is whether there is some special reason for not adjourning before a certain matter has been put right, and I do not claim that it is only the points I put forward which come into that category. I remember in previous debates many hon. Members opposite 1454 concentrating on the Gibraltar situation, and I thought that they had a case. Speaker after speaker on the benches opposite referred to the urgency of the Gibraltar situation.
It is this sort of concentration on a serious aspect of a debate that makes some impression on government. I sat for a number of years on the other side of the House, in opposition, and we used to do exactly the same, but we did not make much of an impact when we merely argued the general case that the Government was a bad Government and that therefore we ought not to adjourn.
What my right hon. Friend should take into account is the constitutional and legal aspect of the Prices and Incomes Bill. I have seen it asserted in learned books and in speeches made in this House, that when there is a possibility of enacting legislation which will bring the criminal law into operation against a category of persons pursuing an occupation—such as trade union officers—which for many years has been considered to be completely lawful, then that is a special kind of Bill and a special situation. It has been asserted that this Bill is decisively connected with the whole economic strategy of the Government. It is impossible for members of the Government to deploy their case, and impossible for back benchers on both sides to deploy their cases, without sketching in and discussing the economic background to this legislation.
It is for these reasons, quite rightly, that so many Ministers have intervened in various places where this matter has been seriously debated. It is not possible to have my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity arguing that case in isolation, because we know that the Treasury has had a great influence in deciding that there should be this Bill, including penal powers.
On an earlier occasion, 18 Members of this House who called a Division on the Letter of Intent to the International Monetary Fund were later challenged as to why we did so. I concentrated particularly on this constitutional point. I and my immediate associates were convinced at the time that if we accepted the Letter of Intent there would inevitably 1455 flow from it legislation affecting the citizens of this country, which would be defended on the grounds that it was involved with prior commitments. We said that when such legislation came before the House, it would be of the gravest constitutional importance to test it against the general economic background outlined in the Letter of Intent.
This Bill needs special consideration. It is not the kind of Bill about which one might say, if some points of view were expressed briefly or hardly at all: "It is only another piece of legislation, after all." This involves the whole economic strategy of the Government. What will the situation be if there is only one day? First, we are bound to have four Front Bench speakers. The Government have already said, publicly and privately, that this is a Bill without which the Budget could not operate, without which their economic strategy could not succeed. On a subject of this kind I cannot imagine any Front Bench speaker being satisfied with 10 or 12 minutes. He will want to make a proper speech, which will stand up in future. This might be an historic debate. That will be two hours gone. It is possible that after Prime Minister's Questions, there may be one or two other things, a Ten minute Rule Bill, for example, and we might not start until 4 o'clock or after.
If we add two hours to 4 o'clock, that brings us to 6 o'clock, leaving us with no more than the opportunity of perhaps six or seven speeches from each side, at the most. There are well-known practices in the House—and I must express myself carefully on this—whereby the Chair always does its best to protect the point of view of the minority. However, it cannot neglect the supporters of Her Majesty's Government. It would be monstrous if the minority point of view were not expressed, but it would be equally monstrous if back benchers who wish to give full and enthusiastic support to the Government's case were denied the opportunity to do so.
There will be a considerable number of people wanting to support the Government's case, and some will have to be called. The same will obtain in respect of the opposition to the Bill. The great danger is that if one takes the very limited time available—and this is the 1456 decisive point—then the points of view of a large number of people outside this House will hardly be expressed at all. That is the real case for urging upon my right hon. Friend and his colleagues a change of view.
Last year the Amalgamated Engineering Union—as it then was, before its amalgamation with the Foundryworkers—representing one million workers in all the industries of the country, carried by a majority of one at its National Committee Conference a motion opposing prices and incomes legislation which included penal Sections. When the Committee met this year, after amalgamation, it carried a motion against this kind of legislation by 46 to 6. That is the measure of the change that has taken place, and the growth in opposition among the people who will be most directly affected, to this legislation.
The Transport and General Workers' Union, which is my union, and many others have, during this same period of 12 months, gone on record as being opposed to such legislation. This is not the time to argue the rights and wrongs of it, but I hope that there will be time on Tuesday. The dangerous position in which the House is now placed is that there will not be time for these different points of view to be effectively expressed. My right hon. Friend knows that I have always had great respect for him over the many years that we have been in this House together. He knows that when I use strong language this afternoon I am convinced that he is the last man to intend to do anything to damage the standing of the House. If, by what is obviously a Cabinet decision, and not a personal decision, he is compelled to proceed with this decision to allow only one day, he will degrade the standing of the House.
