Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House, at its rising tomorrow, do adjourn till Tuesday, 27th October.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)
Before we proceed to discuss this Motion, Mr. Speaker, there is a consideration which I should like to put to the House.
The whole House will agree that we have had a somewhat unusual afternoon. I do not know whether it is, but if it were possible to change the point of interruption so that this Motion could be debated for longer I think that the House would be grateful to you. I know that this is an unusual situation, but the Government would like and I think that the Opposition would like this, and if it were possible I am sure that the House would be grateful to you.
§ Mr. Speaker
The unusual situation is nothing to do with the matters which we have been discussing today but to the extraordinary incident which occurred earlier in the evening. I cannot vary the Motion on the Order Paper unless I have the unanimous consent of the House. We are about to debate whether the House should adjourn until 27th October. Under Standing Orders, the rule is not suspended for this debate and I shall have to end it automatically at 10 o'clock. I suggest, if I have the concurrence of the House, that I shall close it not at 10 o'clock but at 11 o'clock. Is there any opposition to that suggestion? [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed."] In that case the debate will end at 11 o'clock.
§ Mr. Speaker
May I remind hon. Members that we are not debating issues but whether we should rise until 27th October?
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)
I am conscious that time is scarce. The events which we all experienced earlier underline this.
If it were not a matter of considerable importance which I feel I ought to raise 829 and argue and which should be considered before the House adjourns, I should not seek to take the time of the House this evening. A statement was made in reply to a Written Question at 4 o'clock this afternoon. It concerns the future of the Royal Mint, which is a national establishment of which we are proud in my constituency of Stepney. It is an establishment with which many other hon. Members, particularly those from the London area, are associated.
The announcement this afternoon was to the effect that the Government have decided that the transfer of the Royal Mint from Tower Hill to Wales should proceed. To make this statement the subject of a Written Answer was deplorable. This is a subject which, given the controversy that has surrounded the decision to move the Mint, taken some years ago, should have been the subject of an oral statement. When it is considered that the time of the House earlier today was taken up by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications on what was a non-statement it is extraordinary that the opportunity was not taken to make a statement on this important subject.
It is important and necessary to debate this and if need be for the House to sit beyond the date on which we are to adjourn because this decision will have considerable repercussions on the 1,300 men employed by the Royal Mint and their families living in London. These men will be bewildered and dismayed by the announcement, and once they have got over that they will be angry. They are likely to feel cynical about the decision of the Government. It is not simply the case that the Government are confirming a decision taken by their predecessors. It is true that in 1967 the Labour Government made the decision in the light of the then facts that the Mint had to be rebuilt and should be located in South Wales. That decision was not questioned except by one or two of my hon. Friends.
I would have expected that the decision would have been accepted, however reluctantly, because it is natural that people should be reluctant when faced with the prospect of moving from London. It was natural that they should have resisted it, but I think that they would have accepted it, as many have, but for the fact that their confidence in that decision 830 was undermined and eroded during the last year by a series of statements and questions, and particularly by a debate in this House four months ago. Then it was argued that the situation had so changed since the 1967 decision that the case for moving the Mint had disappeared. The Opposition spokesman then, who is now the Financial Secretary, said:With so much at stake, therefore, with conditions now so starkly changed from the peak period in 1966–67, the case for an inquiry has become overwhelming."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1970; Vol. 798, c. 1663.]It is inevitable that the men working at the Mint will be asking themselves as they learn of this decision: "What has happened in the past four months to cause those who were then in opposition to change their minds and to decide that no inquiry was needed?"
I do not say that four months ago the then Opposition Front Bench argued without reason or for a total reversal of the decision, but it did urge that there should be a full inquiry, which would have resulted in a delay of perhaps two or three months. It will be very difficult to convince the men at the Mint that what has taken place since amounts to the inquiry which was urged four months ago. According to the Press statement which accompanied the Written Answer which the Financial Secretary gave today, the Government have conducted a review in the four weeks since they took office. A review is not the same as an inquiry. A review was carried out by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Treasury when I urged him to look again at the matter to make sure that the decision made a few months ago was right. The present Government have simply looked again at the papers and have come to a decision and have totally ditched the idea of an inquiry which they put before the men at the Mint and all those concerned four months ago.
Many people will want to know why the Government have changed their mind. We need time to debate the matter, and that time will be denied us if we continue with the present plan to adjourn tomorrow. We are about to adjourn for three months or more during which time the consequential results of the Government's decision will have to be faced and dealt with because the run-down of men now employed at the Mint will take place 831 during the second half of this year and inevitably it will involve some redundancies and the need to decide the compensation to which they shall be entitled.
We should have time to debate this matter thoroughly, not only because it is a matter of great importance in my constituency. There is even more to it than that. The reputations of the Government and of the Financial Secretary are involved. The Financial Secretary took it upon himself to make a special study of the Mint in his days of opposition when he was free to raise the matter and to feed the natural anxieties of the men and to argue strongly that it should be the subject of a serious inquiry. Now he is in a rather strange position and his chickens have come home to roost. It is in his interests as well as the interests of the Government that he should have the opportunity which only a debate can provide to give the reasons which caused him, in so short a time, to change his judgment and his conclusions and to discard his proposal for an independent inquiry and instead to content himself with a quick look at the papers. That is the hon. Gentleman's responsibility.
Often in the pursuit of our policies we find ourselves in difficult positions. The House recognises that a Minister with duties and convictions which do not necessarily coincide with the short-term interests of his constituents often finds himself in a very tough situation. I do not complain about that. I did not ask the Government for an independent inquiry because I had come to the honest conclusion that the decision to move the Mint was right.
The people who came to a different conclusion are now sitting on the benches opposite. They led the demand for an inquiry which undermined the confidence of the men in the Mint in the decision which was taken. Having got to power, within a matter of weeks they now abandon the positions which they previously adopted. It is bad for Parliament and bad for the reputation of us all if men can come to the conclusion that their hopes, their fears and their livelihood are nothing more than a football of party politics.
I therefore very much hope that an opportunity will rapidly be taken to enable 832 us to discuss their affair in full and to hear the full explanation of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is present on the Government Front Bench tonight.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
I wish to speak of the effect that the dock strike is having on Northern Ireland. The situation is serious and it is growing more grave each day. As we know, Ulster is the only substantial part of the United Kingdom where the disruption of its shipping is the equivalent to the stoppage of road, rail and sea traffic betwen various parts of Britain—for instance, between Scotland and England.
This afternoon, when the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) questioned my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity about his statement on the docks strike, he pointed out the difficulties that the Scottish Islands were facing and the need to ensure the movement of fish and eggs between the islands and the mainland. My right hon. Friend replied that he would bear that situation in mind. That is not an answer which I would find satisfactory concerning the position in which Northern Ireland finds itself, and I cannot be complacent about Ulster's economic situation. Without reassurance from my right hon. Friend, I cannot feel that this House can adjourn.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Further grave and, perhaps, irreparable damage will be done to Northern Ireland's economy unless the agricultural products of the province can be shipped without further delay to the rest of the United Kingdom.
On 20th July, a leading article appeared in the Belfast Telegraph which stated—it is worth reading to the House:Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, but because of the Irish Sea, its food producers have to fight much harder to retain their foothold in Britain. They have held on, and have built on past successes, because they have been that much more efficient than their cross-channel rivals, but a prolonged blockade of the ports could lose them trade, which might never be recovered.833 If I might read just one other sentence from that leading article, it states:Their quarrel"—that is, the dockers' quarrel—is with the port employers, and although they must make an effort to see that the strike is effective, they should realise that trade with Britain in agricultural produce is in a special category.Indeed, I could emphasise the cost of this dock strike to Northern Ireland by giving to the House figures for the four main agricultural exports to Britain each week: bacon amounting to £380,000; eggs amounting to £360,000; live cattle to the value of £290,000; and meat to the value of £220,000. The total value each week amounts to close on £2 million. All that, at this moment, is at stake.
I regret that we have high unemployment in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Government, with the help of this Government here, are facing that, but it looks as though our present high unemployment will be increased heavily and that that will be seen when the figures are revealed for this month. This is the tragedy of this dock strike, because it is going to throw other people out of work. Immediately at risk are a few thousand people employed in food plants—350 workers in meat plants; 1,750 workers in bacon factories; 400 in the broiler processing plants; 1,350 people working in the egg packing plants. That is not the full story, because if this dock strike goes on for a week or for longer still over 11,000 people employed in the agricultural processing industry in Northern Ireland will find their jobs in jeopardy, and these are people employed in milk processing plants, the potato processing and canning industry, and in various industries ancillary to agriculture.
While there is a danger of exposing Northern Ireland to further economic loss I cannot, as I say, view the Adjournment of the House with complacency. This Government have a duty, a duty which they cannot ignore, to have special, urgent talks with Mr. Jack Jones to emphasise to the union the danger that the strike poses for Northern Ireland.
Whatever the merits of the strike I am sure it is not the intention of the dockers to stop the transport of goods between 834 one part of the United Kingdom and another. Their quarrel is with the dock employers and not with the ordinary people of Northern Ireland who have suffered so much and are now trying to build for the future. I know many of the Belfast dockers—very good and kindly people who voted for me when I had the honour of representing Belfast, West, and there are some in my new constituency of Down, North, and I always pay a tribute to their sincerity. They are sensible men and anxious to aid Ulster, not to hinder its progress. Here in this House I appeal to them to get approval from their union for the loading of agricultural products for shipment to Britain.
