§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
I beg to move,That this House censures Her Majesty's Government for their recent handling of Post Office affairs, and the implications of their action in dismissing Lord Hall, the Chairman of the Post Office Corporation.At the outset I should like to say that it is a matter of some personal regret that the first speech I make in my present position on the Opposition Front Bench is one in which I have to move a Motion of Censure on the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. We regard this as a serious matter, with serious implications, and a serious case has to be made. Therefore, although I fully accept that the temperature is bound to rise in the course of the evening and that tempers are bound to get somewhat heated—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—hon. Gentlemen may have greater experience than I have, but I have never yet known a censure Motion in which temperatures did not rise and tempers did not get moderately heated—I hope that the House at least will listen to our case.
We believe that the Government have been careless of the reputation and welfare of the Post Office and its employees and that they have been guilty of gross political interference in the affairs of the Post Office Corporation. I hope in the next fifteen minutes or so to justify both those charges.
I cannot believe that the Minister is happy at the results of his action. Looking back over the past week's events, he surely cannot be content with the summary dismissal of Lord Hall, the Chairman of the Post Office Corporation, at an interview between the Minister and Lord Hall. Spontaneous industrial action has taken place by the Post Office workers. It is surely unique for workers in this country to be demonstrating because their boss has been given the sack. Certainly in the last week there has been a serious break in morale and a grave loss of confidence in the Post Office and its management.
I cannot believe that if the Minister could have the last week over again he would act either in the same way or with the same object. Indeed, I believe that he has handled this matter with a mala 978 droitness rarely equalled even by this Conservative Administration —[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."]—which, to say the least, is somewhat lacking in diplomatic finesse. However, the Minister is certainly well in line with the rest of the Government's leadership. Indeed, the events of the last week, the dismissal and the consequences of the dismissal, are on their own enough to justify this Motion of censure.
What do we know of the facts? Early last week a meeting took place between the Chairman of the Post Office Corporation and the Minister at which the Chairman was summarily dismissed. Whether that meeting took place on Monday or Tuesday and whether the Chairman resigned or merely accepted the Minister's invitation to resign matters not. What does matter, however, are two facts which appeared in most of the weekend Press and in most of the accounts given of this meeting. Firstly, it is apparently said that at that meeting Lord Hall pressed the Minister for a clear reason for his dismissal but again, according to Lord Hall, he got none. If that is right, it is indeed quite extraordinary. If the allegation is that Lord Hall was dismissed because he was unfit, or was incompetent, or for some other reason, it is quite surprising that at the time of the dismissal he was not given the reason.
Secondly, it seems to have been accepted in all the Press accounts in the last week that at some stage Lord Hall asked for some additional time to arrange his leaving in such a way as to cause the least damage to the Post Office and to the Corporation. Again, we are told by Lord Hall, this was refused. If that were so, we are entitled to ask, and indeed do ask, why it is that, in circumstances in which a dismissed employee is apparently attempting to leave in such a way as to cause the least damage to the organisation by which he has been employed, such a request is refused.
At a meeting thereafter of the Board, we know, the Deputy Chairman of the Board became acting Chairman. Again, it is surprising that no successor was then ready, if this had been in the Minister's mind for some time. We have heard different accounts as to when it was in the Minister's mind that Lord Hall should be dismissed. Some accounts say that it was in his mind as long ago as last 979 August. If that is so, it is a little strange that at that meeting matters were arranged in this way. Perhaps the name of the chosen successor was so obviously a political one that it would have given the game away if it had been revealed at the beginning of last week. We do not know who it is, and I ask the Minister tonight to say when a successor will be appointed. When will he be known, and could the Minister say something about the time table?
The next stage in this unhappy affair seems to have been late on Tuesday evening, when highly damaging rumours alleging incompetence were circulating in Fleet Street. Why was no statement made to the House of Commons at the earliest possible moment? Did the Minister believe that a matter of this sort could be kept secret from the Press or the House of Commons? I do not think he thought that for a moment. What I think happened in this case was that the Minister had no intention of announcing this in the House of Commons but obviously hoped to be able to get away with it by deferring an announcement until a time when he could not be challenged. My information is—and I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm this—that on the Wednesday he was due to be in Leeds and not even in London. If that is so, it was treating this House with an arrogance and disdain which almost amounted to contempt. This is well in line with the recent performance of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We consider that the Minister's actions last week amount to a contempt of the House of Commons and that they deserve censure.
Last Wednesday the Minister came to the House to answer a Private Notice Question. I do not know what he would have done if such a question had not been asked, but at any rate on 25th November he appeared in the House. Most hon. Members who were present on that occasion will agree that his performance can be summarised as saying, "I am not going to tell you what the reason was".
This attitude is utterly unacceptable to this side of the House. Indeed, it is the main reason that the Motion has been put down and that the debate is taking place. If the Minister thinks that Lord Hall is incompetent, let him say so tonight. If the Minister believes that 980 Lord Hall is unfit to occupy this position, let him say so tonight. If there is a genuine clash of temperament and personality, again let the Minister say so tonight. But for the Minister merely to come to the House of Commons, as he did last week, and to hint at matters which are unmentionable but which are discreditable to Lord Hall is a disgrace to his office, grossly unfair to Lord Hall, and a breach of the duty that the Minister owes to the House of Commons.
We therefore require from the Minister tonight a full explanation of the circumstances surrounding this dismissal. We want to know why, and we want to know this evening. With respect to the Minister, the kind of arrogant silence that we have had from him so far is not good enough. Indeed, the general effect of all the evasion of last week has been to create the maximum amount of speculation and the worst possible impression of the Post Office and its higher management. Indeed, the Government deserve censure for that, if for nothing else.
Why are we so concerned about this matter? The reason is simple. There is a deep suspicion on this side of the House about the Government's intention towards the Post Office. We suspect that the Government want to do at least three things which are politically highly controversial and for which a more amenable Chairman would be preferable. I have put these three points to the right hon. Gentleman before and if he will bear with me—or if he will not—I shall put them to him again.
First, we suspect that the Government have the intention of amending or repealing the Post Office Act so as to remove the present right of the Post Office to engage in manufacture. That is a right which certainly the Press say Lord Hall was anxious to exercise.
Secondly, we suspect that the Government have the intention of hiving off some of the more profitable parts of the telecommunications side of the industry to private enterprise, leaving the more unprofitable and unpleasant parts to be run by the Post Office Corporation. We on this side of the House utterly reject this doctrinaire view of the functions of a nationalised industry.
Thirdly, we suspect that the Government are considering interfering with the 981 future of the Giro which we on this side welcomed as an imaginative and successful scheme—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen may howl, but perhaps they would care to read the White Paper—on which again the Chairman was apparently keen.
At the Conservative Party conference this year the Minister made a speech. Indeed, looking at that speech it is apparent that our suspicions are well-founded. Talking about the Post Office—it is somewhat ironic to read it now—the Minister said:From this Government the Post Office, like the other nationalised industries, will get the incentive and the encouragement to behave like a commercial concern.The Post Office got the incentive and the encouragement to behave like a commercial concern by the sale of the profitable assets and by the sacking of its Chairman. It is an extraordinary doctrine for private enterprise.
The Minister went on:We are looking across the field for opportunities to expand areas of competition. What has been said today by one or two speakers about the possibility of enabling private enterprise to play a larger part at the subscriber's end of the system is one that is very much in my mind. When we look for opportunities to expand areas of competition we should be looking particularly at this aspect of the telecommunications service. It will be my intention also in the near future further to strengthen the Board of the Post Office with new people from outside and with people from private industry.That is what the Minister said at the Conservative Party conference this year. On the basis of that speech anybody who is concerned about the future of the Post Office has indeed a right to be extraordinarily suspicious of the Government's intentions. We therefore believe that our suspicions are justified. This dismissal is, in our view, due primarily to the desire on the part of the Government to try to find a more pliant and politically more amenable Chairman.
Last Wednesday the Minister said that there had been no major policy differences between himself and Lord Hall. I do not believe him, except on the narrowest possible construction of those words. It would have been more honest if the Minister had said, "No major policy differences—yet". The Government knew that with Lord Hall as Chairman they would have a fight on their hands if they proceeded to try to 982 dismember the Post Office. This dismissal was carried out so as to ease the way in future if they decided to proceed with their stated policy. There was clearly a major difference of attitude between the Minister and the Chairman, and the Government wanted a more pliant and, indeed, a more pliable man. If this is repeated in the other nationalised industries, the Government will be making a major departure from policy over the last 20 years.
I therefore ask the Government tonight for three specific and categoric assurances. If they are interested in allaying suspicions which not only we on this side of the House have, but indeed a large part of the country has, then they should take this request seriously and should answer it.
First, have they any intention of repealing or amending the Post Office Act so as to remove the Post Office's right to manufacture? Indeed, will the Minister give us an assurance that the Government have no intention of issuing a general directive to the Post Office forbidding such manufacture?
Secondly, I ask the Government for an assurance that they have no intention of hiving off any part of the present Post Office activities to private enterprise.
Thirdly, I ask the right hon. Gentleman for an assurance that the Giro will continue and will be encouraged to expand.
So far, the Government have failed to give us these assurances. This is the third time of asking for these assurances, and I hope that tonight, at any rate, the Government will come clean and direct themselves to these issues. So far they have failed to give these assurances. They have, therefore, only themselves to blame for this Motion of censure this evening. The Minister's evasion in this House and his summary behaviour outside make us condemn his recent actions as highly damaging to the welfare of the Post Office and its employees. It was a flagrant piece of political intervention in the affairs of the Post Office and, as such, it deserves the censure of this House and of the country.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Mr. Christopher Chataway)
The House may well wonder what 983 exactly it is that we are here for after listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard). If that was the speech of a Motion of censure, it was a very peculiar Motion of censure.
Certainly the debate is taking a very different shape from that which was foreshadowed last Wednesday. Then we understood that it was to be a Motion of censure on the Government for dismissing Lord Hall. But it is not that at all when we look at the Motion.
We understood last Wednesday that the Opposition might well be arguing, as they seemed to be arguing in their questions then, that the Government had no right in any circumstances to get rid of the chairman of a nationalised industry—[Interruption.] But we find today that the Motion has two parts. One part seeks to censure the Government not for their action in dismissing Lord Hall, but for the implications of their action. What exactly that means is not yet clear—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asks me to tell him what their Motion of censure means. I will tell him as much as I can this evening, and I will tell him a good deal, but that I cannot tell him.
The Motion of censure also seeks to condemn the Government for theirrecent handling of Post Office affairs".It was largely matters to do with the Post Office, not, I should think, matters which would warrant anything in the nature of a Motion of censure, about which the hon. Gentleman spoke. I shall be delighted to deal with those matters, and I look forward to coming to the Government'srecent handling of Post Office affairs",because it is, after all, only five months since we took over from the previous Administration the largest ever deficit on the postal services. I was rather surprised that, on a Motion of censure to do with therecent handling of Post Office affairsthe most important decision of all that the Government had to take in relation to postal tariffs was not mentioned. As I say, I should like to touch on all these issues.
I must make it clear again that none of the issues raised by the hon. Gentleman 984 had anything to do with Lord Hall's going. His departure had to do solely with the judgment about his fitness and ability for the very sizeable job of Chairman of the Post Office Corporation. It had nothing to do with policy differences. The hon. Gentleman was discourteous enough to say that he does not believe me. He will perhaps notice that, in the agreed statement issued, it was said that there were no major policy differences. That statement was agreed by Lord Hall. Why should Lord Hall say that there were no major policy differences? That is a conundrum to which the hon. Gentleman supplies no answers.
It has been suggested by the hon. Gentleman, as by others outside, that the present Board of the Post Office would be likely to be more pliable than Lord Hall. I have not the least doubt that, if there were any proposal from the Government that was genuinely believed to be against the interests of the Post Office, the present Board, which is now very united, would oppose it far more effectively than before. In one of the most odd of the points the hon. Gentleman made and of the questions he posed, he asked me whether a successor had been decided upon. He said that he thought that it was strange that, if we had been considering the fitness of Lord Hall for this post, we should not already have chosen a successor.