The House of Commons has always been held to be the central forum of political debate. A large number of books have been written deploring the lowering of the standing of the House of Commons. A number of academics have written books in which they have said that the Executive has a very strong position in the British political system. That was first discovered by Montesquieu and has only been rediscovered. They exaggerate, but there is a danger that the House may cease to be the centre and forum of political 1457 debate. The curtailment of time on a debate of this fundamental importance would be an indication to people outside that we ourselves, on the initiative of the Executive, have taken and approved steps to curtail debate.
My right hon. Friend knows the importance of the trade union movement to the success of the Government's economic policies. Every Government spokesman has pointed out that, if their policy is to succeed, there must be willing co-operation by industrial workers. That is a matter of common ground. It is in the Government's own best interests not to create the impression, or add involuntarily to the creation of the impression, that there are points of view opposed to this legislation which they do not wish to be fully expressed.
I have said earlier that this is probably a Cabinet decision and not an individual decision. Every hon. Member understands that it is not possible for a Minister, however senior, to overthrow suddenly such a decision. There must be no shadowboxing from me or from anybody else. I understand this difficulty, but, on the other hand, I beg my right hon. Friend to understand the difficulty of those of us who believe that a decisive principle is involved. I would therefore urge him, between now and making his reply, to have urgent consultations, either directly or indirectly, with his senior Cabinet colleagues in order to get him out of this difficulty.
This has happened in the past, and there are many of my hon. Friends who would aid him in the process of consultation, by seeing to it that the debate does not collapse before he has completed his consultation. There are honourable precedents for this. I understand that the Minister has to work with his colleagues within certain conventions, but opportunities could be provided. I urge my right hon. Friend to engage in these negotiations now, or within the next couple of hours, and come back with a positive reply.
It is essential that we should be given to understand that the case that has been made is regarded as a good and serious case. Even if my right hon. Friend cannot make a final announcement after this debate has been completed, I hope that after the consultation with his senior colleagues which I am urging on him, he 1458 will be pointing in the direction of agreeing to a two-day debate.
I have quite deliberately put this in as helpful a manner as I can. I hope that he will respond. If he does not, I cannot see how I and some of my hon. Friends can vote for the Motion.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I hope to be a little briefer than the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). I will start by asking a specific question of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, if he will be good enough to take a note of it. I ask him whether, before we go into recess in terms of the Motion he has set before us, we shall be fortunate enough to hear the Government's plans and proposals for the Committee which is to be set up to re-examine the question of the third London airport. There is considerable anxiety about this, and I hope that he can say something about it.
I do not wholly share in the compliments which were expressed to the Leader of the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). My own view of the change of administration that we have seen is rather that of someone who might once have been fortunate enough to have Dr. Crippen as his family physician only to find him replaced by Dr. Snoddy. Such a change might encourage very ambiguous feelings.
It has been said that on this occasion speeches are by custom synthetic, hypocritical and unreal in the opinions which they advance. I want to make it clear that the opinion I am about to advance is one I hold most sincerely and most regretfully.
I am one of the many people in the House and of the great majority outside it who believe that by accident or by design the Government we have today are destroying the House of Commons. I am inclined to believe that they are doing so by design. I regret this very deeply. If I am right, we are in the middle of a political tragedy, but the evidence which piles up day by day to support this view is overwhelming.
§ Mr. Onslow
I am attempting, Mr. Speaker, to show why I oppose the Motion which is before us. The proposition that we should rise on a set day and reassemble on another set day is not a proposition which I can accept in the terms of the beliefs which I have outlined to you.
The evidence we have to support this belief—and I do not advance it lightly—is that we are being overwhelmed by legislation. More and more legislation is coming on to the Statute Book every day, and we are continually confronted with the open contempt of the Government Front Bench for the democratic process.
I will not rehearse the arguments which have been deployed from the other side of the House which could powerfully support my view. Hon. Member after hon. Member on that side has denounced the proposition in particular relation to the Prices and Incomes Bill as being fundamentally undemocratic. I agree that it is. It is by no means the only one.
Hon. Member after hon. Member on this side of the House has denounced the proposal to impose a Guillotine on the Finance Bill as being fundamentally undemocratic. So it is. This is not an accidental coincidence, but a deliberate policy.