I must, however, seek an assurance from my right hon. Friend here and now that, if the trade union cannot consent to this reasonable plea—because of a question of solidarity—if the strike is still on by Monday, the Government will employ some means to ensure that Ulster's agricultural products are shipped to Britain, and shipped without further delay. I do not think that that is an unreasonable request to make, because the dockers have agreed, and kindly agreed, to unload perishable products in ships docked in harbours here in Britain, but it is essential as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) pointed out, that there should be movement of such goods—as, in his case, eggs and fish between the Scottish islands and Scotland's mainland. It is vital to the economic survival of Ulster that the agricultural products of that province are shipped across to this part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
Will the hon. Gentleman now go on to say that if the trade union were to do that he would equally bring pressure on his right hon. Friend to ensure that all the profits of all the people concerned in the loading and unloading of the goods, would be sent to appropriate charities?
§ Mr. Kilfedder
This is not something that I can answer. The dockers in Belfast are concerned about the situation and, if the union here were to tell them that they could go ahead, they would respond to that request and start loading the ships in Belfast.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) and the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) have both deployed powerful reasons why the House should not adjourn tomorrow for three months. I wish to carry the argument a little wider. The House of Commons faces a unique situation in that we are in a state of emergency and an incoming Administration has just taken over the reins of responsibility. Never before in the political history of this country, as far as I have been able to ascertain, has this situation arisen, and we must consider the adjournment of the House in that context.
I believe that the idea of the House adjourning for three months during the summer is archaic and completely out of date. It is a hang-over from a past age when the way in which our political problems were discussed was rather academic, and when it was possible for the affairs of the country to go on without the need for the State to intervene, because the State believed in a philosophy of nonintervention. The situation in 1970 is quite dissimilar. Whether we have a Labour or a Conservative Administration, the State is, to an extent, interventionist, and to adjourn the House of Commons for three months while important decisions are being taken by the Executive is wrong, because it means that the Executive is able to carry out its actions without being subject to the control and pressures of this House.
We shall adjourn while there are several important subjects still unresolved. There has been raised today the question of the state of emergency and the serious dock strike. I have looked up the precedents, and it is not correct that never before has the House adjourned when a state of emergency exists. In 1921 the Whitsun Recess took place during a coal strike. In a similar situation in 1966 a Whitsun Recess occurred and the Emeregncy Regulations had to be discussed after the House resumed after that recess. In the railway strike of 1955 a state of emergency was declared when the House was actually prorogued, and the House debated the Emergency Regulations just after the new House met on 13th June, 1955. In the General Strike of 1926 a Summer Adjournment 836 took place just after the state of emergency was declared. After some days of adjournment the House was recalled on 27th September so that the Emergency Regulations could be discussed on 28th September. The House was again recalled on 25th October and the Emergency Regulations were again discussed on 26th October.
If the precedent of 1926 is followed in 1970, the Leader of the House will call us back in August for one day to debate the Emergency Regulations. It is important not only that the House of Commons should have an opportunity to discuss the Emergency Regulations and their continuance but that we should be able to cross-examine the various Ministers concerned about their handling of the dispute and the measures they are taking to keep down prices in the difficult situation that will face the country if the dispute continues. This will not be possible if we are recalled simply for one day to debate the Emergency Regulations themselves. I suggest that it would be wrong for the House to adjourn for this long period without hon. Members being able to come back and cross-examine Ministers about the exercise of their responsibilities.
Several other examples have been given today on subjects on which Ministers have failed to give answers. The question of the postal tariffs was raised this afternoon, and the Leader of the House made it clear that he was not prepared to give an undertaking that no decision would be taken by the Government during the recess and that the House of Commons would have an opportunity of debating this matter before a decision was arrived at. I regard that announcement by the Leader of the House as wholly reprehensible. It is intolerable that the Government should make a decision about increasing postal tariffs without the House of Commons having an opportunity to debate the issues involved, particularly as the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications this afternoon made a number of inaccurate statements which the House of Commons should be able to debate before the decision is arrived at.
There is also the situation that arises as a result of the surcharge on Rhodesian mail. The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) on 20th July asked in a 837 Written Question whether the surcharge would continue, and the Minister replied that he still had the matter under consideration. The Minister may perhaps make a decision during the recess and announce it without the House having an opportunity to cross-examine him and debate the matter.
There is also the question of the B.B.C. local radio plans, which were announced by the previous Administration, in which the B.B.C. currently intend to create another 12 local radio stations. The people in the towns concerned are expecting to hear about these plans. Will the Minister make a statement during the recess which is perhaps adverse to the B.B.C. and in favour of commercial radio without the House of Commons having an opportunity to debate it? There is also the question of the Annan Committee, which was dealt with in a Written Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), a Question which the Minister has failed to answer. Is the Annan Committee to be allowed to get on with the job of discussing the future of broadcasting in Britain, or is it to be wound up during the recess, with a decision by the Minister, without an objective committee of inquiry being allowed to do its job?
There is also the situation about the I.R.C. and the future of certain very important industrial questions. Rolls-Royce, for example, is wondering what the new Government will do to assist it in the serious economic and industrial situation in which it finds itself. There is also the question of the machine tool industry and other industries which have been affected as a result of the change in the economic climate. It looks as if the Government may decide during the recess to remove one of the props which the last Administration gave to industry to enable it to readjust to the changing competitive circumstances in the world. If that happens, it will have serious economic repercussions on our constituents who will be made redundant.
In the aero-space industry decisions are still awaited about whether the Government intend to support the development of the BAC 3–11. A great deal hangs on them. In a Written Reply yesterday, to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) 838 on whether this development was to be allowed to continue—col. 122—the Minister failed to give a clear answer.
All these are vital matters about which the House of Commons is concerned. I do not complain that Ministers are taking time in reaching decisions about them. Obviously a few weeks is not enough for some of the complex questions involved. However, when Ministers are ready to make statements, we should have an opportunity of putting forward our points of view. We shall not be able to make those points of view known if we adjourn tomorrow for three months.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)
I want to follow the line taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), who stressed the great importance of agriculture to the economy of Northern Ireland and the serious consequences for agriculture should the dock strike continue for very much longer. The House will recall the statistics which my hon. Friend quoted to support his argument.
While my hon. Friend's constituency has an agricultural content mine does not, and therefore I do not propose to enter the detailed argument which he advanced. Suffice it to say that the unemployment figures for Northern Ireland published today tragically underscore the fact that in recent months, despite the efforts of this House and the Parliament of Northern Ireland, the economy of Northern Ireland is going through an extremely serious time. The question is what this House can do in the short term to help.
I understand that there is one helpful way in which my right hon. and hon. Friends can assist and that it can be set in train within the next day or two. For that reason, I hope that a decision will be reached and that a statement will be made before the House rises.
This afternoon, my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) went to the Home Office. He was hoping to be here to make this point himself. In his absence, he has asked me to do it for him. He went to the Home Office to explain in detail the consequences of the dock strike for agriculture in Northern Ireland. Apparently, the Minister of Agriculture 839 can grant an open general licence for the export of foodstuffs and live animals to the Irish Republic, and that this can be done very easily, possibly even tonight when this debate is concluded. Its effect would be considerably to assist us at this time.
I hope that the necessary statement can be made, if not tonight then as soon as humanly possible, and certainly before the House rises for the summer.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Edmund Dell (Birkenhead)
I oppose the Motion for the Recess on the ground that no statement has been made either to the House or to me arising out of the inquiry that was promised in the Adjournment debate which took place on Tuesday, 14th July, on the Cammell Laird pledges which, it was stated, were made with the knowledge and approval of the then Shadow Cabinet.
I will briefly recapitulate what those pledges were. Cammell Laird is the largest employer in my constituency. The Labour Government decided that no further orders for hunter-killer submarines would go to Cammell Laird and that the refitting of nuclear submarines would be confined to the Royal doskyards. Both decisions were bitterly resented by the management and employees at Cammell Laird, and they were a sensitive issue throughout the Merseyside during the General Election. Cammell Laird is the largest employer not merely in my constituency, but in many Merseyside constituencies around it.
Shortly before the General Election—indeed, I now find that it was on 15th June, 1970, three days before the election—the Conservative candidate wrote a letter to the secretary of the shop stewards' committee at Cammell Laird. This confirms my statement that the pledges, to which I will refer in a moment, were made, according to the Conservative candidate, with the approval of the Shadow Cabinet. I will refer to one paragraph from the letter sent by the Conservative candidate to Mr. P. Cusack, secretary of the shop stewards' committee. It reads:We have a long-standing arrangement for a meeting at Cammell Laird's gate for 12.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 16th June, which is quite impossible to postpone. At this meeting I propose to announce far-reaching com 840 mitments on behalf of the Conservative Shadow Cabinet, which I have personally confirmed with the individual Shadow Ministers concerned.I will mention two of the 11 pledges. These are the two crucial pledges which related to the two sensitive issues which I have just mentioned. The first of the pledges was No. 7, which said:The Conservative Party will restore the building programme of the hunter-killer submarines to their original level; i.e., reverse the cuts made by the Socialists. This means that this additional work must come to Cammell Laird as there is no other shipyard in Britain equipped to do it, with the exception of Vickers who already have the existing business.I drew that pledge to the attention of the Under-Secretary of State for Defence during the Adjournment debate on 14th July, and he replied:… even if we were to restore the rate of building hunter/killer submarines to that which obtained before the previous Government cut it in 1968, it would not bring any extra work to Cammell Laird.The hon. Gentleman went on to make clear that such work would go to Vickers.