We would not in this Administration think it right to go to individuals outside and ask them to take on the chairmanship of a nationalised industry before we had even told the existing chairman. Whether, in the case of Sir Stanley Raymond, of British Rail, Mr. Peter Parker was actually asked before Sir Stanley knew he was dismissed, I cannot say, but it was widely believed that he was. That is not conduct that we should wish to follow on this side of the House.
The Opposition now make it clear that they are not arguing that it is always wrong for the Government to seek the resignation of the chairman of a nationalised industry, and it would be strange if they did, because over 70 hon. Members opposite are now calling for the resignation of Lord Robens from the National Coal Board. I think that it will be clear that no Government would lightly take the decision to ask the chairman of a nationalised industry or a member of a 985 board to resign. I do not imagine for a moment that the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Barbara Castle) took the decision to dismiss Sir Stanley Raymond from British Rail or that the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) lightly took the decision to ask Mr. Wrangham to leave Shorts. I do not know whether they were right or wrong. What I do not question is that they had a duty to make up their minds.
Both personally and on political grounds, there is every incentive for a Minister to avoid taking this sort of action if he can. It is a personally painful matter to undertake and politically it certainly has no attractions. There is always a great deal of publicity and yet the Minister can never spell out the incidents and issues which have led him to the view that the person is not up to the job. Where there is conflict between the Government and an individual, naturally the Press reaction—it is a healthy one—is to take the side of the individual. The Minister certainly cannot name the individuals he has consulted or call in aid the judgment of others. [Interruption.] I see that that is being doubted. When the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East was involved in the dismissal of Mr. Wrangham, he had this to say in reply to a question:I decided that it was right to make a change in the chairmanship of Shorts, and since it is not customary to discuss in the House advice which a Minister takes inside his Department, I thought it right not to answer it specifically."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1967; Vol. 750, c. 421.]I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I think the procedure he followed was correct. But the point I am making is that it is a good deal harder in the public sector than in the private to bring about the resignation of those who, it is felt, are, for whatever reason, unfit for the tasks with which they have been entrusted.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Of course it is very much harder to bring about the resignation of someone in the public sector, but the world has moved very considerably over the past few years and it is no longer the rule as it used to be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."]—an intervention does not always have to be a question—that people can go quietly on the gentlemanly 986 terms under which they used to go. When they do not, it is important, if a major public servant is sacked, that this House be informed so that we can decide whether it is politics that is forcing the decision or in this case the administration of the Post Office.
§ Mr. Chataway
The hon. Gentleman is taking the line advanced by the Leader of the Opposition and some others last Wednesday, calling, in not too specific terms, for the reason. I made it clear then that the reason was that I believed that this decision was in the interests of the efficient management of the Post Office. The hon. Member for Barons Court says that it is disgraceful that I did not state my reason. He asks whether I will now say that Lord Hall is incompetent. If the Opposition are arguing that they have the interests of Lord Hall at heart, do they really want that kind of denunciation in the House tonight?
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to refer to me a moment ago in relation to the questions I put last week. He has just read out to the House, perfectly fairly, some remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) in the case of the Chairman of Shorts. The right hon. Gentleman said that this was why he could not tell us whom he consulted. But since he referred to my questions last week, he might recall the question I put to him, which was whether he consulted or canvassed members of the Board or middle management. He has said that it is not the practice of the Administration to do so. Did he consult or did he not?
§ Mr. Chataway
Most certainly not. It would have been totally wrong and inappropriate to go to middle management"—[interruption.]—the right hon. Gentleman said "middle management"—and it would be equally wrong to go to members of a board, and ask, "Should your chairman be sacked?" The right hon. Gentleman is quickly casting away whatever pretentions to statesmanship he may have had. He is back almost to his Bank Rate Tribunal leak form. What an extraordinary question for a former Prime Minister to pose—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I have said before that, if a Minister does not give way, mere bobbing up again and again does not make him do so.
§ Mr. Chataway
I have made the point that it is, I believe, more difficult in the public sector to make changes than in the private. It has been suggested that chairmen of nationalised industries are particularly vulnerable. I believe that to be the opposite of the case. Yet it is essential that, in the public sector, the Government should have the right of dismissal. Among the very large number of appointments which fall to be made by Governments, it would be odd if mistakes did not occur from time to time, and where a Minister comes to a considered conclusion, as I did prior to last week, that a chairman is unfit for his particular job, he has the duty to make a change, and he must of course have the power.
If, by building up this case in the exaggerated way they have, the Opposition want to make it even more difficult to effect changes where they are necessary, they will, I believe, be doing considerable disservice to the nationalised industries. If, by their conduct in this case, they were to make it even harder for themselves, if ever they were returned to power, to make necessary changes, they would be hampering the further pursuit of efficiency in the public sector. It would be adding one more reason for never accepting nationalisation unless there were no alternative. In my view there can therefore be no doubt about the right and duty of Governments to make changes of this kind where they are considered absolutely necessary.
The hon. Member for Barons Court has said of this dismissal, first, that it was extremely ham-fisted, and then that it was carried out with maladroitness. Those, again, are odd phrases to be coming from the benches opposite. In the case of Sir Stanley Raymond journalists got to know before Sir Stanley himself. He was called 988 from a meeting of trade unionists and told by the right hon. Lady that a story was appearing in the newspapers on the following day. In the case of Mr. Wrangham, the Chairman of Shorts was first told that he would be dismissed not by the right hon. Gentleman but, I believe, by Mr. Chapman Pincher of the Daily Express.
Against that background I turn to the sequence of events in this case. Lord Hall came to see me last Monday afternoon and I told him then that in my opinion he had not the qualities necessary for the leadership of the Post Office and that I was therefore asking for his resignation. At that meeting I suggested that he would want to see his lawyers and others. While he was with me I arranged, on the telephone, for him to have an interview with the head of the Civil Service to discuss his constitutional position—his right to compensation, and so forth.
On the following day a a second meeting, at which we were joined by various advisers, Lord Hall agreed to relinquish his office and agreed a Press statement in relation to his leaving. The statement, which Lord Hall joined in drafting, said that he was leaving his post as chairman of the Post Office at my request; that there had been no major disagreements on matters of policy; that Lord Hall would receive compensation for loss of office, and that the terms were under discussion.
Lord Hall told me then that he would not thereafter wish to add any public comment to the statement, and I told him that in those circumstances I would do my best to avoid any public criticism of him. It was agreed that the statement should be put out the following day, to give time for the senior management of the Post Office to be informed. In the event, however, it was necessary to release it later that night, after it had become apparent that the Press had got hold of the story. [An HON. MEMBER: "Chapman Pincher?"] The hon. Member says "Chapman Pincher". The difference was that in this case Lord Hall learnt of this decision from me, and we had two meetings, at the second of which we were able to agree on a Press statement, before there was any Press comment. That compares pretty favourably with the two instances that I have mentioned.
§ Mr. Richard
The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt have seen in the Press this weekend an allegation by Lord Hall that the Minister attempted to persuade him to resign on the ground of ill health. Is there any truth in that?
§ Mr. Chataway
There was no truth in the suggestion—which I have seen—that at the second meeting there was a draft statement saying that he had resigned on the ground of ill-health[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"] There are great shouts of "Answer!" but I am given no opportunity to answer. There was a discussion at the first meeting about the grounds on which Lord Hall would resign and which would do least damage to him. He said immediately that he did not wish to have it said that he was resigning on the ground of ill-health, and I accepted that straight away.
§ Mr. Chataway
I always hope that some casting director will come to the House wanting an extra for a particularly noisy crowd scene.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. The hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) must give way.
§ Mr. Chataway
I feel that the hon. Member's ability to make a noise ought to be put to some constructive purpose.
Over the next two or three days it was unclear, from Lord Hall's statements on television, the radio and in the Press, whether or not the position still remained that he had agreed to relinquish his post. He spoke of an illegal act on the part of the Government. He spoke of himself as still being head of the Post Office. Yet he issued a farewell message to the Post Office staff. On Thursday he said that his own case should be forgotten in the interests of the Post Office, and he said that he had decided to accept three jobs. On Friday, however, I received from Lord Hall's solicitors a letter asserting that Lord Hall still holds office as chairman, 990 although accepting that in the circumstances it is difficult for him to perform his functions.
Today I have seen a further report in the Financial Times that Lord Hall has declared that he has been sacked, that as far as he is concerned the thing is over and done, and that what he said about legal action was on the advice of his lawyers. He said:They thought it necessary at the time. It will not be taken any further.But in the circumstances created by the solicitor's letter I have no alternative but to use my powers under the Act and to declare the office vacant. I have written to Lord Hall's solicitors accordingly.
I believe that the House would want to make every allowance for the strain and emotional stress involved in a situation such as this, but the erratic nature of Lord Hall's reactions may give the House some appreciation of the reasons for the Government's belief that a change was necessary at the head of the Post Office.
§ Mr. Chataway
The Leader of the Opposition has the nerve to say "smear", after he had asked for reasons. I believe it reasonable and right, in the circumstances that have developed in the last few days, to point to the somewhat erratic nature of the reactions that have followed and to say that it had become absolutely clear over the months that more consistent and coherent leadership was essential in the Post Office.
§ Mr. Richard
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman once more whether he suggested to Lord Hall that he should resign on the ground of ill health? If so, why?
§ Mr. Chataway
I asked Lord Hall, if he was accepting—and he was at that point accepting—that he should relinquish his post, on what grounds he would feel that least damage to his reputation would arise, and the ground of ill health was certainly one of those discussed.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope that I shall not have to ask the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Faulds) to give order again.
§ Mr. Chataway
Before coming to the specific issues raised by the hon. Member for Barons Court I want to refer briefly to comments made on television by the right hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse). His opinions, such as they may be at any given moment in time, are obviously a matter for him, but there was one statement of his in the programme "24 Hours" to which I took—and I believe that the House would take—considerable exception. He said that the Minister had allowed:his own civil servants to spread leaks to the Pressand this was amost deplorable way to behave".There is no truth in that allegation. No leaks were spread to the Press by my Ministry. Anything put out by my Ministry—and I have explained the circumstances in which the statement was put out in the early hours of Wednesday morning—was authorised by me, and it is a sad thing for the right hon. Gentleman to make that accusation against civil servants who were loyally and ably serving him up to the General Election.
The hon. Member for Barons Court has asked for a number of assurances and has again raised two or three matters that are of interest to him. On the question of the manufacturing of equipment I have to tell him that I have no proposals for amending the Post Office Act, in so far as it deals with the manufacture of equipment but, equally, I do not intend to encourage the Post Office in any extension of its manufacturing activities.
It has been suggested—again, I think, by the right hon. Member for Wednesbury—that there must have been a furious row about a proposal from the Post Office to acquire Standard Telephones and Cables. There was some passing reference by, I think, the Chairman of the Board when first I arrived in the Ministry to a proposal for extending manufacturing in this way. I gave him to understand that this would not be a proposal to which I would be likely to assent—[An HON. MEMBER: "Oh."] That the hon. Gentleman should be surprised surprises me. The matter was never raised again and it was never pressed by the Chairman.
992 Since the matter of S.T.C. has been raised, I have made a few inquiries. I am told that there was never the slightest possibility that I.T.T., which controls S.T.C., would assent to the purchase of the latter and that the whole thing appears to have been an illusion. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to get very excited about it, but it appears only as further evidence of the cloud cuckooland in which so many of those transactions appear to have taken place.
On the other matter which the hon. Gentleman raised, the Giro, I am sorry that the future of Giro has been brought into this dispute. There was no disagreement between Lord Hall and myself on this matter. There is a review under way of the Giro activities. I have not previously said anything in public about Giro because I was anxious that nothing should be said which would undermine confidence in it. But clearly, the Government has to look at a matter such as this since the Giro is at the moment losing £6 million a year. No incoming Government could fail to investigate thoroughly an activity which was losing on that kind of scale.