I see not point in adhering to the dates which have been set before us for breaking and resuming our debate. What good does debate do? Even if the hon. Member for Penistone used stronger language than the strong language he described himself as having used this afternoon, what good would it do? What good do we do here simply by using strong language? How long will we serve a useful purpose by continuing to sit here, by resuming after the recess and sitting here again bashing our heads against a brick wall of dictatorship? What good will that do?
§ Mr. Speaker
That may be appropriate on some other debate. We are debating now whether or not we should adjourn for a Whitsun holiday.
§ Mr. Onslow
Mr. Speaker, of course, I would not dissent from your Ruling, but the Motion before us includes a proposition that we should reassemble on a certain day. I am leading in my argument towards a proposition that we 1460 should not reassemble on a certain day, because I am against this Motion root and branch. I will not go over all the reasons I could advance, but I would ask hon. Members to ask themselves what purpose they think they serve. For how long do they think that they will be thanked for sitting here and letting Parliament disintegrate about them?
What we should be discussing today is a Motion to dissolve, a Motion not to meet again. If we were to accept such a Motion, at least we might have a chance of redeeming the reputation of this Parliament.
In the history of Parliament there have been long Parliaments and short Parliaments; there have been mad Parliaments and bad Parliaments. It may be that some of those epithets could be dusted off and applied to this one. If we were to dissolve now, we would at least avoid the ultimate indignity of being known as the "rubber stamp" Parliament.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Edwin Brooks (Bebington)
Several of the speeches during this normally short debate have reminded me of the view that the House of Commons is becoming like the hypochondriac who refuses or is unable to get off the psychoanalyst's couch. The more that we talk incessantly about the weaknesses and futilities of Parliament, the more we are in danger of believing that that is the case.
It is perfectly obvious that a good deal of the ritualistic deployment of argument today is no more than is customary on these occasions. Unfortunately, there is beginning to creep into some of the arguments a semi-hysterical wish on the part of right hon. and hon. Members opposite to frighten and panic the Government into retreating from measures which are necessary.
If the wish were father to the thought, like most hon. Members, I should like to spend a month cruising somewhere trying to find a country with a little peace and sunshine. Unfortunately, there are all too few countries which fall into that category, and that is the preface to what I suggest to my right hon. Friend about Monday, 10th June, when, in my view, we could quite profitably reassemble in order to spend the day discussing foreign affairs.
1461 While I am not one to believe that endless chattering in this Chamber is productive of a peaceful world, there comes a time when international events reach a point where it becomes important that this House should express its judgment and not be so obsessed with its own sense of introverted values and its growing sense of insularity that it refuses to consider the burden of world affairs.
There are three instances which I will summarise more or less in headings that persuade me that there is a case for a foreign affairs debate, that it might profitably be held immediately on our resumption, and should, if necessary, determine our resumption a day earlier than the Motion proposes.
The first is the growing agony of Nigeria. Here we have what was clearly once the jewel of the British Crown in Africa descending into an abyss of suffering and anarchy. In such a situation, it is important that we should have an opportunity to debate at some length the implications of the disintegration of the greatest and potentially richest country in Africa.
The second point is that, for some years now, we have seen a growing crisis of Communism in Eastern Europe which seems to be coming to a head this summer. This is not the time to speak incautiously about the implications of what is happening in countries like Rumania and Czechoslovakia, but it is not without interest that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Munich Agreement, which few of us remember with much pleasure or pride. At long last, Czechoslovakia is reasserting her right to live as a free and independent nation—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not debate now the matter that he wants to debate if he succeeds in getting us back a day early after Whitsuntide.
§ Mr. Brooks
I am aware of that, Mr. Speaker, and I was about to turn to my third point.
In the next few weeks, we shall be going through the most critical post-war negotiations to decide whether or not peace in Vietnam is possible. It seems to me that it would be appropriate to have a foreign affairs debate on that 1462 Monday when we have had an opportunity to think on these matters and are in a better position to consider what should be the British Government's attitude towards the negotiations.
I have never seen this as a matter of black and white, but it seems to me that the time is coming when it may be necessary for the Government to say firmly on what basis they believe that a negotiated settlement should be arrived at in South Vietnam and whether they consider that there should be some sort of political coalition in that country.
Finally, I would refer briefly to a point which has exercised the minds of many of my hon. Friends and what has dominated the debate. It is whether or not the Government should give extra time to debate the Prices and Incomes Bill at greater length, and, if it is considered desirable, whether it is necessary to curtail the length of the Whitsun Recess.