The second crucial pledge, which was part of item 10, reads:The Conservative Party is also determined to retain facilities at Cammell Laird for the refitting of nuclear submarines and will keep open the option to have some of this work carried out at the yard as and when necessary.On that point the hon. Gentleman, whom I am glad to set in his place, said:… I am informed that Cammell Laird is not equipped to refit nuclear submarines and that to do so would involve the building of an extra dock. Even if that were done, it was the firm policy of the previous Administration, which is being maintained by the present Administration, that refitting of nuclear submarines shall proceed in the Royal Dockyards and not in commercial firms."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1970; Vol. 803, c. 1489–90.]Indeed on 10th July Iasked the Minister of State for Defence what plans he has to use Cammell Lairds, Birkenhead, for the refitting of nuclear submarines.I received this reply:We have no plans for refitting nuclear submarines outside the Royal Dockyards.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th July, 1970; Vol. 803, c. 105.]In short, both of those crucial pledges have already been dishonoured.
That this was believed on Merseyside there is no question, and I will quote an independent authority—independent at 841 any rate from me—to explain this. The Birkenhead News wrote on 17th June, 1970, the day before the election:… the Tories' promise to restore the submarine building programme at Cammell Laird and end redundancies is a move which could have a marked effect on local voting.I said in the Adjournment debate of 14th July that it was scandalous that these pledges were made and that, having been stated to have been made on behalf of the Shadow Cabinet, they had already been dishonoured. I say it is a scandal, and there is no question but that, it being a scandal, the only point with which we must now be concerned is how they came to be made in the first place.
The Conservative candidate in Birkenhead said they had been made with the knowledge and approval of the Shadow Cabinet. In the Adjournment debate of 14th July I suggested that one of the Shadow Ministers whom the Conservative candidate might have contacted on this question was the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), who was then Shadow Minister of Defence and who is now Minister of Technology.
I was promised that there would be an inquiry, and it was presumed that that would lead to a statement being made in the House. As yet we have not had the result of the inquiry, though there can be no difficulty in establishing the facts. They would require a consultation between the Conservative Party in Birkenhead, the Conservative candidate and such Shadow Ministers as he might have consulted.
Instead of a report being made to the House, we have had—this is my reason for arguing that we should not adjourn until the situation has been explained—a series of statements in the Merseyside Press concerning persons involved in the matter. For example, the Liverpool Echo of 16th July, two days after the Adjournment debate, wrote:The Liverpool Echo late last night gave Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, Minister of Technology, details of election pledges he is alleged to have endorsed on future naval work for Cammell Lairds. The pledges were issued to Cammell Laird workers by Mr. Robert Kris, Conservative candidate for Birkenhead, just two days before the election. They included a definite statement that Lairds would get work on hunter killer submarines, and that the Birkenhead yard should also be getting nuclear submarine refits … But Mr. Rippon told 842 the Echo political correspondent last night that at no time had he endorsed any specific pledges of naval work for Cammell Lairds. He said he had not yet seen the document containing the promises, but when given details by the Echo, said that he would wait for an official party report before making further comment.Perhaps it was unfortunate that he did not take his own advice and wait for the official working party report before making further comment. The right hon. Gentleman has indeed made a further comment, and it increases my concern about this matter. The newspaper went on:Mr. Rippon did say, however, that before and during the election campaign he had said that more naval work would be available but at no time had he mentioned any shipyard in particular. 'There were no commitments of specific work for Cammell Lairds'.There is then this comment, presumably by the journalist:It is understood that Mr. Rippon takes the view that he is not responsible for detailed promises made by any Conservative candidate when those promises are based on false inference drawn from speeches he has made of a general nature on naval work.The attitude represented by what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quoted as saying in that article is what I would expect a responsible Opposition spokesman to take but unfortunately we find that there are contradictory statements. There is, for example—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. I appreciate the trend of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but I think he will have noticed that a great many hon. Members hope to take part in this debate. While I think it proper to look towards the future with which we are concerned, I think it would be unwise to place undue emphasis on the past.
§ Mr. Dell
I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker for your guidance. I wish to conclude by informing the House of two things said by Conservatives in Birkenhead. This is the substance of my concern about these contradictions, which should be resolved before the House rises for the recess.
The Conservative agent in Birkenhead, Mr. John Cole, is reported in the Birkenhead News of 17th July, 1970, as maintaining that he had been present when Mr. Kris received the go-ahead from 843 Shadow Cabinet members. The quotation was:'After telephone discussions with Sir Keith Joseph and Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, Mr. Kris and I drew up the leaflet', he said. 'We then phoned back, and after Mr. Kris had read over the details he was given the go-ahead.'This again was confirmed by the Conservative candidate himself in which he said, according to the Liverpool Daily Post of 18th July, 1970:'Mr. Rippon agreed with me on the telephone over the leaflet and he asked only for one or two minor changes in emphasis or wording before it was published.' Mr. Kris added that the points he had gone through concerned Tory defence policy. He said: 'Do you really think I would have published it otherwise?'".Here we have a direct conflict of evidence, or what appears to be a direct conflict of evidence, on the circumstances in which this circular was produced. It seems of considerable importance, certainly to my constituents and I should have thought to the Government, that this matter should be resolved and that in this House we should be given a clear statement of how these pledges, which have already been dishonoured, were made. That should have been a simple matter, but we have had nothing even though we are four weeks away from the General Election and nine days from the Adjournment debate which I raised.
We have had a further statement from the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham which attacked me for raising the matter in this House and attacked me for not supplying him or his hon. and right hon. Friends with copies of the circular, as though I should be the channel by which Conservative pledges issued in Conservative leaflets during the General Election find their way to the Conservative Government, which I should have thought would feel bound by those pledges. I put it to the Leader of the House that we require clarification on this point before the House rises.
I also put it to him that in view of the fact that it now appears that something I was not able to substantiate on the occasion of the Adjournment debate—that the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham is involved—whether innocently or otherwise I make no judgment on that—he should consider whether it is appropriate that this inquiry 844 should be carried out under the auspices of that right hon. and learned Gentleman or by some more independent person. Certainly this matter should be cleared up before the House adjourns for the Summer Recess.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will recollect, as will older Members, that it is the custom for the Chair to call Privy Councillors in preference to ordinary back benchers. We have always accepted this, albeit that some back benchers like myself accept it reluctantly.
Is it not also the custom that Privy Councillors who are called should observe the custom of the House and wait to hear at least two succeeding speakers? Three Privy Councillors have spoken, the first two of whom departed immediately they had spoken. I hope that this point of mine can go on the record and that Privy Councillors will know that it is their duty to observe the normal courtesies and customs of the House and wait for at least two following speakers.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentleman will realise that that matter of opinion is not a matter for the Chair.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
I oppose the Motion that we should adjourn until 27th October. It is a constitutional absurdity in a parliamentary democracy when the country is in a state of emergency and faced by a large number of crises that we should go into a recess due to last for three months.
Traditionally in the debate on the Motion about the date when the House should resume, hon. Members who speak against the length of the recess are rather like Mr. Speaker when he is dragged reluctantly to the Chair. If their protests were heeded, no one would be more disappointed than hon. Members whose holidays were curtailed. It was right that that should have been so in the past, because this was a ritual occasion when hon. Gentlemen could raise a ragbag of many matters of the kind we have already heard this evening, in 845 which they could present cases of constituency interest or matters which they wanted to bring to the attention of the House instead of waiting until the following day.
Tonight the matter I want to raise is the question whether the principle of parliamentary democracy is not being devalued by packing off the House of Commons for three months hols, rather like a bunch of schoolboys.
I have a great regard for the Leader of the House. Already he has given indications that he will be one of the outstanding Leaders of the House, certainly within my parliamentary experience, which now goes back for 25 years. I had a particularly high regard for the right hon. Gentleman when in winding up the debate on the Gracious Speech he made it quite clear that he regarded the Chamber as being the forum where hon. Members, particularly back benchers, could have a voice. I particularly approved of the right hon. Gentleman's attitude when he said that became the Chamber is the focal point of the House of Commons our business should not be transacted huggermugger, if I may use that Elizabethan word, in Committee rooms dispersed in various parts of the Palace of Westminster.
The right hon. Gentleman, having made that speech at the conclusion of the debate on the Gracious Speech, and having reinforced the point in a most remarkable broadcast in "The World this Weekend"—having uttered those splendid and high-flown sentences—when the moment comes for him to uphold the rights of ordinary Members of Parliament all that he can do is to send the House off on three months holiday.
§ Mr. Edelman
I was about to say that every hon. Member has his constituency duties. Every hon. Member will engage in those constituency matters which are his concern. We are elected as Members of Parliament to the House of Commons. Our constitutional place is to act as critics and challengers of the Executive.
We are in a time of crisis. There is a dock strike which threatens the nation's whole life. Profiteering is taking place which affects every housewife. It is a 846 time of danger in the Middle East. Under the Tory Government unemployment is rising. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is a time of difficulty and danger in Northern Ireland. At a time of such a constellation of crises I believe that it is wrong for the House to go into recess for three months.
Why is the recess to last three months? My right hon. Friend the former Minister of Posts and Telecommunications gave an indication. It is a hang-over from Victorian times when, at the end of the summer, statesmen would go to their country estates or they would take their barouches, go off to Victoria station, there entrain to take the packet boat to France, and then another carriage to Aix-les-Bains or wherever it might have been. That was the practice in Victorian times—it was the habit of Gladstone and his successors—and our being packed off for a three months' vacation now is simply a relic of a Victorian tradition which has no relevance to present-day conditions.