When, moreover, one remembers that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, in launching it, said that the Giro would have a million subscribers in a year and that it has 400,000 after two years, when one remembers that it was said at the launching that it would be breaking even by 1970 and that now it is clear that it could not break even within the next three or four years, it is astonishing that there should be criticism from the Opposition Front Bench of the Government for looking at this matter in detail.
Of course I cannot give undertakings today. What I will say is that I was extremely impressed by the work which is being done at Bootle at the headquarters of the Giro, that no decision has been taken, that my mind is certainly not closed on the issue. The case for Giro is that it provides a useful, worthwhile service, and that its launching was bungled by the Labour Government.
This is a matter which must be under review, but I recognise that it is important to reach a decision as soon as possible. Over recent weeks, I have been having from the Post Office the information, the proposals, the forecasts upon which ultimately we will be able to come 993 to a decision. But what we have to decide is whether and when this service can break even.
This has been a sorry Motion—
§ Mr. Chataway
Yes, the hon. Gentleman also asked about telecommunications. Equally, if he wants some categorical blanket assurance that nothing will ever be done, I have made it clear that the Post Office is not exempt from the Government's policy on nationalised industries. The House knows that, in the nationalised industries, we are looking for further areas of competition. I mentioned one at the Conservative Party Conference, and that is a review which is still under way.
This has been a sorry Motion. It talks—
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves telecommunications. He was at great pains to spell out that, during recent years, the Post Office has been losing money, has been in the red. He did not tell the House that the telecommunications side of the Post Office is making vast profits which are revealed in the Post Office accounts. Will he tell the House what profits the telecommunications branch made last year?
§ Mr. Chataway
The telecommunications branch is showing an 8½ per cent. return on net assets—[Interruption.]—that is the target which has been reached.
This Motion speaks of the handling of Post Office affairs, and the major issue in regard to the Post Office, as the hon. Member knows, has been the record deficit to which I referred at the outset, and the necessity for a record increase in postal tariffs. We did, of course, over the summer, as a result of the work of the Users' Council and of studies initiated by the Government, save about £30 million on the original demands of the Post Office.
But I do not blame the Post Office Board for the situation which we inherited from the previous Administration. The Board had to contend with astonishing vacillations from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in government. Throughout the early part of this year, they asked repeatedly for some answer to their demands for an 994 increased postal tariff, and they got none. Immediately before the General Election, they had reached the point at which they—the Post Office—had to decide whether or not to go ahead with the printing of decimal stamps. The right hon. Gentleman was interested only in the election, in seeing whether he could conceal until after the election the fact that very large postal tariff increases were necessary.
Therefore—and I believe that they were absolutely right—the Post Office Board decided, since it was the last available date by which they would be able to order the printing and still have the necessary stamps on Decimal Day, to order the printing of decimal stamps at the new tariff. They knew and the Government knew, and if the Government had wanted to, they could have stopped them by issuing a direction. But they did not.
I believe that the hon. Member for Barons Court is tempting fate in speaking about these matters. He might reflect, since he has a majority of just over 1,000, what might have been the result if it had been known during the election that this printing had been taking place.
This is a sorry Motion. It does no good to Lord Hall, it does no good to the Post Office, and it certainly does no good to the Opposition. Wrestling with their own internal arguments on industrial relations and all the rest, no doubt they believed that this was one thing on which they could unite. But I believe that it will be seen by the country as one more manifestation of an Opposition who have not the faintest idea where they are going.
§ 7.59 p.m
Mr. John Storehouse (Wednesbury)
Before I come to the extraordinary actions of the Minister during the past few days, I think it is important to get on record some of the background facts to the situation which we are discussing, so that the House may be able to make an intelligent decision on it.
First, of course, it is not the case that Lord Hall was appointed to be the chief executive of the Post Office. Suggestions which are being made that he was to do this job are quite inaccurate. Lord Hall was appointed to be the Chairman and co-ordinator of a board of directors made up of men chosen both from within the Post Office and from outside industry, so 995 that there could be a marrying of the traditional ideas of public service and efficiency in the Post Office itself and the ideas of commercial energy and initiative which could be brought in from outside.
So it was that I appointed from outside two directors who were to be responsible for the two main businesses of the Post Office. Mr. Vieler was appointed to run the posts and Giro section—a man with eminent qualifications as an accountant—and Mr. Fennessey, one of the senior executives of the Plessey organisation, was appointed to become director of the telecommunication section. The other main business—the National Data Processing Service—was run by a director from inside the Post Office itself; a man who had also had considerable experience in the computer section of the Ministry of Technology. I also brought in as deputy chairman Mr. Whitney Straight from Rolls-Royce—another marrying of experience from outside.
Lord Hall, when asked by me to take on this position, was specifically asked to be co-ordinating Chairman and not chief executive. Therefore, all the suggestions that he was not competent to do the job of chief executive fall down. The man who was appointed to be the chief executive was Mr. Bill Ryland, who had had much experience, including senior position in the G.P.O. He was appointed as chief executive and deputy chairman.
The rôle of Lord Hall was to be the co-ordinating Chairman and to assist the Post Office during the crucial transitional stage from a Civil Service Department to a commercial organisation; to assist the men who were coming in from outside to marry their ideas with those of the men who came from the G.P.O. itself. His job was not to run the Post Office as the chief executive. I considered at the time that he was competent to be the co-ordinating Chairman, and today I consider that he is competent to do that job. It is a mistake for the Minister to smear Lord Hall by implying that he was not up to a job to which he was not appointed.
The Post Office Corporation undertook an immense operation, and I think that it is only now that hon. Members and the public outside are beginning to realise just how immense it was. First, the Corporation had to operate in a 996 commercial environment and yet, at the same time, to keep on good terms with the Whitehall machinery, which was increasingly suspicious of its own child which was pulling away and wanting to be independent. It is not just Ministers at the top, as the right hon. Gentleman now is and as I was, who have had this experience; it goes right down the line through the Ministry, and in the Post Office there was bound to be friction on both sides as the Corporation tried to live up to the job it was asked to do—to operate independently in a commercial environment.
During the period I was Minister that gave rise to great stresses and strains, and I can give one example. When the Corporation decided that it would inject some liveliness into the Giro system by going into an arrangement with Mercantile Credit so that Giro account holders could easily obtain credit from another organisation, there was a great deal of feeling on our side that the Post Office was perhaps going too far too quickly. But who, on reflection, can complain that Lord Hall did the wrong thing? He did the right thing. The Post Office Board did the right thing. It was doing just the sort of thing that the Corporation was set up to do—namely, livening up the service, doing something in a commercial environment which provided a service for the Giro account holders. It has, indeed, been a welcome infusion to the sort of service which Giro can provide, but it gave rise to tension at the time.
The next big job which the Corporation has had to do has been reforming the G.P.O., this great and wonderful public service which has grown up over the years but which has, as one would expect, developed, as any large organisation has, inefficient sectors in its service—barnacles on the ship. It was the job of the Corporation to strip off those barnacles and to make the Post Office more efficient in its main job. This is a delicate operation requiring the co-operation of the staff and the trade unions concerned because so many practices have developed over the years which the trade unionists regard as a right as, indeed, do senior executives, and some of these practices have to be eliminated in the new commercial environment if the Post Office is to be truly efficient. This is a job 997 which the Corporation was going about in an independent way.
Third, the Corporation had to prepare for the revolutionary new communications system in Britain which is already beginning to develop and which within ten or 15 years will completely transform the way in which we communicate with one another. The postal system itself will decline in that period as more people take to communicating by wire and microwave. When documents can be put in a machine and be received almost instantaneously in facsimile reproduction 3,000 miles away, obviously we must realise that the traditional Post Office to which we have become accustomed will go into a state of decline. The Corporation had to prepare for this, and it was doing just that job. The Corporation took on an immense operation.
Lord Hall himself was conscious of this great responsibility and thought that in order to achieve success in these tasks the Corporation had to maintain good relations with the staff, on the one hand, and with Whitehall, on the other, as well as explaining to the public and to consumers at large what the Post Office was doing. With regard to the first, we can all agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) that the staff's loyalty to Lord Hall is quite unique. The Corporation has achieved the loyalty and support of the staff. That is an asset which the Minister should never consider throwing away, but which I believe he is in danger of throwing away by the action he has taken. As I have already said, the relationship with the Ministry was a delicate and sensitive matter, and here I believe that Lord Hall failed by trying to do too much too quickly and by being insensitive to the feelings of his political masters.
The Minister's reference to the printing of the stamps is an example I can use, because this occurred when I had Ministerial responsibility. I cannot refer to conflicts that may have taken place since 18th June, but I can say that I suffered somewhat from Lord Hall's misunderstanding, and I think that it was genuine, of the proper relationship between a Minister and the chairman of a board.
Some of the points which the Minister has made about the printing of the stamps 998 are certainly correct but some are inaccurate. In particular, the Minister said that the Post Office Board had to print the stamps to meet its objective of printing stamps by D-day, next February. This was not the original intention of the Post Office. Its original intention was to print stamps for distribution in January. It was after some weeks of delay that it was decided to switch the original plan for an increase in the tariffs some time this year to an increase in January, and it made proposals to me on those lines.
It was in my mind that it would be more appropriate for the increases to occur on D-day when the currency changes took place. It was in my mind that the necessity to print stamps at the time the Post Office wanted to print them was not so essential as it thought. It is true that the Post Office Corporation brought to me a proposal for an increase in tariffs. It originally made proposals for an increase of one penny in the first and second-class rates.
Those proposals were under consideration when the Post Office Corporation changed its plans and, because it considered the financial situation on the postal side to be so serious, it regarded an increase of 2d. in both cases to be more appropriate. I believed that such an increase was totally unwarranted both at the time and for early 1971, as was being suggested. I discussed this with my colleagues and put forward this point of view.
In my view, although I had not had an opportunity of making a clear Ministerial decision about it, an increase of one penny corresponding with D-day in February would have been an appropriate increase to have allowed. But the Post Office was determined that it would plan for an increase in January. I did not consider it to be appropriate and the Minister, when he inherited the plans which the Post Office had put to me—they were on his desk when he came into office—instructed the Post Office that the increases would not be introduced in January. After advice from the Post Office Users' Council, he instructed the Post Office that they would come on D-day, which corresponded with my original thoughts on the subject.
It was not essential, bearing in mind that the issue of stamps was for February, not January, for the stamps to be printed 999 before June. When the Post Office asked me whether it could print the stamps, I told it that it would not be appropriate for it to print the stamps until a clear decision had been made as to the rate of the increase. No decision had been made at all. It was after this that Lord Hall came to see me and told me that he had given instructions for the stamps to be printed. I instructed Lord Hall that he was not to have the stamps printed on any account until a Ministerial decision had been taken.
I am revealing this to the House because I think it helps to throw light on a rather delicate situation to which the House can well pay attention. It is not a unique occurrence in the relationships between a chairman and a Minister but something that happens from time to time. Indeed, every ex-Minister in the House can probably remember examples with other boards, when the chairman of the board and the board itself believed that it had a public duty to pursue a certain course while the Minister, bearing other public and political responsibilities in mind, had another course of action to propose. This is not an academic subject or a unique example; it is general to the whole problem of the relationship between a Minister and a board.
§ Mr. Chataway
The information given to me by the Post Office and I think also to the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) was that the order to print was in relation to the decimal stamps and that it was felt by the Post Office that it was necessary to embark on the printing of decimal stamps for the February date. Why, if the right hon. Gentleman had believed that a 2d. increase or its equivalent would not be accepted, did he not use his powers to stop the Post Office from printing when he knew it would involve a waste of money since Government approval would not be forthcoming?