Surely this is a proper matter for argument and for judgment. My hon. Friend the Member for Peniston (Mr. Mendelson) referred to the important point that the Bill involves a development of the criminal law of the country which may result in new crimes being defined. He argued on that ground that we should not be away for such a period of time if it precluded us from discussing the serious prospects of such an extension of the law.
While I appreciate that there may be a case for second day, equally it could follow that, even if my right hon. Friend had announced a two-day debate, we could still have assailed him vigorously for not giving us a three-day or four-day debate. There is no law about these matters.
Recently, when the Race Relations Bill was being discussed in the House, which also involved a very substantial extension of the criminal law, I do not recall that, when business questions were taken on the appropriate Thursday, any hon. Member got up to ask for a second day's debate on that matter. Those who allege that my right hon. Friend and the Cabinet degrade the processes of Parliament might at least have the courtesy to be consistent and express themselves in more moderate language which is closer to reality.
I am not opposed to a second day's debate on the Prices and Incomes Bill, but the critics of it have not been slow 1463 to bring their views into public prominence, and it seems to me that, during the course of our debates, those who wish to express minority viewpoints on great public issues are not denied the opportunity to do so. During the Committee stage of the Bill, I am sure that there will be more than adequate opportunity to discuss these important and controversial matters at length.
At a time when the Government are under attack from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, I urge my hon. Friends not to bring comfort to our opponents. It is urgent that the country's economy should be put on a sound basis. I hope that the processes of Parliament will not be abused and that no comfort will be given to our political enemies.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
The hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) has reminded the Leader of the House as strongly as anyone of his concern about the time that this House takes to consider the most important and vital Measures facing it.
We have heard the Leader of the House advising us today about forthcoming Measures. It is clear that two very important pieces of legislation will be considered in the near future. He has announced that the Prices and Incomes Bill will be given one day's debate. Much heat and argument have been generated on both sides of the House at this inadequate time for the consideration of something so important, and I am sure that the Leader of the House is not going to let these arguments pass over his head but will take them in and consider them with his colleagues in Cabinet and on the Front Bench. The force of the arguments from the Government benches behind him that this matter must be given consideration in this Chamber is something which he must bear in mind. He must consider whether it is not his duty, in his early weeks of office, to direct his efforts as Leader of the whole House towards real reform and real consideration of the real problems facing this House and this country.
This afternoon we have also heard the decision announced by the new Leader that the Finance Bill is to be curtailed in Committee and that the guillotine is 1464 to be applied. This is another matter which causes me this afternoon to ask the Leader of the House whether this, too, is not a point which should be considered by him, and to recommend for further thought the question whether it is wise at this stage of the development of this great House of Commons that, for the first time, the Finance Bill should be considered out of the Chamber of this House in Committee upstairs; that, because it is taking time to get through the thorough consideration of and debate on taxation involving nearly £1,000 million, the Government should suggest—indeed, insist—that this House apply the guillotine in that Committee. I suggest that this is far too serious a matter to pass over lightly.
I am one of those persons on this side of the House who have not opposed the efforts of the predecessor of the present Leader of the House to take some steps towards the reform of this House. I am one of those who stand in the rather lonely position of not being against the idea of trying the experiment of taking the debate on the Finance Bill upstairs. But I am concerned at the fact that once it is placed there we may see it hustled and hurried through, and ill considered.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss on this Motion the guillotine Motion which we are going to discuss next week.
§ Mr. Crouch
I hasten to follow your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps you will forgive me if I get carried away in my reforming zeal.
I think it was the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) who spoke of the need for this Chamber to be retained as the central forum of our debate. It is really this matter, this thought and this ideal which prompted me to intervene in this debate to ask the Leader of the House to tell us, as regards the two items I have mentioned—the position regarding the Prices and Incomes Bill and the Guillotine on the Finance Bill—what is happening in this Chamber and what is happening in these efforts towards the reform of this House because of these decisions which are being rushed on us before the Whitsun Recess.
I believe that before we go into recess we must have a debate on the activities 1465 of Members in this House as a whole. When I was speaking in this Chamber yesterday, there were seven other debates taking place in this House. It cannot be that this Chamber should not be the central formum, and yet I am not against the opportunities before us, which we must take, for the reform of our procedures, our productivity, our achievement and our efficiency. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) who earlier this afternoon implored the Leader of the House to give us time for a debate on the whole question of the way the reform is proceeding.