For the most part, my constituents have already had their holidays. With the staggered holiday system and July holidays, they have already been away. On the Continent, by the middle of August the holiday season for working people will be over, and after 15th August the work of the ordinary man and woman is in full swing.
For some reason, we seem dedicated to our prolonged vacation of three months in which the affairs of Parliament will stand still and in which there will be no opportunity to raise the many and various matters which are the concern of the House. One of the extraordinary features of recent hours in our affairs has been the way in which somehow or other, business has begun to gallop along as though everyone was rushing to conclude all the important matters before the House immediately so as to start the recess tomorrow.
That is no way to transact the business of a great nation. It is absolutely improvident that at a time when we face the crises I have mentioned, when there is a state of emergency, when there is the likelihood—or, perhaps, I should say, at least the danger—that we shall be recalled for a day to renew the Emergency Regulations, being asked to dispose 847 of these vital matters in a one-day sitting, as happened two years ago when we were recalled at the time of the invasion of Czechoslovakia for just one day on that vital issue—[HON. MEMBERS: "Two days."] Then let it be two days. If anyone thinks that two days give enough time to discuss a vital issue affecting the security of the nation, I can only say that I regard it as grossly inadequate, as events proved it to be in that case.
I am not one to urge—indeed, I should be the last to urge—that Members of Parliament should be deprived of a reasonable vacation and a reasonable holiday for themselves and their families. I realise that hon. Members opposite, in particular, had to work exceptionally hard in order to be returned to serve in the House, and I can well believe that after two or three weeks of supinely sitting on the benches opposite they now feel the need for recreation and rest. But that is not good enough in a parliamentary democracy.
I do not accuse the Leader of the House of doing it, but one has only to look to the other side of the Channel to see how parliamentary democracy can be devalued. When President de Gaulle wanted to devalue parliamentary democracy he did not throw the Deputies in goal. All he did was send them off on a long holiday. In fact, France had a record for long holidays for parliamentarians.
I remind the Leader of the House of what he said at the conclusion of his speech on the Address:… on one thing I have very strong views. The Floor of the House must be in the centre of Parliament … penetrating Parliamentary criticism of the Executive is vital for the health of both Government and Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1970; Vol. 803, c. 976.]This is the place where we must make speeches. It is not enough to make a speech in the constituency which will get half a column in the local paper. It is no good publishing statements to the Press Association from Clacton-on-Sea or even from Beaulieu-sur-Mer. I do not believe that they carry the necessary weight which they can and should carry when we speak in the House.
I hope that at the end of the debate, without forcing us into the Lobby, the 848 Leader of the House will accept that three months is an excessive vacation for a parliamentary democracy and will announce his decision to have a late Summer Session which will give Members the opportunity to carry out their function, which is to be critics of the Executive.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
My opposition to the Adjournment, and, I am sure, that of some of my hon. Friends, is not a sham opposition at all. Too often do we hear speeches during such a debate in which colleagues rightly raise matters appertaining to their constituencies, but on this occasion I shall not make that sort of speech because I really believe that it is an absolute disgrace that at this moment in our history, in the midst of an emergency, when we have given the Government emergency powers, we should be going away from the House and leaving the Government with the widest powers possible without our being able to put them under the microscope if they decide to use them.
It is true that up until now they have not used them, and I hope that they will not. But as soon as we are out of the House certain events could take place. It is quite possible that the powers would be fully used and we should not be here to put questions or raise matters which are vital to the citizens of this country. We have given the Government the right to arrest without warrant and many other powers which are obviously not normal when we go into recess.
A parliamentary recess does not mean a three months' holiday for hon. Members. The idea that it does is a myth that must be dispelled. If they are doing their job properly, hon. Members get back to their constituencies in a recess and discover the problems there, so that when they return here they speak with authority on the matters concerning their constituents. I meet more shop stewards' committees and workers in the factories and in their homes during a recess than at any other time—and I usually meet them most weekends anyway. It is a myth that we go away for three months sunning ourselves in the South of France. I only ever go away for a fortnight, and that is on a package tour because I cannot afford anything else. I do not own a yacht. I have not got a Rolls-Royce 849 motor car, and I do not think I ever shall. We work in a recess, although outside the House, but the proposed recess is too long. I have been here for six years, and it is the longest Summer Recess that has ever been suggested during that time.
I am not surprised that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite want to get us out of the House. There are many issues which will require immediate answers and demand the scrutiny of Parliament. For the Government, it is better for members of Parliament to be away. This applies not only to the present Administration, but to all Governments, for every Government would like Parliament to have a permanent recess, because it would be so much easier to deal with issues if hon. Members were not here to ask questions and raise issues of importance.
I am glad that the Minister of Agriculture is present. We have given him power to control food prices. So far there has been no sign of control of prices, and I do not think that there will be. I should like to be here next week, and the week after, if we are still in this situation to ask the right hon. Gentleman why food prices are not being controlled and when he will use his powers.
So far the Government have shown great reluctance to use troops in the docks. However, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo), who in the debate the other night said that the essence of the Regulations and the powers was not the controlling of food prices but the rest of it. If the powers are used, we shall be in the biggest industrial crisis the country has known since 1926. It is a scandal that we should be going away from the House at this moment.
I ask the House not to agree to the Motion, not merely to make speeches about the problems, to ask for assurances but not get them and then say that it was not too bad and not vote against the Motion. On this occasion I intend to vote against it, because I think that it is wrong. I believe that we should not go into recess now, and I hope that all those hon. Members who believe as my hon. Friends and I do will follow us into the Lobby against the Adjournment of the House at this time.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
As is customary on the occasion of the Adjournment debate, we have had contributions from hon. Members which have shown that what they want is some reply to be able to take back to their constituencies. If they receive some such reply from the Treasury Bench, for them the debate will have served its purpose. That is not my purpose. This is a rather special occasion and the normal badinage of Adjournment debates does not apply and is a waste of time.
The situation is farr too serious. It concerns the emergency powers granted to the Government. I shall vote against the Adjournment Motion. I regard the debate not as a charade but as a serious business of Parliament, because we have not yet had an outline of the Government's attitude and future policy towards this serious dock strike. We have no knowledge, let alone assurance, of how the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity and the rest of the Government will conduct themselves next week and, if the strike is still on, the week after.
I recall the replies of the right hon. Gentleman when we have tried—and it was done from the Front Bench by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and from the back benches by many of my hon. Friends—to get an assessment of the attitude which the Government will adopt after the report of the Court of Inquiry.
Some of us have tried to get the Government to give the House an assurance that after the Court of Inquiry has reported the Government will urge, even insist, that the employers should agree to negotiate although the strike may still be continuing. At no time have we had an assurance on this, however much we have tried. Now we are asked to adjourn the House even a week earlier than is often the case. Frequently in recent years the House has gone to 31st July or 5th August. The argument used on those occasions has been that the business of the House had not been concluded.
Is there any more serious business to be concluded than to bring peace to our docks and an agreement that will satisfy those involved? There cannot be. I have sat in this House under Governments of various persuasions and on the 851 statement of such Governments on that formula alone, the House should not adjourn, so that Members who represent port workers, areas most directly concerned, should be able to question the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity day by day over his conduct.
This is the important point, that my hon. Friends and other hon. Members will not be able to question the Government next week. We will not be able to question the Government over how they use these various emergency powers. I regard it as reasonable that the Government should not say today how, under all conceivable circumstances, they may act with regard to these powers. I regard it as an advantage, and I welcome the fact that at a time when there are useful discussions going on between the Government and the Leader of the Transport Workers the situation should be left fluid and open. At the same time we know that there has been some idea as far back as last weekend about starting to move early, and it was the joint representations made on the one hand by trade unions concerned and the employers on the other that stayed the Government's hand. This is a situation which might recur, when the Government might make a decision as sensitive as the one I have quoted and when no hon. Member will be in a position to question the right hon. Gentleman as to whether the decision is wise and just.
My third point relates to time. The argument has been used that the Government had to apply reasonably early for these powers because there was no parliamentary time left. That is a short-sighted argument. I do not presume to teach the right hon. Gentleman any lessons about this but he knows that timing is absolutely decisive in an industrial dispute of this seriousness. Yet there would be no opportunity to influence him, question him, not necessarily to criticise him. I do not always have criticism in mind. He is, however, subject to the influence of the House of Commons like any other Minister. It is absolutely inexplicable why the right hon. Gentleman did not advise the Cabinet to say that the House should not adjourn on 24th July. There is nothing sacred about that date. It would have been to the Government's 852 own advantage to have the benefit of the advice of the House of Commons in such a serious situation.
It is suggested that if things go wrong the House will have to be recalled. That is no remedy, because the decisive period is between now and when the powers would have to be renewed. We do not want to get to that stage. The time when the House can influence the Government is between now and that date.
These are profoundly serious reasons why the House should not adjourn tomorrow, and I shall join my hon. Friends in voting against the Motion.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)
It may surprise some hon. Members opposite that there are hon. Members on this side of the House who are able to speak on behalf of the dock workers and industrial workers in their constituencies.
§ Mr. Adley
I have sat here courteously and I shall be grateful if I can be allowed to make one or two points.
The coincidence of a dock strike and a General Election seems to be laid at the door of the Government. Hon. Members opposite seem to be saying that the House should not adjourn because there is a dock strike and we now have a Conservative Government. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is well able to speak on behalf of the dock workers in his constituency, and the Leader of the Opposition is well able to say why he chose to have a General Election in June. The combination of these two factors is perhaps more significant than the suggestion of hon. Members opposite that we have at the same time a dock strike and a Conservative Government and, therefore, the House should not adjourn.