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Because the order which the Post Office gave for printing took place very late in the day, very near to the election day, and it was then inappropriate for me to use the powers referred to. It would then have become a major political issue and it would have 1000 been quite wrong for it to have come out in that way. The Minister is incorrectly advised about the date at which these stamps were to be used. The Post Office had it in mind to bring the increase into effect in January. If the increase were to be in February, there was no need for the stamps to be printed in June or before. Furthermore, there was no reason why the existing stock of stamps should not have been used, even after February, because it would have been possible to have an increase with the old stamps being used to make up the value of stamps required for postage. This could have been done for a few weeks while the new stamps were being produced.
In my judgment as Minister at the time, it was quite unnecessary for the Post Office to proceed with the printing of stamps before a clear decision had been taken. I give this as an example of the sort of tensions which can exist between a Minister and a chairman. I do not think that it is the first time, and it certainly will not be the last time, that such frictions occur. I give it as an example of Lord Hall's action. I believe that he was intemperate in the way he behaved. He had the full Board behind him—there is no doubt about that. It was a unanimous decision, but I believe that Lord Hall would have been better advised on that occasion to have gone to his Board and advised it that in his judgment it would be better to accept the Minister's advice and not to go to the printing of stamps as he was suggesting.
This sort of action was very genuine on Lord Hall's part, because he was anxious to show the commercial independence of the Post Office and to prove to his Board, his executives and all the staff that the umbilical cord had been cut, that the old G.P.O. was dead and that the Post Office Corporation was alive. I believe that Lord Hall was trying in those months to demonstrate that in order to create a new morale for the new Corporation, to give it a new momentum. Although I condemn Lord Hall for his individual action on that occasion, and I may have the majority of the House with me in that, I do not think that we can blame him for his sincere objectives. He was sincere in what he was trying to achieve.
1001 If the Minister had tried to talk to Lord Hall and to advise him about the way in which he should conduct himself, I believe that Lord Hall would have been tamed by the responsibilty of the job and that it would have been possible for him to become an ideal co-ordinating Chairman of that Board. Instead of giving himself time and questioning the Chairman of the Post Office Corporation, after only a few months of Conservative administration the Minister has rushed in to dismiss the Chairman of that Corporation, just as it was beginning to get into its stride.
This afternoon it was revealed that the Minister had no consultations with any executives in the Post Office itself and no consultations with the Board. This is interesting. Whom did the Minister consult? [An HON. MEMBER: "The Prime Minister."] The Minister did not consult anybody in the Post Office. Did he consult industrialists? I hope that the Minister who is to reply will give us an answer to this question. If the Minister did not consult anybody inside the Post Office, whom did he consult? We expect an answer from him tonight, because if he did not consult anybody he is relying on his own judgment and that of his Ministerial colleagues, including the Prime Minister.
How can the Prime Minister or the Minister, on the basis of two or three meetings, including social encounters, justifiably come to the conclusion that Lord Hall is not fit for the job? They cannot possibly tell the House that they of all people have a divine insight into the qualities of a man like Lord Hall, a man who can inspire the men on the shop floor and the men on the postal beat to come out, as they have, in their thousands tonight, to see us here, a man who has dedicated himself to the Post Office in a way which we certainly wanted to see from the Chairman, a man who was beginning to prove that it is possible for the Post Office Corporation to develop a new personality, a new morale, a new momentum, from that of the old G.P.O.
I was much impressed by the leading article in The Times on Saturday which said this about Lord Hall:He is a popular man, particularly with the unions. His general competence is not in question.1002 Apparently the Minister begs to disagree. Most people in the country would agree with The Times and will not agree with the Minister. [Interruption.] In all fairness, I have given the House an example of Lord Hall's anxiety to prove the commercial independence of the Post Office. I have done that because I believe that the House wants to debate this issue with some intelligence and some sensibility. I believe that the House wants to debate the real issues and not engage in a mere political slanging match. We want to get some value out of the debate. I want Ministers today and Ministers in future Administrations to understand some of the problems involved. This is why I have been frank with the House. I have said that, although I disagreed with what Lord Hall did on a particular occasion—I personally suffered from it—I believe that Lord Hall's intentions were thoroughly genuine; and I believe that it is his intentions which we must understand.
I believe that there are many other examples in which chairmen of public corporations have taken actions of which the Ministers did not approve but which have been shown to be in the interests of the corporations concerned. To judge from the Press, the Ministers involved are very concerned about Lord Robens and some of his actions during the past few weeks. Perhaps in another context they would care to discuss that.
I continue with the quotation from The Times:But it is fair to point out that his selection for this particular job was a gamble taken by a Labour Minister. Lord Hall's credentials for the post were those of a Labour peer with experience in the City: but it was not experience that especially fitted him for running the Post Office, of which he had no particular knowledge—as he explained with commendable frankness on his appointment.I accept that the appointment was a gamble. The appointment of every chairman of a nationalised industry is a gamble, because that individual has never had to accept a job of comparable importance in that field. I do not believe that this gamble failed. I believe that Lord Hall was able to match up to the job to which he was appointed. I have admitted that he was indiscreet in his relations with Ministers. I believe that he also tried to go far too quickly and that this upset quite a lot of people. I believe, as The Times believes, in Lord Hall's 1003 general competence and I believe that he would have been able to become a good Chairman of the Post Office Corporation if the Minister had had the patience to deal with him.
Instead of having patience, the Minister has rushed in to dismiss Lord Hall. I do not believe that Lord Hall has been dismissed because of his so-called incompetence, although the Minister again today has tried this general smear to which we are becoming accustomed from him.
I unreservedly withdraw any imputation that I may have made on the programme "Twenty-four Hours" last Wednesday, because I value and respect the work that the Civil Service does, not only in the Ministries with which I was directly connected but in the many others. However, I must say that last Wednesday—probably it was a direct leak from the Minister himself—there were political correspondents writing in the evening newspapers to the effect that the general feeling in the Ministry was that Lord Hall was incompetent and unable to do the job. I believe that it is this sort of smear around Fleet Street that has done a great deal of harm, not only to Lord Hall but also to the Minister.
I believe—in this I think that The Times is right—that there is no question about Lord Hall's general competence. Therefore, why is the Minister dismissing him? The Minister is dismissing him because he knows that in the future development of the Post Office strategy he will have conflicts with the existing Post Office Corporation. The Minister has been frank enough to admit today that the telecommunications business will be subject to the general philosophy of the Conservative Party and that the profitable parts of it will be hived off.
§ Mr. Chataway
I have said nothing of the kind. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not want to misrepresent me.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
The Minister said that the policy that he would follow in relation to the Post Office would be the Government's policy in relation to the nationalised industries. What are we seeing in this respect? In the case of the Coal Board, hiving off is taking place 1004 in all directions. We are seeing an example of this in B.O.A.C. and B.E.A. I remember what the Conservative official spokesman said in the Standing Committee on the Post Office Bill. In that Committee stage, morning after morning, the Conservative spokesman was arguing for denationalisation of essential parts of the Post Office. The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), now Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, spent many interesting speeches developing the philosophy of the Conservative Party in relation to the Post Office. It was clear what they had in mind. It may be that the Minister has not yet formulated all his plans or that Ministers collectively have not yet made their decisions. But it is his intention, as he has admitted this afternoon, to apply to the Post Office the philosophy of the Conservative Government, which means hiving off profitable aspects of that business.
The Minister knows that if he had tried to do that with Lord Hall as Chairman, he would have had a fight on his hands. Lord Hall's comments about his dismissal have been a bit eccentric, I agree with the Minister in that, but one of Lord Hall's phrases was that the Minister would have cut Giro over his dead body. That illustrates how Lord Hall felt about it. There would have been a running battle over the years between the Minister and Lord Hall if he had remained.
I believe that Lord Hall has not been got rid of because of his lack of competence but because the Minister wants to inject into the Post Office a feeling that it has to do automatically what the Government say about the political future, and the aim is to avoid the political rows which would have occurred had Lord Hall remained.
The Minister not only intends to cut Giro within a very short time but intends to allow within a very short time private enterprise to break the monopoly of the Post Office in supplying telephones to individual subscribers. I believe that he is planning the devolution of the telecommunications network in such a way as to allow private enterprise to take over parts of it. These matters are in his mind, as is the possible denationalisation of the National Data Processing Service, which is already showing what it can do in the computer-hiring field.
1005 The Minister knows that with Lord Hall there it would be a tough political job. He is trying to find an easy political ride for these operations by sacrificing the chairman of a public corporation. I do not dispute the right of the Minister to dismiss the Chairman. I agree with the Minister that it is his duty to ask the Chairman to resign if he feels that the Chairman in that position cannot carry through the political programme of the Government who have just won the election.
Therefore, I am not arguing about the actual dismissal of Lord Hall but about the way in which the Minister has done it. He should have come clean with Lord Hall and told him about his future plans and told him that it would be better in the long-term interests of the Post Office for Lord Hall, who had pronounced ideas of the functions of the Post Office, to retire. In that way the Minister's action would have been accepted. But to take action in the way in which he did, without giving reasons, and to malign a public servant who had at great sacrifice taken on a job only 14 months ago, is reprehensible conduct indeed.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
I am grateful for this opportunity to make my first speech in the Chamber in this debate. This Motion reflects an attitude which is at the root of the country's problems today. In deference to custom, however, I must first say that I represent the constituency of Orpington, which gave itself a special place in the political vocabulary by electing my predecessor, Mr. Lubbock, in 1962. An industrious, conscientious Member of the House, he made skilful use of his position as spokesman for a small party on a variety of subjects.
My constituency is one of the largest in Greater London, being on its fringe and embracing light industry as well as rural areas, and including a belt of suburban residential property. The population consists to a great extent of comparatively young people who find their living in the City and who are endowed with that desire to get on in life which is the source of the vitality of the British people. Whatever the significance of my predecessor's tenure of this Parliamentary seat, about the meaning of my victory at the recent election there can 1006 be no doubt. The people of Orpington, like most of the people of the country, wanted a Conservative Government. I am proud to have assisted them to obtain one.
I am profoundly depressed by the Motion. It was tabled after my right hon. Friend had explicitly assured the House that no major policy differences affected his decision to dismiss Lord Hall. Lord Hall has not denied this, yet it seems that those who support the Motion are not prepared to accept my right hon. Friend's word for it. Why should they thus impugn the Minister's integrity? They have no justification for doing so. Nobody can seriously suggest that a Minister is not entitled to dismiss the head of a statutory corporation if he finds that he is not up to his job. The right hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house) explicitly agreed with that proposition. But, equally, no one can pretend that there was not a great deal wrong with the Post Office Corporation. To have allowed it to continue with what the Minister considered to be inadequate leadership would have been incompetence on his part.
So it seems to me that this Motion is almost completely bogus and that its purpose is only to serve the party game. That is what depresses me, as does the patent insincerity of so many of the words spoken in this Chamber. Last week we had the spectacle of decent and honourable Members being howled down when they were endeavouring to explain their points of view. A right hon. Lady vibrated with passion as she made a speech which the whole country knows to have been the reverse in spirit of that which she expressed when her party was in power. Individual Members bellowed across the Chamber as if they were at a prize fight. Bogus points of order proliferated. This Motion is the continuation of those episodes.
If we behave in that way, how can we expect to exert a good influence on the country? Members of this House are not corrupt. Certainly they are not in it for the money. By and large they are motivated by high ideals and the desire to serve their fellow men. Why trade in assertions of mean and base motives? They are quite untrue. The country knows them to be untrue. But they are profoundly damaging because of the place 1007 in which they are uttered. They denigrate this House and the democratic process at a time when our traditional code of moral values is everywhere under attack.
We Members of this honourable House can show by our example and the laws that we make that Britain may recover both its spiritual strength and its economic prosperity. But we cannot do that if we use mindless and cheap abuse to each other. I do not believe the sentiment expressed in the lines added by Samuel Johnson to Goldsmith's "Traveller":How small, of all that human hearts endure,That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!Those are the words of a cynic. We can do better than that if only we have more respect for each other.