I make this plea to the Leader of the House this afternoon, with great respect for him as a Minister in the time during which I have seen him in this House. He sits now in a new position, not really on one side of the House but as Leader of the whole House, of Front Benches and back benches, and, above all, as the guardian of the back benchers' rights, the rights of the representatives in this House to express themselves. This is a matter of vital concern to us all and one which I want considered before we rush into the summer session with so much legislation and so much work to deal with. I want to see the Leader of the House show us, before he gets too busy and too immersed in the conduct of the affairs of this House, where he stands in this march, because march it is, to the real change and progress towards which this House is moving.
He will have my support in a move, even if it is an experiment, towards improving the effectiveness and efficiency of us who are the representatives of this country; but we must know, and we must know soon, where he stands and what his ideas of reform, change and modification are. I hope the Leader of the House will forgive me, but I believe that he gave us somewhat scant courtesy this afternoon when he answered business questions. This is not his custom, and I am sure he will take what I am saying in the spirit in which it is meant, but he was hurrying us somewhat in our business questions and this is, in a way, making a less serious occasion of the Thursday afternoon—
§ Mr. Speaker
With respect, the hon. Gentleman is drifting again into the ques- 1466 tion of merit. He must argue whether we should have a Whitsun holiday or not: whether it should be a shorter or a longer one, or no holiday at all.
§ Mr. Crouch
I will endeavour to follow you completely, Mr. Speaker, and in particular I will make use of the idea of a shorter recess which you have suggested.
I am hoping that the Leader of the House, who has been noting things down as I have been speaking, will give us an opportunity to debate the new trend that he is to establish in the Government's move towards the reform of this House. I hope, too, that he will try to put a stop to the apparent trend of failure by this Government on so many occasions in this Chamber to respect the democratic procedures and to provide the opportunities which should be open to all Members of this House to debate in this Chamber the great events with which we are faced.
1 have picked out two items this afternoon the decision which we have heard regarding the Prices and Incomes Bill being given one day's debate only, and the decision to apply the Guillotine to the Finance Bill. I hope that the Leader of the House will give us some indication and some hope that we shall have an opportunity not of debating these things individually perhaps, but of debating generally the reform procedures which we are to follow under his guidance as our new Leader.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) have drawn the attention of the House to the fact that it should not depart for a recess lasting 10 days without giving some attention to the desirability of debating affairs in the wider world and affairs which, although they may not have a direct impact on the pockets and purses of our constituents, may nevertheless in the longer term and on the wider perspective have great consequences for the wellbeing of the people of this country. It is not right that the House should rise without giving more attention to foreign affairs and to problems in certain parts, of the world which have the greatest import for Britain's ultimate security.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bebington spoke of the state of affairs in 1467 West Africa, in the Far East and in Eastern Europe. I do not take up the points he raised, save to say that I concur in his argument that the House would do well to return a little earlier from the recess and devote at least one day, 10th June, to a discussion of some of those matters.
There is another part of the world in which, in my view, affairs are equally perilous and in which certain human problems persist which are almost as grave as those referred to by my hon. Friend. I speak of the Middle East. It is possible to argue that this country has no direct or immediate responsibility for the horror and tragedy in West Africa, that it cannot directly influence the barbarities now being acted out in the Far East, and that it might be wise not to seek to interfere overtly in the affairs of Eastern Europe. But in the Middle East there is a tragedy which has arisen out of actions of this country and decisions of the House 20 years ago for which we have an enduring responsibility.
Before rising for the recess, the House of Commons should give its attention to the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of men and women in a state of destitution in Palestine and on the borders of Palestine, a state of destitution brought about by the tragic conflicts of the past 20 years. The House should consider specific aspects of that situation. It should consider whether it is right that a member State of the United Nations should for 12 months have been in military occupation of the territory of three other member States, in flagrant breach of every principle laid down in the Charter.
Before rising for the recess, the House should consider whether we can allow a situation to continue in which unanimous decisions of the Security Council, to which this Government and country are party, are flagrantly ignored or flouted—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is drifting into the details and merits of the matter which he wishes the House to debate on one of the days proposed for the recess.
§ Mr. Hooley
I return at once, Mr. Speaker, to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington. The problems to which he alluded, and the 1468 related problems in the Middle East, should be debated by the House, and opportunity should be given by arranging to return from the recess one day earlier than the date proposed in the Motion. The House would be unwise to depart for the recess without giving earnest consideration to how far it can allow or leave without discussion a situation in which the international organisation set up to preserve the security of the world is ignored or defied by one member State. Clearly, I should be out of order if I were to pursue that argument in detail.