§ Mr. Adley
The Government have had to introduce emergency powers because we have a dock strike, and I ask hon. Members opposite to use their best endeavours to bring it to an end. I suggest to them that when the House goes into recess there is some very valuable work which they can do in this matter.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
I speak against the Motion for a combination of reasons. I do not accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), that this is not the occasion on which to raise constituency matters, and I do not apologise for proposing to raise them.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
I said nothing of the kind. I said not that this is not the time to raise constituency matters, but that there was an additional reason which was overriding and of national significance.
§ Mr. McNamara
If that was what my hon. Friend said, I withdraw my remarks. It is not what I thought he said.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)
The hon. Member will be here.
§ Mr. McNamara
I can understand why the Minister of Agriculture will not be here. He will be trying to persuade the housewives to buy peaches.
I wish to refer to the question of Radio Humberside, which I first raised with the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications earlier this Session when he first had questions. I had hoped to have an answer to my point before the House adjourned. I do not say that the Minister gave an undertaking to give me an answer. He said that the whole question was being reviewed.
The reason why I hoped to have an answer was that this B.B.C. station is so far advanced that we have nearly all the equipment, all the alterations have been made to the buildings, a station 854 manager has been appointed and staff advertisements have gone out. The station is very well advanced and was to have gone on the air towards the end of this year. One would like to have an early decision about the future of this B.B.C. local radio station. That is my reason for raising a constituency point, and also a Humberside point, in this debate.
I had thought that I would belabour the patience of the House for about half an hour on the problem of the Derry boys' marches, and I am happy that I do not have to do so. Therefore, as one who is not always happy about the relations between the present Government and the Northern Ireland Government and the Government's attitude to the Northern Ireland situation, I congratulate the Home Secretary and the security committee in Northern Ireland on their courageous and wise decision, to cancel the marches, although it involves considerable political problems for the present Northern Ireland Government. Some of us should recognise that. Therefore, I take this opportunity of doing so.
Having said that, however, having congratulated the Home Secretary on being able to use his influence and having congratulated the Northern Ireland Government on their good sense in cancelling the marches, I must make another important point. We have here what looks like a package deal: cancellation of the marches and the R.U.C. back in the Falls Road and the Bogside.
Whatever happens, now that that decision has been made it must be exercised with kid gloves. The atmosphere, for example, on the Falls Road after the troops had been in was one of tremendous iciness, of the troops thene being ostracised by the people of the Falls Road, and tremendous difficulties. Tension will be created by the re-emergence of the R.U.C. in the Bogside and the Falls Road.
I hope and urge that in the reintroduction of the R.U.C. there will be good sense and a degree of tolerance on both sides. If they are sent there merely to enforce the criminal law and nothing more, all will be well and good. If, however, through any foolishness or 855 irrationality, by giving way to stupid provocation or the like, the R.U.C. should again appear to be symbols of a repressive society rather than independent arbiters of what is right or wrong in terms of the criminal law, the situation could be extremely dangerous. Therefore, while I congratulate the Home Secretary on the cancellation of the marches, I hope that considerable care and prudence will be exercised in the way that the police are used in the Bogside and the Falls Road.
I turn now to the docks emergency. I voted against the Emergency Regulations and I shall vote tonight against the Adjournment Motion because of what, to my mind, is the paramount parliamentary matter involved. To me, this is of supreme importance. The fact that I am also a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union and happen to think that the dockers have a good claim is, as it happens, on this occasion subservient to the point which is most important to hon. Members.
If any Government or Administration are given such wide powers under Emergency Regulations as are being given to the present Government, irrespective of whether they are used their mere existence on the emergency Statute Book means that Parliament should always be ready and able to examine every action of the Executive within the shortest possible time of there appearing to be anything wrong in what they have done or of the appearance of any abuse or wrongful use of powers under Emergency Regulations. Whether or not there are precedents for our going away on holidays while there is an emergency, they do not absolve us in this Parliament from our responsibility for ensuring that the Regulations are used with fairness.
The second thing I am concerned about is the question of how and when troops are used. We know that in the East Riding of Yorkshire the troops have already made their preparations at the village of Driffield to establish a camp. There are 1,000 troops in the village to be used at Hull docks. This is a normal preparation; one can appreciate that; but what we do not know is where and when and how pressures will come to use the troops, who will judge what is perishable 856 and what is imperishable, who will decide on the necessity of moving goods and what are the essential goods among them in any particular cargo.
Showing great good sense, the dockers in Hull have unloaded drugs necessary for medical supplies and also material needed by spastics for making their Christmas cards. That is all very proper; but we have had no undertaking from the people importing other goods into Hull that they are prepared merely to cover the costs in order to save their goods from perishing and not to make any profit. One cannot expect persons in an industrial dispute to unload cargoes which are termed necessities if they know that the consequent result of their unloading of a particular cargo will be that profit will be made by the consignee, wholesaler or retailer. The purpose of industrial action is to bring pressure on those very people. Therefore, there has to be an agreement that if goods are unloaded no profits will be made.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I think he is developing his argument a little too much in detail and without relating it strictly to the terms of the Motion. If he would oblige me I should be glad.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am very grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What I was trying to do was to take up a point which the Secretary of State made earlier when he rightly praised the attitude of the dockers and made some general noises about the making of profits. What I am saying is that in such an emergency as this that is one of the things which can create difficulties. Therefore, the House should be here and able to criticise any possibility of their being profiteering or unjust exploitation through the wrongful use of troops. On occasions the attitude of the dockers might appear to be unreasonable, but it might be that consignees or other people are being unreasonable.
I want to make another point, the fact that we are going to have the Pearson Report coming out early next week. It is one thing to say that the report will come out and that the Government will examine it. Fair enough. But there is more to it than that. The Government 857 will take an attitude to it. They are bound to take an attitude to it. If the Pearson Report comes out and gives one particular solution the Government may say, "Right. We accept that. That seems reasonable and proper". Or they may be against it. What they cannot do, having set up a Court of Inquiry, is to sit back, as they appear to have done when negotiations were going on between employees and employers, apparently take no side—but that is a question of dispute—and just say, "Here is the report. Get on with it, boys, and try to work it out". That will not produce a solution. The Government will have to take an attitude, and we need to be here on Monday or Tuesday next week when the Government are taking up their attitude, because then it will not be an industrial matter only but a parliamentary matter, with the Executive taking an attitude, when Members of Parliament have the right to examine the attitude of the Executive and the decisions they are taking.
This question of the Pearson Report and the attitude which the Government may or may not take to it is one of primary importance. It is not good enough to say that if the strike is prolonged—and I hope it will not be—we shall be coming back here to renew the emergency powers. We should be here to have our say and to challenge and examine what the Executive is doing. This is of prime importance to us as a parliamentary democracy.
When a new Government come to power one normally expects them to take a little time to look at the problems, to put their manifesto into perspective and work out legislation. Everyone understands that this is right and proper, al though most Governments generally have something prepared which can be put through quickly. One would not normally criticise the length of the recess because the Government obviously want time to do this. But there are occasions when it is foolhardy for a new Government to take this attitude, and a prime example of this is when the country is in a state of emergency, and I shall, therefore, vote against the Motion.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
I join my hon. and right hon. Friends in opposing the Motion that the 858 House should adjourn from tomorrow until 27th October. My hon. Friends have given various reasons for opposing the Motion. I join them on the central issue that it is scandalous and a negation of parliamentary democracy for this House to go into the long Summer Recess when there is a national emergency and when so many policies enunciated by the Conservative Party during the election are not yet under the scrutiny of Parliament.
One crumb of mercy is that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is gracing the debate with his presence. He has a central and fundamental responsibility for the grave emergency which confronts our nation. He is the Minister responsible for the food of our people and for the food which is so vital to our children. [Laughter.] Right hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but their constituents will not laugh when they fail in their responsibility. I can understand the haste of right hon. Gentlemen to rush into the long recess. The last thing that a Government elected on a policy of the deliberate lie and the false hope want is to expose themselves to the scrutiny of Parliament. They need the long months of the Summer Recess to think up plausible excuses to put to the country for their failure to implement their promises.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is the key figure in the crisis. It would be intolerable for the House to go into recess before the Minister of Agriculture has told the House plainly what stocks of food are available for distribution to the population. Will he tell the House how much meat is in cold storage available for distribution? I am not prepared to go into recess without that knowledge to enable me to judge whether the Government would be justified in taking the more extreme measures which have been referred to. It is not sufficient for the Minister of Agriculture to talk about buying peaches instead of apples and oranges. We want to know what stocks and reserves are held to maintain the flow of retail distribution.
The other fundamental responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman is to ensure that food prices do not rocket even higher than they have done over the last few days. It is particularly essential that he should do this in regard to the meat 859 which is now in coldstore. That meat probably has been in store for many months and came into the country long before the dock strike. It was purchased by importers at prices unaffected by increases that may occur because of the strike. When one bears in mind all the frozen food in cold storage, somebody is sitting on a gold mine.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot laugh this one off because he has a responsibility to ensure that the importers, the people who now own that meat in cold store, should give the same undertaking as has been given by the Transport and General Workers' Union. The union is prepared to move perishable food from the ships and its members are to give their wages to charity. Is it asking too much that this House should be told before we go into recess that the owners of that meat in cold store would give to charity any excess profits that they may make as a result of the shortage? Will right hon. Gentlemen opposite laugh that one off? Will they tell the public that it is a joke that their friends will make fortunes out of the unfortunate events of the dock strike?