Perhaps I ought to apologise for speaking so freely and possibly irreverently in a maiden speech—
§ Mr. Stanbrook
It may be that a new Member sees the absurdity and danger in this sort of Motion more keenly than those accustomed to political humbug in this Chamber. I hope that I have been, if not uncontroversial, at least reasonably impartial. All that I wish to add is that this country sees hope, for the first time in many years, in the robust attitude adopted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues towards this and other problems of government. They have the trust and support of the British people, and they deserve to succeed.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)
It is with pleasure that I follow the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and congratulate him on his first speech in the Chamber. It was hardly a non-controversial speech. I was hoping that at some juncture he might say something about the Motion which is before the House. I look forward on future occasions, however, to hearing his further contributions.
This has been a wholly remarkable debate. It has been remarkable for an insensitive—some may think arrogant— 1008 speech by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. I hope that he will not live to regret that speech as it affects his area of political responsibility.
If the Minister's speech was remarkable, the manner in which he has carried out his Ministerial responsibilities during the past few weeks has been less than remarkable. He has established a precedent without parallel, a phenomenon in Post Office industrial relations. At this juncture, I ought properly to declare an interest as a member of the Union of Post Office Workers. Having said that, however, I feel that the way in which the Minister has carried out his responsibilities in recent weeks has had, and will have, a profound impact on the morale of Post Office workers.
The peremptory—some may think politically shabby—way in which the Chairman of the Post Office Corporation was dismissed was remarkable in so far is it provoked a spontaneous reaction from 30,000 to 50,000 members of the Post Office staff. There was no question of organisation by the unions concerned.
To those who suggest that it was politically motivated, I would say that I had the experience of going outside this Chamber, immediately outside St. Stephen's entrance, last Wednesday afternoon and joining the National Chairman of the Union of Post Office Workers in encouraging postal workers to return to their jobs. It is probably humorous to recall that as I finished delivering my few words, a kind policeman came along and asked whether I realised that I was at risk of being arrested for addressing a public meeting within a mile of the Palace of Westminster.
Notwithstanding that, there was evidence that this was an immediate, spontaneous reaction from the Post Office workers throughout the nation. We had the Post Office telephonists, Post Office counter clerks, Post Office administrative clerks and postmen off their beats coming to identify themselves with the views which had been expressed by their chairman. As other hon. Members have indicated, it was a remarkable demonstration.
One wonders why the enlightened, decent, industrially peaceful staff of the Post Office reacted in that way. It casts little credit on the Minister 1009 that he in no way anticipated his staff's reaction to his decision. I have heard that the Minister had arranged to travel north and announce his decision in a Press hand-out at 5.30. What a remarkable manner of proceeding. With the benefit of hindsight, the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon that his decision inevitably gave rise to controversy. There was no evidence that that was what he felt when we was arranging to travel north and proposing to announce his decision by means of a Press hand-out at 5.30.
One is obliged to question whether the Minister realised that ever since the advent of the public corporation, Post Office staff have felt that their conditions, their security of tenure and the very future of their industry are threatened. I wonder whether the Minister realised the impact which his speech at the Conservative Party annual conference had on the Post Office staff. That was a speech calculated to inflame, and raise the anxieties of, those who have given so much by way of service and loyalty both to the Post Office and to the community generally.
One may well ask, why was the staff of the Post Office anxious about the Minister's speech at the annual conference of the Conservative Party? One needs only to refer to the verbatim report to see the real roots of the anxieties of the Post Office staff. There was a time when Postmasters-General were looked upon as the staff's spokesmen and defenders when the Post Office and its staff were under attack, but what did we have in that debate? The Motion which was before the conference was highly critical of the Post Office in a number of directions. One delegate said:It is, therefore, time to break this monopoly".He was referring to the Post Office monopoly generally: "Break this monopoly".
One might have thought that the Minister, in replying to that sort of comment in closing a debate which was critical of the Post Office and its staff, might have sought to defend the Post Office and its staff for whom he had political responsibility, but what did the Minister say in his reply? He said:This is something we have very much in mind1010 He then went on at a later stage of his speech to say:Some harsh things have been said about the Post Office and some harsh things have been said in this debate. Some of them are entirely justified".The Minister has been in office now a number of months, but I have never heard him identify those areas of his administration about which harsh criticisms are justified. He went on to say in reply to that debate—
§ Mr. Chataway
Since the hon. Member has criticised me for not saying anything in favour of the Post Office, surely he will go on reading—from the point at which he was quoting?
§ Mr. Morris
I will read the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's contribution—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."]—if that should be the wish of the House, but I am mindful of the speeches which I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) and my other parliamentary colleagues wish to make. I want to make one quotation, though. The Minister at a later juncture in that same speech said about the Post Office:There is plenty to be alarmed about".He said that one is justified in saying some harsh things about the Post Office and that there is plenty in the Post Office to be alarmed about, but not since that conference, nor during his time as Minister so far, has he identified those areas of which such criticism can be made. If one starts making that sort of speech one gives rise to anxieties amongst the Post Office staff, and it will have an effect on the morale of the Post Office staff.
§ Mr. John Nott (St. Ives)
The hon. Member is a passionate advocate for the cause, and if he would form a friendly society or trades union on behalf of chairmen I would welcome the opportunity of becoming the first member, but I cannot conceive how the hon. Gentleman can wax so passionate about the whole question of the removal from office of a chairman of a company or public corporation because he is unfit.
§ Mr. Morris
I can only suggest that the hon. Member perhaps has not followed as closely as I would have wished what I have said because the sacking of 1011 the Chairman of the Post Office Corporation, the decision itself, was taken against a background of growing anxiety amongst Post Office staff which had been there ever since the advent of the public corporation. When the Minister says he dismissed the Chairman of the Post Office Corporation, he was exercising a power which no previous Postmaster-General ever had; as the administrative head concerned, no Postmaster-General previously had legislative power to dismiss a Director-General of the Post Office, because the Director-General of the Post Office hitherto has been a civil servant.
When the Post Office staff saw a Minister exercising his responsibilities in such a peremptory fashion and after such a short period in office, as I said, they started to have doubts about his intentions towards their industry, and that is the justification for the anxiety of the staff. That is what has had such an impact on the morale of the Post Office staff.
The Minister has said that, so far as the decision is concerned, he has had no disagreement with the departing Chairman of the Post Office Corporation. Did he endorse the policy points which have been made by the Chairman, Lord Hall, recently? Did he endorse the point which was made by the Chairman in May of this year at the conference of the U.P.W. when he said:We see a future free of all redundancies, we see a future of good pay and opportunity. …We are not now at the whim of any succeeding Chancellor of the Exchequer. We must get to know each other; we are on our own and we are responsible for the future.Does the Minister accept that as an industry we are not now at the whim of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Does he accept the view of Lord Hall when he was speaking to the European Postal, Telephone and Telegraph Administrations and suggested that there was £2,000 million of Government business that could be transferred to the Post Office Giro? Does he endorse the Chairman's policy of devolution of administrative responsibility to the regions? Does he endorse the Chairman's view with regard to the development of the computer service in the Post Office? These are the 1012 aspects of this business which are causing anxiety.
We are discussing a very major industry, an industry with a turnover of £8,000 million and employing 2 per cent. of the working population of this country. Post Office staff generally are worthy of better than they have received so far from the present Minister of Posts and Telecommunications.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
I want to get back to the striking speech of the right hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) which was interesting, frank and revealing. If the right hon. Gentleman, who I regret is not in his place at the moment, had been able to see the faces on his own Front Bench he would have realised how effectively he had totally demolished this censure Motion. He made perfectly clear the extent to which he suffered from misunderstandings with Lord Hall. He gave details of what I can only describe as the fantastic story of the stamps, and the relationship between a Minister and the head of a nationalised industry. He revealed very graphically to the House the nature of the problem with which my right hon. Friend has had to deal. No one who has listened to the debate this evening could be other than clear in his mind that the right hon. Member for Wednesbury is no longer a fervent admirer of Lord Hall.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
I cannot give way, time is short. I am not criticising the right hon. Gentleman for the appointment, but the appointment was his, and that he should speak in such terms of his appointee is particularly revealing.
I come to this debate to dicuss the sacking of Lord Hall with a certain amount of sadness. It is always sad to see a public servant, the head of a giant corporation, lose his job. I was involved throughout the various stages of the Post Office Bill which created the new Post Office Corporation. It will be remembered how we on this side of the House constantly emphasised the key importance of having the right man as chairman of the new Corporation, and how 1013 we constantly set forth our ideas of the kind of person who should have this job.
There were two conceptions of the rôle of chairman. The first conception was that of the right hon. Gentleman; he spoke of a chairman or co-ordinator, and of the chairman holding the ring. The other conception was of a Lord Beeching-type chairman, someone like Sir John Wall who had been appointed by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). The big debate was about which type of chairman should be appointed. I believe that the right hon. Member for Wednesbury sounded out a considerable number of people to see whether they would be prepared to act as Chairman of the Post Office Corporation and only when he could not get the Beeching-type chairman did he eventually fall back on the co-ordinator, holding-the-ring, type chairman. As he said, such appointments are always a bit of a gamble.
When Lord Hall was appointed there were no complaints from the Tory side of the House that he was a Socialist, although there were considerable doubts whether Lord Hall was the right man for the job in that he had experience in finance but not in running large industrial concerns. No one on the Tory side of the House questioned this aspect, as that would have been extremely damaging to a chairman who was coming fresh to a new Corporation. When the appointment was announced, I consulted the Directory of Directors to find out what industrial and managerial experience Lord Hall had and whether he was suitable to head a giant Corporation employing more than 400,000 people, the largest unit in British industry. Nothing is listed in the Directory of Directors about his qualifications. That speaks for itself. Nevertheless, in Opposition we wished Lord Hall well, but it has become clear—and my right hon. Friend in his excellent speech made it clear—that Lord Hall was unsuited for this post.
It is sad that this censure Motion has forced my right hon. Friend to say more than originally he would have wished as to the unsuitability of Lord Hall. Anybody who has read the Press accounts of his interviews since his dismissal or his interviews on televisison must have had their views on this subject reinforced. I cannot help reminding the House of a number of items during his time as Chairman 1014 which made me wonder whether he was the right man for the position.
The idea of giving tea to the "posties", which would hold up their schedule very considerably, is well-meaning but not very practical. Again, he seemed to be very much out of touch with the Post Office in not knowing about the change-over to a new type of listing in the telephone directory. Then there was the rather odd advertisement introducing himself to the public at a cost of some £30,000, which struck me as a little peculiar. There was then the setting up of the "thinkers committee" presided over by Lord Snow at a cost of £20,000, which again struck me as an idea that was not exactly out of the top ranks of British management.
We had a particularly revealing insight, which equally destroyed the case of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, in the form of a fascinating article in the Daily Mirror on 27th November by Mr. Woodrow Wyatt, who is well known to us in this House, and who is possibly still a Socialist. In his opening sentence he said:The remarkable thing about Lord Hall is not that he was sacked but that he was ever appointed. He had no particularly obvious qualifications for the job. Certainly he was worthily connected with a number of financial institutions, but he had never run a commercial undertaking with a large number of employees.He went on to list what he described as a number of "fatuous statements" by Lord Hall.
However, I do not wish to add further to that. All I would say is that the evidence my right hon. Friend has given, and the evidence Lord Hall himself unwittingly has given to the public, has made it very clear indeed that this appointment was a mistake. I am sure that it must have been unpleasant for my right hon. Friend in the early days of his new office to have to make a decision to sack the Chairman. But I have no doubt that he took that decision because he felt it to be in the interests both of the Post Office and of the public to have the best possible man for the job, and I will support my right hon. Friend in the Lobby tonight.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyne)
I have tonight attended a meeting at Central Hall, the like of which I have never seen before. Today, as over the 1015 last week, thousands of Post Office engineers and other Post Office employees have come to London in great numbers to add their protests at the sacking of Lord Hall. It is clear from the meeting tonight that they support this censure Motion to a man.