I am not persuaded that the House should rise without asking for debate and explanation of any proposal which Her Majesty's Government may have in mind to supply arms to that part of the world or to one of the countries concerned. We should require the Government to explain their policy and intentions in the matter. If such explanation cannot be given before the House rises for the recess, we should require the proposed recess to be curtailed or modified so that, at an early opportunity, a statement of policy may be given.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Director of the World Food and Agriculture Organisation have made a direct appeal to this country for food to sustain the victims of the Middle East conflict. The House ought not to take its holiday without hearing what the Government intend to do in response to that appeal.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could I, through you, inquire whether there is now a possibility that those of us who have sat here waiting to put points to the House regarding the Motion for the recess may at some future stage, after the right hon. Gentleman has sat down, be prevented from so doing? Have you in your possession, Sir, any information which might lead you to suspect that that might happen?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has probably heard that question asked many times before and answered in exactly the same way. I have called the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. If any other hon. Member catches 1469 my eye, he will be called, unless events move in, a different way.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
I hope that the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) did not really think that I was discourteous today at business question time. I did not intend it, and, if I was, I apologise. I readily accept the point which the hon. Gentleman made. There is force in his argument about the need to examine how reforms affecting our proceedure and institutions are going, and I agree that that could be an excellent topic for debate at some time on the Floor of the House.
I took careful note of the important points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) about international affairs, world poverty, the F.A.O. and the wars still going on in certain parts of the world. On all those matters I shall convey the views which I know he holds strongly and sincerely to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Inevitably, these matters have been raised, and several hon. Members, notably my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker), have stressed the need to have a debate on foreign affairs, with particular reference to Vietnam. I shall convey all the views expressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Mr. Ridley
Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up one small point? I take it that he is not attempting to wind up the debate in any sense, as there are still many hon. Members who wish to speak. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for intervening, but will he confirm that it will still be his wish to hear what other hon. Members have to say?
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington) rose—
§ Mr. Peart
I am sorry; I cannot give way.
I have in mind what you said, Mr. Speaker, about it being out of order to discuss the proposed guillotine Motion. 1470 Although many observations coming from hon. Members were directed to it, it would be improper if I entered into a discussion of matters to be debated when the Motion comes before the House.
I have looked carefully into the matter which my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised in regard to the arrest and detention of citizens in Singapore. However, I can only stand pat by the note which I had from my right hon. Friend. This is a matter to be decided by the Government concerned, and it is not the policy of the British Government to intervene in the internal affairs of independent Commonwealth countries. However, I will convey my hon. Friend's views to my right hon. Friend.
I have had considerable pressure from both sides on matters affecting the Prices and Incomes Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) made an eloquent, sincere and forceful speech. He was backed up by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). They made a very powerful plea to me to consider extending the Second Reading debate by one day. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) made a strong argument against it. He indicated that there were many other Bills of great importance to our citizens which had only had a one day debate. The Race Relations Bill was one.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall) rose—
§ Mr. Ridley rose—
§ Mr. Bidwell rose—1471
§ Mr. Peart
When I have finished this point I will let my hon. Friend make his point.
I said that I would carefully consider and convey the views of hon. Members to my colleagues. I cannot go beyond that. I have given that assurance. I have listened very carefully to all the speeches. Except for a short exit from the Chamber of about two or three minutes, I have followed the debate carefully and taken careful notes of every hon. Member's speech.
§ Mr. Bidwell
The reason for my anxiety is that I, too, have been trying to enter the debate. It is no reflection on Mr. Speaker. I am proposing now to forgo that opportunity—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—But may I question the reference to other matters of considerable importance that have involved the extension of the criminal law. This is not so concerning the Race Relations Bill. It is important that that should be stated.
§ Mr. Peart
If my hon. Friend looks carefully through many of the major Measures that we have had in the past—I have been a Member of this House for 23 years now; others have been here longer—he will find that many outstanding Measures have had only a one day Second Reading debate.