§ Mr. Prior
I am quite sure that if we could get this meat out of cold store the people who own the meat would be prepared to co-operate to keep their prices to the level of prices ruling in the first two days of this week. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman will appeal to the dockers to get meat out of cold store, or to get chilled meat off a ship lying in London, I believe that we could make some progress.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for going that far. The chilled and frozen meat to which I am primarily referring is not that held in the docks. I am referring to the meat that is held in the cold stores beneath Smithfield meat market, where I am informed there is a vast tonnage of frozen and chilled imported meat. It does not need a single docker to remove that meat into the avenues of retail distribution. It is already free of dockland. I will gladly give way to the Minister again if he wishes to say that he will encourage owners to move that meat.
§ Mr. Prior
I have been encouraging owners at Smithfield and elsewhere to 860 keep down their prices. I am delighted to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that certain commodity prices are now lower today than they were at the beginning of the week. But the real prospect is that there is a shortage of meat in the market, and where there is a shortage naturally the price tends to rise. If we could get the meat out of the docks and out of the ships the shortage would go and the price would come down. Nobody wants to see that more than the hon. Gentleman and myself.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I am delighted that the Minister has indicated so clearly to the House that imported meat plays such a vital rôle in keeping meat at a very low price for the British housewife, whether in or out of strike conditions. Perhaps at some later stage he will be able to say, preferably before we go into recess, how he reconsiles that contribution to low-priced food for the British housewife with his declared policy, as Minister responsible for agriculture in the Conservative Government, of putting a levy on imported meat.
That is not the only reason why I am opposed to the House rising tomorrow for the Summer Recess. It is the most fundamental and vital reason, but there are others, and I will not apologise for dealing with one or two which are less in national importance but of vital importance to my constituents.
On behalf of my constituents, I cannot vote for this Motion on the basis of the Government's dilatory action in respect of a Thames flood barrier. If there is one issue which is vital to the citizens of London, it is the siting of a Thames flood barrier. We should be debating this before Parliament goes into recess. The plain, horrifying fact to which every citizen living within an area of 40 square miles in London is exposed is that at any moment his home could be flooded by the Thames overflowing its banks. For this Government to shut off Parliament without debating this issue and coming to a decision is a scandal of the first magnitude.
§ Mr. Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that government ceases when this House goes into recess? If he is, does he base himself on his experience 861 as a member of the then Government party?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I am suggesting that this miserable Government will take the wrong decision about the best site for a Thames flood barrier. They will fall into line with the desires of the Greater London Council and place the barrier up-stream, somewhere at Blackwall Reach, leaving miles of London's riverside and thousands of Londoners exposed to the risk of flooding.
§ Mr. John Nott (St. Ives)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Thames only overflows under a Conservative Government? I do not recall any reluctance on his part to go on holiday when his own party was in office.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
The hon. Gentleman should study these matters more carefully. If he wishes to treat this grave matter seriously, I am surprised that he does not do me the courtesy of recognising that my own party suffered the lash of my tongue on this issue when it controlled the G.L.C. The Conservative-controlled G.L.C. and the present Government can expect the same treatment in the months ahead—especially in the coming three months if they care to reconsider their decision about adjourning.
I turn now to another vital issue which this House should debate before going into recess. It is not, as the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) might think, the sewage works at Erith. That is important, but there is an even more important issue than the filthy sewage works of the Greater London Council which pollutes my constituency. We should discuss that, of course, but it can wait until after the recess.
It would be scandalous and very expensive if we went into recess without first debating the financial catastrophe which has befallen the development by the G.L.C. of its housing estate at Thamesmead. Properties are being built there which, even on the most conservative estimate, will cost between £12,000 and £13,000 per unit of accommodation. It is quite obvious that that matter should be debated. The Government need pushing to set up a commission of inquiry into the whole of the 862 dismal and disastrous scheme which is under development at Thamesmead.
There are two other reasons, to which I wish to refer briefly, why I cannot support the Motion.
On 1st August this year, as the House will know, due to a disastrous decision by the previous Administration, the issue of rum in the Royal Navy will come to a stop. I believe that the threat of mutiny in the Royal Navy, as a result of the abolition of the rum tot, is extremely grave. I believe that we ought to debate this issue and bring to bear upon the Government all the pressure that we can to reverse that decision.
The last reason why we ought not to go into recess at this point is that we will not be able to debate the recommendations of the Boundary Commission and the Motions which have been put down by the Government until we return in October. This will be a matter of grave concern to those residents within the London Borough of Bexley who live within the Parliamentary constituency of Bexley. They will have to suffer the agony of three months recess before the Prime Minister, the Member for Bexley, during the course of the debate, as I am sure he will, makes clear whether he will stand by the electors of Bexley, who so misguidedly stood by him in the General Election. They ought not to suffer that agony for the next three months. We should debate that issue before we go into recess.
For all those reasons, I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will join me in opposing the Motion. It is a scandal that we should go into recess in such grave circumstances. I hope that we shall be able to persuade the Government to change their mind and to keep Parliament sitting.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
If the Motion is carried, hon. Members on both sides, when they return to their constituencies tomorrow, will be asked by their constituents why, Parliament on Monday having given to the Government emergency powers of such a wide magnitude affecting every citizen, because the dockers had gone on official strike and are now in their second week, the House of Commons has risen for three months. 863 I am convinced that no answer will satisfy the British public. Not only will the Government suffer, but also Parliament will be brought into disrepute, because people will surely want Parliament to remain in Session until at least the Pearson Committee has reported.
It was very difficult during Questions to the Leader of the House this afternoon to make the point that we were not trying to suggest that this House should decide whether the terms of reference of the Pearson Committee were satisfactory and to pass opinions upon them. We were saying, in effect, that when the Pearson Committee submits its report we should have an opportunity to discuss it.
We give the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity credit for the work that he has done in chairing the meetings between the employers and the unions. He has said that he will call the employers and the unions together to discuss the Pearson Committee's Report. When he does that he will have one overriding problem. If there are negotiable conditions within the Pearson Report, he will have to persuade the employers to negotiate whilst the men are still on strike. If he achieves that, he will then have to consider whether there is a basis for settlement, and whether such a settlement can be mutually agreed between the trade unions and the employers. But if there is not agreement, we should be available to question the Minister to discover what action he had suggested and to see whether hon. Members, without merely being critical of the Government, can make recommendations to help bring about a settlement.
I am convinced that it was not only the action of the union and the employers which made the Government withhold from sending in the troops. The attitude of hon. Members generally has demonstrated the dangers of putting the troops in. At the same time, our attitude has helped to persuade the T. & G.W.U. to recommend its Members to co-operate by taking certain steps.
All sensible hon. Members want to see a rapidly negotiated settlement. We do not want to be recalled in a month's time to again discuss and vote on the emergency powers. Hon. Members who have been involved in industrial disputes know 864 that this is not a light-hearted affair. Indeed, a dispute of this magnitude could not possibly have been entered into with the spirit of adventure. This is serious not only for the dockers but for the nation. It is a dispute on basic grievances, and it is to be hoped that the Pearson Committee can lay the basis for agreement. It is regrettable that we have had to wait for this committee to be established and that the dockers felt obliged to force the issue and go on strike.
If there cannot be a settlement, if the endeavours of the Pearson Committee and the Minister are not successful, then hon. Members must exert their influence on all concerned in an effort to find a settlement. The House voted by a large majority—some of us were opposed—to the introduction of Emergency Powers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) said, they are contained in 19 pages, but, basically, they are designed to enable the Government to send in the troops if necessary. So far we have been successful in persuading the Government not to do that.
What will our constituents say if when we return to our areas Pearson has not reported, the strike is still on and prices continue to escalate? The Minister cannot deny that, for example, meat prices are rising. The major criticism now should not be of the dockers for striking but against unscrupulous people who are exploiting the situation. They are the guilty men and they should be exposed. The Minister will have to come off the fence and name names and decide whether to use his powers under the crisis measures, if those powers can be implemented. My right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) knows far more about this issue.
§ Mr. Orme
There may be Conservative politically motivated men. I will not pass judgment on that. Probably we both have our views about that.
865 Attendance on the Government Front Bench is an indication of the seriousness with which the Government treat this debate. We believe this is a vital matter. When we vote tonight we shall not be hoping to be defeated; we shall be voting hoping to win. The Government ought to understand that the British 866 public will themselves take note of this debate and of the vote. They will want positive action from the Government. We shall vote against this Motion because we believe this matter is too serious for the House to rise at this time. I hope that my hon. Friends will fill the Lobby against the Motion tonight.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)
My hon. and right hon. Friends have made some very telling points against this Motion.
§ Mr. Peart
It used to be my responsibility to defend these Motions. Tonight my hon. Friends have rightly concentrated in the main on the dock strike. There is a court of inquiry, and Lord Pearson will be reporting, I understand from replies by the Minister, next week. I hope that hon. Members will not be contemptuous about the attitude of the dockers. The union concerned has made a very responsible offer. It has discussed the removal of perishable foodstuffs. I would not like hon. Members to denigrate one section concerned in this dispute. The union has acted responsibly, and so have the dockers, who often are attacked. They have offered their services in unloading perishable foodstuffs. I hope hon. Members will not sneer at this activity. After all, many of these men and their families face hardship when they are on strike. I hope there will be no partisanship about this issue.