Nothing has been said in the House today to persuade them that there was justification in the dismissal of the Chairman. Nothing that has been said corresponds with the experience of those men or their trade union leaders over the last 14 months. We have heard it said in this debate that this man came to the job with financial experience only, and his directorships have been mentioned. One interesting thing that has emerged in the last week is that it is not the financial expertise for which he is now being praised. It is his leadership of men. When we realise that the Post Office is our biggest employer, employing over 400,000 men, to say that the Chairman was able to command the complete confidence of those men is something great in his support.
The men are upset not only with what they see as a shabby political sacking—again, we have heard nothing which tends to refute this—they see it as a threat to their own working lives. They regard it as the act of a man for whom the Post Office is merely an interlude in a political career—either a stepping stone or a greasy pole in his parliamentary life. For them the situation is quite different. Most of them will spend the rest of their working lives in the Post Office. Their whole future is bound up in its welfare. This is why they are prepared to come to London and to stand literally for hours in the queue to lobby their Members of Parliament. This is why they feel so strongly about this issue this week. They want the Post Office to serve the public interest and they want to play an active part in its development.
The men know the faults better than most. Indeed, in the 1950s and early 1960s the unions attacked right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for neglecting the Post Office and for cuts in investment. It was the unions, not the Telephone Users' Association, which later came to us for assistance and advice. The unions led the spearhead of the attack on the decline of the Post Office in the 1950s and early 1960s.
1016 We know the failings, the shortcomings, of the Post Office. But we also recognise its strengths. We realise that a £61 million surplus on telecommunications last year is not a Rolls-Royce situation. It is interesting that the Minister at the Dispatch Box can recite glibly the loss on the postal service, but when we ask him to state the profit and the achievement on telecommunications he is unable to answer.
It has also been noticeable that the Minister has been able to quote to the nearest decimal point the decline in productivity on the postal side; but he has not recognised that through the acceptance of change in working practices since 1964 there have been substantial increases in labour productivity on the telecommunications side. It is high time that the Minister made a public acknowledgement of the strength of the telecommunications service as readily as he denigrates the postal service.
Unfortunately, others, apart from the men, have seen that the Post Office telecommunications service will become a commercial goldmine. The private manufacturers have seen this and the hiving-off lobby has been at work. It is significant that the large contribution to the Tory Party funds from Plessey has come since large surpluses were accumulated on telecommunications account. No doubt Plessey is waiting for its return. We believe that part of that return lies in the sacking of Lord Hall.
At the Tory Party conference, the Minister made a foolish speech, designed, no doubt, to get him the cheers of the Tory ladies who were there. But it produced insecurity in the Post Office from top to bottom.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
Can my hon. Friend assure us that what he says about Plessey's can be proved? Can he give the figures?
§ Mr. Golding
Certainly. Plessey's has put sums of the order of £20,000 a year into Tory Party funds and has put money into other organisations designed to fight public enterprise.
§ Mr. Golding
The right hon. Gentleman's speech at the Tory Party conference included one suggestion which has not been really probed—the addition of 1017 industrialists to the Board of the Post Office and making it larger thereby. Did Lord Hall agree to an increase in size? Did he realise that to add new members to it would change the policy bias of the Board? Were any discussions undertaken about people whom the Minister said the Chairman would have to place on the Board?
§ Mr. Chataway
There are four vacancies on the Board so it would not have been a question of increasing the size. That was never a matter for contention.
§ Mr. Golding
The right hon. Gentleman says there is no intention of increasing the size, but there have been four vacancies since the creation of the Board. That would have meant increasing the size of the present Board. This is the sort of answer one gets from that Front Bench. The implication was that there were vacancies because people had left. In fact, there were vacancies only in the sense that the Act provides for a larger Board than the size set up.
This agreement to look at hiving off has upset many people working in telecommunications, who have seen not only this profitability built up by public investment and by the hard work of Post Office engineers, but also the inefficiencies of Plessey's, of G.E.C.-A.E.I., and of Standard's. In every town in the country, Post Office engineers are having to tell subscribers that they cannot have telephones because the private manufacturers are months behind in their promised delivery dates. Tonight's statement by the Minister on hiving off is not going to allay the fears. When they come to read HANSARD, I think that the men in the field will feel even more insecure than ever.
The strength of Lord Hall was that he had removed anxiety from the staff. I want to make this point because I do not think that it will be made later. He took over a very difficult situation. Our men were feeling very insecure following the fact that they were no longer in the Civil Service. There was a great deal of anxiety as to what was going to happen in the Post Office as a public corporation. There could have been grave industrial unrest. There could have been great antagonism to the change. Even though Lord Hall came to the Corporation without industrial experience and with only 1018 financial experience, he allayed the anxieties and fears of the staff—so much so that they are now prepared to stand in the rain waiting to get in here to lobby on his behalf. That was a tremendous achievement of his.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood)
Hindsight is something that we do not have when we appoint people, but would the hon. Member or any other member of his party ever dream of appointing Lord Hall again?
§ Mr. Golding
Of course we would appoint Lord Hall again, and, having had the experience of working in the same industry as he for 14 months, of course I am opposed to his dismissal. The interesting thing is that although men are prepared to battle for Lord Hall, if the Minister were removed from office they would cheer. That is not a satisfactory situation for a Minister to be in. He is the first Minister of Posts and Telecommunications of whom that could be said. I hope that he improves, because it is not for the good of our industry to have a political head who is discredited. We want a Minister to whom, even though the men disagree with him, we can look with respect.
If that were the situation there would not be men coming from all parts of the country—and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that in the Lobbies there have been Tories, Liberals, members of the Labour Party and Communists—to support Lord Hall and back us in our Motion of censure.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Green (Preston, South)
I cannot follow the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) in all his speech because, unlike him, I have no direct connection with the Post Office. I cannot assert or refute, of my own knowledge, the hon. Member's suggestion that all the protests that have been made were totally spontaneous and in no sense thought up by anybody else. But that point does not have all that much to do with the Motion of censure.
Before I turn to the Motion I must say how fascinated I was with what was said by the right hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) about the position to which he appointed Lord Hall. I was not in the last Parliament and 1019 therefore did not hear all the considerations referred to by one of my hon. Friends. The right hon. Gentleman will therefore correct me if I am wrong. As I understand it, however, Lord Hall was not appointed as chief executive of the Post Office. He was paid as such, but he was not appointed to that post.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
If the hon. Member will look back at the records, he will notice that when the appointments were announced Lord Hall was appointed as Chairman and Mr. Ryland as Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive. That puts the question beyond doubt.
§ Mr. Green
Of course I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. Lord Hall was appointed as Chairman but not as Chief Executive. He was the co-ordinating Chairman, whatever that may mean. He was a non-executive Chairman. I admit that I have only a limited industrial experience, but it seems strange to me that on being dismissed the non-executive Chairman should provoke a vast, spontaneous strike. I cannot imagine what the answer is.
The Motion is couched as a Motion of censure on the immediate past performance of my right hon. Friend the Minister. It is based on what has happened up to this moment. I have not heard anything said by hon. Members opposite tonight—and I have been here all the time except for two minutes—about suspicion and doubt as to what might happen in the future. This is the issue on which the debate has been erected. I suggest strongly to hon. Gentlemen opposite that if there is one way of damaging the Post Office in future it is constantly to arouse fears and suspicions of what might happen to it—
§ Mr. Green
—I believe that it is one of the worst ways of putting confidence into an industry which sadly needs it. I agree with many of the things said by hon. Members opposite. I do not want to use hyperbole or great, flashing phrases, because that would not help the industry, 1020 but it is fair to say that, before the General Election and since—let us put it very mildly—the countenance of the Post Office has not shone brightly to the general public. Let us put it no higher than that. We can all agree on that—
§ Mr. Green
I do not think that that was an understatement of the case. It follows that anything that we do in this place which has the unfortunate, but probably unintended, effect of further damaging this industry is a disservice to it. I suggest strongly to the House that the Motion, couched in this very narrow sense, hinged on the dismissal of one man, is a Motion of that kind which leads to a grave succession of doubts and fears about what will happen in this industry and is anything but a service to the industry.
I do not think that it has made the job of making the Post Office, not simply better or more efficient—although I sincerely hope that that it what it will become—but more acceptable to a public, many of whom now doubt it. It will make that job of pulling it together and presenting a better image to the public, as I want it to have, a good deal more difficult than it would have been if this Motion had never been tabled.
What does it finally come to? No one disputes, I understand, with possibly one exception, the right of the Minister to dismiss Lord Hall. No one is saying that such a man gets annointed with holy oil, becomes a sort of lay Dean of Canterbury. All that is in question is whether the Minister should or should not have done this particular act. No proof has been advanced from hon. Members opposite that he should not have done it—only vague fears and suspicions which 1021 already are very damaging to the future of the industry which they and I wish to defend.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
My first job is to congratulate the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) on his maiden speech. He will not misunderstand me, I hope, if I say that it was the most censorious maiden that we have had in the House. When he reads it in HANSARD, I think that he will share that judgment. I only hope that he gets to like us more the longer he is with us, because he said some sharp things about both sides of the House and the nature of debate. I would ask him not to assume too readily that the motives of those with whom he disagrees are necessarily dishonourable, as I hope to be able to show tonight.
The Minister made much of his surprise that we did not criticise the right of a Minister to change the chairman of a nationalised industry, but he knows, as every hon. Member knows, that all Governments have to have the right to change the chairmen of nationalised industries. He knows, because I told him last week, that I had changed the Chairman of Short's. Like him, I found it a personally painful experience to call a man in—particularly when there had been a leak, which did not come from me—and say, as in that case, that after six years, I would like to make a change, and ask him whether he would stay on until we found a successor. At any rate there is no difference between us on that score.
But, having dismissed a chairman, a Minister is responsible for his decision, and this debate is about the Minister's accountability to the House, which is the second stage of the exercise of his power. Since Lord Hall has chosen today in the Financial Times, and I am glad that he has, to say that he makes no more of this on a personal plane, it allows us to raise one or two points on his behalf.
The Minister is right to say that there is no precedent for giving reasons to the House, but I have never heard of a case in which the man himself was not given reasons. There is all the difference in the world between telling the House, "I have to exercise my judgment, this is my judgment, I stand or fall by it," and 1022 sacking a man, giving him 24 hours' notice to get out, totally, without giving him a reason.
The House was not told more than was normal in the circumstances, but the Minister saw the Post Office Union. We made inquiries of that union as to what had been said at that meeting and received a letter, which I have the authority of Mr. Tom Jackson to read, addressed to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. In view of the importance of in no way distorting what the letter says, I propose to read it in full. It reads:The following quotation is not to be regarded as being entirely accurate. It has been pieced together from notes taken at the meeting by myself and the Editor of the Union's Journal. Chataway was being pressed hard by the Executive Council to give reasons why Hall had been sacked. He said something like this:There are two possible explanations why a Chairman should be sacked. The first of these was a disagreement about policy in that the Government wanted to do something with which the Chairman disagreed. This was not the reason, for everyone knows in the light of the statements issued by myself and Lord Hall, that no such disagreement has taken place.That confirms what the Minister said to the House:The second reason, which was the reason, was that I believe that Lord Hall is not the best Chairman for the Post Office Board and that the Post Office would be better managed with another chairman.When pressed on this point, however, he said it would be wrong of him to say that Mr. X was incompetent, that he had done this or that and list 12 reasons. It would be equally wrong of him to say that somebody had said this or that to him about Mr. X.He went on to say that he could not draw up a charge sheet which could be made public. Ministers had to take responsibility themselves of making these decisions.And now I read the last paragraph:This is the best that we can do. If it is not accurate, it is quite close to that which was said to us.I believe that the Minister when talking to the union went further than he should have done, further than he went in speaking to the House, and that this was damaging to Lord Hall personally.