One argument which has been put forward is that we should give time to hear the different viewpoints expressed by individuals and sections of the community. It would be interesting to have the differences of view between the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South West (Mr. Powell) and the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling). I know that within my own party there are differences, too. However, I know of no hon. Member who has found difficulty in communicating to the public the views which he sincerely holds. I cannot go beyond the assurance that I have given. Indeed, I must not get involved 1472 in an argument about the merits of the Bill or the policy behind it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North East (Mr. Swain) strongly pressed me on a Motion which affected the position of Mr. Cecil King and the National Coal Board. As I said in reply to a Question that he put to me today on Business, I will certainly convey the strong views of hon. Members to the Minister of Power. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East was strongly supported by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) who, I assume, represents the Liberal Party. He asked me about the Regulations and a matter affecting redundant miners. My hon. Friend has made representations on this matter on many occasions. I understand his impatience. He made representations to me almost on my first appearance at the Dispatch Box as Leader of the House. I have pursued this matter and I have been informed that a statement will be made. In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda, West (Mr. Alec Jones), the Minister, in a Written Answer on 8th May, stated that he hoped to make a statement before the Whitsun Recess.
§ Mr. Peart
My hon. Friend, with his characteristic sense of humour, asks which year. This year. I have chased this up, and the Minister confirms it is still his intention to make a statement before the recess. The Minister mentioned that the National Union of Mineworkers had made a series of detailed suggestions about the regulations which require further consideration, and there has been a little delay because of this. I have looked into this matter carefully, and can assure my hon. Friend that it has not been neglected.
He also asked me specifically about the effect of devaluation on the White Paper on Fuel Policy. There have been arguments about this. Again, I will communicate my hon. Friend's views to the Minister.
The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) raised the whole issue of the Finance Bill and the guillotine Motion. Mr. Speaker said I would be out of order if I discussed this. This is a matter appropriate to the Motion. I understand 1473 how the hon. Gentleman feels about it. There is no uncertainty about his position. He has made his views known. He is strongly opposed to taking the Finance Bill upstairs.
I do not want to enter into arguments about the policy on this because it would be wrong, but hon. Members who seem to support his point of view use language which to me, as an old campaigner, sounds rather extravagant. One hon. Member spoke about contempt. The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) talked about the "brick wall of dictatorship". He said that we were destroying the House of Commons by design. I have heard this fine language on a debate of this kind before on many occasions over the years, but it does not get us anywhere. However, I understand the views of hon. Members.
I was asked about my intentions regarding by-elections. I was in no way trying to hide. This is a matter for the Patronage Secretary. I hope that there will soon be an announcement. I could not be specific about the date of an announcement, because this is a matter for the Patronage Secretary. It is not a matter for the Leader of the House to announce this to the House. That was what I endeavoured to convey. There have been cases before in previous Administrations where there has been a much longer period. 'The hon. Member for Orpington will know what I mean.
§ Mr. Peyton
It may be a matter for the Patronage Secretary, but the right hon. Gentleman knows that it is for him to arrange for the Patronage Secretary to make a statement. Will he do so next week?
§ Mr. Peart
I will have consultations with my right hon. Friend. It will not be long before he makes a statement. I should like to make certain which day and the timing of it. I have never thought of it in terms of a business statement on a Thursday.
Most hon. Members have devoted their speeches to the guillotine Motion on the
§ Finance Bill and on the Prices and Incomes Bill. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) referred to Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology. I am sorry that there has been some delay. I hope that the hon. Member for Canterbury will appreciate what I am saying. I have always believed in the development of Select Committees, but I want to see how they work. As Minister of Agriculture, I was a guinea-pig for one of the first Committees to be set up. I enjoyed my experience with that Committee, and I was pleased that its Report was debated yesterday. Hon. Members who spend a lot of time in and work hard on Specialist Committees dealing with important matters such as science and technology should be able to feel that their work is appreciated by those who are not on the Committee, and it is important that we should debate nuclear power and nuclear energy.
§ I hope that hon. Members will not be contemptuous about the business of the House, and say that we are discussing things in dribs and drabs. Last night the House debated the fishing industry, and next week we are to debate science and technology and nuclear energy which are fundamental to our industrial development. I am anxious that these Committees should succeed, and possibly become a permanent feature of our Parliamentary procedure. It is in that spirit that I approach the debate today.