If there is not a settlement after the report has been received, I think Parliament should be recalled. I mean this. Many of my hon. Friends argued against the granting of the emergency powers and the Regulations. They made their position clear. I respect them for it. I did not go into the Lobby with them. I understand their argument tonight.
I believe that if after the publication of the Pearson Report there is no settlement, Parliament must be recalled. I hope that the Leader of the House will give me a reply on this. We need these assurances. I make no complaints about my hon. Friends' stressing this.
I am glad that they addressed many of their points of detail to the Minister of 868 Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I will not embarrass the right hon. Gentleman. I remember when I had to deal with the seamen's strike. It is not an easy task for any Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to cope with the necessity of providing adequate supplies of food at the right prices. When I was Minister, many of my hon. Friends criticised me and probed me about these matters.
I believe that the Minister will be accorded the good will of the trade. I do not accept that vast sections of the industry are there to exploit the community. I got them to co-operate in very difficult circumstances. I wish the Minister well. If he fails, he will be subject to criticism in the House of Commons. It is his duty to protect the consumer. I believe that, with good will on all sides, it can be done. We shall watch the position carefully. My hon. Friends, who used to probe me, will certainly probe this Minister.
I am rather suspicious of the Minister for other reasons, nothing to do with the dock strike. In the course of a reply I had from the Prime Minister today on prices, he said that the right hon. Gentleman had been misreported. Today I have a copy of what he said about the C.A.P. and food prices.
On 29th July, 1966, in a debate on sea fisheries, the Minister said this:The time has come when we should have higher prices for food and no subsidies for either the agricultural or the fishing industries. If we did that we would get competition working in both industries and the nation would get better value because the nation has been mollycoddled for too long by receiving cheap food."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 29th July, 1966; Vol. 732, c. 2127.]Today the Minister of Employment and Productivity, in reply to my Question about his abolition of the early warning system and the constant watch procedure, argued for more competition in the food industry. I challenge him, because his party is to introduce a levy system. I am not now talking about the Common Market. This inevitably means higher prices for the consumer. [Interruption.]
I understand hon. Memers to be chiding me for quoting something said in 1966; but this is now the Government's official policy. It was confirmed 869 today. The right hon. Gentleman believes in higher food prices for the consumer, irrespective of any dock strike.
§ Mr. Peart
There have been discussions about the possibility of protected markets, but there has been no decision on levies. [Interruption.] Hon. Members must listen. Hon. Members opposite fought the election on this issue in rural areas. They argued that they should take considerable sums from the farmers which were to be used to protect the deficiency payment system and thus impose a burden on the consumer. That is their policy, and it is in their manifesto. [An HON. MEMBER: "We won the election."] Yes, they won the election on it, and the consumer will suffer because prices will go up.
I questioned the Prime Minister today about the Common Market, in view of an interview which the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food gave to the Daily Express. It was an interview reported by a distinguished journalist, one of our ablest agricultural journalists, Alexander Kenworthy. This is what we read. The Minister told Mr. Kenworthyquite bluntly that the cost to Britain of the Common Market's present farm policy was totally unacceptable. … He went on: 'The advantages of going in will have to be clearly seen by people in this country. The terms as set out in the White Paper published by the last Government in February were just not acceptable We must also know by early next summer whether this is a chance of success. …' Mr. Prior, who is also Minister of Food, is determined to damp down the price spiral in the shops. He will fight for a long change-over period to soften the impact on farmers and housewives.That was dated 16th July. I asked the Prime Minister today to confirm that, in view of the negotiations in progress. I am pressing it now because the Minister is the Minister concerned with food prices. Does he still stand by what he said in this reported interview which he gave to a distinguished agricultural journalist?
§ Mr. Peart
That was quite a different answer from the one which the Prime Minister gave me today. The right hon. Gentleman said, it is true:It would be in the interests of the farming industry and the national economy to produce as much as we can in this country.Then he added:If it was necessary to shield housewives against a quick rise in prices, I would be willing to consider consumer subsidies on food.Does he stand by that?
§ Mr. Peart
Yes, but it was denied by the Prime Minister. It is there on record, and the right hon. Gentleman believes in higher food prices. Not only that, he was worried about the effect of the Community's agricultural policy on the housewife here. He believes in higher prices for the consumer. The propaganda of the Tory Party during the election campaign was just cant and humbug, and hon. Members opposite know it. My hon. Friend who stressed this matter earlier was quite right to draw attention to it.
In many ways this Government have already shown their hand, on food prices to the consumer, on education—we have had a debate on the question of comprehensive education, and I shall not argue it now—and on the question of arms to South Africa. On matters which are vital to the economy, there has been double-talk, and many of my hon. Friends are suspicious of allowing the Executive to go into recess for three months.
I accept that I have defended Motions of this kind in the past, and I probably take an attitude different from that of my hon. Friends, but I understand their argument. There has been double-talk. They are suspicious of the Government's intentions. The Minister is involved in the dock strike, we have seen the report of his interview, and we have heard the double-talk. We shall have to watch him carefully, and we shall constructively criticise him.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I accept at once that the debate has been important. It has been conducted in a very sensible and perfectly properly worried mood in view of the circumstances in which we are placed, and, indeed, in a very good-tempered way. I thank all those right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part, because it is important that the matter should be discussed and properly ventilated.
The right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), who was my predecessor, has had the task I now have of defending similar Motions. He was very fair in that part of his speech in which he said that he had defended them and not always in the circumstances in which we find ourselves now. I shall come to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) later, but normally, had it not been for the emergency situation, this would be regarded by precedent as something of a normal recess.
I agree that the emergency situation and the dock strike raise other problems. They have been raised by the right hon. Gentleman, the hon. Members for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley). They have also been raised on rather a different matter by two of my hon. Friends from Northern Ireland, to whose points I shall come later.
First, I should make perfectly clear the position with regard to the emergency powers. They end on 15th August, and if, alas, the dock strike were still continuing it would, of course, be necessary before that date to have a new Proclamation to lay new Orders before the House, and within five days of their being laid to debate them in the House.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the position that would arise if the discussions my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity has promised immediately after the court of inquiry did not lead to a settlement. The best answer I can give at this stage is, first, that in any event the House would have to come back if the emergency were to be prolonged. But I accept at once that that in itself 872 is not a sufficient answer either to the right hon. Gentleman or to some of the other hon. Members who have raised the matter. Therefore, I can only say that if, alas, things continue to be wrong and the emergency has to be continued the Government would be perfectly prepared to discuss the timing, the nature and the length of any sitting through the usual channels. I think that that is a fair assurance, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will feel that it is.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
That really deals as best I can with the problems of the dock strike and the emergency. Perhaps I should only add to those hon. Members whose worries in the matter I fully recognise, and whose knowledge of the problems involved I also fully recognise, that so soon as the court of inquiry has reported my right hon. Friend, who has earned considerable tributes from both sides of the House and from a wider public for the way in which he has handled the problems, will certainly do as he promised this afternoon and do his best to help in any way he can towards a settlement.
On the question of prices the right hon. Gentleman was as generous to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as he always is. He was very fair in what he said about his experience from the seamen's strike and about what my right hon. Friend is now doing about prices in the unfortunate emergency in which we now find ourselves.
In the rest of the discussion I know that the right hon. Gentleman enjoyed himself, but I am not sure that he was so generous, and, though it is nothing to do with me, I was not quite sure how what he said was related to the question of whether we should adjourn. I am not commenting on what it was, but only on what it was not.
The right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) asked a question about the Royal Mint. I know that if he had had the chance the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) would have done so also. I mention him because I wish to apologise to him for a mistaken answer which I gave during business questions. It may 873 have been my first mistaken answer, but if I am retained in this office I expect that it will not be my last. I am sure that every hon. Member will realise that it was a mistake made without any foreknowledge. I was entirely in error and I wish to apologise to the hon. Member for Poplar and the right hon. Member for Stepney.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I said that I did not understand that a statement about this matter was to be made before the recess. Had I been fully informed at that moment, I should have known that even as I was speaking the statement was waiting.
I took the responsibility for deciding that some statements should be made by written rather than oral answers, because it is important that there should not be too many oral statements in the House at any one time. All Governments have always had this problem. The right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) raised the question of the location of the Royal Mint.
The decision, as the right hon. Gentleman was fair enough to admit, was merely to confirm a decision made by the Government of which he was a Cabinet member. What my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary said at that time was that when we were in office we should look at the whole problem again. He promised a proper review. That review has been conducted. I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's strictures. I am informed by my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary that over this decision he spent some five hours in meetings with 10 leaders of the trade union side of the joint industrial council last week. These discussions and the other consideration of the question indicate the perfectly proper review which was promised before the election.
§ Mr. Shore
Four months ago the present Financial Secretary specifically urged an independent and full inquiry, which was not the same thing at all as the Minister himself having a look, no doubt a serious look, at the papers and seeing the unions. There is a great difference, which will not be easily understood by the men at the Mint.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I do not wish to dispute the matter, but my hon. Friend had certainly 874 promised that we would look at it again and have an inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman has now slipped in the word "independent", but I do not think that what my hon. Friend said at the time can be read as meaning an independent inquiry. However, there was an inquiry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) raised what for their constituencies is the extremely important problem of the effect on Northern Ireland of the dock strike, particularly the effect on agricultural products from Northern Ireland.
I accept at once that this is a serious matter. As for the rest of us, the best answer for them would be that the dock strike should be ended and the dockers return to work. In the end, there is no substitute for that. But I understand that in the emergency situation in which we are placed my hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Home Office had a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture for Northern Ireland who expressed extremely serious concern for Northern Ireland's agriculture if the strike, alas, continued.