Our complaint—and I am making my case as reasonably as I can—is that Lord Hall has been badly treated, if no more, by insensitivity in relations between man 1023 and man or in handling personal relations; that the Minister handled the matter unfairly and that Lord Hall has suffered. There are, of course, other examples I could give of chairmen of nationalised industries left within a few weeks of the end of their appointment without knowing whether they were to be reappointed or the industries knowing who their successors would be. So if there is—and there is in my argument—some element of criticism of the way in which the Minister treated Lord Hall, it is not just because of Lord Hall. It is because all must recognise that whoever assumes the responsibility for major decisions of this kind, although they may be dismissed must be treated with a greater degree of personal sensitivity than I believe the Minister showed in the case of Lord Hall.
I turn to another point which has emerged in the debate and also in some questions following the statement made after the dismissal. I refer to the remarks of the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Green) in which he rather implied—and I think that it is a pity that he did—that in some way Lord Hall was responsible for the known failures occurring, as one would expect, in a very large organisation such as the Post Office, which deals with hundreds of millions of telephone calls and letters every year. There was an implication—indeed more than that—in what the hon. Gentleman said. He said that the image had not shone very brightly since the summer. That could only have been a reference to Lord Hall.
§ Mr. Benn
At least in this matter I shall have with me hon. and right hon. Gentlemen such as the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) and the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) and others who at some time or another had some responsibility for Post Office matters. Everyone who has ever had any dealings with the Post Office probably knows its defects better than the general public but at the same time has had, by personal experience, a feeling of the dedication of the people who work in the Post Office and the very high degree of public responsibility they have.
1024 The truth is that the problems of the Post Office are known to anyone who has troubled to study them. The posts are labour-intensive, and wages rise but cannot be offset by mechanisation. Telecommunications are capital intensive. There has been an explosive growth of demand and there is a failure to produce the equipment on time. The Post Office was for many years under-priced and was subsidising the businesses that used it and for many years there was under-investment.
May I say candidly to the House that the responsibility for the failures of the Post Office rests fairly and squarely in this Chamber and nowhere else. Both governments, both parties at the time when the Post Office was run as a Government Department, tolerated Treasury control, political Ministers, and parliamentary accountability that was absolutely incompatible with efficient operation.
We cannot escape the fact that Lord Hall was the first chairman—and this was the point—right from the days when the Post Office was established, who was free from political control. I will not weary the House with this because it is history, but I will invite hon. Members who are wondering why this has caused grave concern to read the memoirs of Rowland Hill, or the speeches of Austen Chamberlain or the report of the McDonnell Commission or the Select Committee Report on the telephone services, or the memoirs of Clem Attlee or Reginald Bevins or articles by the right hon. Member for Wallasey.
Every man who has ever held the office of Postmaster-General has on his retirement emphasised that it is not possible to run an efficient public service when there is a political Minister on his way up or down, passing through the Post Office, with Treasury control and Parliamentary Questions, preventing the office from operating efficiently.
This is where I come to my second charge of insensitivity against the Minister. Lord Hall had been there for 14 months. I did not appoint him, and I listened with as much interest as did anyone else to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house), who did appoint him. I would only say that, for the Post Office, whatever his personal merits or demerits may be—and no one is perfect—Lord Hall 1025 represented the realisation of a dream that went back to Rowland Hill and the chance to develop the service free from the political control of Ministers. [Laughter.] That is why, when the dismissal of Lord Hall was so peremptorily announced, the Post Office felt that the whole of its history was being set back.
Hon. Members may laugh; I do not mind. I only say that anyone who knows the Post Office loves it, and anyone who knows it, also knows that it has been the ambition of people on both sides of the House for many years to liberate it from the very action that the Minister appears to have taken again, namely just treating the Chairman as if he were part of another Cabinet reshuffle. Many Ministers are sacked by a Prime Minister for no very clear reason. Read what Lord Hill said about his dismissal in the famous massacre—sent back to the office with no time to say good-bye because the news had leaked and it was to be on the one o'clock news.
For politicians and Ministers who live in this dangerous world, that is an experience we may all have. But when a Government business which, after full parliamentary debate, has become a corporation with a chairman who had identified himself with the staff whom he represented, finds that the chairman is treated as though he were part of a Cabinet reshuffle, that produces a spontaneous response. I have no doubt about that.
It is also true that the Minister, who, had he been appointed 15 months earlier, would have been Postmaster-General. goes to his office and finds that, instead of having pliant and respectful civil servants to deal with on matters of policy, there is a Chairman with all the sturdy qualities which my right hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury attributed to Lord Hall. According to him, Lord Hall is a very difficult man to deal with, but that is why a chairman of a nationalised industry is appointed. Let no one think that it was easy to deal with Lord Robens or Lord Melchett. They were appointed to champion their "firm". Of course the Minister will find it difficult to deal with them, because the chairman of a public corporation wants to get his pricing right. That is why we had a little trouble in May about the stamps.
1026 Of course the Minister wants to protect the wider interests and see that the policy of the Government is implemented. That is what is known in polite language as creative tension and in real life as very difficult relations between the Minister and the chairman of the board with whom he has to deal.
It would be a disaster if in place of Lord Hall the Minister appointed a man about whom it could be said that he was the Minister's puppet or a man standing in the same relationship to him as the Director-General of the Post Office stood in the days when there was a Post Office Department. I think—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not take this personally; it is not so meant—that his own Department is a Department that may be redundant in the new situation. There may well be a case for transferring broadcasting to the Leader of the House, who traditionally deals with high policy and the Post Office to the Department of Trade and Industry. The right hon. Gentleman should not, by changing the Chairman, try to set the clock back and in that way leave the Post Office in the position in which it now finds itself.
The doctrine of the Tory Party on this is, as one might perhaps have expected, impeccable. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in his famous speech, which has been so often quoted that there is not much left unquoted, at the Conservative Party conference spoke about the relationships between the Government and the nationalised industries. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said:… Government must withdraw from its perpetual scrutiny and commentary upon the managements concerned—a process which undermines authority, constitutes a permanent alibi for inadequate performance and represents a serious inhibition to recruitment and the development of efficient management from within.With that comment of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry at the Conservative Party conference in relation to the handling of Ministers of the problems of nationalised industries I agree 100 per cent. That is why we turned the Post Office from a Government Department into a public corporation. That having been done, the dismissal of the first Chairman ever within 14 months without giving him reason was bound to produce the reaction that it did produce.
1027 My right hon. and hon. Friends have raised a number of points of policy, one about Giro. I was glad to hear the Minister say that he had an open mind on Giro. I want to say nothing to make the situation more difficult because of uncertainty.
The Minister said that he was looking at the data processing service. Presumably he is looking at this with everything else. This has 130 competitors in private business. I very much hope that what the Minister says about these activities indicates that he approaches these things with an open mind.
On telecommunications the Minister was rather vaguer. However, he did not come down firmly in favour of some of the wilder things which were said before the election, although I noticed that Plessey's, who have a very big interest in the possibility of private enterprise in the telecommunications service, contributed unaccountably—or accountably—£10,000 each year to the Conservative Party and another £10,000 to British United Industrialists. If we are suspicious, this is because there are real fears about the Government's intention here.
The Government have come forward with a different political philosophy. I want to deal solely with the Government's handling of the Post Office services. The present rights under which the Post Office has been operating are enshrined in Statute. It would be totally wrong foe the Minister or the Government to try to side-track a Statute on the Statute Book by replacing the Chairman with someone more compliant with their political purposes. There are respectful precedents for drawing the attention of the House to the danger of side-tracking Statutes by administrative action, to which I can draw the attention of hon. Members who wish to study them.
My next point is the fear of the hiving-off of profitable parts. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman being innocent about it. After all, on Thursday we shall be discussing reducing the powers of the Coal Board. They are taking the profitable routes from the public Air Corporations. To say that these fears and doubts about the Post Office were simply cooked up, as one hon. Member did, in order to put down a Motion of censure is too naive for words. I would 1028 say that no one who invests his money speculatively in buying profitable parts of the sector sold off by this Government at knockdown prices should be so unwise as to assume that they will be compensated on the basis of value that derives from public enterprise by a future Labour Government. We have to argue this out in the future.
The real reason why Lord Hall was dismissed, I believe, goes right back to the right hon. Gentleman announcing, on 23rd July, that the Post Office were asking for tariff increases. He will remember that he said:I am, however, informed by the Post Office that it embarked on this printing with the full knowledge of the Government and that that information was deliberately suppressed before the election.That was received with very wide shock and with applause from his side of the House. He later said, when I asked him about the stamps:The Post Office is always printing stamps.He said something else:It is the presence of those phosphor bars which determines the intention of the Post Office. The printing was on the basis, as again the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, of a tariff of this nature.I have studied those words with some care and I have looked at something else. He said earlier, when announcing the proposals from the Post Office:I am, however, assured that this does not preclude consideration of alternatives in the light of suggestions from the Users' Council and until its comments are available the Government remains uncommitted to the Post Office's proposals."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd July, 1970; Vol. 803, c. 761.]That final quotation can mean only that the phosphor bar stamps had not been printed before the election. I do not believe they had. I have enough recollection of the time it takes from the ordering of stamps to the printing of stamps to know that these stamps of higher valuation, with the phosphor bars, could not have been printed. I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman about it and asked him on which date the stamps were printed. I have not a carbon copy; the letter was in my own hand. I wrote on 1st August, and he replied to me that the stamps had been ordered on 15th May and that that was as far as he could go. I wrote back and said, "Yes, I know they were ordered on 15th May, but when 1029 were the stamps printed with the phosphor bars?" He replied to me that he was not sure that the question which I had put to him was meaningful, and that in any event it was a matter for Lord Hall. I wrote to Lord Hall, who wrote a totally loyal answer—showing more loyalty to the right hon. Gentleman than the right hon. Gentleman showed him—to confirm the date on which the stamps had been ordered and to decline to answer my question as to the date the stamps were printed.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman—he will not be able to answer now—to tell me the answer to this question: on what date were the 6d. and 7d. stamps printed with the phosphor bars signifying that they were for use with the second and first-class postal services? I believe that the right hon. Gentleman misled the House in July.
§ Mr. Chataway
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, Lord Hall confirmed to him—I have a copy of the letter—that the order was given to the printers to proceed with a programme of stamp printing on 15th May, 1970, the last possible date on which an order for a complicated programme could be given. The date on which the dies were cut and all the subsequent processes took place is totally irrelevant.
§ Mr. Benn
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well—and I hope that he will make a statement to the House—that those higher-valued stamps with the phosphor bars were not printed during the election period. I believe that this explains a great deal of the right hon. Gentleman's hatred for Lord Hall and the decision that he made to dismiss him.
1030 The right hon. Gentleman gave shabby treatment to the Chairman, and I believe that this Motion of censure is fully justified.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)
There is one matter in which I can join the right hon. Gentleman, and that is congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) on his extremely robust maiden speech. I would not have suggested that it was exactly non-controversial. But my hon. Friend was very fair. He said that it was not non-controversial but that it was impartial. He was critical of all parts of the House. One of his criticisms of all parts was that occasionally we make more noise than we should. As one who has not earned the reputation over the years of being always entirely quiet, I take my hon. Friend's strictures to heart.
Probably we are all painfully aware that this House provides many pitfalls for the unwary. One of those experienced by many Oppositions over the years is that censure Motions announced in the heat of the moment look very different when they come to be debated. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications said, this one is no exception.
On Wednesday, the Leader of the Opposition leapt to his feet declaring amid the cheers of his supporters that the Government were to be censured over the dismissal of Lord Hall as Chairman of the Post Office Corporation. In accordance with precedents, I naturally offered time for the debate at the earliest opportunity. I cannot pretend to the House that I felt any twinges of anxiety or reluctance as I did so.
I was not surprised to hear shortly afterwards one of those whispers which go round the House to the effect that the Opposition Motion was not to be a censure on my right hon. Friend the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and would be somewhat broader than the dismissal of Lord Hall. "Ah," I thought to myself. "It will look different on Monday."