§ Most of the arguments have been concentrated on two main items. I have given my reply, and I shall consider the points which have been raised during the debate.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House Divided: Ayes 141, Noes 75.1475
|Division No. 142.]||AYES||[7.2 p.m.|
|Allen, Scholefield||Barnes, Michael||Brooks, Edwin|
|Anderson, Donald||Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)|
|Archer, Peter||Bishop, E. S.||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Buchan, Norman|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Boyden, James||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Bradley, Tom||Coe, Denis|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jeger, George (Goole)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Dewar, Donald||Kenyon, Clifford||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Dobson, Ray||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Probert, Arthur|
|Doig, Peter||Lawson, George||Rankin, John|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lipton, Marcus||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Eadie, Alex||McBride, Neil||Richard, Ivor|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacColl, James||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Ellis, John||Macdonald, A. H.||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Faulds, Andrew||McNamara, J. Kevin||Roebuck, Roy|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacPherson, Malcolm||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ryan, John|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Ford, Ben||Marks, Kenneth||Sheldon, Robert|
|Forrester, John||Marquand, David||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Fowler, Gerry||Mayhew, Christopher||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Millan, Bruce||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Gardner, Tony||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mitchell, R. C.(S'th'pton, Test)||Small, William|
|Gourlay, Harry||Moonman, Eric||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Tinn, James|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Hattersley, Roy||Moyle, Roland||Varley, Eric G.|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Hilton, W. S.||Murray, Albert||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Newens, Stan||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Hooley, Frank||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||O'Malley, Brian||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Oram, Albert E.||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Howie, W.||Oswald, Thomas||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Hoy, James||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Winnick, David|
|Huckfleid, Leslie||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Woof, Robert|
|Hunter, Adam||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Yates, Victor|
|Hynd, John||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Pavitt, Laurence||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Mr. J. D. Concannon.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Hill, J. E. B.||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Hordern, Peter||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Bell, Ronald||Hunt, John||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Sharples, Richard|
|Biffen, John||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Silvester, Frederick|
|Boardman, Tom||Kershaw, Anthony||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Kirk, Peter||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Lane, David||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Clegg, Walter||Lubbock, Eric||Teeling, Sir William|
|Crouch, David||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Eden, Sir John||Montgomery, Fergus||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Goodhart, Philip||Murton, Oscar||Webster, David|
|Goodhew, Victor||Onslow, Cranley||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Grieve, Percy||Peel, John||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Peyton. John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Gurden, Harold||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Pym, Francis||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hastings, Stephen||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Mr. Jasper More and|
|Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
§ Question put accordingly:—1476
§ The House divided: Ayes 148, Noes 33.1477
|Division No. 143.]||AYES||[7.11 p.m|
|Allen, Scholefield||Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)|
|Anderson, Donald||Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Bidwell, Sydney|
|Archer, Peter||Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Bishop, E. S.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Barnes, Michael||Blenkinsop, Arthur|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Boyden, James||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Bradley, Tom||Howie, W.||Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Huckfield, Leslie||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Hunter, Adam||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Hynd, John||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Buchan, Norman||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Janner, Sir Barnett||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Probert, Arthur|
|Coe, Denis||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Concannon, J. D.||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Conlan, Bernard||Kenyon, Clifford||Richard, Ivor|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Lawson, George||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Lee, John (Reading)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Dewar, Donald||Lipton, Marcus||Roebuck, Roy|
|Dickens, James||MacColl, James||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Dobson, Ray||Macdonald, A. H.||Ryan, John|
|Doig, Peter||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Driberg, Tom||McNamara, J. Kevin||Sheldon, Robert|
|Dunnett, Jack||MacPherson,. Malcolm||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Eadie, Alex||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Ellis, John||Marks, Kenneth||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Ennals, David||Marquand, David||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mayhew, Christopher||Small, William|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mendelson, J. J.||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Millan, Bruce||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Ford, Ben||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Swain, Thomas|
|Forrester, John||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Tinn, James|
|Fowler, Gerry||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Moonman, Eric||Varley, Eric G.|
|Freeson, Reginald||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Gardner, Tony||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Gourley, Harry||Moyle, Roland||Wellbeloved, James|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Murray, Albert||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Harper, Joseph||Newens, Stan||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Winnick, David|
|Hattersley, Roy||O'Malley, Brian||Yates, Victor|
|Hazell, Bert||Oram, Albert E.|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Orme, Stanley||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hilton, W. S.||Oswald, Thomas||Mr. Neil McBride and|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Mr. Ioan L. Evans.|
|Hooley, Frank||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Goodhew, Victor||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Gresham Cooke, R.||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Bell, Ronald||Grieve, Percy||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Biffen, John||Harvie Anderson, Miss||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Boardman, Tom||Hill, J. E. B.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Clegg, Walter||Lubbock, Eric||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Crouch, David||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire.W.)||Onslow, Cranley||Worsley, Marcus|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Eden, Sir John||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Goodhart, Philip||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Mr. John Peyton and|
|Dr. Reginald Bennett.|
|That this House, at its rising on Friday, 31st May, do adjourn till Tuesday, 11th June.|