The hon. Member also asked for an assurance about the open general licences. I call his attention to a statement by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in which he said that licences will not be required on and after 24th July for exports from Northern Ireland. That goes a long way to meet that point.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I asked for an assurance because there is an emergency situation in Northern Ireland. I am entitled to ask for an assurance that if the strike continues after Monday next the Government will take every means they deem necessary to ensure the movement of Ulster's agricultural produce to Britain.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
My hon. Friend will appreciate that I must confine myself to what assurances the Government have given on this delicate situation. The Government have said that it is their undoubted duty to sustain the life of the community. The whole House recognised that Mr. Jones' recommendations about the movement of certain cargoes 875 is helpful. I hope, as does everyone, that his recommendation will be accepted and carried out by the local union organisations in various ports. Everyone is bound to wait and see what happens. I hope that this recommendation is implemented. I must confine myself to assurances about sustaining the life of the nation. If I were to give my hon. Friend the assurance he seeks I should be going beyond that. I have gone as far as I can. I have helped my hon. Friend about licences, and that is as far as I can properly go.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Will the right hon. Gentleman go one step further and say that when and if the dockers do go in to move perishable goods, he will appeal to the wholesalers and retailers not to put up the prices on these goods? It would upset the dockers if they knew that they had gone in and broken their own strike to get perishable goods out only to see that prices were going up because of their activities.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I note what the hon. Gentleman says. I want to be careful in not going another step further in this situation. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture made clear that he would do exactly what the hon. Gentleman asked.
The right hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) made a most remarkable statement when he said it was wrong to have a recess. It was not a view he took when he was a member of the previous Government. He also raised various points about the strike, to which I have replied. He tried to persuade me that I should give an undertaking that the Government would take no decisions during the recess. No Government has ever given any such undertaking, and it would be foolish of me to think of doing so. Certainly the Government of which he was a member never gave such undertakings.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstands what I said. I was not aginst Ministers taking time to make decisions. What I was against was the fact that they would be announcing the decisions during the recess and hon. Members would have no opportunity to cross-examine them.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
That was what I thought I said.
However, I am slightly surprised that the right hon. Member for Wednesbury should want to debate the subject of postal charges, because during his long intervention earlier today I did not notice from the faces of his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that they were enjoying it. I do not think that they would have been pleased to debate that subject, with him intervening.
The right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell) raised the question of Cammell Laird and various pledges which he said had been made by the Conservative candidate in Birkenhead on behalf of the Shadow Cabinet. I do not have knowledge of this matter. I do not think any Minister of any Government would necessarily wish to endorse every statement made by all the candidates of his party in any General Election. However, the right hon. Gentleman made a point which is being investigated. I have been in touch with my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Technology, who has undertaken to consider this matter urgently. He will be writing to the right hon. Gentleman. That is as far as I can go.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I thought that that came under the general umbrella of what I said. I will look into the point. However, it does not seem to have made much difference because, for better or worse—and I suppose that I should regret it—the right hon. Gentleman seems to have done rather well at the General Election.
The hon. Member for Coventry, North made some kind personal remarks about me. I always enjoy such remarks; who does not? I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he said. I enjoyed his delightful article in the Daily Express. He said that there was a danger of Summer Recesses devaluing a parliamentary democracy. Summer Recesses have been very much of the same order over a long time under Governments of all parties, and I am following precedent. Perhaps the precedent is wrong, but it has been commended by many of my predecessors. I 877 am not convinced that Summer Recesses devalue a democracy. That is not inconsistent with some of the points which I made, and which the hon. Gentleman welcomed, in the debate on the Address.
Hon. Members have said, very properly, that a recess of whatever length is not a holiday for hon. Members. That is correct. There can be argument about where the balance lies, but it is important that hon. Members should get out into the country and the world outside and get to know what is going on there. It is perhaps fair to say that we have all had a period recently outside which some found more profitable than others.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) raised the question of Radio Humberside. I note what he said and I shall pass it on. The hon. Member was generous and reasonable about the situation in Northern Ireland and what might, perhaps, be called the balanced decisions, on the one hand, of cancelling the parades and, on the other hand, of ensuring very properly that the police move prudently into the area of Falls Road and the Bogside. I give the absolute assurance that these police are there to carry out normal police duties, which they will exercise with proper prudence. I hope that the hon. Member and other hon. Members will feel that this is a genuine advance which all of us in the House should commend and will hope that it will lead to an increasingly peaceful situation in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) made one of his characteristic speeches. One must not take them too seriously. Nevertheless, I must tell the hon. Member that I enjoyed much of what he said, as I have from time to time in the past.
Those are most of the points that were raised in the debate. Once again, I thank right hon. and hon. Members for their contributions. On the whole, I think that the proposition that I am putting before the House is reasonable, bearing in mind the assurances I have given about the docks strike and the emergency situation. I therefore commend the Motion to the House.
§ 10.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
We have in the Motion a unique situation. I refer to the problem of debating the proposed Adjournment of the House in a situation in which a large number of measures are to be introduced by the Government purely as a result of the timing of the General Election. The past month has seen the preparation of the programme of the Government which is, presumably, to be implemented over the next few months. That is the same period as the House will be in recess. A number of my hon. Friends have regarded this as such a serious matter that they are opposed to such a long Adjournment. I add my voice to theirs and say that this is a serious matter to me also. This is not simply a paper fight.
I am not speaking on behalf of special interests, only wishing to obtain certain satisfactions from whoever winds up a debate of this kind. There are large and serious matters that will be resolved by the new Government, and the resolving of them will be decided during the recess.
This is a matter of enormous importance to back-benchers. Either those decisions will be delayed and produced at the end of the recess or, what is much more likely, one decision after another will be taken without any influence being brought to bear by the House on those decisions. We know that many of those decisions are interrelated—for example, the Concorde and expenditure cuts, and cuts in investment grants; one has a relation to the other. If we express ourselves on one, it can have an influence on the next item on which decisions will be made.
This is the historic rôle of the House. As back-benchers we have an influence upon Ministers who come before us—for example, the Minister of Agriculture, who tells us that he will have an influence on those who threaten to increase prices. He said this evening that he will dissuade and discourage those who want to raise prices. The obvious question, which we would want to put to him throughout the recess if it were not so decided, would be to ask: if he can do that at a time of a docks strike, why he cannot accept that he has the same influence on those who want to increase prices throughout the year? Why does he deny himself this—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Francis Pym)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House proceeded to a Division;
§ That this House, at its rising to-morrow, do adjourn till Tuesday 27th October.880
§ Mr. MORE and Mr. CLEGG were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
§ Question put accordingly:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 144, Noes 36.879
|Division No. 10.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Gummer, Selwyn||Pounder, Rafton|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Hawkins, Paul||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Higgins, Terence L.||Raison, Timothy|
|Benyon, W.||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Redmond, Robert|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Holland, Philip||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, East)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Holt, Miss Mary||Rees, Hn. Peter (Dover)|
|Boscawen, R. T.||Hornby, Richard||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Bowden, Andrew||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Bray, Ronald||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, North)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hunt, John||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Iremonger, T. L.||Rost, Peter|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||James, David||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Channon, Paul||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Chapman, Sydney||Jennings, J. c. (Burton)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Jopling, Michael||Sharples, Richard|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine||Simeons, Charles|
|Churchill, W. S.||Kershaw, Anthony||Soref, Harold|
|Cooke, Robert||Kilfedder, James||Speed, Keith|
|Coombs, Derek||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Spence, John|
|Cooper, A. E.||Kinsey, Joseph||Stainton, Keith|
|Cordle, John||Kirk, Peter||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Corfield, F. V.||Knox, David||Stokes, John|
|Cormack, Patrick||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Curran, Charles||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Sutcliffe, John|
|Davies, John (Knutsford)||Loveridge, John||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||MacArthur, Ian||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||McLaren, Martin||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)|
|Dixon, Piers||McMaster, Stanley||Tebbit, Norman|
|Dykes, Hugh||Madel, David||Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret|
|Elliott, R. w. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Mather, Carol||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maude, Angus||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Fell, Anthony||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Trew, Peter|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Fidler, Michael||Miscampbell, Norman||Waddington, David|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Moate, Roger||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Molyneaux, James||Walker, Rt. Hn Peter (Worcester)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Money, Ernle D.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Fortescue, Tim||Monks, Mrs, Connie||Warren, Kenneth|
|Fowler, Norman||Mudd, David||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Fox, Marcus||Normanton, Tom||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Fry, Peter||Nott, John||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Goodhew, Victor||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gorst, John||Owen, Idris (Stockport, North)||Younger, Hon. George|
|Green, Alan||Page, Graham (Crosby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Peel, John||Mr. Jasper More and|
|Grylls, Michael||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Mr. Walter Clegg.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Prescott, John|
|Atkinson, Norman||Freeson, Reginald||Roper, John|
|Barnett, Joel||Gilbert, Dr. John||Rose, Paul B.|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Booth, Albert||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Buchan, Norman||Kaufman, Gerald||Stallard, A. W.|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Kerr, Russell||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Latham, Arthur||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Wellbeloved, James|
|Dormand, J. D.||McNamara, J. Kevin||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Driberg, Tom||Mendelson, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Edelman, Maurice||Mikardo, Ian||Mr. Stanley Orme and|
|Faulds, Andrew||Millan, Bruce||Mr. Eric Heffer.|