Then the Motion was tabled. It was much broader. In the columns of the Press, doubts began to arise. I read on 1031 Friday that some wise Labour Members doubted the wisdom of the Shadow Cabinet in rushing into a censure Motion, and those doubts increased over the weekend—
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I have been through it all before.
With his usual candour, our former colleague, Mr. Woodrow Wyatt, went further in his Daily Mirror article, as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) said in his extremely able speech. In the Daily Mirror, Mr. Woodrow Wyatt said:The remarkable thing about Lord Hall is not that he was sacked but that he was ever appointed."Ah ", I thought to myself. "I have heard it all before. It will look very different on Monday."
Today, we have had the speech of the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) moving the Motion with, as so often on these occasions, 50 or 60 Members on the benches behind him. I was rather sorry for the hon. Member for Barons Court, because he did his best but he was completely destroyed, as anyone who was in the House at that time will know, by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications.
Then we had the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). He, of course, is a brilliant debater. He produces many graphic phrases. The less good his case, the faster he speaks and the more graphic phrases he produces. On this occasion, he talked about a most interesting speculation which he described as creative tension. I am not sufficiently educated and wise to know exactly what one means by "creative tension", but I am sure that it is something very wise.
The right hon. Gentleman went so far from the Motion as to discuss the possibility of broadcasting being given to the Leader of the House—I must say, a suggestion that I could have done without, but it seemed to have very little relevance to the Motion which is before the House.
I welcome the opportunity to reply to the debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, 1032 hear."] If I may say so, I seem to have been enjoying it quite well so far—first, because it gives me the chance, and in this I want to be absolutely serious, to make it perfectly clear that I fully support my right hon. Friend in his decision and, secondly, to tell the simple truth and dispel some of the wild rumours fostered by right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
At this stage, I should like to make one thing perfectly clear. I acknowledge the perfectly fair point made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris) and by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) that Lord Hall's dismissal has caused anxieties among Post Office workers. Of course, I accept that. I believe also, however, that they have been quite unnecessarily stirred up by many of the statements of the party opposite.
§ Mr. Charles R. Morris
Will the Leader of the House give evidence for the statement which he has just made?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I consider that it is a reasonable statement based upon what I have read and seen in the Press over the weekend.
I want to be perfectly fair, however, and no one will accuse me of anything else. I recognise that Lord Hall certainly seems to have aroused the support of the workers in the Post Office. That is important. That was one of his qualities. There are, however, many other qualities required of the Chairman of the Post Office, and my right hon. Friend is entitled to take those into account.
If a responsible Minister is convinced that in the public interest he must make a change in personalities of this sort, surely his colleagues who are concerned in a decision of this sort must back him as long as they are convinced that his decision has not been lightly taken and that it has not been activated by personal malice of any sort or kind. I was left in no doubt whatever that my right hon. Friend, as one would expect of him, had considered the whole question very deeply and was utterly convinced of the need for a change in chairmanship.
1033 I do not understand the subtle distinction which the right hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), in a rather extraordinary speech, made between a co-ordinating chairman and a chief executive. What my right hon. Friend has said is that he believed that Lord Hall was not the right man to be Chairman of the Post Office. Nor at any time did any question of Lord Hall's political sympathies arise. Therefore I can assure the House with complete personal conviction that no question of political victimisation arose at all. Nor is there any truth at all in the speculative allegations of policy implications which seem to have excited hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite so much.
In any event, no doubt the present Board of the Post Office under its new Chairman—HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"]—will be perfectly well able to stand up for what it believes to be in the best interests of the Post Office. When hon. Gentlemen over there ask me who is that successor to be, I find this an absolutely extraordinary situation—that the Government and the Minister should go jobbing around to get a new chairman for a public corporation when they have still got the present chairman there and not telling him that they have decided he should go. This is something I simply cannot understand.
My right hon. Friend has made it perfectly clear that he had no policy disagreement with Lord Hall. I am certainly not going now to make a commitment on future Government policy. No one would expect me to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] Why should I? I simply say I am extremely surprised to hear that anyone would expect me to do so because I want to make it perfectly clear that the House must take my word, in addition to my right hon. Friend's, that
§ matters of policy are just not involved in this decision.
§ That is the full story, and I should have thought that, far from being censured, my right hon. Friend should be warmly commended for his courage in doing what he believes to be in the best interests of the Post Office and the public rather than taking the easy way out, and if in this task his judgment leads him to face difficult personal decisions he must do so.
§ Perhaps to their credit, whether or not one agrees with their views, the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) acted over Sir Stanley Raymond, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, South-East acted over Mr. Cuthbert Wrangham, Chairman of Short Brothers and Harland in a similar way to my right hon. Friend. Those decisions may have been to their credit when they took them, but they redound to their discredit tonight as they seek in Opposition to censure the kind of action which they themselves took when in Government. Fortunately the British public have a profound contempt for such Opposition manoeuvres, which have been so wisely denounced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
§ So now I simply ask the House to bury the Opposition in the hole which they have dug for themselves, by decisively rejecting this contemptible and silly little censure Motion.
That this House censures Her Majesty's Government for their recent handling of Post Office affairs, and the implications of their action in dismissing Lord Hall, the Chairman of the Post Office Corporation:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 254, Noes 301.1039
|Division No. 38.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Bishop, E. S.||Carter, Ray (B'mingham, N'field)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara|
|Allen, Scholefield||Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Clark, David (Colne Valley)|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Cohen, Stanley|
|Ashley, Jack||Bradley, Tom||Coleman, Donald|
|Ashton, Joe||Broughton, Sir Alfred||Concannon, J. D.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Barnes, Michael||Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Barnett, Joel||Buchan, Norman||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Beaney, Alan||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Cronin, John|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Carmichael, Neil||Cunningham, George (Islington, S.W.)|
|Cunningham, Dr. John A. (Whitehaven)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.)||Pavitt Laurence|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Peart Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||John, Brynmor||Pendry, Tom|
|Davidson, Arthur||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pentland, Norman|
|Davies, Dcnzil (Llanelli)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Prescott, John|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Deakins, Eric||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Rankin, John|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Judd, Frank||Reed, David (Sedgefield)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Kaufman, Gerald||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Kelley, Richard||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Dempsey, James||Kerr, Russell||Richard, Ivor|
|Doig, Peter||Kinnock, Neil||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dormant), J. D.||Lambie, David||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Douglas, Dick||Lamond, James||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Latham, Arthur||Roderick, Caerwyn E.|
|Driberg, Tom||Lawson, George||Rogers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Leadbitter, Ted||Roper, John|
|Dunn, James A.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Rose, Paul B.|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lestor, Miss Joan||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Eadle, Alex||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle on Tyne)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lipton, Marcus||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Ellis, Tom||Lomas, Kenneth||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|English, Michael||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Evans, Fred||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Sillars, James|
|Faulds, Andrew||McCann, John||Silverman, Julius|
|Fernyhough, E.||McCartney, Hugh||Skinner, Dennis|
|Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, L'wood)||MacColl, James||Small, William|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||McElhone, Frank||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Foley, Maurice||Mackie, John||Spearing, Nigel|
|Foot, Michael||Mackintosh, John P.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Ford, Ben||Maclennan, Robert||Stallard, A. W.|
|Forrester, John||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Freeson, Reginald||MacPherson, Malcolm||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Strang, Gavin|
|Garrett, W. E.||Marquand, David||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Ginsburg, David||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Swain, Thomas|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mayhew, Christopher||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Meacher, Michael||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Tinn, James|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Mendelson, John||Tomney, Frank|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Mikardo, Ian||Torney, Tom|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Millan, Bruce||Tuck, Raphael|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Urwin, T. W.|
|Hamling, William||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Molloy, William||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hardy, Peter||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Harper, Joseph||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wallace, George|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Watkins, David|
|Hattersley, Roy||Moyle, Roland||Weitzman, David|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Wellbeloved, James|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Murray, Ronald King||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Horam, John||Ogden, Eric||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||O'Halloran, Michael||Whitlock, William|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||O'Malley, Brian||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Orbach, Maurice||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Oswald, Thomas||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Padley, Walter||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Paget, R. T.||Woof, Robert|
|Hunter, Adam||Palmer, Arthur|
|Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Janner, Greville||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Mr. John Golding and|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Parry, Robert (L'pool Exchange)||Mr. Kenneth Marks.|
|Adley, Robert||Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Balniel, Lord||Blaker, Peter|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Body, Richard|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Bell, Ronald||Boscawen, Hn. R. T.|
|Astor, John||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Bossom, Sir Clive|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Benyon, W. R.||Bowden, Andrew (Brighton, K'town)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Berry, Hn. Anthony||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Biffen, John||Braine, Bernard|
|Bray, Ronald||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Brewis, John||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Mudd, David|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Haselhurst, Alan||Murton, Oscar|
|Bryan, Paul||Hastings, Stephen||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Havers, Michael||Neave, Airey|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hawkins, Paul||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Burden, F. A.||Hay, John||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hayhoe, Barney||Nott, John|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Onslow, Cranley|
|Carlisle, Mark||Heseltine, Michael||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hicks, Robert||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Channon, Paul||Higgins, Terence L.||Osborn, John|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hiley, Joseph||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hill, J. E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Paisley, Rev. Ian|
|Churchill, W. S.||Holland, Philip||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Clark, William (East Surrey)||Holt, Miss Mary||Peel, John|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hordern, Peter||Percival, Ian|
|Clegg, Walter||Hornby, Richard||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Cooke, Robert||Howe, Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Coombs, Derek||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Cooper, A. E.||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Cordle, John||Hunt, John||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.|
|Cormack, Patrick||Iremonger, T. L.||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Costain, A. P.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Critchley, Julian||James, David||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Crouch, David||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Curran, Charles||Jessel, Toby||Redmond, Robert|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Dance, James||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Jopling, Michael||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Dean, Paul||Kellett, Mrs. Elaine||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kilfedder, James A.||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Dixon, Piers||Kimball, Marcus||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Rost, Peter (Derbyshire, S.E.)|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Kinsey, Joseph||Royle, Anthony|
|Dykes, Hugh||Kitson, Timothy||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Eden, Sir John||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Knox, David||Scott, Nicholas|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lambton, Antony||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Elliott, R.W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lane, David||Sharples, Richard|
|Emery, Peter||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Fell, Anthony||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Shelton, William J. (Clapham)|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Le Marchant, Spencer||Simeons, Charles|
|Fidler, Michael||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'field)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Loveridge, John||Soref, Harold|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||MacArthur, Ian||Speed, Keith|
|Fortescue, Tim||McCrindle, R. A.||Spence, John|
|Foster, Sir John||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Sproat, Iain|
|Fowler, P. N.||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Stainton, Keith|
|Fox, J. Marcus||McNair-Wilson, Michael (W'stow, E.)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (S'fford & Stone)||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Stewart-Smith, D. G.|
|Fry, Peter||Maddan, Martin||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Madel, David||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Gardner, Edward||Maginnis, John E.||Stokes, John|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Marten, Neil||Sutcliffe, John|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Mather, Carol||Tapsell, Peter|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Maude, Angus||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gorst, John||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Temple, John M.|
|Gower, Raymond||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)|
|Gray, Hamish||Miscampbell, Norman||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)|
|Green, Alan||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Grieve, Percy||Mitchell, Lt-Col. Colin (Aberd'sh'e, W).||Tilney, John|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Moate, Roger||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Molyneaux, James||Trew, Peter|
|Gummer, Selwyn||Money, Ernie||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Gurden, Harold||Monks, Mrs. Connle||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Monro, Hector||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Montgomery, Fergus||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Waddington, David||Wells, John (Maidstone)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Walder, David (Clitheroe)||White, Roger (Gravesend)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Wiggin, Jerry||Younger, Hn. George|
|Wall, Patrick||Wilkinson, John|
|Walters, Dennis||Wolrige-Cordon, Patrick||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ward, Dame Irene||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard||Mr. Jasper More and|
|Warren, K.||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher||Mr. Reginald Eyre.|